I’m so excited to have my friend Stephanie, The Cheapskate Cook, guest posting for me here today. Her blog is one of my favorites, and I read each and every post. She always inspires me with her cheerful attitude and her ability to stretch a grocery budget beyond believable limits. Speaking of stretching… she has a great idea that will help us all stretch our own grocery budgets. I’ve only recently started doing this, and I can’t believe it took me so long!
When I was four years old, I learned to stretch. I was in a ballet class full of tutus, tights, and soft pink shoes; and we were all sitting on the floor, legs stretched out in front of us, trying to touch our noses to our knees. I gritted my teeth and, unlike when I try to stretch today, my nose eventually bounced off my knee. Of course, I was four, so I was much more elastic than I am now.
However, that day I learned that stretching isn’t always easy. It’s not a comfortable word. Usually it implies extra work and maybe even a little bit of pain. Little did I know how much I would have to learn to stretch over the years.
Many of us have had to learn to stretch a lot of things. We had to stretch our comfort zones when we grew up and took responsibility of our work, our bills, and our future. We had to stretch our skill set when we took that job. We had to stretch our patience when we had that kid (especially when that kid turned two). And most of us reading this blog have had to stretch our grocery budget.
Anne has given us a lot of resources here, and I’m thankful to learn with other people who are stretching their food in healthy ways. I remember when we had $35/week for groceries, and I learned how to stretch chickens across more meals than I knew was possible. Who could’ve imagined the mileage you could get out of those things? It was like the endless poultry. I’m still learning these tips and tricks, one of which I want to share with you today.
Many of you are already familiar with making your own chicken broth or stock from the bones of leftover chicken (if you aren’t, here is an easy stepping stone method you can try as you cook up the chicken in your crock pot. If you already make chicken stock or broth, here is a list of tips I’ve learned over the years to increase nutrition and ease.). I’ve been doing this for years, and I usually pour the stock into clean glass jars then store them in the fridge or freezer (jars that are frozen can only be about 2/3 full to prevent the glass from breaking). But before I put them in the freezer, I wait.
I wait because I’ve found a way to stretch the chicken just a little farther. After the stock sits in the fridge for a few hours, a layer of fat forms on the top. This fat actually helps seal your stock and keep it from spoiling, so I try to leave at least a thin layer of fat on the stock.
But as you can see from the photo, the layer is often really thick. So I scoop the excess into a small jar and use it throughout the week whenever I need to sauté vegetables or meat, or grease pans for savory dishes. Works great, adds flavor, and it’s a healthy fat. Using a dab of this chicken fat helps me stretch expensive ingredients like butter and olive oil. And you know I’m all about stretching.
Little practices like this make my frugal kitchen a little more real foods based, helps me waste a little less, and keeps my food flavorful and healthy. Stretching isn’t always fun, but a frugal, efficient kitchen is very rewarding.
When Steph and her husband got married, they lived in a renovated shed and had a grocery budget that matched. As a passionate whole-foodie, Steph was determined to continue eating healthy, minimally-processed foods on their shoestring budget. So The Cheapskate Cook was born.
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