And now that song is probably stuck in your head. You can thank me later.
As a home cook and a couponer I usually get tons of questions asking for easy cost effective recipes. There are many ways to make easy, cheap, hearty, healthy recipes without costing a ton of money. The main thing of making a meal cost effective but still delicious is the ingredients you use. I'm all for recipes that call for minimal processed food, I like my food from scratch as much as I possibly can get it. One thing about cooking things from scratch is YOU control the ingredients. You control how spicy, creamy, salty, or sweet. Even if you are an unexperienced cook there are a few items I think anyone who wants to cook from scratch should have. The ingredients in my top five list can be used for some many different recipes, from soups to pastas, from Mexican to Italian.
Here's my top five.
Now it may not look like much but I can't tell you how many recipes I have that call for one or all of these ingredients.
For starters you see unsalted butter, not I Can't Believe It's not Butter or Country Crock, plain ordinary unsalted butter. Whether you are baking or cooking this is a MUST. I chose unsalted because I control the salt, which in baking is something you have to have. Butter is more flavorful than that stuff in the tub, and in some studies has shown to be better for you than the other stuff. I use this is almost everything I cook, usually use it in combo with an good Olive Oil.
Secondly I use tomato paste in a tube, some may like the can but I like the tube better because I can squeeze out a tablespoon or two and throw it back in the fridge. No scrapping out cans or finding a container to put it in. Whether you are making a soup, stew, roast, or stove top meal, tomato paste adds a depth to your meal that makes it seem like its been cooking all day.
Next thing I absolutely love is preminced garlic. Is it the lazy way out yes, but I hate chopping garlic. I use to buy the whole cloves of garlic but most of the time it would go to waste before I was able to use all of it. This sits neatly in my fridge and I'm able to use it when needed and not worry about garlic going to waste.
Now onto onions. Onions are one thing I hated growing up but as I got older I discovered caramelized onions, that now I absolutely love. Onions are one of those things that is probably in almost every dinner recipe out there and the starter to most of them. I always keep a few onions on hand every week. If you are worried you won't use them in time, chop them up and freeze them!
Lastly is unsalted chicken stock. Like mentioned before I use unsalted so I can control the stock. Whenever these go on sale I stock up. I use these for so many things. I usually keep one in my fridge if I have any leftovers. Like tomato paste this is something that can add extra depth and flavor to tons of recipes. When certain recipes call for water to be used I sometimes substitute chicken stock for that extra flavor.