The Art of Meal Stretching – Part 1, by Nurse Michele

Meal stretching is the learned art of taking simple, low-cost ingredients and turning them into not just one appealing meal for your family, but with some careful planning and a few adjustments, several meals to meet your family’s needs.

This is a subject I expect that most of us, at least SurvivalBlog readers, have already acquired a fair bit of knowledge. Sometimes it’s easy to assume then, that the ability to make one meal become three is all but ubiquitous. But recently something happened, making me re-think my assumption that folks at large are familiar with ways to help keep themselves and their loved ones fed, when lean times hit.

For most of their formative years my husband and I raised our children in a lovely suburb in New Jersey. Surprising to most, New Jersey has some of the nicest, safest towns in the country. No crime. Good schools. Surprisingly conservative morals. Close-knit communities. In peacetime, that is. Not a place to be when teh SHTF. Nice folks but no prepper awareness at all.

This community, though appealing, wasn’t one I could afford to live in. I was working there as the secretary in a small Baptist church but living in a more affordable town when, to no fault of our own, the apartment complex we were living in suffered damage and we lost everything. Like, everything. We left with nothing but the clothes we were wearing. In a not-worth-rehashing detail, our renter’s insurance found a way to not cover it. So, God’s people being who they are, took us under their wing and found someone-who-knew-someone in town with a wonderful apartment to rent at far below market value. The church folks also showed up with used furniture, toys, kitchen items–the works. In three days, I had a home and all we needed. We stayed there almost a decade. I’m still grateful.

So, while we were living there, surrounded by million-dollar homes, it was clear to the neighbors and our children’s friends that we ‘didn’t have a lot’ compared to them. Especially when we took the risk of me giving up my job to go to nursing school. Things were really lean for a while. In our neighborhood my children’s lack of electronics, our beat-up old cars, even our ‘not only on Sunday’ faith really stood out. Never bothered me one bit. And while I always assumed it was noticed, it wasn’t focused on. My children’s friends gravitated to us. And I fed every kid that walked in the door.

Fast forward to the current day, having voted with our feet several years ago, we now live in a small town with which we are more homogenous. Which brings me to a recent occurrence that brought home the fact that meal stretching is not naturally occurring but a learned art.

We all know that the Covid fallout has left a lot of people in lean times. Some, apparently, for the first time ever. Like Mary. A 20-something year old in New Jersey who, along with several of her family members, has lost her job. Last week Mary sought out my daughter on social media to ask for advice on “how to make cheap meals.” Her family is really struggling. She recalled our family and sought N out as a resource. Wow. For them, and perhaps many others, this is a new circumstance and a new challenge. One for which they are under-equipped. Mary’s situation really struck a chord with me. And while it’s easy to get judgmental about that level of ill-preparedness, this may be the reason the Lord allowed our “less-than-the-Jones’’ lifestyle to be on full display to our neighbors. He gave us knowledge to share with tangible and practical advice.

As I stated, in this forum, I don’t fathom that this will be brand new information. Rather, just some good tips to be shared amongst like-minded frugal folks. And I’m looking forward to your own ideas in the Comments section as I’m always looking to expand my lean budget repertoire!

The first low-cost “go-to” meal is one I made up years ago when my kids asked for Tacos. I had a packet of taco seasoning but no money for ground beef. Through a little creativity I came up with:

Taco rice and beans

(“How to feed 4 people for about 3 dollars”.)

  • ½ small onion, diced (50 cents, save other half for another recipe)
  • 1 can pinto beans (50 cents)
  • I can corn, undrained (50 cents)
  • I cup white rice, cooked = 3 cups (1lb bag is 85 cents, save remainder for other recipes)
  • About ½ packet taco seasoning (50 cents – save remainder)
  • 2 T oil (I’m assuming most have some on hand, if not 85 cents for margarine)
  • 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese (optional – half of a $2 bag, on sale)

Cook rice to package directions, set aside. Saute onion in oil. Add pinto beans and undrained corn. Add taco seasoning. The starchy juice from the corn and the beans cooks down into a thickened sauce. Serve ¾ cup rice in each bowl with the sauteed mixture over it. Easily makes 4 filling servings.

This bare-bones recipe costs less than 3 dollars. A little more than $5 if you have cheese and needed to buy margarine or oil. Of course, it can be easily expanded upon as budget allows. Add chicken, add green onion, add sour cream. Some diced tomato. The possibilities are endless but even in it’s stripped-down form, this recipe is tasty, appealing to young ones, nutritious and very economical! And it’s the first recipe my daughter shared with Mary.

Now, that’s good for one day but kids have this habit of getting hungry every day so what’s next? I usually would find an inexpensive meat to build a meal around and then stretch that basic meal into several others. For example:

Chicken soup
  • 1 package chicken leg quarters Even now that I can afford other things – I still use leg quarters for my soup because they give it the best flavor! (usually still find a small pack of 4 count for around $4.29)
  • 3 carrots, sliced (1 lb bag $1)
  • Celery – inner most small stalks and leaves + 1 or two ribs, chopped (whole head 1.29 at my Walmart)
  • The other ½ onion (already paid for)
  • 3/4 cup rice (already paid for)
  • 1/3 tsp Salt +/- depending on taste and blood pressure (26 oz container 36 cents at walmart)
  • 1 bay leaf (1 container is about $1.35, can be left out but well worth it if in budget)
  • About 5 quarts water

Place all ingredients in a large pot and simmer, stirring occasionally for about 45 minutes to one hour. When chicken is cooked through, turn heat off and remove chicken. Carefully strip ALL the meat off the chicken and dice. Depending on size of chicken quarters this will easily yield about 3 cups of chicken. Add about 1 ½ cups back to soup. You now have a full pot of delicious and filling soup that can generously feed 8 people. Or, feed a family of 4 dinner for two nights.

Reserve about 2 cups of the broth and the other 1 ½ cups of chicken. Now for the stretching.

 

Chicken pot pie filling
  • 1 carrot, diced (paid for)
  • 1 celery stalk, diced (paid for)
  • 1 can peas (50 cents)
  • 1 cup of reserved chicken stock (paid for)
  • ¾ cup reserved chicken (paid for)
  • 1Tbsp flour or corn starch (on hand)

Cook the diced carrot and celery in the chicken broth (or microwave) and add to a medium saucepan. Then thicken with 1Tbsp of flour or corn starch (going to assume this is on hand) add can of peas and ¾ C diced chicken. Heat through and stir.

This filling can be used in a multitude of ways. Of course, if you have the where with all to make a pie crust, you’ve got a classic chicken pot pie. Or, for an easy ‘weeknight’ dinner, empty into a buttered 8 x 8 casserole dish and add uncooked refrigerator biscuits on top ($1) and bake as a casserole.

A little more stretching…

 

Black bean and chicken soft tacos
  • Remaining ¾ c diced chicken (already paid for)
  • 1/2 c rice, cooked = 1 ½ C cooked (already paid for)
  • 1 can black beans (50 cents)
  • Remaining 1 cup of broth (already paid for)
  • ½ packet taco seasoning (already paid for)
  • 8 pack flour tortillas ($1.82 at Walmart)
  • Other 1 cup of shredded cheese if you splurged on it

Make rice according to package directions. In a separate pan, heat broth, beans, chicken and taco seasoning in a pan until thickened. Line each of the soft shells with rice and then add a few spoons of the mixture and top with cheese, if available. Makes 8 soft tacos.

Through the learned art of meal stretching, the preceding was five nights worth of tasty, economical entrees for a family of four. Total cost: $17.81. I looked up current, local prices for each item. Some required a little searching, but all were the readily available ’right now’ store brand price without coupons. That’s even with current Covid inflation. This entire menu comes to 0.89 cents per meal, per person. That’s assuming you included, cheese, margarine and bay leaf. If not, it’s only 0.68 per person, per meal!

Over the years I have developed several such menus and I’ll share more of them tomorrow, in Part 2.

Meal stretching, once considered common knowledge among Great Depression-era families, is now a growing need in families all over our country. Many of whom, until recently, didn’t know they would ever seek such information but now find the presence or lack thereof may be the difference between a full belly and an empty plate.

(To be concluded tomorrow, in Part 2.)




41 Comments

  1. What a Great subject. I am looking for Part Two. I have always disliked “to be continued”

    Thank You for sharing not only the food but the humbleness. It is refreshing to see another who is willing to share their live openly so that others my learn, so many people try to impress others and hide their experiences.

  2. I am so looking forward to the next part. I cook all meals for me and my husband plus my elderly parents and even though we can afford what we need, I am super frugal and love being able to stretch a dollar to the limit and beyond, especially on food. My problem is that I get brain freeze when it comes to meals so these that you have shared are wonderful and will be trying all of them.

    Thank you for sharing your story.

    Have a Rockin great day!

    1. Hey RKRGRL68,

      I have the same brain freeze problem so on the inside cover of my recipe book I started writing down all the different kinds of meals I make so I can just look at the list. Sometimes I’d go six months or a year before remembering things like, “Oh yeah, I forgot about aebleskivers!” Ditto brown bread, pretzels, chicken curry… etc.

      1. Like my brother, StF, I forget about aebleskivers and lorkestings.

        I do know how to work with microgreens, very thrifty and nutritious. Plenty of excellent info online.

        Carry on

  3. Wonderful article. Thank you.

    While we are prepared now, once upon a time, long long ago we were poor and my MIL would bring us weekly what we called a “care package”. Usually a chicken, a gallon of milk and sliced cheese. Sometimes a can of veggies too. And a loaf of bread.

    We were so thankful and I felt if she would bring it – I should see how far I could make that chicken go. Not waste any of it. Meal stretching is the way to go.

    I once read that here in America “we” waste 40% of our food !! That has to change and your article is a good best way for that to happen. Thank you again for bringing it out and taking the time to put this out here. God bless you and those who read it.

  4. What a GREAT article! My mother used to tell me about growing up during the depression. She said her mother, my grandmother, would cook a chicken and make it last all week. Thank you for posting this…looking forward to tomorrow.

  5. Back in the 70s I was a stay at home mom for our daughter, my husband had a job that put us in the lower end of middle class, we had house payments, my husband had a hobby antique car that ate money, and I bought books and craft materials. Eventually our daughter went to private pre-K and kindergarten. I stretched meat, grew a small garden, and did a lot of home baking. We entertained from time to time. We were getting by and felt pinched once in a while but still managed to tithe. Two things came up that really shocked us: our church (in a fairly affluent neighborhood that we were on the cheaper edge of) listed the amount donated by the top 10% of members—we gave in that range. The second thing was that someone in my husband’s office asked where we got our outside income since his salary was the same and they didn’t have the things we did. Being careful with spending on food (and still having a healthy diet) and watching where the money goes makes for comfort on less income than people might think.

  6. To stop the “steal” in Georgia all voters need to take a picture of their ballot and then if the republican party would have a website where a voter could go to state that they had voted then the republican vote numbers could be recorded with some reliable accuracy.

    1. While I would hate to deprive anyone of their inalienable right to go to jail, photographing ballots in a polling place is illegal in some states (as votes are confidential), so I would highly recommend looking in to that before trying anything of the sort.

      GA is also a Republican-run state, so the time to address voting machines would have been any moment before this one. Horses, barn doors et al.

  7. Yesteryear vs current times. I grew up in the mid west, large family and even larger extended family. My grandmother and grandfather came from Europe before WW1, they knew what it meant to stretch things.
    They lived on the banks of the Mississippi in Dubuque, Iowa. No running water (well O.K. a hand pump on the kitchen sink) and a five gallon bucket below. No indoor restroom, outdoors, up the hill to the outhouse. Heat, in the winter, was a small coal burning stove in the front room with the heat drifting up stairs to the five to eight kids curled in the middle of a 12″ to 18″ thick feather mattress with a handmade down quilt over the top. (One of the richest memories of my childhood!)

    Eight children and mom and dad would descend upon my grandparents like a cloud of locusts. Within 30 minutes we would all be around the dinning room table eating. I still have NO IDEA how she did it, they were POOR in the thing of the world. Thank God that my mother picked up those fantastic abilities. LET’S FAST FORWARD TO TODAY, well a few years ago.

    One of my nephew’s wife decided to treat my brothers and I to of great ‘homemade’ meal. What a sweet idea. She was busy in the kitchen cutting up vegetables and chopping up chunks of top quality meat. What a meal this was going to be. She threw all the fixing in a big pot and started stewing it down. We were a little confused because of the quality of meat she was using for stewing, but, ‘let’s wait and see’. After it had stewed down, she got a strainer and poured it in. Then she took the liquid and set it aside and proceeded to throw the meat and vegetables into the trash!!! My brothers and I went insane, we literally pulled them out and asked her, “What in the H— are you doing!!!” “Oh, I just need the broth.” and she was TOTALLY sincere. NEED WE SAY MORE?

    1. I had to laugh at the meat and veggies going down the drain. I used to watch those gourmet cooking shows, but realized I was too “white trash” to commit that level of waste. I find it a point of pride to see how many pounds of usable meat that I can get off of the carcass (ANY carcass, even lobster) after somebody else is ready to toss it. I hope you were able to rehabilitate your neighbor’s wife about the PROPER way to make broth? 🙂

      1. Your comment made me laugh out loud! I can never cut up a bell pepper the way they show it on America’s Test Kitchen. Funny story: we cooked extra turkeys at thanksgiving to can the meat. We also threw the carcasses in the roaster to make broth. After the broth was ready, I started pulling the meat off the bones and my husband told me I was wasting my time. Well 30 minutes later I had enough meat for another meal for our family of 5. He and my son were both amazed.

        Thanks to the OP for writing this. It’s inspiring!

  8. I loved living in Summit New Jersey. It was like something out of a Norman Rockwell painting. Quite the contrast to working in mid town Manhattan every day. That 35 minute train ride was like travelling between two vastly different worlds.

    Lean times in Eastern Washington back in the day, like driving the truck up to the legume farmers’ facilities and loading up the back with garbage cans full of lentils, or having the potato farmers run their harvesting conveyor in the back of my work van while fixing their radio for a minute or two, or asking permission to glean the wheat farmers stubble along the utility line where his harvester couldn’t navigate. When you are poor and broke, you do all you can. Eastern Washington used to be a great place for finding deals like that. Sadly, they’ve become almost impossible; one reason why I left.

  9. Great article, and a very timely topic. My family are old hats at meal stretching, especially back in our younger, more financially challenged days. But you can always learn more, and I look forward to part 2. As the designated family “chef”, I consider meal stretching a challenge that I enjoy answering, and I’m always eager for more arrows for the quiver.

    After changes in family Thanksgiving plans created more leftovers than normal, my Lady and I had to get more creative than normal. I’m addition to our normal turkey sandwiches and turkey-noodle casserole, we now have a turkey pot pie and some turkey chili in the freezer, ready for quick, minimal preparation meals. Leftover game went into omelets, mac and cheese, and of course, sandwiches.

    Looking forward to digging into the second course of this series tomorrow!

  10. Great article! My mother was a master at meal stretching. She would often cook a large dinner on a Sunday and then stretch out leftovers through the week. Freezing and canning our one garden produce also stretched the food budget.

  11. Hi Nurse Michelle,

    My lachrymal canals were getting pretty clogged up so thanks for the good cry this morning. I’ve always said “As a species, the sooner we go extinct the better. But as individuals, Humans are the greatest thing that ever happened to planet Earth.” You’ve underscored that with the story of the generosity of your neighbors. The “Three G’s” always get me blubbering, Grandpa, Goodbye, and Gratitude. In the gratitude department, whenever I see humans acting decent and wonderful to their fellow man, I just lose it. What great humans you’ve had at times in your life, when you lost your house and other times you mentioned. And what a great neighbor and mom you are/were when the richer neighbor kids were coming to your house. That says volumes. They’ll be talking about that when they’re thinking of the good old days. My sisters and I still talk about the nice neighbor lady who made gallons koolaid on hot summer days, then opened her kitchen window so all the neighbor kids could walk up on her porch and get free koolaid through the window, just like were rich kids at the drive-in. She was a nurse too. 🙂 Oh nuts, I’m blubbering again thinking about how nice she was. Must be the Gratitude. This blubbering is really hard on my tough-guy image.

    Anyway, back to the subject of cheap meals. As part of a larger food-storage project I’m working on I too have begun figuring out the cost of my meals. One of my mainstays is chili because I rarely get tired of tomato-based foods like chili and pasta sauce. I also like chili because I can make it in 10-pint batches which is ten meals. When it boils, I turn off the heat and immediately ladle it into canning jars so when they cool down they’ll seal just as if I were canning. When I put them in the fridge, they’ll last for months but I’ll have them gone in less than two weeks. So not only is chili cheap, but “instant” when I pull a jar out of the fridge and microwave it for 3 minutes.

    On my chili, it comes out to 26¢ per meal, and on the batches where I’m using my own canned tomatoes, it comes out to a mere 5¢ per meal. A pint of chili is a lot for some people to eat so a batch would make more than 10 meals. To keep it cheap I only use bulk (20 lb) dry beans (45¢/lb), pressure cooked, and I never waste propane by simmering. I’ve tried it simmered and non simmered and couldn’t tell the difference. I also never use any kind of prepared packets of spices, I keep track of the amounts of spices I’m putting in and once I get it perfected, those amounts go into my recipe book and I get nice consistent-tasting batches every time. I buy spices at Big Lots which are $1 for a huge container, about half again as large as normal spice containers. They also send me coupons on a regular basis, some for 33% off so that makes spices 66¢/each. When I don’t have home-canned tomatoes, I get the cheapest pasta sauce at Aldi, 85¢ for a pint and a half jar, so the three pints I need for my batch comes out to $1.65 and if you figure that canning jars cost 75¢ each, and I get to reuse the two Aldi jars for canning, that’s quite a deal. The cheap pasta sauce isn’t super flavorful so my chili spices still end up contributing most of the flavor.

    I also use a lot of rice, which I only buy in bulk, $8.88/20 lbs at Walmart. I get three meals out of my fried rice recipe at 33¢ per serving. Walmart usually only puts the 20 lbs out two at a time so you have to keep checking until they have them on the shelf. Having at least a five-gallon bucketful on hand at all times allows a reserve while you’re waiting for the 20 lbs bags to show up. IMO rice is one of the most important long-term storage items so at $8.88/20 lbs, even poor folks can afford to stock up and lots of different dishes can be made from rice, many of which you can’t even tell there’s rice in it, like my vegetarian sausage (<10¢/large patty.)

    I make my own cornbread mix which makes for a quick as well as cheap breakfast with coffee. Waffles are another cheap meal and good for dinner as well as breakfast and DIY pancake syrup made with bulk sugar and maple flavoring is lots cheaper than store bought. On sugar, they often pull a quick one at the store and the 10 lb or 4 lb on sale is cheaper than the bulk 25 lb bag so it pays to always check the unit price and wait for sales.

    One last thing, we should think out of the box and do the math. When I was back in college, my wife figured out it was almost as cheap to have a 4 oz sirloin steak ($1.99/lb = 50¢/steak) with a baked potato (mere pennies) = $1.10 per meal, than it was to have a 3 oz hotdog dinner! Hotdogs 99¢/12 oz. + buns 89¢ = 94¢/meal (makes 2 meals). So she'd splurge and blow that extra 16¢ for the steak meal. She could stretch a dollar until it screamed.

    Apologies for the long post but just my 2¢ worth. Literally! 🙂

    I really like your extending chicken idea and looking forward to Part 2. I hope Tunnel Rabbit, aka King Frugal, is going to be adding his 2¢ as well.

    1. St. Funogas, I am right there with you when it comes to rice! I would eat it daily, and I expect after a SHTF event, I may well have to as it makes up a significant portion of our stored grains.

      You can stretch many different stews and other dishes by serving them over rice, just like the chili you mention. Many MRE entrees are also improved by serving over rice. To this day, my bugout bag contains a quart Ziploc bag filled with rice crammed into a canteen cup.

      Too many people today do not bake or cook from scratch, so they miss the opportunities Nurse Michele outlines in her excellent article to stretch meals, use up ingredients, and cook with what you have on hand rather than what you run out and pick up.

      My mom excelled at stretching food and the food budget. She made a soup that she called Pacific Chowder. It always included a can of potato soup, a can of cream corn, and a can of tuna, but beyond that the recipe varied by what vegetable odds and ends were left in the fridge or freezer. When I went out on my own, I would cheat and add a can of Veg-All instead, but it was never as good as hers.

    2. St Funogas
      Thanks for your lovely comments. I appreciated your tip about spices at Big lots. I didn’t know they were a good resource for that.
      I also liked how you said that once you find the right amount of spice for a recipe you right it down. I need to do that! I make stuff up in the kitchen all the time and then the kids will ask me how to make it and I can’t even tell them what I’ve done!!

  12. Thank you for the great article. I really appreciate it.

    Don’t forget the day-old bread places as sources. I do, but PTL my wife does not and drove to Franz Bakery outlet. We just got 18 nice bags of beautiful breads, cookies, loaves, buns for $27 yesterday.

    Dark rye is for rich folks at most stores here costing 5 to 6 bucks per loaf. If you cannot bake for your family I can understand, but we got three nice loaves of dark rye yesterday for $5 as part of our load.

    They had a shopping cart full of molasses cookie packages in which somehow, the factory packaged with the cookies upside down. Four packages for $5.

    I like what you posted about using beans in tacos. We store both dry beans and canned beans. I mad a practice of freezing all my bulk sacks of beans and grains now to kill any possible vermin.

    Preppers should note that ‘best by” dates for cans of black beans are often longer term than some other types of beans. Packages of corn tortillas are pretty cheap in most stores.

    I’ve read that for better nutrition balance, some foods should be served together: rice and beans, barley and beef.

    1. Speaking of the bread stores, If you tell them you are buying for your pig then you can get two carts of bread for $5. I then go through it and many of the loaves have several days left until they expire aka more or less the same dates as the stuff on the shelves.

  13. Growing up in North Ga I spent a lot of time with my grandparents. They raised 11 kids with most being born in the depression and some in the WW2 era and a little later. Fast forward to the mid-50’s when we grandkids started spending a lot of our summers with them. I remember many meatless meals during that time and they were so good and filling. Fortunately they had laying hens, so plenty of eggs. On a good year there would be a hog or two to butcher, dress out and put in the salt box on the back porch. There were rabbit boxes and at 10 or 11 yro I became a pretty good squirrel hunter in the fall.

    Koolaid was the only drink of choice other than water or milk. I remember always having a milking cow and using a fresh water spring to keep it cool (there was no electricity on the farm). Fresh picked strawberries turned into delicious layer cakes, fried apples were fantastic. We kids worked in the garden with our Grandma all the time. We shelled peas, butterbeans and strung a lot of green beans, shucked fresh corn, peeled tomatoes, peaches all for canning.

    My grand parents could squeeze a nickel until the buffalo squealed. There was no running to the store. We kids would have to walk at least 1 1/2 miles each way to get the country store where we would buy the Koolaid packs and a 5 lb bag of sugar.

    I remember so vividly the frugality of my grandparents. Lots of those simple things, like straightening bent nails to use rather than buying new ones, having shirts made from chicken feed sacks and on and on. And I’m proud to say that I have used many of those memories to this day to save a dollar or two here and there.

    This was a great article and I apologize for the trip down memory lane.

  14. I really love reading these comments (along with the great article).
    I have always been interested in learning how people survived during the Great Depression.
    I hope your readers will continue to comment on their family memories of how their elders saved money.

  15. Thank you for this excellent article. I think the most important part is the knowledge that no matter the financial situation or how high our prepping caches are piled, everything can be lost or taken away “in the twinkling of an eye.”

    But as long as we have life, purpose, skills, knowledge and wisdom, we can continue.

    I have also been in dire straits at times, and faith, family, friends and fortitude saw me through.

  16. Oh, this brings back memories! Thank you for the wonderful article, looking forward to part 2.

    I was raised by my grandparents who grew up during the later years of the depression. My grandmother (mom) would cook a huge beef stew on Sunday. We would eat on that stew the rest of the week! (Honestly, I’m just beginning to “enjoy” beef stew now after 40 something years! It does get old!) I realize now that the reason she did it was due to my grandfather working two jobs, (regular 2nd shift at a plant and working my great-aunts ranch in the mornings) which resulted in her taking care of the homestead and me. At times, my grandmother also worked two jobs.

    I too remember “straightening out the nails” to be reused! That was my “job” when I was 4 or 5 “helping” my grandfather build a new out building from old lumber that he salvaged from various places. He was truly amazing. He couldn’t read or write due to a serious burn incident while he was school age, but he could “picture” in his head how things were supposed to look when it was done and he DID it!

    I also collect “old cookbooks and pamphlets” from years gone by. One I have is from WW1 and talks about how to “stretch” meat for recipes. One of the suggestions is to add Wheaties cereal to ground beef before cooking. Well, they must have changed the “formulation” for Wheaties since then! I tried it this year and the meat came out with a “sweet” flavor! I think they added sugar into the “modern” Wheaties but I can’t prove that. I only know that I will not use that to “stretch”out meat!

  17. This is a timely article with so many families suffering due to covid lockdowns. I was raised by a grandmother who was one of 14 kids during the Great Depression, and then reared her own six kids during WWII rationing, so we learned not to waste. She taught me how to stretch supplies to feed whoever showed up, or to stretch things until the end of the month if an unexpected expense came up (like my car needing repairs).

    One of my favorite “luxury meat” tricks is to salt-and-marinate an inexpensive cut of meat (such as London Broil), and then slice it crosswise against the grain into approximately 1-ounce slices rather than giving each person a slab of meat. During covid lockdowns, with all the meat shortages in our area, I had to restrict the kids to just one 3-ounce serving of meat per day, so we ate breaded pork chops (aka “words thinnest pork chops”) and lots of chicken and pork stir fries. My Thai friend taught me how they stretch food in Asia.

    Looking forward to Part 2….

  18. One thing that I do is to make a batch of beans and rice with sausage. Makes a great meal. Or a couple of meals. Then, the leftovers are used for tacos, burritos, and again alone. We can eat it for two or three days without getting tired of it. If I make rice with Chinese-type vegetables, or roast beef or pork with carrots, potatoes, and onions, any leftovers are made into soup. We throw away zero food, and spend way less than most people for food.

  19. Saint…could you share your (tried and true I’m sure) recipe for vegetarian sausage please?

    Thanks!

    Nurse Michelle…thank you for a very encouraging and applicable article!!! Looking forward to the next part!

  20. In the 50s things were tough for many of us in the industrial centers (steel mill and coal mining areas). My mother fed 8 of us with her version of “PA Dutch Slippery Pot Pie”. In her case, a chicken neck (gleaned for free from the local butcher), squares of dough and, maybe a potato and a few slices of onion (usually from the garden); boiled for hours and add cornstarch to thicken. Wave bouillon cube through the steam. (The last parts a joke I told about mom stretching bouillon cubes but I swear she could get a weeks worth of meals out of a single cube.). Your pot pie filling would do nicely in this. She also made kidney stew from beef kidneys, onion and potatoes. (When asked, Dad would explain the recipe as,”take a kidney and boil the pee out of it”). To this day, my wife, who is an excellent cook and outstanding at “stretching”, and I practice the frugality of our upbringing. Materials are reused/repaired, bent nails straightened,lumber stored and repurposed garden produce canned etc).

    1. I can really relate to your mom salvaging the necks from the butcher (you can get 2-3 ounces of meat out of each one!). We live near the ocean, so I used to visit the fishmonger’s shack every week, buy a pound of top quality fish that I could barely afford at $7.99 a pound, and then casually ask the fishmonger if he had any fish frames (the head and bones) to make fish stock. He’d usually throw a bunch in a garbage bag for me to take home of all kinds of fish, stuff that had been cleaned that day. I’d take them home, rinse them, and then simmer them below a boil until the eyes turned white, and then proceed to meticulously pick out all the tiny bones. I would get another half-pound of so out of each fish frame.

      Fishheads make a wonderful fish stock because there is a LOT of meat which gets left behind in the cheeks and behind the brain, the fatty skin is loaded with omega-3 fatty acids, and all that gelatinous cartiledge is loaded with chondroitin which helps with bone health and tastes delicious. The pound of properly filleted fish was super expensive, but I’d get a whole week worth of meals out of the fish chowder and fish sticks that I made from the bones. Alas, the fishmonger’s sons took over the business and hired some outfit to pre-fillet the fish before they got it, so my supply of fish frames dried up.

  21. Thanks Everyone. I’m so glad you enjoyed the article and I loved reading your stores and comments.

    I just got off work this morning. The last two nights were very busy and I’m just getting to look at this now. Very uplifting after the last two nights!

  22. My Dad told me of a trick his Grandfather (his mothers Dad) did to make money during the depression. He would buy a gallon of honey and 5 gallons of what my Dad called “simple sugar syrup”, and canning jars. Mix the honey and the syrup, put it in the jars. He had a label made up with a name, something like “Guthery’s Old Mountain Honey”. It wasn’t old, it really was only honey flavored, but it sold and he made more than the costs of his supplies. It was part of what he did to make money for his family. Don’t try this today!

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