We are always trying to maximize our food dollars and we seriously believe in not wasting food or spending too much time in the grocery store. We’re eat-it-until-it’s-gone kind of girls, so we make a lot of big, one-pot dishes that get us through at least one lunch and two dinners.
We know what you’re thinking: Doesn’t that get boring? Well, yeah, it does. But over the first half of the financial makeover we like to call Operation Do Better, we’ve learned a few things that help us stretch our budget and beat the leftover blues.
Cooking is a process — a fun one
At the thrifty palace, we cook with our whole hearts, our whole selves and our whole kitchen. Sometimes we drink wine and sometimes we crank up the music and slide across the kitchen floor. The place usually looks like ground zero when we’re done. But at the end of the day we always have fun, and that fun comes through in food that we’re excited about making and eating, such as homemade pizza dough, vegetarian tamales and pie.
Practice, practice, practice
So here’s the thing. Coming into this venture, we could both do more than boil water. We can cook, but our cooking skills often revolved around having something quick and easy to eat. Quick and easy doesn’t always mean tasty. But the more often we cook, the more opportunity we have to practice our skills. We get to experiment almost daily with what to cook and how to cook it and then we get to eat it all. And we do. Take the time to make something you really want to eat. We promise the effort will be worth it. Mistakes can be pretty tasty too.
Spices, spices, spices
Cumin, chili powder, salt, red pepper flakes, cayenne pepper and black pepper. Our spice rack runneth over and so should yours. Trust us.
Recipes help you branch out
We both come from long lines of women who cook with no recipe. A pinch of this, a handful of that is how these women measure things. But recipes are a good way to begin learning how to pair different seasonings and flavors, especially if you are straying far away from the food you were raised on. The way we make Indian and Mexican food, you’d swear both of us grew up eating it.
Real cooks wing it
Once you’ve tried a few recipes you’ll see that the flavors are usually based on the palates of the recipe’s author. You might taste the final product and think it bland, or just find something missing. We are quick to throw our favorite spices in anything, even if the recipe doesn’t call for them.
Have some quick, easy dishes up your sleeve
Even the Thrifty Chicks get burned out on cooking and eating leftovers. At some point, usually in the middle of the week, we just get sick of eating something — or we ate it all. So we’ve learned to make some kind of quick meal that we can pull together in the middle of the week or heading into the weekend. But just because it’s quick doesn’t mean that it can’t be delicious. We flavor our pizza dough with fresh herbs and garlic. We make our own pesto and add it to pretty much every pasta sauce we make. It requires a little extra time but, boy, is it good.
Fresh is best
Buying fresh vegetables and herbs can be expensive and it can be a pain, but it really does taste better — the flavors are just more vibrant. Yes, we use stuff in jars, but we make it a point to get fresh or frozen when we can.
Cooking with friends is lots of fun
We clearly have a built-in cooking support system because we live in the same household. Cooking together is a shared experience and a cathartic process. Sometimes we cook with noise and sometimes we cook in silence. We do have occasion to prepare a meal solo, but it’s not as much fun or as meaningful if you’ve only got you to focus on. If you’re a singleton, invite your friends over and cook together. Make enough so that everybody has leftovers for lunch the next day. If you have a family, invite everyone in the kitchen to make pizza and shake off the blahs of the day. Instant memories. Win-win.
Make it meaningful
Making a meal for yourself or someone else should be about more than just feeding one’s self. It should be about love, care and the act of breaking bread, whether solo or not.