Spring 2008
Bulk pizza dough, Pasta Salad, Ceasar Salad, Beef and Barley Vegetable Soup, Simple Chicken Tajine (Morocco), Kofta from Curried Favors (cookbook)

  The criteria for recipes here are simple: the meal must be healthy, real (no packaged mixes, though canned goods are OK), cheap (ingredients which are either inexpensive or regularly go on sale) good-tasting, and homemade (can be prepared by anyone with basic cooking skills). We welcome your answer to: What's for Dinner at Your House? submit your cheap, good recipes (story, ingredients, instructions, cost-saving tips).

Summer 2008:
CHEAP QUICK TASTY EATS: Crockpot Lentil Soup, Skillet Stuff, Quick Chili, Frijoles Charros (Black Bean Chili)

CROCKPOT LENTIL SOUP submitted by Pamela C.

My weight-loss secret. Easy to make, filling and quite good. Measurements need not be exact. Make this in the morning in a large crockpot for dinner that night.
1 pound lentils (typical bag of lentils)
4 large carrots
1 large onion
4-6 stalks celery, celery leaves
bay leaf
oregano, basil, etc.

soy sauce (or similar salty flavoring such as bouillion, worcester sauce, liquid aminos)

Coarsely chop vegetables. Place them, the lentils, and the spices (except the soy sauce) in a big crockpot. Cover with as much water as will fit: the lentils need a lot of water or they will get tough. Stir. Leave on high setting if you can check on the soup to stir occasionally and add water, but if not, leave on low setting for 6-8 hours. Add the soy sauce just before serving. Salt added too early makes the lentils tough.

I have also given this a Indian spin with coriander and curry instead of the oregano and basil.

CHS kitchen-test note: Following Pamela's "Indian spin" option, I made this with 2 teaspoons of cumin, 2 teaspoons of curry powder, a teaspoon of ground coriander, a teaspoon of ground cayenne pepper, 1/2 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper and a tablespoon of soy sauce (shoyu). This served to "punch up" the flavors. To cut the salt I used 1 teaspoon of half-salt, half potassium mix (a.k.a. "low sodium salt.") I ate four bowls, it was that good.

"SKILLET STUFF" submitted by Nellie D.

My sons make it to this day. Cook this in an iron skillet for best flavor (when it comes to cooking, I'm lost without one). To amply serve four, start with about 3/4 pound of either ground beef, ground turkey, or even turkey sausage, and either onions or leeks in a warm skillet. Cook until browned.

(Meanwhile, cook about 1/2 cup of whole grain pasta, elbows, spirals, or other visually pleasing pasta form as per package directions in a separate pan.)

To the meat in the skillet, add a one pound package of frozen soup vegetables...the kind with okra, preferably, or the vegetables added can be potato, one carrot, one ear of corn, fresh okra, Lima beans, peas, zucchini, yellow squash or whatever is fresh and on hand etc. Cook the vegetables with the meat until done, but not overdone, usually about 10 to 12 minutes from the time they reach the temperature of the skillet. To facilitate cooking the vegetables, one may wish to add up to a cup or so of vegetable or chicken stock.

Once the vegetables are done, add either fresh or one can15 oz. tomatoes, and bring up to temperature. If using canned, my sons always liked the spiced, diced varieties, and would play with different formulas. Add Cajun or Italian spice to taste, and the pasta, let set a few minutes with the heat off, and serve with whole grain grilled cheese (whole milk) sandwiches or freshly baked whole grain corn bread.

This meal was inexpensive to make, relatively quick, and always warmed our spirits.

QUICK CHILI submitted by Cindy F.

When you're in a hurry and don't have time to cook beans from scratch, here is a quick and satisfying chili.

Saute in olive oil:
1 chopped onion
5-6 cloves garlic
1 celery stalk

Add after the onion softens:
2 teaspoons cumin
2 tablespoons chili powder--New Mexico or mild

Add 1/2 package ground turkey--about 8-10 oz. (you can add the entire 1-pound package or substitute ground beef if you prefer)

After the meat is well cooked, add:
1/2 - 1 teaspoon salt (to taste; subtitute 1/2 potassium if you're on a low-sodium diet)
1 15-oz can tomato sauce + 1/2 can water
2 15-oz kidney beans, drained but not rinsed
1/2 teaspoon black pepper

Simmer covered for about 45 minutes.

FRIJOLES CHARROS (Black Bean Chili) submitted by CHS

Here is a recipe from Madhur Jaffrey's World Vegetarian: More Than 650 Meatless Recipes from Around the World for what is essentially black-bean chili, except there is no chili powder. (Page 13)

I made this recently and found it a flavorful alternative to standard pinto-bean chili. You don't really notice there's no meat; at least I didn't. I figured the cost at about 75 cents per serving, including $2 for 4 dozen corn tortillas. I would say this serves 6-8 people easily, unless you're having some linebackers or big starving farm-hands over for dinner, in which case you better figure 4 servings.

May be served with heated corn or flour tortillas, or plain rice.


1 1/4 cups black beans, picked over, washed, and drained
1 teaspoon salt, or to taste
3 tablespoons olive oil
5 tablespoons very finely chopped onion
4-6 garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped
6 canned plum tomatoes, finely chopped, plus 1/4 cup of their liquid
1/2 to 1 jalapeno chile or any other fresh hot green chile, very finely chopped
2 tablespoons finely chopped cilantro


Soak the beans overnight in water to cover by 5 inches. Alternatively, you may Quick-Soak the beans (page 6) using the same amount of water. Drain thoroughly and discard the soaking liquid.

Add 4 cups of fresh water to the beans and bring to a boil in a heavy medium pan. Cover partially, turn heat to low, and simmer gently for 1 1/2 hours, or until the beans are tender. (Alternatively, you may pressure-cook the beans, page 8.) Transfer half of the beans and their cooking liquid to a blender or food processor, add the salt, and puree. Return the pureed mixture to the pot with the whole beans and combine well.

Put the oil in a large frying pan and place over medium-high heat. When hot, add the onion and garlic, stirring and sauteing until they are golden. Add the chopped tomatoes and their liquid and the jalapeno, and bring to a simmer. Cover and cook gently for 10 minutes. Stir the tomato mixture and half of the chopped thyme into the beans, and bring to a simmer over low heat. Simmer gently for 5 minutes and serve hot.

CHS kitchen-test note: I bought the ingredients at one of the local "Mexican" markets which cater to the Hispanic population. The total cost was:

1 pound black beans: $1.19
2 medium onions: $ .36 ($.33/pound)
garlic: $ .15 (5 heads for $1.30)
jalapeno chiles: $ .20
1 can tomatoes: $1.00
oil, cilantro, etc.: about $ .30

Total: $3.20

For 6 servings, that's $.53/serving. Add $2 for 4 dozen tortillas, slice up six medium raw carrots (12 oz.) for crunch and vitamins, and that brings it up to $5.60 or $ .93/serving.

If you wanted to add a pound of meat, and you buy on sale, then add another $3.40 or so for either beef (lean cut) or ground turkey. That boosts the cost to about $9.00 or $1.50 per serving for a hearty, protein- and fiber-rich meal.

Compare that to the cost of a supposedly "cheap" (and horribly unhealthy) fast-food "value" meal of burger, fries and a sugar-bomb soda for six: in California, over $30. And yet all we hear is how "poor people" (like me?) "can't afford healthy food." What rot! 93 cents beats the heck out of any fast-food garbage, it's easy to make and the ingredients are readily available virtually anywhere.


Papillotes de Poisson submitted by Anne S.

Cheap, healthy, easy and a little fancy.

Serves 4.

You will need:

aluminum foil and two glasses (2 dl.) of white wine.

4 white fish fillets (for 4 people; or 8 small..)
Use the cheapest, frozen or fresh (e.g. cod, plaice, pangasius..)

1 spring onion (onion and part of the green)

one garlic clove (crushed)

1 large (2 smaller) carrots

one celery stick

a bunch of parsley (or cress, etc.)

one endive.

4 soupspoons of butter.


Make a rectangle of doubled over aluminum foil. The idea is you put the food in the middle and bring up the four sides to make a paquet, completely enveloping the food.

Salt and pepper on the fish fillets - they must be completely defrosted.

Cut (or grind) all the vegetables very fine - either just in little pieces or in very skinny strips.

Place 1/8 of the vege mix on the foil. Add the fish, then another 1/8 of the vege mix. Bring up the sides to make a receptacle, add half a glass of white wine to each portion, a soupspoon (or less!) of butter, some more ground pepper. Close the paquet in any way, and stick a fork in it, 3 times, to create holes so that the steam can escape.

Cook 15 mins (13 to 20 depending on the type and thickness of the fish fillets) in an oven pre-heated to 200C (392F). These paquets can also be cooked on a BBQ. Or directly on top of the stove (gas, electric or conduction) provided you have a suitable underlay to distribute the heat to prevent burning.

Serve the paquet on a plate with whatever - baked potato, green vege, rice...

This basic recipe can be varied in endless ways. Use summer vegetables, plus some cut up olives, dried tomato, and replace the butter with a little olive oil put directly on the fish. Or go Asiatic sweet 'n sour: add ginger and a little fruit, etc.

Craisin Bread/Cream Cheese/Walnut Sandwich submitted by Freeacre

Thought I'd send you a recipe. Today, I am trading a homemade loaf of flaxmeal/craisen bread, a bag of homegrown mesclun mix salad greens, and a dozen free range eggs from the chickens kept in our backyard for a massage from a wonderful massage therapist in town. I have chronic back pain, and she keeps me going.

For a tasty sandwich on this craisen bread, slice off a nice, thick slice. Put a layer of lettuce, a layer of cream cheese and a couple of tablespoons of chopped walnuts on it. Can be open-faced, or add another piece of bread if you are extra hungry.

Since I grew the lettuce and baked the bread, this is very cheap and good. I have sent for a kit to make my own cream cheese. That will take it down even more, and give me an additional thing to barter (cheese).

At my request, Freeacre provided this recipe for the bread:

Craisin/Flax Meal Bread (makes a good breakfast toast, or a sandwich for lunch)

I start with a basic recipe from the Breadman Pro bread machine cookbook that comes with the bread machine. I used to be a purist who wouldn't touch a bread machine, but when I started making bread on a regular basis, I quickly changed my mind... To make a two pound loaf:

Add all the ingredients in order -

80 degree water (doesn't have to be perfect) 1 1/4 cups
1/4 cup olive oil (or any oil, but I avoid genetically engineered if possible)
1/4 cup (packed) brown sugar
2 tsp. salt
2 1/2 TBL spoons powdered milk
4 cups bread flour

(Now, this is where I take some flax seeds, grind them up in my former coffee bean grinder, and substitute about a quarter to a half cup of flour with the flax seed meal, to make it more nutritious).

1 1/2 teaspoons nutmeg (powdered or beans grated up)
2 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast (for Rapid Rise setting)

Select "Fruit & Nut" course on the machine. When it dings, add the dried fruit, 2/3 cup. I like to use Craisins, but you can use apricots, raisins, or whatever dried fruit you want. Keep an eye on the machine when it is initially stirring up the ingredients. Help it out with a little spatula. Add a little more water if it isn't holding together or a little extra flour if it seems too wet.

When it is done, if it is not brown enough on top, remove the loaf from the pan and stick it in the oven at 350 for a few minutes to get the crust uniformly brown.

Remove from pan, and enjoy the first piece nice and hot with butter. Yum. Today, Charles, I am happy to report that my kale and Swiss Chard are ready to eat from the garden. So, I can send you another "post-collapse" recipe that I am making for todays dinner: Garden Chicken Soup 1 chicken ($4.40 - on sale for 99 cents per pound) Go to garden and pick whatever vegetables you have that would work. I used about 8 cups of Russian Kale and Swiss Chard and some green onions. I also used about a cup of Napa cabbage from the refrigerator, because I had to use it up, and a carrot, peeled and diced. First, I boiled a chicken. Then, after about 45 min. I pulled or cut the meat off the bones. I saved the breast for another meal. I can make stir fry or chicken salad tomorrow. I used the dark meat for the soup. The skin can go to the pets. So, the de-boned chicken goes back into the pot, along with the vegetables. I don't know how to calculate the cost of the vegetables. I spent a total of $45 dollars for all the seeds that I grew this year. I estimate that the vegetables that I use cost me less than 50 cents a day. You could put noodles or potatoes in the soup, but I can't afford the carbs. If you are slender, by all means, add noodles. Simmer until vegetables are soft. I season the soup with thyme, celery salt, garlic salt, lemon grass, ginger, and lemon pepper. So, this soup cost about $3 to make and will feed two of us at least twice. Plus, I still have the chicken breast to make another meal. - I am serving this with a savory loaf of caraway onion rye bread hot out of the oven. Raisin-oatmeal cookies for dessert. freeacre


I thought I'd send you my take on eating cheap and healthy. I tend to observe that pretty much all cultures have good, cheap, "peasant" food that most of us can diversify our diets with. Just to satisfy my own peculiar sensibilities, I also try to express my solidarity with whatever country we are currently occupying or bombing or exploiting in some way by eating their traditional dishes as well. During the current resource wars, for instance, I've eaten a lot of Tabouli and hummas. (See

In general, though, I find that it is useful to not just focus on recipes, but on the infrastructure that lends itself to eating cheaper and healthier and more local. For instance, I bought a chicken on sale for $3.88. Actually, I bought several of them and froze them for future use. I can do that because last year we purchased a freezer that is energy efficient ($3 per month to run) and put it on our porch.

I roasted a chicken. The first night my husband and I each ate a leg and thigh. The next day, I attended a meeting that required a sack lunch. I made a chicken salad from the previous nights leftover chicken and salad, and wrapped it in a spinach wrap. So, the lunch cost me nothing, essentially, and was good. The next day, I made polenta (a corn grit mush which is really tasty). I made a layer of polenta at the bottom and then put the rest of the chicken breast (diced) on top. Then, diced up a couple of tomatoes, some onions, and a partial can of diced green chilies (added some chili powder & garlic salt & cayenne pepper) to make salsa, and put that over the chicken. Next I opened a can of black beans (seasoned with seasoned salt, red pepper, and spread it over the salsa. Then, grated some Monterey Jack cheese, put it over the top, and baked it until everything was melty and yummy.

Anyway, the point is not so much the recipe, but the fact that the $3.88 chicken fed us five meals.

If you figure out what type of foods you like to eat in general, then purchase many of the ingredients ahead of time when they are on sale or buy in bulk, then you only have to add one or two items, maybe, to put it together. Then, you make another meal or two from the leftovers. Roast some lamb. Then use it as a roast, shish-kabobs, and a stew.

Roast pork loin. The first night, you can serve slices with salad and potatoes or something. The next night, combine it with vegetables in a Chinese stir fry. If you still have some left, you can make it into frajitas.

Have lots of differing spices, so you can go Italian, Chinese, Mexican, Indian, Thai, French, Iranian, or whatever, to give you lots of variety from the same staple ingredient.

The same with vegetables. Keep in mind that they can be used in so many differing ways: salads, sandwiches, wraps, stir-fry, soups, stews, even breads, and lastly, food for chickens.

A bread machine, dehydrator, smoker, freezer, and rototiller are indispensable infrastructure items. Additionally, we keep five laying hens in our backyard. So, we get over two dozen eggs per week from them that we both use and gift and trade. For instance, a neighbor who we provide eggs for just called and told me he is bringing me some trout that he just caught. This happens all the time. I make homemade bread and bagels, too. I give these away, and I get back rhubarb, vegetables, venison, elk, and all sorts of things. A chick costs $3 and is very cheap to raise.

We also grow almost all of our vegetables with a combination of garden and greenhouse, despite living in the high desert of central Oregon. Since May, I have not had to purchase any salad greens. European mesclun mix salad greens come from the greenhouse. Soon they will be joined by green beans, white scallop summer squash, cucumbers (from which I can make pickles) and 5 kinds of tomatoes. Kale, chard, garlic, carrots, beets, peas, onions, and broccoli will come from the garden. Last year we blanched and froze vegetables from the garden that lasted until April. We also make beef and turkey jerky for far less than one can buy it in a store for. It also tastes better and has no chemicals in it.

All this is organic. We never throw away any organic thing. If we don't eat it, we put it in the compost heap, where the chickens have at it. They eat the leftovers and vegetable parings, then they provide the chicken poop with which we fertilize the garden. We also have friends with horses.

You get the idea. Nothing goes to waste. We have extra cardboard boxes or trimmed trees, or something that requires burning. After it is burned, we collect the ashes and put them in the garden or compost. Helps to balance our acidic soil.

Despite the fact that I make no money, and am living on $1,000 a month from my savings (which is running out, but next year I'll be able to get social security - I hope), we've never had it so good, foodwise. And, since we've been anticipating the economic collapse, we have been stocking up on food for years now, and now have about a year's worth ahead. Just as an experiment, we decided to not purchase anything at a store for the month of January 2008. Piece of cake. I only ran out of vanilla extract. This has lead to great peace of mind.

Anyway, I am not trying to brag, but I am attempting to turn you on to what can be done when money is tight and you don't want to be eating toxic commercial crap. Our efforts at becoming food sustainable have led to unexpected friendships and networking of all sorts. This has been an unanticipated reward.

This is our alternative working class "retirement." Rather than bitching about being on "a fixed income," playing Bingo, and going to Denny's, we are gardening and talking to the chickens, and having a good time in our own freedom-loving, Monsanto-hating, doomer, survivalist, anarchist way.

"A healthy homecooked family meal and a home garden are revolutionary acts." (CHS, May 2008)

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