An old friend and colleague, who shall remain Pennyless (the name under which she has entered the blogosphere), just announced that she has a new blog dedicated to an experiment that she, her husband and daughter are doing to see just how frugally they can live. The blog is entitled The Get Out Of Debt Slog Along Blog. For some time now, my daughters and I have bantered around a similar idea for our household and have wanted to conduct our own such exercise. Can we make due with a less expensive cell phone plan or maybe without one at all? While we’ve never had cable and feel our needs are met by Netflix, can we forgo Netflix for movies that we can check out for free through D.C. public libraries?
After reading some of what Pennyless had to say, we did not give up the cell phone plan or movies through Netflix, though these are still areas where we may cut back later. Instead, I decided to challenge us in the area where I seem to do the most impulse spending. I announced to the kids: “Let’s see how long we can go without a trip to the grocery store. . .and see how creative we can be with the food we already have in our refrigerator, pantry and cabinets.” I really wanted to see how many dishes we could invent or substitutions we could muster, particularly when a recipe called for something that seemed absolutely essential.
So we’d been back from vacation for about three weeks, I’d already been to the grocery store four times and spent anywhere from $25 to $65 each trip. Our kitchen was more than stocked. Just one day after I announced our experiment to my daughters, I woke up feeling freer than I had in a long time, so much so that the first thing I wanted to do was swing. And I did just that on a country-style swing that we had installed on a tree in our side yard about a week prior. The swing was supposed to be for the kids, but, like me, not many of our grown up guests have been able to resist taking a turn. So during one of my rather meditative swings, my younger daughter came outside and announced: “Mommy, I’m hungry. . .I want pancakes.” I responded: “I’m going to help you make pancakes.” I figure a 9 year-old who loves them as much as she does should know how to make them; that way, I can have more time to swing.
So we’re making pancakes from scratch, vegan pancakes. Vegan (non)buttermilk pancakes. Usually we use almond milk by Almond Breeze for the milk (Other times we use rice or soy milk.), to which we add 1 tablespoon of apple cider vinegar to make it curdle and act like buttermilk in a recipe. It works like a charm each and every time. Also, we normally use 1/4 cup apple sauce per egg called for in a recipe. But lo and behold, on this particular morning, after I announced our abstinence-from-the-grocery-store-experiment, I discovered that the jar of apple sauce that I thought was in the pantry was actually a jar of pasta sauce. I remained determined not to get dressed, drive anywhere or spend any money on additional groceries.
My daughter even reminded me of our experiment, and we both proceeded to look through the refrigerator and pantry for an alternative. I considered the plain yogurt that belonged to our house guest, but our guest wasn’t there, and the yogurt was real yogurt. More than that, I really wanted to see just how creative we could be. . .Moments later what did we spot on the kitchen counter but a load of peaches. Apple sauce? peach sauce? My taste buds told me that there was not that much difference. Peach sauce should work.
So I rinsed, cut in half, pitted, and pureed a peach in the food processor and used 1/4 cup of puree in the recipe as I would have the apple sauce for the egg, and the pancakes turned out beautifully with virtually no aftertaste. Though I didn’t want to cook in the first place (something I often tell myself), I ended up preparing seasoned hash browns, scrambled tofu, and slicing fresh peaches to complete our breakfast menu.
The next day, my older daughter, in a fit of tears, accused me of eating all of the sweet treats that were supposed to be for the lunches they packed for camp each day. Even though I had eaten only two of the treats, I agreed to bake a sweet treat of their choice. They decided on peanut butter cookies. Since I had resisted going to the grocery store for the apple sauce, we faced the same dilemma of what to do for the egg in the cookie recipe. Having six peaches left on the counter, we made and substituted peach puree in our peanut butter cookie dough. The recipe also called for butter, but we used Earth Balance Vegan Buttery Sticks. The results were excellent, and we had enough to make up to four batches. We just downed our second one in two days.
I’m in need of such an experiment because I love cooking, and almost every time I say I’m going to the grocery store to pick up one item, say a jar of apple sauce, I leave with apple sauce, flour, almond milk, a bag of peaches for a cobbler, some tofu to barbecue or enough of some other items to fill three bags when I had originally intended to spend three dollars. My being more disciplined could lead to more savings and more funds being available to put towards other bills. Not to mention, my repertoire of substitutions and actual vegan dishes will undoubtedly expand.
Instead of eggs, try 1/4 cup of apple sauce, peach puree, blended tofu, mashed banana or something altogether different in pancakes, peanut butter cookies, cornbread or other breads and baked goods. I’d love to hear what you substituted and how it turned out.