I was given several old cook books from the 1930’s and war time 1940‘s. When I got them many years ago I though they were just nice heirlooms to have. I never thought after I first looked at them that they would now become important references with recipes. The books seemed out dated and uninteresting at the time I was given them. There is much to learn from these old cook books but more important their recipes are basic and use simple ingredients. There is many recipes in the early 1940’s that reflect the rationing that households had to cope with. Now I find myself with a rationed shopping cart of food not because of a shortage of food but because of a shortage of money. I know I am not alone because I watch shoppers groan at the price of meat as they look at the meat case. I have a wonderful set of cook book from the last 20 years with great pictures and instructions but they use many ingredients that are now out of my budget range. Just to name a few spices like cardamom, smoked sweet paprika, and vanilla bean that cost more then $5. I look for spices every time I shop for inexpensive bottles or little bags. There is a organic shop close by that I can buy spices by the gram that is cheaper then grocery store bottles. Also there I can buy some of my staples there in bulk by the pound that is cheaper then in the grocery.
One of the things I have learned to do is look around in my refrigerator and cupboard to see what there is for me to use. That is when I take note of things I need to use before they expire or perish. Then I start to look for ideas that I can use them in. You will be amazed at how much you can create and save money at the same time. I am always looking at dates and pulling them to the front of the cupboard if they are close to expiration. I buy on sale and stock up when I can and sometimes things just get pushed in the back corner and I forget I have them. I also like to dig in the back corners of my freezer to find things I have forgotten. Right now is the time of year that I make a point to use up frozen foods because it is hurricane season here. I also incorporate left-overs into meals that also helps with the budget. Once I get my freezer on the top of my refrigerator about empty I only keep a few days of frozen foods in there. I have a grocery only a couple of blocks from my house so it easy for me to shop.
There is savings in learning how to make salad dressings instead of buying Italian, cucumber and slaw dressings. I sometimes end up with extra from the recipe and I just put it in a little jar in the refrigerator to use in a few days. Spending time looking on the internet for home made mixes that can save you money also helps with having on hand for quick meals. Once you get used to doing this it becomes routine and you don’t feel like you are spending all your time creating meals. I also do almost all my own baking. Have you seen the price of cupcakes in the bakery section? It certainly don’t cost a $1 each to make them. I can make 24 cupcakes for less then $5 and that is using cake mix and canned frosting.
I am going to share with a simple main dish recipe with just a few ingredients that was inspired by a cook book New American Cook Book by Lily Wallace published during WWII. I had this for dinner last Sunday because I found a round steak in my freezer that I bought on sale, two for the price of one, a couple of months ago.
- 1 ½ pound round steak
- ½ cup of seasoned flour to taste
- 2-3 tablespoons oil
- 1 onion
- ½ green bell pepper chopped
- 1 can 15.5 oz. stewed tomatoes
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 cup hot water
- 2 cups sliced carrots
- 1 tablespoons sugar optional
In a large skillet heat oil. Cut steak into 5 or 6 pieces. Roll in flour and brown in hot oil. When the meat is brown on one side turn over and add onions and peppers so they can caramelize while the last side browns. Then add tomatoes and hot water and bring to boil stirring. Then cover with a tight lid and reduce heat to simmer for 45 minutes. Add carrots and more water if needed and cook another 20 minutes until tender. If needed the tomatoes can be sweeten with a little sugar to cut the acid taste. Serve with cooked rice.
I sometimes leave out the green pepper if I don’t have it. They can sometimes be expensive. Stewed tomatoes usually already has the peppers in with tomatoes as well as celery and onion. Canned carrots can be used just add them after the meat is fork tender and let them heat through. Cheap cuts of beef steak can be tough and this is a way to braze it on top of the stove so it is tender. I hope you keep this simple war time ration meal in mind when you are out of ideas and just about out of money.