One of my Facebook friends posted in a dither today. She'd asked her children to make tuna salad for lunch and was horrified to discover they'd opened every single can of tuna fish in the house. A supply, she added, intended to feed the family for an entire month! She was beside herself. Can you blame her!?!
Having food (and other stuff) is all fine and good but the tuna cautionary tale reminds us that it's not much good unless we can stretch them. It's easier to stretch food now when we have plenty than to start stretching when things get tight.
So butter your hands and let's start stretching!
Stretch Tip #1: And speaking of butter, according to the DailyMail's tips for making fresh food last longer, rubbing (salted!) butter on cheese will prevent mold growing. Who knew!?!
Ideas and inspiration come from so many places. Our grandparents tales from the Depression. Ideas from World War II rationing. People who are simply brilliant at "squeezing the nickel until the buffalo poops." Oh! I love that phrase. I filched it from Rose Nylund on The Golden Girls when she was bragging how brilliant her late husband, Charlie, was at stretching their budget. (For you millennials, a nickel is a coin worth 5￠ that used to have a buffalo on it. A buffalo is a...oh! never mind!)
My mom is one such person. One of her most memorable ways of stretching money was to wrap thick rubberbands around the necks of all the soap pump bottles so one pump dispensed only a pea-sized drop (and woe to you if you pumped twice!) Personally, I find barsoap much less drying to the skin. But what to do with all those inconvenient soap slivers and chips!?! I hate to waste them!
Stretch Tip #2: Place barsoap chips and slivers in a plastic mesh onion bag. Hang it from the sink faucet or in your shower and lather from the bag.
Stretch Tip #3: Diluted dishsoap makes wonderful shampoo. But tread lightly! It strips everything off your hair and can be drying. (I learned this one from the Amish.)
Speaking of dishsoap, in my earlier article, Four Kitchen Hacks: Work Smarter, Not Harder I suggest diluting dishsoap in your dishwand with water. Undiluted dishsoap is way too sudsy and hard to rinse off. That same is true of shampoo and body wash. They're plenty strong enough to be diluted and still do an excellent job of cleaning your hair and body.
Now, I've noticed that a lot of you are baking this week, as much to fill hungry tummies as to keep everyone occupied. Kudos! I'd better start baking too! If you're interested in making the delicious bread Amish often sell from road-side stands, here's the recipe.
Stretch Tip #4: According to the Amish, most recipes don't require as much sugar as the recipe calls for. Try diminishing it, a little each time, and see if anyone notices. (Also, try using half-white, half-brown sugar.)
Stretch Tip #5: During World War II, the ladies of my hometown discovered that bacon grease works great in cakes. Of course, it does help if it's a spice cake to cover that smokey flavor.
Stretch Tip #6: If you're running low on eggs, try mayonnaise in your baked goods instead. It won't affect the flavor of your baking and will make your baked goods extra rich.
Stretch Tip #7: If you're frying something non-smelly like eggs, don't bother washing out the frying pan. Just cover, set aside and re-use the butter in the pan to cook your next meal. (Keep butter from browning by adding a drop of oil.)
Stretch Tip #8: Leftovers don't always get eaten before they go bad. So just make enough for one meal. It's more work but it'll stretch the ingredients. (My lovely biscuits turned out great...then went bad before we ate them all.)
When food supplies are limited and/or iffy, now is not the time to count calories. You need your strength to stay healthy! Remember the old adage from the Depression: "Any food is healthy food."
Stretch Tip #9: Use starch to bulk up meals and fill tummies.
Foods like biscuits, dumplings and gravy are your friend (if you don't have Celiacs or something like that). My Michael is an artist with gravy and I learned from him to enjoy it. Never fear the dreaded lumps. The Roux brothers tip makes it impossible to have lumps. (And if you run out of flour, use cornstarch. That's how Asian sauces are thickened. It's a little more gelatinous, so use sparingly, keep stirring and add water if it gets too thick, too fast.)
Stretch Tip #10: Eat slowly and pay attention to your food. I'm told the French wouldn't be caught dead watching TV during a meal. So chew slowly and savor your food. It'll last longer and seem like more volume because you're actually experiencing the flavors san distractions.
Last night, Michael and I split one package of ramen, augmented with fake crab, miso and scallions, and both came away satisfied. Cost per Person: $1.50 (approx.)
Thank you for reading, stay well and keep on cooking!
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