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Making Food and Drinks For The Cheap and Lazy

Posts: 6111
Location: United States
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Essentially, the gist of this is how cheap and lazy (and busy!!!) people make and eat food and drinks.


For the most part, what I am finding in my personal experience is that the things that are working best for me right now meet the following criteria:
- requires minimal preparation time
- requires minimal maintenance
- occurs at low temperatures
- forgives lack of proper timing
- costs as little as possible, while still being healthy


The methods I am currently using for food are:
- Sous Vide (low temp water bath)
- cooking with a slow cooker
- Instant Pot (Celebrating Cooking Under Pressure)
- Lacto-Fermentation Methods and Recipes (me personally, Dave's Fermentation Journey)
- Nose to Tail Cooking

Some other methods of making food that I can think of that meet this criteria are:
- Haybox Cooking / Thermal Cooking / Wonder Box
- Cast Iron Pot 24 hr Stew
- In general, fermentation
- High Powered Wok Cooking
- Leftovers - AKA Cream of Yesterday


The method I am using for drinks is:
- low temperature tea

Some other methods I can think of for drinks are:
- Switchel: Natural Version of Sports Drink
- Kombucha
- In general, Fermentation

Low Temperature Tea

To elaborate on my method of making tea (since most of the threads I found were on tea for plants and not people), I use the following and then put it in the fridge for twenty-four hours or longer:
- mason jar
- whatever you want for tea (leaves, herbs, spices, fruits, etc)
- water

I add back in more water after I take out most of the "brewed" tea to make another batch. It comes out a bit strong, so, I have another container where I dilute it in. I also add some more refreshing herbs (like mint) into the diluting jar and a tiny bit of honey. This makes good and quick relatively cheap tea, especially since I'm picking the herbs and berries off of the area I'm at right now.

What other methods of preparing food and drink do you know of or use in your life that roughly meet the above criteria for cheap and lazy (and busy!!!) people?
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Location: Tasmania
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I like continuous brew kombucha a lot. My kombucha pot is around 2 gallons in size, and has a tap on the bottom. I just take as much kombucha out from the tap as we want to drink that day, add cooled tea/sugar brew to the top, and the new stuff ferments to be ready in around 24 hours.

I just started buying tea in bulk for my kombucha, I got 1kg (~2 pounds) from a bulk organic food distributor. This will last me around 6 months, and works out to be half the price of the other tea I was using.

Fermented foods are great - I make colourful sauerkrauts and kimchis that are like salads in a jar, ready to eat whenever I want.

Viili yoghurt is really good - it sets at room temperature, so I just add some to a jar of milk, shake it to mix it in, then leave it for a day or two and it's ready.

Bone broth is cheap to make, and adds a lot of flavour and nutrition to soups and stews.

I make big batches of stews and soups, the leftovers then get reheated and served up on other days.

Making bacon and salami at home makes it way cheaper and healthier than buying from the shop. The same could be said for any food.

Sourdough bread can be made in a way that's either no-knead or almost-no-knead. I am trying to write my methods for this down.
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I second the Instant Pot (or any other electric pressure cooker, I'm not a Cult of The Instant Pot cultist) suggestion -- it's a huge part of my foodway.  I have an eight quart one.  A very normal thing for me to do is to put ten cups of water and a pound of split peas into it, then fill it to the max fill line with whatever chopped veggies and herbs and greens I have handy: onions, potatoes, sweet potatoes, garlic, squash, celery, mushrooms, peppers, cabbage, kale, lambs quarters, carrots, it really doesn't matter.  I season and add richness and umami flavors with a few of: salt, black pepper, red pepper, nutritional yeast, curry powder, peanut butter, cumin, parsley, oregano, miso, soy sauce, samba olek -- you get the idea.  It's not a fussy dish.  I cook on high pressure for a long time and then open up and use a potato masher to smooth out the texture of any veg that didn't dissolve.  I eat a few bowls and put the rest in single-serving containers in the fridge, where it keeps well for a week or two until I eat it all.  

Another thing I do is cook about three pounds of whole wheat pasta in a big kettle.  While that's cooking up I make a sauce using canned tomato products (it doesn't really matter what kind, but the 25 ounce cans get bought when they go on loss-leader sale for a buck a can) and all the onions and all the garlic and every kind of sweet or not too spicy pepper that is surplus in my garden or on loss leader sale at the supermarkets or going really cheap on the distressed produce rack at local stores because wrinkled and unsalable at regular price.  This is a great place to also use surplus fresh oregano and basil this time of year -- I put that stuff in the sauce by the double handful.  After I sauce the pasta I eat a big meal of it and the rest goes in single serving containers into the fridge, where it keeps forever.  

I go through different beverage phases but right now I have a cold brew bottle for herb tea that I keep in the fridge with one black tea teabag and lots of mint and chamomile and lemongrass.  I also make a hot herbal tea every other day or so, about a quart, very strong, with those herbs (no black tea) plus some medicinal herbs aimed at a few of my medical issues.  That one gets diluted into two different quart-sized drinking bottles that I also put in the fridge until consumed.  
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I agree with Kate:

Bone broth is cheap to make, and adds a lot of flavour and nutrition to soups and stews.

I make big batches of stews and soups, the leftovers then get reheated and served up on other days.

I have always called bone broth "free food" and I use it as a way of stretching thing.  I can make it into several meals.  Chicken pot pie, chicken and rice, gumbo, etc.


Sandwiches are quick and easy

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Him indoors makes me at least one cup of green tea to drink in bed before I get up. Now does that make me lazy? Or very clever....
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Location: Northern WI (zone 4)
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I'm burning through the homemade lemonade this summer and it's real easy to make.  I take a half gallon mason jar, put a cup of maple syrup and a cup of lemon juice in it and fill it with water.  That give a 2x concentration.  I leave that in the fridge and then mix that half and half with water in my actual drinking container.  

Lately I've taken to adding 1/2 lemonade concentrate, 1/4 kombucha and 1/4 water for an even better drink.  But that's optional.  Heck, any tea or other flavor you have laying around can also be added to change it up.

The other lazy solution I have is eating twice a day.  I get up, putter around the homestead and have brunch around 11.  Then dinner happens whenever I get around to it (6 or 7).  One fewer meal to make.  That's not really the reason but it's an advantage...
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Stirfrys, cheapest meals ever. Takes any vegetables you have lying around a small amount of protein and you can use bad cuts of meat as it's cut so finely.  And from start to finish including cooking rice to go with it will take less than 20 minutes.

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Location: Athens, GA Zone 8a
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I like the continuous brew kombucha, too. I figured out that, once you have the equipment paid for, it costs about 11 cents a bottle to make. I like it so much that I was drinking too much of it, so now I hold myself to one bottle a day but dilute it with water about 50/50.

I think the easiest meal (for two) I ever make is to bake two potatoes in the microwave, then mash them flattish on plates and dump whatever needs to be eaten up from the fridge on top with a little cheese, then nuke it just long enough to melt the cheese. Goes a long way, is cheap, and uses up leftovers.

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