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by Bob Waldrop, first president of the Oklahoma Food Cooperative.
 
Healthy foods help support the health of your body, which over the long term saves big bucks on medical bills. But those gains are long term, whereas the price issue hits your bank account every month.
 
I have a lot of experience with frugal cooking. I first learned to make sourdough bread because I couldn’t afford to buy yeast or bread but I had wheat and a grain grinder that was given to me.  Over the years I have shared a lot of that experience with members of the Oklahoma Food Cooperative, but not so much recently.  So you could consider this on-going column a summation of my life’s experiences with frugal cooking applied to the Oklahoma Food Cooperative. 
 
By shopping frugally at the Coop, you can have the best of both worlds -- high quality foods for yourself and your household, and not breaking the bank account on your grocery bill. 
 
Remember - you don’t have to buy all your food from the Oklahoma Food Cooperative to do great things for yourself and your household, our local producers and the environment. Replacing store bought meats with locally produced meats from free ranging flocks and herds is one of the most effective environmental choices you can make, second only to ditching your car.  As an added bonus, the tastes of local meats provide instant gratification proof that you have made the right decision. And you do great things for our local producers.  How great a deal is that?
 
And while you don’t have to replace ALL your meats with local foods, every pound bought from a local farmer is a pound that has a much lower carbon impact than the standard supermarket CAFO produced meats.  So if many do a little, as they say, a lot gets done.  
 
The items highlighted in this edition are all well supplied in the Coop, from a variety of producers, so you have lots of choice. 
 

Frugalista #1, February 2017 edition

 

1.  Buy your soap from the Oklahoma Food Cooperative’s artisan soap makers.

Huh? What does that have to do with food? Well, if you spend less on your health and beauty products like soap, you can spend more on food.  And there is no doubt about it, despite the apparent additional expense of locally made artisanal soaps, they are actually “cheaper per wash” because they last much longer than store-bought soaps, and get you every bit as clean. They also have a sense of luxury about them that can’t be bought in a supermarket.  In the long ago days before the Oklahoma Food Coop, I remember buying soap every month.  Now I buy about 4 bars per year and don’t use all of that soap during the year. So I have two or three bars of soap laying around.  “Hmmm, so am I in a cranberry fig or a patchouli sage mood today?”  Nice work for a low maintenance guy like myself.  Find 109 different soaps from eight different local producers at 
 

2.  Bake your own bread.

The cheapest price for the cheapest loaf of supermarket balloon bread runs $1.49 plus tax or $1.62 in Oklahoma City.  A decent loaf of bread, such as 100% whole wheat, runs upwards of $3 plus tax ($3.27) and includes a long list of ingredients with waaaay too many vowels, plus they will typically include an unhealthy dose of High Fructose Corn Syrup.  
 
Your best alternative is to bake your own bread.  Baking bread is waaay more easy than most people think. Home baked bread is a huge boost to your quality of life and the nutritional health of your food.  Here my article on baking bread, which is just about everything you would want to know about the subject. 
 
 
At first glance, it may seem long and complicated, but scroll on down and you will find a simple four point process.  No time to bake bread?  Well, it takes waaaay less time than most people think.  Like 5 minutes a day.  
 
If you buy ground flour from the coop, you will pay $1.45 to $2/pound, one pound of flour making about one loaf of bread or 22 rolls. Find flour at the Oklahoma Food coop at -- 
 
 
Besides the flour, your primary expense is yeast. And it pays to shop around for yeast because the price varies wildly from store to store. Grocery stores put high prices on yeast to discourage home baking because the cheap bread they sell for such expensive prices is a major profit center for them.  
 
If you are in Oklahoma City, the best price on yeast is at Midwest Baking Supply at 2716 NW 10th where you can buy a pound of yeast for $3.95.  A pound of yeast makes a LOT of bread.   I think it is likely that Tulsa has a similar store and other regional cities may also have a source for yeast in quantity. If not, when you are in OKC, stop by Midwest and buy a year’s worth of yeast. This is an independently owned store, and besides yeast they have everything else you would want to bake with including every size of baking pan imaginable, lol. Looks like the lowest price at amazon.com for yeast is $8 for one pound, but for those without a local source, that’s still a great price.
 
And you can save even that minimal expense if you make sourdough bread.  My bread page above has everything you want and need to know about sour dough baking.
 
 
You save even more money if you buy wheat and grind it yourself into flour.  Yes, a grain mill can be a significant investment.  The low end Corona grain mills start at $36 plus shipping online.  My “Lehmans Own” sells for $229 these days ($150 or so when I bought it more than a decade ago).  They go up from there. Not a very frugal choice.  But!  You can grind grain in a blender!  
 
 
 
If you buy wheat and grind it yourself, the price for the flour declines to 72 cents/pound.  One pound of wheat makes about one pound of flour which makes about one standard loaf of bread.  If you like your flour a little lighter, you can sift out some of the bran.
 
 
I grind almonds, pecans, and flax in a coffee grinder, so keep that in mind.
 

3.  Buy ground meats and use them intelligently to make great tasting foods.

Here are nine crowd pleasing ground meat recipes.  Use any kind of ground meat – beef, pork, lamb, buffalo.  And while the conventional wisdom is “1 pound ground meat per casserole feeds 4", all of these recipes come out great using a half pound of ground meat.  What to do with the other half? Well, if you are making one casserole, it is no big deal to make two.  So make two, freeze one, eat later with minimum time and fuss and mess. Line the casserole dish for the "one to freeze" with aluminum foil. When baked, let it cool, fold the aluminum foil over the top of the casserole, and put it in the freezer.  Once frozen, take the frozen cassrole, wrapped in aluminum foil, out of the casserole pan. This allows you to leave the casserole in the freezer while being able to use the casserole pan another day.
 
 
Want hamburgers for dinner? Don’t make half pounders, or even quarter pounders, make 8 sliders per pound of ground meat.  Dress them up with piles of toppings and your own tasty home baked bun.  If you are feeding four, two, 1/8th pound sliders are better than 1 “quarter pounder” per person eating lunch or dinner.
 
This page has recipes for ground pork and sausage, including sausage/cabbage, zucchini/sausage casseroles, grits casserole, and sausage/rice casserole.
 
 
In the Coop, ground pork is often more value priced than sausage, so feel free to substitute ground pork for sausage and use a half pound per meal, but do same casserole deal as the ground beef – make two, freeze one.  
 
To season one pound of ground pork so it tastes like Italian sausage, add –
 
½ teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon dried parsley
1-1/4 teaspoon Italian seasoning (or a quarter teaspoon each of dried oregano, rosemary, sage, basil, and thyme
1 tablespoon minced garlic, or 1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 tablespoon minced onion
1 teaspoon crushed cayenne pepper flakes (add more if you like more heat)
 
To season one pound of ground pork to taste like  breakfast sausage – 
 
1-1/2 teaspoons of salt
½ teaspoon black pepper
3/4 teaspoon dried sage
1/4 teaspoon thyme
3/4 teaspoon dried parsley
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
 
If you have fresh herbs, triple the amount of the dried (e.g. 2-1/4 teaspoons of fresh sage).
 

4.  Make your own gravy and stock.

Making your own stock (broth) is one of The Most Frugal Foods you can make with foods from the Oklahoma Food Cooperative. And making your own gravy with your homemade stock is another of The Most Frugal Foods you can make. Both add a lot of quality and taste to your meals. Our meat producers also sell bones.  Use them to make your own broths, often these days referred to as “bone broth” which imho is not a very attractive name, lol.  Some of our chicken producers sell backs and necks which make great broths.
 
Here is my how-to article on making meat and vegetable stocks –
 
 
 
Use your great home made stocks for soups, stews, sauces, and gravies --here is my article on gravy –
 
 
Yes you can make a large amount of roux in advance, freeze it, and then use it as needed. Yes if you are making a large amount you could make it in an oven. And yes, you can make roux in a microwave.  What’s roux? The essence of gravy!  Read the link for more than you thought you could know about gravy and how easy it is to make.  Gravy plus a small amount of meat, plus lots of veggies, and something like rice, potatoes, noodles, makes a great casserole.  And casseroles are the essence of Frugality comfort foods. People love biscuits and gravy for breakfast, but toast and gravy is just as good and is generally faster assuming the bread is already baked. 
 
So that’s all for now, but more is coming. Feel free to email me your comments, suggestions, ideas, and questions plus ideas for future installments of this Frugality’s Guide to the Oklahoma Food Cooperative.
 
Y’all bon appétit, you hear!
 
Bob Waldrop
Oklahoma Food Cooperative
 

 

Oklahoma Food Cooperative
PO BOX 681, Oklahoma City, OK 73101