Na Na pinches her pennies (aka frugal living)

Shh… don't tell anyone I'm poor. They all think I'm living frugal and green just like everyone these days. This is a blog about a senior citizen living a frugal life, on a fixed income, in a low income food desert, and passing along knowledge from lessons learned. Some she learned from her Grandma Mama many years ago and some learned only a few days ago.

Grandma Mama’s flat broke foods

I remember a few cooking lessons from my Grandma Mama about the importance of keeping certain foods in my pantry.  She didn’t call them emergency rations but that’s sort of what they were.  She taught me that when times are really, really tough (flat broke) it’s all the more important to have meals that will give everyone something to look forward to three times a day.  Yup, Grandma Mama sure did serve delicious foods.  Three nice things happening every day will cheer up even the gloomiest of circumstances.  The fact that this can be done with very little money is amazing when you think of all the delicious foods eaten by the poorest people.  Some especially delicious foods came from areas around the world that have a long tradition of good cooking.

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There are two essential requirements when your food budget is very tight.  First you must fill everyone up and second you must give them the best nutrition possible with the money you have.  This might be depressing until you are reminded that those two essential food requirements have been around since the beginning of time.  The rice of the Chinese, polenta and pasta of the Italians, lentils of the middle east, and red beans of the southern states are examples of wonderful dishes that people on tight budgets have come up with.  It all comes down to “starches” as a base with the addition of whatever else is available.

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If your budget is extremely tight then you should plan your meals around these four main starches; beans, rice, corn, and wheat.  Therefore you should have those four items in your pantry at all times.  Hmm…. I can’t remember a single meal at Grandma Mama’s table without at least two of the four starches being served along with many other additions.  She had biscuits, corn bread, flat bread, or loaf bread at every meal so that was one of the starches.

Her pantry always had the four starch items in it and so does mine.

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Beans – I keep a variety.  Grandma Mama grew several varieties of beans for drying.

Rice – I have both the long cook and the instant, brown and white.

Corn –  corn meal and grits although I’m out of grits at the moment.

Wheat – flour, I have plain, self rising, and bread flour but wheat is found in pasta form too.


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I know all of us have been told that starches are bad for us.  That starches make us fat.  That it clogs our arteries and gives us high blood sugar.

Ok, I’m not talking totally nutritious meals here.  These foods are considered “emergency rations”, for short term use, when money is very tight or when you are flat broke a few days before payday.  I can’t help but wonder, since these foods have been around for centuries feeding people, why is it that in the last 50 or 60 years we’ve been told the starches are not good for us?

Did you notice that none of the basic four starches require refrigeration?  Did you notice that all four starches can be prepared with only the addition of water and a heat source for cooking?  So there you have it, Grandma Mama’s basic, flat broke foods.  You could survive.  When you are preparing a pantry from scratch, start with the four main starches and add to them as money allows.

To be continued.

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