First, take inventory of what you do have on hand. Chances are, it's more than you think.
I have flour, baking powder, salt, and some sort of fat/oil (butter, margarine/shortening/cooking oil):
You can make lots of things! You'd be surprised at how frequently you can leave out the eggs if you don't have any. The texture will be different, but it will taste fine! Use oil instead of butter for biscuits. Use water instead of milk if you have none. Use what you have. Here are some bare-bones recipes for things you can make with your ingredients:
Pancakes -Use water if you have no milk. Add powdered creamer if you have it!
Waffles - Skip the sugar if you have none.
Biscuits - Use water if you have no milk.
I have all of that plus a can of tuna, some eggs, and some cheese:
Make biscuits. Cut them in half. Fill with canned tuna & cheese. Broil. Serve.
Breakfast burritos: Scrambled eggs with cheese on homemade tortillas.
Crepes: Thin pancakes. Fill them with eggs and cheese. Or tuna and cheese. What the hay!
Impossible Tuna Pie: Mix together 1 cup of flour, 1 cup of shredded cheese, a can of tuna, a cup of water (milk if you have it), 3 beaten eggs, whatever herbs you can spare, and 2 Tbsp melted butter/marg/oil. Grease a pie plate and cook at 350 for about half an hour.
Eggs served any way you like. Make some tortillas or flat bread to go alongside.
I have oats, sugar, and maple syrup (real or artificial), too:
Great! Oats are fabulous. They're filling and quick and you can do a lot with them. Use the syrup to flavor the oatmeal or to top the pancakes and waffles.
I have dried beans, canned tomatoes, and rice:
You have a feast. One pound of dried beans equals four cans of beans. Soak the beans overnight in water. Drain. Bring to a boil and cook until tender, about 2 hours. Beans and rice make a delicious, high-protein meal. Adding tomatoes makes it healthier and tastier. Add whatever herbs you have.
I have a bunch of random ingredients. What can I do with...
A lot of times, we end up with weird ingredients and we don't know what to do with them. Here are a few I've ended up with and what you can do with them:
Canned Chickpeas: Rinse them off. Drain well. Pat dry. Shake some salt and pepper onto them and bake them at 350 for about 45 minutes. They get crunchy and they make a good, nutritious snack that satisfies the salty snack monster in you.
Raisins: Add to anything: oatmeal, biscuits, rice, you name it!
Sweetened Condensed Milk: When money gets tight, sweets go out the door, but if you have a can of sweetened condensed milk, you can make a yummy pudding from it.
Mayonnaise: Believe it or not, mayo is great for spreading on bread and frying it in a skillet. It makes terrific garlic toast: Spread both sides of a slice of bread with mayo. Plop into a hot skillet. Cook until browned on one side. Sprinkle with garlic powder and flip it over to cook some more. YUM.
Here are some more resources for cooking with what you have:
Cooking By Numbers is my favorite one. You tell it what you have. It spits out recipes. Con: it doesn't have all foods.
Super Cook is wonderful because you tell it exactly what you have, and it tells you exactly what you can make.
Recipe Matcher is another site that lets you input your ingredients. I like Super Cook better though.
I'm really in a crisis here. Where can I get emergency food?
First, I'm so sorry that you're having trouble getting enough food. I know how that feels. I've been there. Here are some resources for you to consider:
Apply for food stamps. Here's a site that helps you determine your eligibility and tells you how to apply.
Find a food pantry. In the United States, visit Feeding America. They have a toll-free number and will help you get food in your area.
Start gleaning! Gleaning food means taking unharvested food. Live near an orchard? Ask the farmer if you can take fruits that have fallen. Many farmers will happily allow you to do this. You might also ask if the farmer will exchange work for some crops.
I've got $10 to spend on food. What should I buy?
This is really hard to answer, because food prices differ so widely across the country. But if I had $10, here's what I would buy:
- a 5# bag of white flour for $2
- a 1# box of margarine for $1
- a 3 pack of active dry yeast for $1
- 1# of dried beans for $1
- a head of cabbage for $1
- 1# of rice for $1
- a dozen eggs for $1
- a can of tomatoes for $1
- a small carton of oats for $1
All of the above, plus:
- 3 more pounds of dried beans for $3
- another pound of rice for $1
- frozen broccoli, 2 pounds for $2
- a pound of cheese for $3
- generic peanut butter for $1
Yes. Check out any of these lists for more options.
Just Peace has 3 lists to choose from: emergency, bare bones, and the Money-Saving 100.
Hillbilly Housewife used to be a $40 emergency menu, but times have changed. Still, it's cheap.
Budget 101 has a $10 list and gives examples of what you can make with what you buy.
More ways to get food:
- Visit grocery stores on the weekend. Many have samples available throughout the store. You can eat an entire lunch this way.
- Register for free samples. This is not a regular or reliable way to get food, but some food will come your way. Arlana's Corner lists new freebies every day
- Learn which foods grow naturally in your area. Forage! Wild berries are a good thing to find.