Making Do in Hard Times
My mother was born in 1922. She doesn’t remember the stock market crash so she says she doesn’t remember anything like what’s happened to the stock market this week. We’ve joked about liquidating or mutual funds and putting the money in a coffee can in the back yard. I’m sure that our financial advisor will pat me on the hand and tell me to just ride this out. In the meantime we are cutting back wherever we can.
I’ve written before about Amy Dacyczyn’s “Tightwad Gazette,” a newsletter she began in 1976 where homemakers, still mostly women then, could exchange tips on making their money go farther. In 1992 the first compilation of those newsletters was published with two more volumes to follow. Dacyczyn and her readers came up with ways of running households, raising children and saving money that would make our pioneer foremothers proud. Many of their tips I figured out along the way of raising my own four children, largely alone, during the same time as these domestic goddesses.
The only place, besides disposable income, where I feel I have much control over money is at the super market. That’s where I am, as my mother-in-law says, making a penny scream. Dacyczyn has many tips on shopping and cooking for a family and one that’s appeared on our table is what I call Tightwad Casserole, although Dacyczyn calls in “Corn-Broccoli Casserole” in the first volume of the Tightwad compilation and I’d like to share it here in the hopes that others will share with the Neighborhood tips on getting the most out of our dollars.
A word to diabetics: don’t try this at home. This casserole is incredibly cheap and can be thrown together with things in your cupboard and refrigerator, but it’s high in carbs which is why the kiddies may like it. Remember, this is making do, not eating on the South Beach Diet.
This casserole does a wonderful job of absorbing our abundance of mystery-can corn. Yellow squash, zucchini, cauliflower, and a wide variety of other vegetables can be substituted for the broccoli with impressive results. This one-dish supper can be made in about 15 minutes of hands-on time if you are using preshredded cheese and frozen broccoli. If you use fresh broccoli, it should be steamed aldente first.
1 can corn,
1 can creamed corn
1 ½ cups shredded cheddar cheese
2/3 cup milk
1 sleeve saltines, crushed
2 tablespoons margarine,
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine first seven ingredients and ¾ cup of saltine crumbs. Pour into 10 ½ inch metal-handled frying pan or large casserole dish. Combine remaining crumbs with margarine and use to top casserole. Bake uncovered for 40 minutes, or until firm.
Serves eight. (Dacyczyn, Tightwad Gazette, 136)
We seldom eat canned corn or canned vegetables period, but I keep a little canned corn—at 69 cents a can— around to make this casserole if we get to the end of the money before the end of the month or I just don’t feel like going to the store. Our allotment of canned vegetables may increase as we struggle to save every penny we can in these uncertain times.
I admit that the corn and the crackers would send a diabetic’s sugars to spike. If you’re healthy and need to feed the family on a small amount of money, this might fit the menu. It’s easy to keep a little bag of frozen broccoli on hand for this casserole, but you can be more creative. Whatever’s in the freezer or refrigerator will do. Today I decided to throw this casserole together, but I wanted to incorporate some of the Autumn harvest so I stopped by Patterson’s Fruit & Vegetable stand in Gig Harbor on the way home. Instead of frozen broccoli I decided to add zucchini and yellow squash and red bell peppers for color.
I cooked the onion and the chopped red pepper well until they began to sugar while I sliced the zucchini and squash and tossed it all in a bowl. I baked the whole thing in my mother’s cast iron chicken fryer which meant it took a little longer than the 40 minutes the recipe calls for. It came closer to 50 minutes.
I hope you have ideas on saving money as we head into Fall and the holidays.