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cooking and the economy

If you read my regular blog, you know that my attention has been everywhere but cooking. Of course, I have been cooking but nothing really exciting. Sometime you just produce meals, you know what I mean?
I did however make granola in my crock pot. I have been wanting to make granola but with my Easy Bake Oven sized tabletop oven, it just didn’t seem cost or time effective. Actually the maximum size pan my oven can accommodate is 9 x 12 inches. I had some coconut piloncillo filling hanging around from when I made Indian pastries, which I combined with 5 cups of oatmeal, and various other things that seemed to go into granola, like flax seeds, sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, almonds, dried fruits. I more or less followed this recipe but adjusted it to what I had on hand. We ate all the granola so I am planning upon making more.
I also made this crockpot falafel recipe , I followed the recipe exactly, except that I didn’t have canned garbanzo beans on hand so I cooked dry ones in the pressure cooker. I love my pressure cooker, I can cook pre-soaked beans in less than 10 minutes! Unsoaked beans in half an hour. The second time that I made them, I doubled the recipe and didn’t measure the seasonings, they weren’t as good, so just follow the recipe, they are really good.
What does all this have to do with the economy? I was talking with a good friend who is originally from the east coast and mentioned that I thought food was at least 30% or more nob than here. She disagreed, she felt that food was a lot more costly here. It turns out while she is a good cook, she is more of a open cans and use boxed mix sort of person. Anything imported has gone up in price so her food budget has also risen. She mentioned hamburger helper as a standby that she missed. In my single mother, one step from welfare days,I remember picking up a box of hamburger helper and being shocked at what they were charging for just noodles and sauce. Unless I had a double coupon it was just cheaper to make my own food from scratch. Here is a recipe for “homemade hamburger helper” that I found on the web by the way. It might be convenient for someone who is in a hurry and likes mixes, but I think that scratch cooking may be easier.

Homemade Hamburger Helper

2 cups dry milk
1 cup corn starch
1/4 cup bouillon powder
2 tablespoons onion flakes
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 teaspoon dried tyme
1 teaspoon black pepper
2 teaspoons dried parsley
1 tablespoon garlic powder

Mix all ingredients and store in airtight container.
Use as a base for:

BEEF STROGANOFF: Brown 1 pound ground meat. Drain. Add
2 cups water, 1/2 cup helper mix and 2 cups uncooked egg
noodles and stir. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer
covered 15-20 minutes. Top with 1/2 cup sour cream.

SKILLET LASAGNA: Brown 1 pound ground meat. Drain. Add
1/2 cup helper mix, one chopped onion, 2 cups water, 16
ounces tomato sauce, 3 cups dry noodles, and 1/4 cup
parmesan cheese. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer 15
minutes until thickened. Top with 2 cups mozzarella cheese.

TACO HELPER: Brown 1 pound ground meat, drain. Add 2 cups
water, 1/2 cup helper mix, 1 taco seasoning packet, 2 cups
uncooked egg noodles. Bring to a boil; reduce heat and
simmer, covered 15-20 minutes. Top with 1/2 cup sour cream

The last time that I was at the supermarket, tomatoes were around $12 per kilo, yellow onions were about $10, juice oranges were 0.90 a kilo (less than 4 cents U.S. a pound!), and Hass avocados were $24 per kilo down from their usual $34. Hass avocados are a luxury item for us. Bell peppers were at their usual exorbitant $34 and $44 but chile poblanos were $12. Dry garbanzo beans for the falafels were $7 for 500 grams which yeilded a kilo cooked, I weighed them. Pita bread is $24 a bag but a bag contains 12 pitas. I can’t remember how much tahini was since we buy it in liter containers. I think our felafels in pita bread dressed with tahini dressing, tabbouleh salad and soup lunch cost about $20 pesos each plus there were enough left overs for the next day!
There was a box of instant falafel mix at Baroudi’s it was something like $35 just by itself!
I am a believer in scratch cooking over prepared foods or boxed mixes especially in these times when people are looking to save money.

About Theresa Diaz Gray

Born in New York City, I grew up in California, and have lived in 3 countries and 6 states. I'm a first generation Cuban-American who lives in Merida, Yucatan, Mexico. I'm committed to living an abundant and creative life and helping others do so too through DIY!


  1. Since Merida has a large Lebanese community, tahini is available here. It’s called salsa de ajonjolí. Since it’s just ground up sesame seeds, I would try grinding up the seeds, like when you make peanut butter, you may need to add some oil to start it. I have made pita before, but it requires a better oven than we have. We can buy sesame seeds at most of the grocery stores here.

  2. Speaking of scratch cooking, do you have a recipe for homemade tahini? We can’t buy it or pita here.

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