Comfort foods are a piece of our past, usually connected with fond memories, and almost always are very cheap foods. The usual qualifications are simple.
Nothing exotic in terms of ingredients or flavors
Usually cheap ingredients
These “comfort foods” are also usually our “cheap foods” and surprisingly enough, connected with both economic hardship and pleasant memories, something most of us rarely put together. (It makes me question how miserable we really are when we are “broke” actually!) Things like tomato gravy, noodle dishes of all kinds from tuna and noodle casserole to mac n cheese, potato dishes, chipped beef on toast…and creamed peas & tuna on toast (or mashed potatoes or waffles or about anything!)
I introduced some friends to creamed peas and tuna with their choice of toast, mashed potatoes or waffles today. They liked it…a lot. The cost? Leftover homemade waffles, estimated cost $.50, 2 cans of tuna @$.60 each, 1 can of peas at $.68, 1 package Idahoan Baby Reds mashed potatoes at $.89, and 4 slices of toast $.20. Total cost, about $3.47, divided by 4, makes each meal cost about $.87. (Okay, I forgot to add the cost of the dry milk, black pepper, 4 tablespoons butter, and 1/4 c. flour…so maybe it really came to $.95.) The real thing is…any meal that serves ample servings for satisfying hunger and comes in around $1 per person is VERY economical. This one would be even more economical if it was served with only ONE choice for starch, such as biscuits, mashed potatoes, boiled potatoes, toast, rice or noodles.
It also illustrates something else. We don’t have to cook and serve food that is expensive and designed to impress in order to serve a satisfying meal to friends and family, and entertaining does not have to go out the window just because we’re short in the budget department. Too often, we forbid our family members from bringing home friends for dinner for fear of not having enough food or not serving appropriately impressive meals, making the household appear to fall short in the “hospitality” department, and unfortunately announcing loud and clear that there is financial trouble afoot in a home. By continuing to be hospitable, we can continue to enjoy our family and friends and their visits, as well as creating a comforting illusion that things are the same as always, even if we are no longer serving lamb chops, oysters en brochette, and duck ala king when we are entertaining, instead choosing to serve chicken livers, fish, chicken, turkey, and vegetarian meals.
We also can still serve desserts, especially if we’re handy in the kitchen and can create our own. Remember the cake you baked for the Sunday dinner? Unfrosted and slightly stale, that same cake can be cubed and become a trifle for friends dropping by on the following Friday by simply combining it with some in-season fruit, fruit syrup, pudding, and whipped topping or whipped cream. No fruit on hand? Chocolate cake and white cake, layered with any kind of pudding can be a spectacular dark and light contrast!
A dollop of creativity, a dash of inspiration, and a half cup of desperation combined with a large cup of determination can reliably produce meals that are satisfying and stick to your budget. What do you add to that recipe?
Anything in the pantry or at the market that is in season!