Monday, April 9, 2012

Couscous: Another Inexpensive Ingredient to Stretch Your Food Budget!

Several months ago, our family was treated to a French “fine dining” experience.  It was exquisite!  On that particular night, we were served couscous as a side dish.  My family adored it AND they loved saying it!!

This week I was trying a new salmon recipe and they suggested serving couscous as a side dish.  I decided to go out on a limb and try cooking it.  (I have to admit it helped knowing what it was supposed to look and taste like in order to give me the courage to try it.)  I didn’t want to buy too much in case it didn’t go well, so I went to Winco and bought a small bag’s worth in their bulk section.  I was surprised to learn how inexpensive it was!!  Since I wasn’t familiar with HOW to cook it, I looked it up on and scrolled through their recipes until I came across one where I already had the spices at home.  After reading the instructions, I was struck at how ridiculously EASY and FAST it was to prepare!!
This is my small bag of UNCOOKED Couscous....It more than doubles in size later!
(Its a bit like rice, but in the shape of little balls)
Basically add spices to the water.  Boil.  Add couscous and remove from heat and wait 5 minutes.  Easy huh?
The more I thought about it, each cultural ethnic group seems to have their own inexpensive ingredients that can be made into hundreds of exquisite dishes!!  IF I were to incorporate all the different kinds of inexpensive ways to cook from lots of different cultures—not only would we have a lot of variety in our diet, but our cultural awareness would grow!!
In one of my favorite organizational books of all time, “Confessions of an Organized Housewife” by Denise Schofield she has a section on meal planning and preparation.   I have found her advice to be true and I have adopted it as MY philosophy. 

Meals should fulfill 4 goals:
1.       Nutritious
2.       Fit into an established budget
3.       Please the family
4.       Fit into your time & energy limits

This idea of inexpensive ingredients can go a long way into stretching a food budget.  I use rice, beans, potatoes, bread, and pasta as “fillers”.  In other words, I use these inexpensive ingredients in combination with other things, so that the more expensive items will go farther and last longer!!
Back to this culturally diverse idea….I know there are plenty of cultures out there that I don’t know much about--particularly about their food.  Here's a list to get your thoughts stewing.  So this is NOT an exhaustive list.  It is more like the tip of the iceberg of possibilities.
·         Italy-- pasta & bread
·         Ireland-- Potatoes
·         France-- Couscous
·         Oriental—Rice
·         Hispanic—Rice & Beans
I personally have a large collection of recipes using rice, beans, potatoes, and pasta….I am excited to add couscous to the list of inexpensive ingredients to make thousands of dishes.  I wonder how many different ways there are to cook it….

I wonder what other cultures use for inexpensive dishes….I’ve noticed there have been a few people from other countries look at my blog.  I am really hoping they will leave a comment or two.  I would love to learn more!!
Happy stretching pennies...

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