For the best results in catering, women should know more about serving meat than meringue, and the wise farm housekeeper will seek to know ways of cooking beans, cabbage, turnips, asparagus, the precious Irish potato and other vegetables and the fruits that grow on the farm in abundance. -1905

Learn to cook with the simplest, most basic ingredients, which are often the cheapest as well. These include staple ingredients, like potatoes, beans, and vegetables, as well as those foods that are the foundation of other meals, like breads and biscuits.

If you have a garden, it’s important to learn all the ways you can cook with the abundance you’re able to grow in your garden plot. For example, I grow several kinds of fruit on my property, like raspberries, grapes, apples, and peaches. As my fruit trees and bushes matured and started producing, we began eating more and more fruit. I eventually realized that I had to modify the way I cooked. It didn’t make sense for me to continue making desserts that used primarily store-bought ingredients like chocolate chips, cool whip, and instant pudding. I had fruit that needed to be used! Now I make primarily fruit-based desserts, like raspberry crisp, baked apples, and grape pie. (It’s such a sacrifice. But if Burpee ever develops a chocolate chip tree, let me know.) The fruit is free to me, so the dishes I make are fairly inexpensive, since fruit is the main ingredient. And of course, a dessert loaded with fruit is unquestionable a healthy one–just take away the butter, lard, and sugar and what do you have?  A salad.

It’s also important to train yourself to take advantage of terrific sales and the unexpected ways you find yourself with extra food.  Maybe you’ve discovered some abandoned berry bushes in a vacant lot, someone offers you some meat after a hunting trip, or you score some unlabeled cans at the salvage grocery store for a song. Don’t be quick to pass it up because you’re not sure what to do with it.  Use a variety of cookbooks, find some good resources online, and seek the advice of more experienced home cooks.

I recently bought a big box of dented cans for $3.95.  Included in the box was a large can of yams in syrup. This is not something I would ever, ever buy. I figured that one dud out of 30+ cans was still a bargain and I didn’t need to feel guilty for tossing it.  But, of course, I did feel a little guilty. I searched online and found a recipe for sweet potato bread. A little flour, sugar, and eggs turned my undesirable yams into two loaves of delicious quick bread. One I took to a potluck, and the other was our breakfast.

Thursday’s post will continue this thought, with an example of how I found a use for bargain peanuts.  I’m sure the suspense will be intolerable.

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