How to Bake on a Budget

If you’re baking on a budget, you need to be creative to ensure that you prepare quality products without straining your finances. However, this does not mean that you survive on minute rice and pasta every night! A little planning will turn your kitchen into a den of creative recipes that no one will believe that you conceived and implemented them on a budget.

The season is ripe for hot chocolate, frosted window panes, and roasting of chestnuts on an open fire. Do not be left behind just because you are on a tight budget!

You may want to invite your friends over for a glass of wine and gingerbread cookie. Everyone has that special urge to make your house smell of chocolate while treating your family for a decorating and cake-eating festivity. These feelings are absolutely normal and you shouldn’t resist!

We will give you several tips that will ensure that you achieve your baking desires.

 

Apply Smart Spending

When you are working with limited finances, you may have to think through the necessity of everything you purchase.  With a little preparation you can save money which comes in handy especially around holidays like the 4th of July or Christmas, where food and gift-exchanges like secret Santa are common additional expenses.  

We advise that you buy a few must-have baking ingredients (ensure that you do not overbuy; if you need 200 grams of a specific ingredient, ensure that you don’t buy a whole kilogram of the same). Some of the crucial baking ingredients that you may want to consider include vanilla extract, whole nutmeg, molasses, and cocoa powder.

For more savings, consider buying your baking supplies in bulk around November. These things often go on sale then!

 

Make Proper Use of all The Ingredients Already in Your Kitchen

Before you go out shopping, it’s necessary that you embark on a stock-taking activity to avoid double buying. Only buy those ingredients that you do not have. If you have some stocks, it’s paramount that you check the quantities and top-up in case they are insufficient.

You should optimally utilize all the ingredients. For example, you can brown your butter, and toast your nuts and spices to level them up. If you have anything that’s perishable or fragile, you should ensure that you store it inside your freezer for later use.

 

Use Your Leftovers to Bake

There is the point when your creativity will count! You can use your leftovers to prepare an incredibly delicious cake for your family. For example, you can use leftover eggs to create a tasty meringue. Need more ideas? Well, get this; you can use wine leftovers for making poached pears, and beer leftovers for making bread!

 

Be Creative and Crafty!

You can DIY some of the expensive baking ingredients which will help you to cut the cost of baking significantly. For example, you can make your coconut milk or almond meal at home!

 

Use Cocoa Powder

Using cocoa powder instead of chocolate is cheaper yet it makes equally delicious cookies! Use the trick to cut your baking cost by a significant percentage.

 

Make a Big Batch of Cookie Dough

You can prepare a large batch of  dough and then preserve it in the freezer. This will reduce waste and ensure that every time you need a cookie, you’ll get the best quality fast.

 

Bake a Loaf of Bread

If you need to satisfy your urge to bake but you do not have enough money, you can always bake a loaf of bread! You will just need to invest in a few packets of yeast and you’ll have your bread in a few hours.

 

Freeze Excess Fruits and Vegetables

When you realize that you have extra fruits and vegetables, never be in a hurry to discard them. Instead, you can freeze them and use them later.

This post is a collaborative effort by St. Louis Dad.

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Tips for Freezing Food with a Vacuum Sealer

If you rarely use your vacuum sealer and just place it on your kitchen counter, you are doing yourself a great disservice. Regular use of this remarkable appliance can save you some money, especially through extending your food’s life. What’s more, it allows you to shop and even cook in bulk. Here are some eight pointers outlined below to help you save both money and time through freezing your food with a vacuum sealer.

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1. How do you Pre-freeze?

Bear in mind that when you place fresh berries in a freezer bag devoid of air, they will be crushed. Hence, make sure that you spread out and pre-freeze food items such as vegetables, meatballs, and fruits on cookie sheets. Also, pre-freeze various saucy items like pasta and soups in plastic containers.

Before you pre-freeze your foods, ensure that you pack it down with a spatula or even spoon to get rid of air bubbles. Afterward, when the items are frozen, remove them from the containers used in the pre-freeze process before you vacuum seal them.

2. When do you Freeze Cooked versus Uncooked Food?

Some meals such as sauces and soups reheat quite nicely even after freezing. On the contrary, there are other foods that you can put together and vacuum seal without having to cook them. For instance, each time I get a well-priced 3-pound pack of ground turkey, I usually mix and pre-make three batches of meatballs. As such, whenever meatballs are on my menu, I only need to get the frozen ones and cook them without having to deal with the hassles of mixing and forming them. Doing so not only saves the time needed to prepare meals but also allows you to get freshly cooked dishes with limited effort.

Freezer dishes are undeniably the ideal way to save a considerable amount of time, especially when preparing weeknight dinners after a long day at work. You can consider our time-saving and delicious solutions such as slow cooker freezer recipes, IKEA frozen meatball recipes and freezer-ready casseroles.

3. Label your Packages

You think remembering the package that contains the tomato sauce you prepared in July is easy? Well, six months down the line when you use the wrong package in preparing your meals, you will be forced to reconsider your packing process. To keep the confusion at bay, always try to label or write the name of each dish you make and include the date of preparation. Although a permanent marker is highly advisable for this process, you can also utilize a label maker.

4. Vacuum seal your Food not just for Freezing

Bear in mind that vacuum sealing can extend your food’s shelf life in both your pantry and refrigerator.  In case you have bought a big chunk of cheddar, vacuum seal half of it until you are done eating the first piece. What’s even more impressive about vacuum sealing is that it stretches the life of your dry foods, on condition that you leave a barrier between the power and the vacuum sealer.  For instance, you do not need to remove the original packaging that comes with flour, instead seal the entire package.

5. Double your Recipes and Freeze the Remainder

From now henceforth, always double any meal you know that freezes well. Instantly, ensure that you vacuum seal the additional dish in a bid it preserve it even at its peak. For example, disposable foil pans are an ideal way for storing dishes such as enchiladas. With two trays of the dish, cook one for dinner and vacuum seal the rest. Therefore, when you want to have some enchiladas next time, all you need to do is defrost and heat them.

6. Get yourself the Bags

Not all bags out there are designed for use with a vacuum sealer. You need to get the ideal ones for proper sealing. In fact, these special bags are made specifically for your vacuum sealer machine, as they can keep both moisture and air out while offering a completely tight seal.

7. Portion your Food Appropriately in the Bags

Most bags can be cleaned and even reused. Nonetheless, others like the ones used in preserving raw meat are not suitable since they may contain bacteria remnants. Even with that in mind, it is recommended that you freeze each meal according to portions the bags can handle. For example, when you purchase the three-pound pack of ground beef, divide it into three pieces of one pound each and freeze them.

8. Be your own Butcher

Owning a vacuum sealer will help you make some savings, mainly when you use it in preserving meat. You simply need to purchase steaks in bulk, and then seal and freeze them individually for eating whenever you want.

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Get Your Fair Fix With Homemade Funnel Cake

IMG_0465Did you get a chance to go out this weekend to the many different fairs and festivals in the St. Louis and surrounding area to enjoy this beautiful weather we’ve been having? Not in St. Louis? Then what about your neck of the woods?

While I did not get to make it down to LouFest, my family was able to enjoy a lot of fun at HarvestFest. The kids did all of the fun stuff that you could do at a small little festival. The kids enjoyed pony rides, feeding baby goats, jumping around in bounce houses, playing in the bubble bus, doing crafts and games, eating candy and other junk food, taking a train ride, and more!

If you were stuck at home and couldn’t make it out then why not bring some of that delicious fair food to your own kitchen? Check out this recipe for my absolutely favorite fair food, Funnel Cake! There are many funnel cake recipes out there, so if this one doesn’t suit your needs, a quick Google search will send you thousands of results. My recipe is easy and does not require as many ingredients as others posted online. It’s deliciously simple, so I hope you’re hungry!

What you will need:

1 egg
1 1/3 cup of milk
2 tablespoons sugar
1 1/14 cup of flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 cups of oil
powder sugar or other toppings

Directions:

Begin by pouring 2 cups of oil into a deep pan. We used vegetable oil in a 2 inch deep cast iron skillet. I’m sure you could use a deep fryer or something else to hold the oil. Just make sure you keep everyone safe. Funnel cake cooks fast so be sure your temperatures are set correctly and that you can pay attention to what you are doing. This is a great recipe to do with the kids but always remember that when your cooking with oil safety is very, very, important. So turn the heat up to about medium and let the oil warm up while you prepare the rest of the ingredients.

IMG_0450First mix all of your dry ingredients together and mix thoroughly. The next step is to mix your egg and milk together. Once your wet mix is ready slowly add your dry mix to the egg/milk while slowly mixing together to keep a smooth creamy mixture. Once you have all of the ingredients mixed you have a few options of how you can start making your funnel cake.

One of the more popular options is to use a freezer bag and cut a small tip off of a corner so you can “pipe” the mixture into the oil. Since we love our funnel cake we actually have a funnel cake container for pour the mix (check out the picture below with the lovely Strawberry Shortcake). So go load up your container and test your oil to see if it is hot enough yet. You can do this by taking just a sprinkle of flour and dropping it into the oil. If it starts to sizzle you’re good to go.

IMG_0456Pour your mix into the oil in a spiral, zig-zag, or whatever design you want. It only takes a few minutes to cook so be sure to keep a watchful eye on the funnel cake. You will want to flip it once so both sides become a nice light golden brown. Remove and place on a paper towel or something else to drain up the excess oil and cover with your favorite topping.

We like to keep it simple and use powder sugar but there are some that like to use honey, caramel, blue berries, strawberries, and more. The directions above will make around five decently sized funnel cakes.

Did you try out my recipe? What are your favorite funnel cake toppings? Share your comments below!

P.s. I apologize for the pictures of my crazy looking kitchen. We work with what we got!

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