Jul 012014


Frugal Chef

I have a much beloved book called Good Recipes for Hard Times, by Louise Newton. I picked it up from a used book store for $2.75 back in the early 1980’s. I had to put another book back so I could afford it. It was money well spent.  I learned a lot about eating economically from that book. It’s hard to find now and usually costs far more than I would be willing to pay for it. Most of the recipes focus on wheat and dairy, things I don’t eat anymore. A lot of the information is dated now too. Still, it shaped the way I think about food and gave me a lot of encouragement when I really needed it.

One of the most important things I learned was the art of discerning which foods are cheapest and then learning to use those foods to their best advantage. When trying to adapt a gluten free, casein free diet to my budget I found this technique very helpful. I looked over my supermarket and figured out which GFCF foods were the cheapest. It turns out there are many foods that are naturally gluten free and dairy free, which cost very little. I took a few minutes to write them down and then focused on how to use these economical foods in my everyday cooking.

My list included:

  • Rice
  • Cornmeal
  • Grits
  • Cornstarch
  • Popcorn
  • Corn Tortillas
  • Rolled Oats (can contain trace amounts of gluten)
  • Potatoes
  • Dried Peas, Beans & Lentils
  • Soy Products
  • Plain Meats (some processed meats may contain gluten or dairy)
  • All the good fruits and vegetables

All of these foods can be found in almost any supermarket and they are very affordable. So I did my best to figure out how to use these foods in as many ways as possible. I designed my family’s diet around them. It was hard. It took a lot of thinking and testing and I made a lot of mistakes. Eventually however, I was able to use all of these items, many in new ways that I had never considered when we were still eating wheat and dairy. This website is a compilation of the results.

Which brings me to my next point. Here is the list (in PDF format) of the foods I have found to be the most economical and the most useful during Hard Times. Hard Times don’t last forever, but when you’re in the middle of them food gains far more importance than it does when times are good. These are the foods that can see you through the hard times, until things are better again.

Rock Bottom Broke Gluten Free Casein Free Shopping List(PDF)

This is a list of extremely economical foods that are useful when you’re trying to eat for as little cash as possible. You don’t have to buy everything on the list. However, if you’re not sure what to buy, these items are a good place to start. If one were forced to live for several years with only the foods on this list, one could still be assured of a nutritious, well-balanced, good-tasting diet. This list provides more variety than some people who lived before WW1 experienced in their lifetimes. When I am going through hard times, these are the foods I rely upon to see us through. They are readily available at most large supermarkets.

There is a section at the end of the list labeled EXTRAS. It includes items which cost more, but which add flavor and variety to a very frugal diet. You’ll find items like canned chipotle peppers and sesame oil. You don’t need these things, but they don’t cost much and they add a lot of flavor for very little cost. When you never go out to eat and always have to eat your own cooking, it’s refreshing to add new flavors to  regular meals. Items like this keep food fatigue from setting in. Food fatigue is when you get sick of your own cooking and ruin the budget by splurging on take-out. Use a fraction of that cash to buy a few things that add a flash of flavor to your meals, and it will save you money in the long run.

Note: Most of these foods do not have GFCF specified in the list. I assume that you know enough to choose gluten-free and casein-free options. Take, for instance, Rolled Oats. If you are celiac or are extremely sensitive to gluten, you should choose certified GF rolled oats. If you are not, then conventional rolled oats will do. Make the best choices for your family and your circumstances.

All of the recipes posted under the Hard Times Category exclusively use foods on this list.

I encourage you to sit down and make your own list of the foods that are the most economical and useful for your circumstances. Your list will be different from mine. That’s okay. The main thing is to figure out which foods are the cheapest and family friendly. Then choose recipes that use these foods and your grocery costs will inevitably go down.

Better is the poor that walketh in his integrity, than he that is perverse in his lips, and is a fool.  Proverbs 19:1



  8 Responses to “Good Food for Hard Times”

  1. I would love to have your recipe for fish chowder.The one that yo used to have in Hillbilly Housewife.Glad to see you back.I have missed you.

  2. This is for Joan Beek, I think this is the recipe you were looking for: Fish Chowder
    2 tbsp fat-margarine, oil, bacon grease, etc. 1 onion finely chopped, 2 stalks celery chopped, 2 cups tap water, 5 medium potatoes, peeled and chopped, 1 lb frozen fish fillets, 4 or 5 cups milk (dairy or unsweetened soy or unsweetened almond) 11/2 tsp salt, 1/4 tsp black pepper, 1 cup cold water, 1/3 cup flour (rice flour or wheat flour), a jar with a tight fitting lid. get out a good sized soup pot. Melt the fat in it and saute’ the onion and celery until they are tender. Add 2 cups of water the the potatoes. Cover and simmer for about 15-20 minutes. Whle the vegetables are simmering, cut the fish into chunks about an inch square. Add the fish to the potatoes. Cover and continue simmering for about 10 minutes. If the fish is room temperature, it will only take about five minutes. If the fish is still frozen it might take fifteen minutes. The fish will be opaque and flake easily when done. Next add the milk, salt and pepper. Heat gently while you do the next part. in a pint sized jar, combine 1 cup cold tap water and 1/3 cup flour. screw on the lid. Shake and shake the jar until the flour is dissolved in the water. Pour this mixture into the pot of hot soup. Stir it up and bring the whole thing to a slow boil. Boil and stir for a full minute. or until everything is nicely thickened. If you’re using the rice flour then simmer for at least five minutes to thickened properly. Serve hot with crackers and Waldorf salad. This is very similar to clam chowder, except it uses less expensive frozen fish fillets. If you liked, you could replace the fish with two 10 ounce cans of clams (undrained). This will cost a couple dollars more, but it will be the best clam chowder you have ever had.

    Hope this is the one you wanted, I found it in some old archives of hillbilly housewife

  3. You’re more than welcome! 🙂

  4. Hello- I am trying your cutlet recipe today, i will let you know how it comes out.I live in NE and i love anything to do w corn. I follow a plant based diet so i was planning to coat them w corn starch and then dipped them in a soft silken tofu mixture,and then again in the cornstarch, as you suggest. Not sure how it will work out, but am going to try it. This recipe reminds me of on that my mother made very often for me and my siblings. My mother is from Madiera Is – Portugal and she would make “Melho Freito” but she used white corn meal and she would add kale, olive oil, minced garlic, red pepper flakes, cook it up and then pour it into shallow dinner plates and let it sit overnight. We would fry it up for breakfast and have it w ketchup or have it as a side dish with dinner. It was and is delicious. I and most of my siblings still make, pure comfort food in my opinion. thanks again for the great tasting recipes on your site. Frugal in NE !!

  5. Engracia the idea of kale with cornmeal sounds amazing. Collard greens are very cheap in my area right now. I bet they could be substituted pretty easily. Melho Freito looks like good, honestly cooking to me! Thanks for sharing!

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