Mar 1, 2011

My Ultimate Cooking Challenge

I have issued myself a cooking challenge: Use what's on hand for as long as you can before going to the grocery store to replenish.

Really it's more of a spending challenge: Since I don't have much money for groceries, spend as little as I can on groceries.

It's not so much of a challenge as it is my reality. This has resulted in some interesting meals.

Breakfast Cooking Challenge: Get Creative
When we ran out of milk for our cold cereal, there were eggs. Until we ran out of eggs, then it was oatmeal. Then toast. The less you have, the more creative you get. How about cold cereal with just a little water, then microwaved so it's warm and drizzled with honey? (Don't knock it until you are desperate enough to try it. And if you ever become desperate enough to try it, it might just taste edible.) See how my creative juices are flowing?

Super Easy Cooking Challenge: Soups
Soups are super easy (souper easy?) when you're on a budget. Throw anything (any.thing!) into a pot of water, bring it to boiling, then let it simmer. Add seasoning, usually lots of salt and pepper. And - wallah! - you have what I like to call DePoort Soup, named for the building we lived in with YWAM in Amsterdam. They always served soup on Friday nights made from the week's leftovers.

Have you heard of the advertising campaign that says "Beef. It's what's for dinner."? I like to say, "DePoort Soup, it's what was for dinner."

Ultimate Cooking Challenge: Dish to Pass
This last weekend we had a girls get-together with my Aunts and cousins. I was given the assignment to bring a salad. Now what kind of salad could I bring to a family get together that would be made out of stuff that I had on hand? Doing this low-cost cooking challenge for our family is one thing. I mean, no one has to know that we're eating something that most would determine inedible. But now I had to bring a salad to share with my very domestic (read: good cooks) cousins.

I quickly scanned my fridge. The lettuce was wilted. I had no vegetables that were any good except for the bag of baby carrots. Wait! I'd seen a carrot salad before. Somewhere. I looked for a carrot salad recipe. Upon seeing that all I needed was carrots, raisins and mayo, I got to work shredding four cups worth of baby carrots.

Then discovered that I didn't have enough mayo in the jar. Quickly, I went to and searched for carrot salad recipes that do not use mayonnaise. Most of those called for other ingredients that I did not have on hand either. So I googled "simple carrot salad with vinaigrette" and found my new favorite website: Veggie Belly.

Here's her simple carrot salad with tangy honey vinaigrette, all of the ingredients of which I had on hand.
Combine 2 tablespoons each: olive oil, honey and vinegar. Pour over shredded or shaved carrots. Sprinkle with toasted pecans.
My carrot salad didn't look quite this nice.
Very tasty and simple. Admittedly not as big a hit as the broccoli salad (what can compare with the broccoli salad?) but I was proud of my low-cost yet tasty contribution.

I think I passed my Ultimate Cooking Challenge with flying orange colors.


  1. I was JUST saying to Dave "I wonder how long we could go without going to the store"...brought on by having to rearrange the freezer and always wanting to save a buck or two. How long do you think you can hold out? Liz Dutra

  2. It has been two weeks so far. But with no milk and no eggs, we're holding on by a spaghetti noodle.

    Go for it! Tell me how long you hold out.


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