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Friday, January 24, 2014

Winter vegetables for my frugal kitchen: Roasted chunks of winter squash

This is the last of the budget winter vegetable dishes that I'll share this week.

I haven't bought any veggies since December 17th, when I bought a 50-lb sack of onions. We've managed all of our meals with the vegetables on-hand, from the fridge, freezer and pantry. This is a huge savings for us, as looking at this week's ads for the local grocery stores, there are absolutely no veggies within my limits for what I'll spend on vegetables. The best I could possibly do this week, is 75 cents for canned green beans, or $1.50 for a bundle of fresh kale (and I can pick kale fresh in my own garden, even now in January).

On November 1, I did a big stock-up at the produce stand's clearance day. In all of that I bought a bunch of sugar pie pumpkins and winter squash. I cooked most of those pieces in November and December. But I saved a couple of them in the garage fridge. I cooked the last of the winter squash this past week, and have 2 sugar pie pumpkins remaining.

We like squash in many ways, mashed, whipped in a souffle, in breads and cakes, and also, in chunks, roasted in the oven.

Roasted cubes of winter squash

2 to 3 pounds of smooth-skinned winter squash, such as butternut squash, seeded, peeled and cubed to 1-inch cubes
2 tablespoons oil (olive is nice, but vegetable oil will also work)
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
dash of black pepper
2 teaspoons finely minced, fresh herbs, such as sage or thyme (optional)

Butter a large baking sheet. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F, with rack in the center of oven.

In a large bowl, toss squash pieces with the oil, salt, pepper and fresh herbs (optional). Spread out, in a single layer, on the prepared baking sheet. (If squash pieces are too close together, they don't caramelize as well, but instead tend to "steam" in the moisture of adjacent pieces.)

Place in the oven, and bake for about 35-40 minutes, (turning once after about 25 minutes), until the squash is tender and beginning to brown. Serve.

You can freeze roasted squash, to use later in risotto, soup or pasta dishes. The roasting adds a nice flavor to winter squash, both nutty and caramelized sweetness.

This past week, I've shared some of our family's vegetable dishes that we've enjoyed this winter. (Gee, it's felt like my kinder years and "show and tell"). Without the garden in full-swing, it has been something of a challenge to pull together meals, without too much repetition. But overall, we've been eating very well, even on our reduced grocery budget of $170/mo.

Have a great weekend!


  1. Squash is a favorite around here. We grow some, but my husband has also been able to score some deals at the farm market. He buys a mixed grocery bag of a variety of squash and we have discovered different varieties, which has been fun. He usually cuts them in half, roasts them in the oven, and scoops it out, packaging them for meals later, which means we can't try this recipe this year, but maybe in the fall! It sounds yummy!

    1. Hi Kris,
      your husband is sooo helpful!
      I have only had luck with growing acorn squash, here. One year I had a large box of them, and was giving squash away to anyone who wanted some.

    2. Have you heard of or tried delicata squash? Theay are smaller, like an acorn squash, but like their name, they have delicate taste.

    3. I tried delicata this past fall. I got a bunch of them in November. We thought they were quite good, had a softer shell (so easier to cut), and a good, small size. I'll be looking for them again. And I may try growing them, as I think they have a shorter growing time.

  2. I didn't know that you could keep squash in the refrigerator. I thought you had to keep it in the pantry or cellar. How long do you think that they will they keep in the refrigerator?

    1. Hi Kath,
      I'm not sure how long it will keep in the fridge. A lot probably depends on when the squash was harvested, and how it was handled before you bought it. But for my experience, I still have 2 small pumpkins in the fridge from November. It's now late January. Usually pumpkins begin to get soft spots for me, in mid-December. So, maybe the fridge will extend squash life by a few weeks to a month?
      Most of our homes are too warm for long-term storage of these types of vegetables. (I know my pantry is about 65 degrees F). So the fridge may be a way to give them the cooler temps that they normally would have received 100 years ago.

  3. Oh, lovely. I have a squash that I should prepare soon. I'll try this over the weekend. Thank you.
    x Jill

    1. Hi Jill,
      If you and your mum would prefer a sweet squash dish, roasting like this is also delicious if you omit the pepper and herbs, and add a 1/2 to 1 teaspoon of cinnamon, and a drizzle of maple or other sweet syrup (like Golden Syrup). Make sure to either really butter your pan well, or use foil or parchment liner.

  4. I've been following your grocery budget savings this past year. Will you be posting a recap on how it's been going? We're a family of 4 and I know that I couldn't feed us all on what you have budgeted.

    1. Hi there!
      Yes, I'll post a January recap in about a week, with thoughts on what is making this grocery budget reduction so successful for us.
      Glad you're following along!

  5. We have a favorite recipe where we add sweet red pepper to the squash to roast also. Yum.

  6. Hi live and learn,
    That sounds fantastic! I love roasted red peppers, so I know that I would love them mixed in with roasted squash.

  7. Good for you! I know that feeling of not buying things for a long time, especially during the winter. We are eating onions, apples, and oranges that I purchased in December.

    Unfortunately my hard squash did not grow at all last year. I planted the whole packet of seeds and I have grown them before. I even though to buy some--but they were .99 a pound instead of the normal .69 a pound sale that I see, so I didn't buy any last year. Instead, I purchased seeds to try again this year (I have been able to grow enough butternut squash for us in the past).

    I do still have a zucchini in the fridge from our last zucchini harvest in early December!

    I just totaled the cost of my rosemary white bean soup. It came in at less than 10 cents a serving (beans bought in bulk for .64 a pound and onions at .20 a pound). We're having that for dinner tonight. If I make two loaves of bread then that adds 50 cents to the total (so $1.60 for 9 people plus some of that will be leftover for another day).

    You can do this, Lili!

    1. Thank you, Brandy! Thank you for the encouragement!

      It is such a great feeling to make "quality" family meals, on a slim budget. One of my biggest concerns was that we wouldn't be able to eat as well on a smaller budget. But what I've discovered is that, previously, I was spending some money on food items that lacked nutritional value. By knocking those items out of my shopping, there has been more than enough room for high quality foods. I am guessing that you made the same discovery when you had to severely slash your grocery spending. Your dinner sounds great, by the way!

      I tried growing acorn squash in the garden this year, and didn't get a single one, even though the pumpkins all did well. I'll try again this coming season. Winter squash is hit or miss in my area. And there's no guessing which year we'll have, the hit or the miss.

    2. Actually, that hasn't been the case for us. In reducing our budget, I've discovered that I need to grow my own lettuce instead of buying it, cut our dairy purchases drastically, stop buying fish (I used to buy tilapia at $3 a pound--years ago--but now there is no way--though we have discussed raising our own), stop buying many meats, stop buying tomatoes and grow my own (I do buy canned sauce in a #10 can), stop buying grapes and grow my own, etc. Years ago I bought yogurt on sale, then the big containers, and now I make my own. I used to buy frozen blueberries (they are VERY expensive here fresh and frozen I could get for the lowest price) but that went away, too. I did recently find that the Dollar Tree has a 12 ounce bag, so perhaps we could splurge on that in the future.

      We never really bought junk; we just bought lots of cheese, milk, more expensive meats on sale, sour cream, fresh vegetables and fruits, etc.

      I've planned our fruit trees to have them ripening at different times, to give us more of a variety (though we get the most fruit in May). That is helping.

      There are some things that we used to buy that we no longer do, however: cold cereal (I'll never go back) and saltine crackers (I make my own now).

    3. Also I don't buy lemons anymore; I grow them and freeze the juice.

      I used to buy dried figs and dried apricots, now we have our own.

      Now that i think on those things, the garden may be worth more than my husband thinks :) even after what we spent to put it in and the cost to water it (though if there wasn't food out there I would be watering flowers--which is another things I don't buy (cut flowers). I am going to try to grow more this year to take inside.

    4. Sorry, Brandy. I didn't mean to imply that you used to buy junk food. That just wouldn't fit with who you seem to be.

      I was thinking of my own spending purchases, which have now been eliminated, such as 2 or 3 times per year, buying things like soda, the occasional can of soup, crackers, potato chips, commercial sweetened yogurt, flavored ground coffee, and occasionally food items off the bakery discount rack.I also used to buy convenience items, like boneless, skinless chicken breasts, commercial cold cereal, commercial ketchup and mustard, and packaged tortillas. Eliminating those items has left me with more than enough grocery money to stock-up on other items.

    5. I wasn't feeling insulted :)

      I should have mentioned bread--I don't buy that anymore either. Also microwave popcorn (I suppose that fits in the junk category)--we buy the 50 pound bag of popcorn and pop it on the stove top now.

      We also switched from buying canned beans to dry beans, and then very quickly to bulk beans because they are half the price per pound.

      My toiletry purchase have changed a lot, too, and that has helped to significantly lower the budget as well.

      Cleaning items changed for me, too.

  8. Do you have any hints for cutting through a whole, raw squash? Sometimes I can't get a knife through them at all!

    1. Hi anexacting,
      I've had some really hard squash to cut through before. I had a hubbard that I thought I would need an ax for.

      Two things that I'd suggest. First, use your largest-bladed knife for the job. I use a large chefs knife for squash. Second, if you can cut off a flat side so that you squash can lay still and not slide around, this will really help. With butternut squash, I typically cut off the top and the bottom ends, so that I can stand the squash upright, and slice down the whole squash. If the squash is one of those oblong shaped ones, then I try to cut off a small flat section from one of the sides, so that the squash will stay still, sitting on that flat spot. With pumpkin-shaped squash (turban-shaped), they have their own flat surface on the bottom, so I make a series of straight cuts right up near and circling the stem, then cut down the side, to the cutting board, halving the squash.
      Once I have a squash cut into slices, I lay the slices on the cutting board, and trim the skin off, a couple of inches at a time.

      If I ever have one of those horribly-hard hubbard squashes again, I will have my husband take it out to the garage and make a cut in it with his ax.

      Don't know if any of this helps. Good luck with your squash!

    2. Scroll saw. (I've had my husband do it more than once). But a HUGE, SHARP knife with work well, too.

    3. Thanks for those tips! I have the same problem and have actually feared that I might seriously injure myself once or twice! I once read a recipe for pumpkin soup that claimed the prep time took 15 minutes and included chopping and peeling a pie pumpkin. My first thought was that I want to meet the person who can chop and peel a pumpkin in 15 minutes... then I thought - hmmm... maybe I don't want to meet this person - at least, not in a dark alley! :-)

      Anyhow, I'll have to try this recipe since I still have a box of various winter squash in the basement. I just get really sick of slimy mushy squash, so this recipe sounds like it might alleviate that problem!

  9. Love roasted squash ... we roasted an acorn squash with rutabaga, onions and carrots to serve at Christmas dinner. And we roast, then freeze fresh pumpkin to use in soup. (I'd use it as a side dish, but DH isn't too keen on it.)

    BTW, I think you've done wonderfully on your food budget!

    1. Hi DW,
      Your Christmas dinner dish sounds super yummy! I love roasted veggies!
      Thanks for the encouragement! I really appreciate it.

  10. Squash is one of my favorite vegetables. Love buttnernut, acorn, kabocha, delicata. . .they are meals in themselves!

    1. Hi Pamela,
      I had never tried very many varieties of squash until I began shopping at a produce stand. But as many as I've tried and seen there, I've never seen the kabocha. I should see if I can grow it in my garden.

  11. The squash looks terrific, Lili. I love just about anything roasted. It just adds a whole other dimension of flavor.

    You've done really well to stretch what you have on hand and not buying any vegetables since December 17th. And 75¢ would have been unheard of before this recession. That is out of my price range as well. Now, I don't know what the future holds, but I hope we don't have to pay that regularly for a can of green beans. People will have trouble feeding their families, and especially families that don't try to be frugal like we are.

    I'm glad you and your family are continuing to eat well and hope and pray that continues. :)

    1. HI Belinda,
      You're so right about another dimension of flavor. Roasting brings out the natural sugars in even veggies that you wouldn't think have any sugars.

      I know. I am trying to be positive about grocery prices. I do think some of the higher prices that we're seeing this month is just grocers making up for loss-leaders all through November and December. There will be some residual inflation, though, as fuel and feed costs have risen so dramatically in the last decade.

      I think one of the best things we can do is continue to share information. As there are a lot of ways to cut grocery costs. Many of which we've already heard about. But reading again about someone doing something different from the average, sort of normalizes these money-saving practices.

      Thank you for your encouragement!


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