Welcome to Frugal Friday, a weekly instalment where we try to provide small, bite-sized frugal tips from the school of Professor Roar Frugasaurus’ Fantastic Frugality Fair! So, come along, grab a chair, and join us as we try to present some bite-sized chunks of frugal living. Not unlikely, several of these might be food oriented, just because we love food.
Here in the Frugasaurus household, we don’t just like putting our money to work by investing it and saving up for big lifestyle changes. We’re also a pair of hardworking twenty-somethings who often struggle with what to have for dinner. It used to be that we were really good at sitting down each Sunday to meal plan for the upcoming week, but I’m not going to lie, it has fallen a little by the wayside lately.
To avoid the temptation of running down to the shop every time we have a craving for something, what is a frugal person to do? Enter our pantry and a handy list of simple, cheap and filling staple dishes that are easy to cook and utilise a handful or so of staples in the cupboard. An extra bonus being that many of these dishes are also very versatile and can be combined with many a wilted or wilting vegetable in our fridge.
As an example, take the humble tortilla. When we lived in London, they had this amazing tortilla at Sainsbury’s that we both loved. None of the store-bought alternatives in Norway can hold a candle to it. Undaunted by the perceived challenges of homemade tortillas, Mr. E. did a quick search online and came up with these.
The first batch might have been a little too crispy, and they were not quite round, but we both quickly realised there was potential here. By the second batch, we got the frying time down (less than you’d think, follow the recipe and don’t overdo it), and by the third and forth, results were getting rounder and rounder. Now we have a veritable assembly line where Mr. E. rolls the small portion patties into tortillas and yours truly is responsible for frying them as they are ready. The only addition to the recipe we’ve made so far is to add a couple tablespoons of ground linseed to up the nutrition value a tiny bit.
Let me tell you, these things are amazing and deceptively simple. But that is not the main point of this post. While we obviously use these tortillas to wrap up tasty lettuce, sauerkraut, tomato, cucumber, fried mushroom etc, or fill them with beans and sweet pepper to make delicious enchiladas, they also serve many other purposes in our little household.
Being soft and pliable, they serve as a substitute for lefse when the cravings hit. Lefse is a traditional Norwegian thin, soft bread. One of my favourite ways to have lefse is to liberally butter up one side and then sprinkle with sugar and cinnamon before rolling it up and gobbling up. This is often served with coffee as you would a cake and it is oh so delicious. Another, perhaps more traditional way is to fill it with butter and brown cheese (more akin to fudge than cheese).
If we are feeling extra lazy, a third way to enjoy these tortillas is to use them as a quick pizza base. Obviously, if you enjoy a thick, deep-dish pizza crust then these thin tortillas are not going to cut it. But if you occasionally enjoy a thin crust, these serve amiably as a really fast everyday alternative.
As you may have guessed by now. A batch of tortillas do not last long in our house. we have talked about making a large batch and freezing some for easy access, but we never quite seem to get that far.
Another upside to making our own is that we reduce the amount of items we need to have in our pantry. Simplifying and minimising our food storage obviously means that we save lots of money (while still enjoying delicious food!), but we also save on space and planning.
If we always wanted to have tortillas in the house for whenever a craving hit, then we would need to take into account that they have a “best use by” date, and this date is way earlier than a bag of flour. You also get way more bang for your buck when you buy a large bag of flour, which costs about the same here as a 8-pack of cheap tortillas. A bag of flour is also more versatile, having the potential to get turned into other delicious food items, such as bread, cake, pancakes, or as a thickener of sauce.
In other words, by insourcing as much as possible of our cooking, we gain so much more potential at only a fraction of the price. It also means we don’t have to religiously check our pantry every week to ensure nothing in there is going bad soon, because we make sure to store only staple items with long shelf lives, such as flour, sugar, oil, seeds, legumes and canned goods. From this, we have a plethora of options, just because we employ the superpower known as “cooking”!
This simplifies our pantry, our kitchen, our grocery shop and our life in general. When we make our food do multiple jobs, we also simplify how many recipes we need to remember on a daily basis, saving the experimentation for the weekend when we have the time.
We were surprised by how easy tortillas were to make at home. Give it a go! The difference to a store-bought alternative is like night and day! And you’ll save money in the process, double win!
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