Many moons ago, before the blog and the all night baking marathons, I was but a lost and scared young thing who was fresh out of the freshman dorms/meal plan and trying to figure out how to eat well without busting my small bank account. I turned to Google; and in my time of need, Google turned me to countless college insight articles that essentially told me two things:
A.) Ramen Noodles are cheap. …Duh
B.) You can stick things like canned meat and frozen vegetables in your Ramen to boost the nutritional quality/add variety. …Ew
Having successfully fed myself while continuing to pay all of my bills (mostly on time) for nearly three years now, I can attest to the fact that incredibly inexpensive, incredibly questionable packaged food(ish) products are not the answer.
At least not for every night of the week. When it’s 11 p.m. and you still haven’t eaten dinner on a Wednesday night, crap food might totally be the answer. Shoot, hit up the Taco Bell if you’re feeling like a real baller.
That said, I’ve found that being a generally savvy lad or lady in the kitchen goes hand in hand with saving cash. Even though I do spend more time in the grocery store than a hefty hunk of my peers, having good culinary habits tends to help in keeping costs down.
Coming up close on graduating into unemployment, keeping costs down is an idea I quite like. And I’d also quite like to share a few of the overarching principles that guide my daily cooking and let me save a few bucks. Conveniently enough, they’re all well represented in this here pie.
In that sense, it’s just like a pie chart… but way tastier.
Principle 1: Waste nothing.
Don’t be afraid to rehash leftovers. In my book, leftovers may very well be one of the greatest aspects of life. If it’s not burnt or rotting, you can probably find a use for it. Even foods that didn’t turn out quite right can hold a delicious purpose. The cookies from which our pie’s crust is constructed originally began as one of my few ventures into fat free baking. The flavor was just fine, but they were too darn crumbly to make a satisfying cookie (3/4 of the cookie ended up on your shirt). They were however perfect for making cookie crumbs… and when tossed with melted butter, totally perfect for a cookie crumb pie crust. Bam, recycling.
Now, the blackberry glaze over top makes for a striking pop of color and a pleasantly tart contrast to the pie’s sweet custard interior; and yet, it consists of nothing more than left over macerated berry juices I had sitting in the fridge. If you don’t need them for the recipe at had, always always always hold on to any such fresh fruit juices. They can be used for syrups, frostings, cocktails and a stellar natural food coloring.
Principle 2: Make it from scratch.
If you have the time, you have the capability. I know, sometimes convenience is definitely worth it’s cost… I’m not saying go mill your own flour or anything. But when you can, skip the seasoning blend packets, skip the canned pasta sauce, skip the packaged tortillas–make it yourself! Don’t know how? Read a recipe, work up some courage and give it a go (it’s fun, I promise). Nine times out of ten, cooking from scratch will be way easier than you ever imagined. Returning to our the pie crust here, it didn’t take me five minutes to get it assembled. Even supposing you don’t have a bowl full of cookie crumbs already waiting at your fingertips, pulling together a simple pastry dough will likely never be the toughest hurdle you overcome in a day. The three bucks you save on pre-made pie shells may not seem like all that match, but if you make a habit of foregoing purchased shortcuts, the savings do add up.
Principle 3: Get creative.
Especially with your inexpensive staple items. When a special occasion arises, you want to be able to splurge on some specialty ingredients; in the meantime, you can do a lot building from basics–like grits. I can’t say that she’s anywhere close to being my culinary idol, but if I’ve learned nothing else from Paula Deen, I know that as long as you have grits and a stick of butter on hand, ain’t nobody going hungry.
To be fair, telling anyone to get creative is obnoxiously obscure… sorry about that. For fresh inspiration check blogs, websites like Tastespotting or do a recipe search for a specific ingredient and hunt for new ways to use it.
So there you have it, my trinity of economic cooking. Huzzah
If I can make two other quick announcements–
- This pie was made for blood orange sorbet. Do it.
- I’m heading to the grand land of Texas the next week, and I’m so super stoked to share my adventures from Austin upon my return.
Happy weekend, ya’ll.
Grits Pie with Oatmeal Cookie Crust
Adapted from Paula Deen
For the crust
- 1 1/1 crumbled oatmeal cookie crumbs
- 1 Tbsp sugar
- 1/4 cup butter, melted
For the pie
- 3/4 cup water
- 1/8 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 cup quick-cooking grits
- 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
- 3/4 cups sugar
- 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 3 large eggs, slightly beaten
- 1/4 cup buttermilk
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1/2 tsp cinnamon
- 1/8 nutmeg
Preheat oven to 325 F.
Mix the cookie crumbs, sugar and butter in a bowl until the butter has evenly coated the crumbs. Firmly press the mixture in an even layer along the bottom and sides of a 9 inch pie pan.
Bake the crust for 10 minutes while you prepare the filling, set aside on a wire rack to cool.
In a small saucepan, bring the water and salt to a boil. Add the grits and cook for 4 minutes, stirring constantly. Add the butter and cook for 1 additional minute. Set aside and cool slightly.
In a small bowl, stir together the sugar, flour, eggs, buttermilk, vanilla, cinnamon and nutmeg. Slowly stir into the cooled grits. Pour into the pre-baked pie shell and bake for 35 to 40 minutes, or until set. Set pie on a wire rack to cool completely, top with blackberry glaze.
For the blackberry glaze
- 3/4 cup fresh blackberry juice left from macerating berries
- 1/8 cup sugar
- 1 Tbsp lemon juice
Combine all ingredients in a heavy bottom saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring often. Cook down until the juices reduce to a thick, syrup consistency. Pour over cooled pie.
*Note– If you don’t have leftover juices you’re trying to use up, top this pie with whatever you please… fresh berries, whipped cream, warm jam, etc.