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Friday, November 22, 2019

Cheap & Cheerful Suppers for November

As you know, on Tuesday, I went to Fred Meyer to get a free turkey. I made my minimum-spend primarily on non-food items, but I also bought 6 cans of cream of mushroom soup, 4 bottles of sparkling cider, 4 half-gallons of milk, some nutmeg from the bulk bins, and a bag of mini marshmallows, spending $16.92, along with my free turkey. I also went to Dollar Tree and bought 1 box of crackers, spending $1. This brings my November spending up to $130.35. I still need to go to one other store this month. Hopefully I can arrange for time with the car tomorrow morning and will take care of that last bit of shopping.

French toast
sweet potato fries
vanilla yogurt
orange juice

assorted leftovers from dim sum with friends earlier in the day
scrambled eggs
steamed carrots
lentil sprout salad

fried homemade flour tortillas, topped with
refried beans
hubbard squash

bean and squash soup, using all leftovers
leftover rice and egg casserole
orange wedges
blackberry cobbler

Tuesday (daughter's night)
pasta smothered with chicken in sage and winter squash sauce
orange wedges
leftover cobbler

Wednesday (other daughter was sick, so I stepped in for her at the last moment)
scrambled eggs with sausage, onions, garlic, and radish greens (from the trough planter on the deck)
fried brown rice and lentil sprouts
carrot sticks

scratch waffles and syrup
scrambled eggs
orange wedges

I wasn't really in a cooking mood last night, so I made a batch of waffles. I have never bought pancake or biscuit mix, but have always made pancakes and waffles with a scratch batter. Mixing my own batter is really not any trouble and saves money over buying the boxed mixes. 

Cost of scratch waffles
Boxed biscuit mix contains flour, shortening, baking powder (or equivalent), salt, and sugar. Walmart sells a Great Value Biscuit Mix, 40-oz. for $2.50. This size box makes about 50 waffles, if following the Betty Crocker recipe on the Bisquick recipe site. Not including the egg, milk, and additional oil required by the recipe, the mix for a 12-waffle batch costs about 54 cents, or a single waffle about 5 cents. When I make waffles from scratch, my batter for an 8-waffle batch costs about 25 cents, not including the egg, milk, and 2 tablespoons of oil to make the comparison close to equal, for a cost of about 3 cents per each waffle's basic ingredients. In addition, my waffles are Belgian-style, so they are thicker and denser than the waffles on the Betty Crocker site. An 8-waffle batch is the right amount for our family of 4 for one meal. So, my savings for one family meal is about 16 cents. 16 cents doesn't sound like much. However, if I save 16 cents on each dinner for a year, I will have an extra $58 in my pocket. I recognize that you may have more lucrative things to do with your time than I do, so this savings may not be as meaningful to you.

Convenience factor of scratch vs. boxed waffles
A person still needs to add egg, a liquid (usually milk), plus additional oil if making waffles with a commercial biscuit mix -- that's a combination of 4 ingredients. The Betty Crocker website says that the prep time is 15 minutes. I can't imagine it taking 15 minutes to break an egg and measure oil, mix, and milk. So let's say using a mix takes 7 minutes. My own pancake/waffle recipe calls for flour, salt, baking powder, sugar, oil, egg, and milk/water, for a total of 7 ingredients, just 3 more than using a boxed mix. Since I've memorized the "recipe" (it's a rather loose recipe), the measuring and mixing process goes very quickly, faster than my waffle iron can preheat, in fact. I estimate that it takes about 9 minutes to measure and add all 7 ingredients, or 2 additional minutes. So, I save 8 cents per extra minute of time for making scratch waffles over boxed mix. 8 cents per minute works out to $4.80 per hour, if I were doing similar cost-saving tasks for an entire hour. Considering I probably waste at least an hour each day, spending the time to save money doesn't cut into my "real" money-earning time. For a batch of waffles, I think I can afford 2 extra minutes.

The taste of scratch waffles
Unless someone has been raised on commercial biscuit mix waffles, and therefore only feels that type of waffle would be palatable, scratch waffles have the potential to be so much tastier, heartier, and more nutritious than boxed mix ones. So, I save money and serve a better waffle by mixing a batter from scratch.

Onto other meal-subjects -- We are definitely into orange vegetable season. Sweet potatoes, squash, and carrots made into our dinners on 6 out of 7 nights this week. We still have some greens in the garden and on the deck, as well as the lentil sprouts and kale microgreens in the kitchen. The garden greens may be in the last week of their season, however.

For those of you who live where snow is a usual item in the winter forecast, it may be difficult to understand my excitement over next week's forecast for the Seattle area. We might get snow on Thanksgiving weekend! To put this in perspective for my area, we still have a few green leaves on otherwise deciduous trees and vines in the yard, and one of our rhododendron bushes has blossoms on it. A lot can change in a weather forecast in the PNW, so time will tell.

So, how was your week of meals? What was on your menu this past week? Anything especially good? Have you found that you're using a lot more orange vegetables this month, too?

Wishing you all a lovely, weekend!


  1. Good Morning,

    I have a wonderful recipe for buttermilk pancakes and it contains no oil. My kids grew up on that recipe and it makes great waffles as well. Yes, it is easier for me to put together a batch of homemade than a box mix. The kids taste the difference between homemade, frozen from a box and boxed mix.

    The same goes for potatoes. They can taste the difference in boxed potatoes, instant mashed potatoes versus fresh mashed potatoes.

    We had lots of soups (creamy tomato and cheese broccoli) this week with grilled cheese. We also had baked chicken legs, chicken red curry with rice, a breakfast casserole, squash, roast beef and smoked turkey legs, lots of veggies. So we've been well fed this week.


  2. Hello,
    Thank you for sharing another week of lovely meals. Could you possibly share your recipe for waffles? They sound delicious.
    Take care,

  3. We buy our pancake/waffle mix from Sam's and Costco, 10 lb mix for about $5, depending on whether we get it on sale. We buy this because it is easy to use, just mix with water. Often we don't have eggs in the house, plus my husband is the cook and that's what he prefers. But I definitely would choose making my own from scratch. I've done it before when I was the primary cook. I remember the pancakes being a lot tastier.

    About saving pennies, that's how you do it IMHO. I see frugality as a mindset and preference. Often buying may be cheaper in terms of time, but I think if you are gamed to do it and it won't put you out, then just do it. Saving money is saving money, especially if what you are doing is needed on a repeat basis. Pennies do add up. For me too, there is joy in doing the little things because it grounds me from needing more and more.

    Have a nice weekend,

  4. Speaking of Bisquick, I met a woman who was on the team that developed Bisquick. She was the mother of a friend and worked in the Betty Crocker research kitchen. While some may or may not like Bisquick, I think it has made a lot of money for the company over the years. It was a big deal at the time because there weren't nearly as many convenience foods around as today.

  5. We typically make homemade pancakes and waffles--they are healthier and really not that big of a deal to make. I have gathered a few different pancake recipes and like to vary what we have--last Sunday for brunch we had gingerbread pancakes, which are my favorite. However, when we camp, we use just-add-water Krusteez pancake mix as it makes life easier. My kids think the pancakes made from mix is a treat! Sometimes we make a pancake dinner for the youth group at church and I choose the easy option for that and use a mix.

    I keep Bisquick on hand for meals like Impossible Taco Pie. Sometimes I make their biscuits, as well--they aren't necessarily my favorite biscuits but they do in a pinch when I need a quick-to-prepare bread.

    I like snow, even though we get quite a bit of it. Driving long distances in it isn't so much fun but if I'm at home, it seems like a good excuse to cuddle up with a blanket and a book.

  6. Hi Alice,
    your meals from last week sound delicious, especially the cheesy-broccoli soup. That's on of my favorites!

    With your buttermilk pancakes, do you then need to use a non-stick skillet, or do you grease the skillet or griddle? For my waffles, I do have to use a lot of oil in the batter just so they don't stick to the iron.

  7. Hi Laura,
    So my waffle recipe is pretty simple and just a variation on pancake or muffin batter. But here goes:
    1 1/2 cups flour (white or mix whole wheat and white)
    2 tablespoons sugar
    1/2 teaspoon salt
    1 tablespoon baking powder
    1/4 cup oil
    1 egg, beaten
    milk or milk/water till the right consistency, I think it's about 3/4 cup (waffle batter needs to be thicker in a Belgian waffler than a flatter waffler)

    I mix the dry ingredients in a bowl, then blend the liquid in the measuring cup that I use for the oil. Then combine the dry and liquid.

    This is a basic recipe that I use for a lot of batter-based quick breads. To make pancakes, I use slightly less oil and more milk/water. To make muffins, I use the same amount of oil, but add an egg and increase milk to 1 cup and sugar to 1/4 cup. In the muffins, I may add extra ingredients, like dried fruit or nuts.

    I hope this helps.

  8. Hi YHF,
    pennies do add up, and to a whole lot if saved over a long period of time!

    I can understand your husband just wanting what's easy. And since you buy a mix that you can just add water, that's super easy. I have made my own mix in the past, with dry milk and powdered eggs. That was the same thing -- just add water. Super handy when my youngest two were babies and I still wanted to do nice breakfasts for my slightly older son. I also sometimes make pancakes without the egg at all, just use a pinch more baking powder. Those work fine, too, and are a great way to make pancakes for 1 person at a time.

    I think you get a good deal on your mix, though. 10 lbs for $5 is pretty good, I think.

  9. Hi Live and Learn,
    How interesting to have met someone who was part of developing Bisquick! I wonder if they had intended it to be such a multi-purpose product or if that developed with customer's use and experience -- thinking about Impossible Pies. I think it's a very handy product. I make my own homemade version when I come across a recipe that I want to try but don't want to buy a big box of Bisquick. I think those homemade versions are pretty good, too.

  10. Hi Kris,
    When our church youth group would do a pancake brunch we always used a mix. I couldn't imagine making pancakes for 50 or 100 from scratch. Although, I'm sure someone has done that. My family is the same way -- when I buy the commercial version of something I make from scratch, they think it's just the best thing. Ha ha!


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