Frugal Cooking From a Non-Cook
Cheap Ingredients Make an Awesome Meal
Laura does not cook. Not really. Not like Sasha, who is a Chef in my mind. I can boil water, make pretty amazing oatmeal that my family has actually tasted and liked. But that is it.
I am the financial guru of Laura & Sasha’s Excellent Adventure. I studied and worked as a scientist and can follow a recipe pretty well.
Since I do not have the flair for cooking, I decided to conduct this recipe like an experiment. I figured that if it worked, we had a new recipe that I could do, with Sasha’s help. Also, if this worked, then we would have 20 servings of a bean and rice mixture that could be used for so many different recipes. And we would both be able to eat it and be full.
If it did not work, then we would be out approximately $1.35 plus the $0.30 for electricity. Rounding up, a $2 experiment for a new recipe that we could both eat and enjoy seemed reasonable. A $2 gamble for some serious rewards sounds pretty, pretty good.
Starting The Experiment – A little explaining first….
Since I am not a cook by any stretch of the imagination, I don’t write normal recipes. I do experiments that can be, hopefully, eaten. I am also gluten intolerant, although I have been known to eat a slice of good pizza every now and again. I just don’t feel good after eating them though.
Therefore, what follows is the steps I took to create this experiment and ultimately a recipe was formed. Most people do not put down the calorie count nor do they tell you how much it costs. Nor do they put in the electricity amounts. For us, we live in an RV. We are right now in a campground, which AMAZINGLY does not charge electricity. Usually they do if you are there for a month.
And since we have solar panels, AGM batteries, and an inverter, I like to know how much energy I am using to make a meal. However, we did use a little bit of propane when Sasha cooked over the stovetop. I did not calculate that amount as it was a flash in the pan so to speak. Once we buy propane, maybe I might be able to calculate the amounts.
Following Directions is Important
I find that if I follow directions on a bag of beans, it seems to work. When I do not follow the directions, beans never get soft. Sasha had a real problem with beans, especially pinto beans, as they never seemed to get soft.
- Following the directions on the bag: Overnight Soak
- Sort and rinse 1 pound of pinto beans (about 2.5 cups)
- Add 6-8 Cups of cold water and beans to crock pot.
- Let stand overnight or at least 6-8 hours.
- Drain water and Rinse beans again.
- The beans look larger now. Add them back to the crock-pot.
- Add 6 cups of hot water to the drained and rinsed beans.
These instructions and the experiment itself use a bit of water. If you are boondocking, this recipe is not good. If, however, you can do this at a campground ahead of your boondocking experience, I would recommend it. Because ultimately, you have beans and rice, which is a great component to many different meals.
At this point, I diverted from the instructions on the bag as I was not doing this on a stovetop but in a crock-pot. We use a crock-pot that uses 135 watts for low and 210 watts for high. It was a trade to us when we were in Canyonlands National Park in 2010. We had a larger one that we did not need, and so traded for this smaller one.
A Rival Crock-Pot Stoneware Slow Cooker with old fashioned pictures on the front; 3.5 quarts seemed plenty big to us. Ours has a plastic lid and the pot is painted black, from our solar oven cooking days.
- Cooking Beans:
- Turn Crock-pot on high for 2 hours. (210 watts per hour)
- Turn Crock-pot on low for 8 to 10 hours (135 watts per hour)
I calculated the amounts of electricity using Mr. Electricity’s website: http://michaelbluejay.com/electricity/
- Creating a Recipe of Pinto Beans and Long-grained White Rice:
- After the 12 hours of cooking just the beans in water, turn off the crock-pot for adding ingredients.
- Put in 2 Tablespoons of chicken stock
- 2 teaspoons garlic powder, &
- 2 teaspoons chili powder.
- Mixed up or stir the beans and spices until the spices are dissolved in the water
- Add at least 2 Cups of warm to hot water
- Turn on Crock-pot on low for an additional 6-8 hours (135 watts per hour),
- In the morning, add two Cups Long-Grained White Rice (you should still have a good amount of water if not, add 2 Cups warm to hot water).
- Set a Timer to 60 minutes.
- Test every so often to see how soft the rice gets. By the time the 60 minutes are up, the rice should be soft but not mushy. If the rice is still not soft, but is getting there, set the timer for another 10 minutes. If it does not look like enough water, put in just enough to cover the mixture. You do not want the rice to change to mush. No one will eat it.
Warm or hot water would be from: your faucet if connected to Full Hook Ups, your tea kettle and propane, or your solar oven water bottle. Only one of those is free energy.
At this point, Sasha took over for the cooking. He is much better at the slicing and dicing part than me. He also knows how to cook or re-heat sausage, egg, and tortillas. If I was the only one here, I would just cut up a tomato, add salsa, and put a hard-boiled egg on top. I would probably burn myself cooking the corn tortillas, but I would do it.
- Cut up tomato and cilantro
- Put 2 Tablespoons of Olive Oil on Frying pan. Cook sausage first, slicing in half to cook it quicker. Sausage should be pre-cooked, thereby cutting the re-heating time.
- On high heat, cook / re-heat two corn tortillas.
- Putting it all together:
- Place corn tortillas on plate with ½ link of the sausage.
- Add ½ Cup of the Beans and Rice mixture on top of the corn tortillas.
- Sprinkle 1 Tablespoon of cheese.
- Fry an egg in the frying pan, using left-over olive oil.
- Put egg onto the cheese, thereby melting the cheese.
- Add chopped cilantro on top and sliced tomato next to the sausage.
- Add a couple of tablespoons of salsa
OMG I made a recipe people could actually eat. My husband (The CHEF in the family) actually thanked me for a delicious meal! And he was the one to assemble it, I just made the beans and rice mixture!!!
While I do not consider myself as a cook, I feel pretty happy about this experiment. It turned into a good recipe that a) we both can eat, b) Sasha has no problem swallowing c) it cost very little money, and d) It used very little electricity. The cost analysis and calorie counts are next.
Recipe Costs $ and Calories
These prices were from WinCo and Costco shopping trips taken either in October or November. The amounts of Kilowatt hours might be different for you. Most campgrounds charge the same as the electric companies in your area. However, we have seen some price gouging especially during the winter when people use space heaters for warming their homes.
- Long-grained white rice $0.60 a pound = .04 per ounce
- Pinto Beans $0.75 a pound = 0.05 per ounce
- Egg: 18 eggs = $2.32 = $0.13 per egg
- Cheese: 1 T = 0.5 ounces therefore: 1 ounce of cheese = 0.19 or half that is $0.10 rounded up.
- Sausage: each link is 3.5 ounces, ½ a link per serving: each ounce = $0.22 x 3.5 divided by 2 = $0.38
- 2 corn tortillas: $2.49 for 67 oz/72 tortillas = $0.07
- 1 Tablespoon Olive Oil, based on two servings. This is to heat the sausage, egg, and tortillas on a non-stick pan.
- Tomato: ½ a tomato, or one Roma tomato: $1.14 / 3 / 2 = $.19
- Cilantro: $0.48 a bunch, 8 servings: $0.06
- Salsa: Costco Salsa: $5.99 for 32 ounces: $0.19 serving.
- 2 hours at 210 watts per hour with 11 cents per Kilowatt = $0.04 (for the entire amount therefore per 1 serving is very small)
- 19 hours at 135 watts per hour with 11 cents per Kilowatt = $0.28 (for the entire amount, therefore per one serving let’s say 0.01 a serving.
$1.22 for this meal, for one serving. You could take out the Salsa as it was expensive. The most expensive item on the recipe is the sausage, which could be taken out. Taking out the sausage would lower the calories, fat, cholesterol, and sodium. If you did take out the sausage, this meal would be $0.86.
For the Calories, I used a great website called VeryWell.com. However, if your internet goes out anywhere along the process of copying or sharing, you might not get it back. I have tried over five times to either embed or email the recipe and when it goes to the site, it is empty. I guess sixth time the charm…
But I thought I will try one more time to see if it works. It does not show the ingredients which is annoying to me.
So here are the ingredients with the calorie counts for a total of 654 calories:
- 1/4 Cup Long-grained white rice: 51 calories
- 1/4 Cup cooked Pinto Beans: 245 calories
- 1 Egg cooked: 72 calories
- 1 Tablespoon shredded Cheese: 20 calories
- 1/2 link Sausage Farmer John’s Louisiana Hot Smoked: 86 calories (although I think it is more like 150 calories)
- 2 corn tortillas cooked: 105 calories
- 1 Tablespoon Olive Oil: 120 calories, but only half used for a serving. 60 calories
- Tomato: ½ a tomato: 6 calories Obviously, having more tomatoes and vegetables is the best way to go as far as calories are concerned.
- 1/4 Cup of fresh Cilantro leaves (they say Coriander but it is the same plant): 1 calorie
- 2 Tablespoons or 1 ounce Salsa: 9 calories
The highest calorie counts are the sausage and beans of course. They are also the ones with the most protein.
Using the Beans & Rice Mixture
We used the mixture today, but not the entire recipe, just beans and rice to have as our protein for the meal. With one egg and tons of vegetables, and two corn tortillas, this meal should last us at least 4 hours without being hungry. It might even last us longer than that…but I am eating it now, so will have to report back later.
Would You Use a Recipe Like this one?
I realize that this is a long recipe or even experiment. However, I like to do these types of experiments and experiences because I feel I am learning too. Would you be interested in more of these types of experiments? Please let me know in the comments below.