Fall is a time of new beginnings. Out of nowhere, the nip enters the air and the laziness of summer morphs into productivity. Well, I’m trying anyway! We organize closets, embrace an earlier bedtime and fill the freezer with family meals. My favourite meals are always ones that can be produced out of the pantry. The problem with this, though, is that essential ‘stock’ items like oats, flour and rice never seem to drop in price, so squeezing room out of the family budget from the food category doesn’t seem to work. Until now. Here’s how you can save money on the staples with help from our friends at Safeway.
Photo: Alys Shantz
Safeway has been implementing many initiatives to help Canadians eat better. In the winter they lowered prices on produce and made a commitment to sell better and more affordable locally sourced meats. (We all know that when there is a choice between a fresh vegetable and a big processed snack at a similar price point, we rarely choose the healthy option). Earlier this month, Safeway lowered prices on thousands (with 3 zeros!) of items, and this isn’t a flash-in-the-pan sale. This is a long-term commitment and warms my heart for families on a fixed income, and also for those who are working hard to save while bringing as much nutrition as possible into their family diet.
This means many many good things for all of us. Not only can we legitimately take the extra monthly money in our budget that we’re not spending on groceries to put towards vacation savings (or shoes), but this gives us pause to evaluate our menu choices. Preparing a few homemade weekly dinners on a Sunday saves even more money now, and also gives us control over which ingredients enter our meals. When I heard the news I had some organizational and décor urges to redo my pantry storage jars!
Growing up in Nova Scotia, where the matriarchs in my family still had imprinted memories of the Great Depression and wartime food rations, the pantry was the heart of the kitchen. As sure as roasted turkey and summer savoury aromas filled the house for Thanksgiving, August was about pickling, and Saturday mornings were slated with bread baking. To celebrate Safeway’s facilitation of my ‘pantry comeback’, I want to share three top-secret family recipes with you. Each uses ingredients that are now lower priced on store shelves, and as I shop for the items with my kids, I’m excited to explain to them how saving and never being wasteful was a huge part of our family’s heritage, as reflected in our food traditions.
Murial’s Brown Bread
This hearty, sweet bread is best baked in old coffee cans. Murial used to deliver it to our house before church sales, and whenever the family needed a little lift. It’s made with molasses and oats which are both part of Safeway’s big price-drop.
2 c. rolled oats
1/2 c. cornmeal
1 c. All-Bran Cereal
1 large T. shortening
1 large T. salt
4 c. boling water
1 package dry yeast
1 c. lukewarm water
1 c. molasses
6 c. flour
Mix rolled oats, cornmeal, All-Bran, shortening, salt and hot water. Let cool. Soak yeast in warm water. Add rolled oats mixture when it is cool, plus molasses. Stir well and add enough flour to make dough stiff (about 6 cups). Let rise until double. Put in greased pans (loaf or coffee) and let rise again. Bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour.
Slow Cooker Chili
There’s nothing quite like coming home after a busy day and having a hot meal waiting. At least 1/3 of my pantry is always filled with canned tomatoes for sauces and chili, and now that the price on Compliments Canned Tomatoes has come down, I’m expecting the pantry to be at least half full! This recipe is easily adapted to different palettes and the kids can have fun choosing items to include.
1 T. olive oil
2 lbs. lean ground beef (or half beef, half turkey)
1 medium diced onion
4 cloves minced garlic
1 chipotle chili
2 cans dark red kidney beans, rinsed and drained
2 cans tomato sauce
2 cans diced tomatoes
1 can light red kidney beans, rinsed and drained
½ cup chopped green chiles
1 cup beer or beef broth
2 T. chili powder
1 T.ground cumin
1 t. salt
1 t. sugar
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
Heat oil over medium-high heat. Add the ground beef, onion and garlic and cook for about 7-10 minutes or until the beef is completely browned, crumbling the beef with a spoon as it cooks. Drain and discard the excess fat. Transfer the beef into the bottom of a slow cooker.
Add the remaining ingredients, and stir to combine. Cover and cook on low for 6-8 hours, or on high for 3-4 hours.
Spicy Dill Pickles
The pickling I did as a child in Halifax was a tad different than our new West coast traditions (high five if you know what ‘chow chow’ is…) but these crunchy and spicy cucumbers pair well with our favourite sandwiches, and satisfy my husband’s love of spice. Vinegar – another staple to keep on hand for cooking and cleaning – has also been given a price drop. So you may just want to investigate and make a huge batch of chow chow as well….
How to make homemade pickling spice:
2 tablespoons each black peppercorns, mustard seeds, coriander seeds, dill seed
1 tablespoon allspice berries
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
10-12 bay leaves, crumbled
½ bushel pickling cucumbers, scrubbed clean and kept whole or sliced
2 cups apple cider vinegar
2 cups white vinegar
4 cups water
5 tablespoons pickling salt
Dried dill weed
3 T. per jar of pickling spice
10-18 small Thai red peppers, split down the middle leaving seeds intact (2-3 per jar)
20-30 whole garlic cloves, peeled and lightly smashed
1. In a large stock pot bring the vinegars, water and salt to a simmer.
2. To each jar add: 2-3 tablespoons of pickling spice, 2-3 fronds and stalks of dried dill week, 2-3 Thai red peppers depending on your preference and 4-5 whole garlic cloves to each jar. Pack the cucumbers whole or sliced into the jars so they are tight but aren’t damaged in the process. The cucumbers should sit below the neck of the jar.
3. Pour the brine into the jars leaving ½ inch headspace and just covering the cucumbers.
4. Wipe the rims of the jars and use tongs to place the lids and rings (that have been sterilized in simmering water) on top of the jars. Avoid touching the lids where they sit on the jars with your fingers to avoid contamination.
5. Process in a canner water bath for 10 minutes then remove the jars from the pot and allow them to cool on the counter. As the jars cool you will hear them pop as they seal. Sealed jars should feel solid when tapped and be concave in shape.
You can find more recipes and meal tips at www.BetterFoodStartsHere.com.
Disclosure: The author has received consideration from Sobeys or Sobeys’ media partners in exchange for this content. Sobeys is not responsible for the content.