Broke-Ass has often been asked how she feeds her family of five on bubkes. The answer is: Shop as little as possible, and buy what only what you must, as cheaply as possible. Cutting down on marketing means you not only have more time to earn a damn living, but it also compels you to make — or grow — the stuff that you would have bought pre-made or -grown when you did make a damn living. DIY saves money.
Back when Broke-Ass was unconcerned with saving money, she bought the following items regularly and with impunity: scones with walnuts and crystallized ginger; Eli’s Health Loaf bread; granola with flaxseed and cocoa nibs; Mrs. Meyer’s cleaning products; Greek yogurt; artisanal mozzarella; rarefied iced teas; tea bags in faux Englishy-looking tins; organic fresh herbs (and beets; cucumbers; squash; green beans; eggplant; spinach; kale; tomatoes; and sundry elite lettuces); face cream from her favorite place in the whole wide world, the Beauty Level at Bergdorf’s (please, friends, when the time comes, scatter Broke-Ass’s ashes near the Jo Malone counter); fancy soaps with French everything; devil-may-care expensive hair-care schmutz; and all manner of indigenous bottled sauces from islands all over this great wide world of ours.
No más. Now, she makes or grows all that stuff at Rancho del Broke-Ass (including face cream, soap, and hair schmutz — yup). That which she cannot grow, she buys in bulk at Costco. Sorry, locavores: pantry items for broke families of five must be cheap. Olive oil is the only thing to splurge on. You’ll be bummed if you don’t.
So, herewith, Broke-Ass’ foolproof shopping list of must-have items for the Broke-Ass Pantry. If you stock these foodstuffs, you will always be able to make a nutritious, delicious meal for a family of five for under $10. What’s more, such meals will not make you feel like a loser who has to feed your children bland, junky bulls**t because you’re poor. The meals you will serve will be fashionably peasant-like. Think rustic Mediterranean. For thousands of years, the poor people of this world have always been able to make what appears to be the dregs of the food-chain absolutely mouthwatering. They didn’t go to Brown, for Christssakes. They just used their f**king heads and made do. If they could figure out how to do it, so can you.
Broke-Ass’ Pantry List:
- Raw almonds
- Dried beans (Broke-Ass favors the white ones, but black are always good, too — get both.)
- Whole wheat flour; baking soda; baking powder; active dry yeast; organic sugar (yes, Costco carries it)
- Canned tomatoes (whole, peeled)
- Grains (basmati rice; quinoa; wild rice; oatmeal; organic flaxseed — get it all)
- Pasta (penne preferred — it holds sauce the best)
- Dried fruit (dates; apricots; prunes. Sometimes, they have mixed bags. If not, get all these)
- White distilled vinegar
- Butter (stick what you don’t need in the freezer)
- Chicken; ground turkey; pork shoulder (again — freezer)
- Parmesan and manchego, in big blocks
- Spices: sea salt; cinnamon; turmeric; garlic granules; oregano; basil; thyme; curry; ginger
That’s it. With greens and milk, a family of five can live off this pantry for at least six months. Why not start the first three days with a chicken?
How to Stretch a Chicken for Three Days à la Broke-Ass
Day One. Set the oven to 350. Put a roaster chicken in a big cast-iron dutch oven, and pour in whole milk to cover about three-quarters of the bird. (Attention fallen yuppies: You do not need a fancy Le Creuset. Broke-Ass bought a plain old, 7-quart cast-iron dutch oven for under $50, and it does the job with no complaints. Just season it every now and then, and stop feeling sorry for yourself.)
Now, dump into the Dutch oven a ton of peeled garlic cloves, about a half-cup of olive oil, salt, and whatever spices you like: oregano, thyme, rosemary, tarragon, tandoori, tumeric, curry, cinnamon. Don’t get too cerebral about it — just think about what you think it going to taste good and toss it in. Having said that, however, one killer app is to zest a few lemons, squeeze the juice in, the squeezed lemons themselves (you can fish them out later), and the zest. Particularly tasty with rosemary.
Because Broke-Ass is rawther witchy, she also tosses in all kinds of crazy dried herbs that she stores in mason jars: dandelion leaf, red clover, nettle. All these green leafies are foolishly healthy; between them, they’ve got vitamins A, C, D, and B complex as well as iron, magnesium, zinc, potassium, manganese, copper, choline, and calcium. If you’re too much of a pussy to pick and dry this stuff yourself, you can order them in bulk from the awesome Mountain Rose Herbs.
Anywho. Stick the whole damn thing in the oven (lid on) and get ready to wait about an hour and a half or so. Answer your e-mail, help the children with homework, get someone to rub your feet, give the milk a stir every now and then; flip the bird over a few times.
About an hour into it, add a healthy amount of some kind of grain that you’ve bought in bulk. Pearlized barley is good; wild rice; quinoa; even quick-cooking lentils. If you don’t have enough of any one item, toss whatever you have in. It’ll all work out.
By the time all the grain has cooked up, the chicken will be just falling apart-and it’s fantastically wholesome, juicy, and fall aparty. Take the pot out of the oven and pull the meat off the bones with a fork. You’re ready to serve up your delicious one pot meal! But don’t do it yet! First, put the bones into another giant pot of water, bring to a boil, and let it simmer at the lowest possible heat overnight. Babydolls, you’re making chicken broth for Day 3.
Day Two. Not even a family of five could have possibly eaten the amount of food you made last night. Which is why you saved the leftovers in the cast-iron stock pot. Now, you will convert those leftovers into a butternut squash soup that’ll make you blush.
So, get two butternut squash (squashes?), cube ’em up, and then peel them — it’s easier that way, to me at least. Save the seeds, stick them on a piece of tin foil, drizzle with olive oil and salt, and toast them in a toaster oven until brown. Set aside. Now, bring about an inch of water to a boil in a saucepan, add the squash cubes, olive oil, salt — and again, with the garlic. Meanwhile, get your cast-iron on the stove, toss a little water in, and begin heating up the leftovers.
When the squash is squashy, break it all up with a spoon, and toss the entire mixture into the leftovers pot. Toss in a can of coconut milk in there, too (comes in a 6-pack at Costco). Stir. Taste. It should taste really f**king good. If it doesn’t, add stuff that you think it needs. Maybe some curry powder and cinnamon. That’s always good. Or nutmeg and turmeric? That could work. You’re the freaking cook — give it a try.
Serve with a dollop of whole yogurt (you can make this yourself, too, you know, but we’ll leave that for another time) and the roasted seeds on top. Voilà et voilà. Hope you remembered to put that chicken stock in the fridge!
Day Three. Start this in the morning before you go to work, or the whole apparatus will crumble before your eyes, and your children will cry that they’re starving. Dump into the stock pot about two cups, or maybe a touch more or so, of some kind of BULK dried bean: Cannellini beans are a favorite, but do what you like. Pour in enough water to fill the whole pot. Cover it up on the kitchen counter.
When you and the kids get home, you will notice nature’s miracle has been at work: Beans soaking up water! Jesus Christ! Now, the chicken stock. Take all the bones and floaters out with a sieve-type spoon and toss them. Heat up the resultant broth and dump the beans in. You know the drill: Bring to a boil, then simmer. Toss in more garlic cloves and spice with rosemary. Cut up cubes from a block of parmesan (bought at Costco), and set them aside, but take that useless rind and dump it into the pot, too.
If you’re like Broke-Ass, now is the time you’ll go out to the back yard and ferret around for some green leafy thing. I’ve got kale and chard growing in my ghetto garden. I’ll bet you have dandelion greens at the very least, and if you haven’t poisoned the shit out of your lawn, clip ’em. Throw them in the pot! In about 45 minutes, the whole thing is ready to roll. Toss in your chunks of parmesan, a handful of walnuts (also from Costco), and you’re good to go.
Each meal costs under $10, and is unimpeachably nutritious and yummy. You’re welcome, sugar bunnies. Broke-Ass loves you.