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Frugalizing a recipe

I know…that’s not a word. But it’s a more interesting title than “Making a recipe frugal”.

On Tuesday, I was making a Shrimp Taco Salad, and was reminded that very often, I make frugal modifications to recipes. I suppose one could argue that when you’re making a salad that includes shrimp, the most effective frugal modification would be to make something else that doesn’t include shrimp!

shrimp taco salad in white bowl.

But, we like shrimp, I buy it on sale when it’s $3.99 a pound, and when you use it in a salad, you don’t need that many shrimp per person. At any rate, here are a couple of things that I changed. And even if you don’t like shrimp, these ideas can be used with other recipes.

First off, instead of using a taco seasoning mix, I make my own. Here’s the recipe.

Homemade Taco Seasoning Mix
2 teaspoons minced dried onion
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon dried cumin

Combine all the ingredients in a small bowl.

Mix well, and use as you would a taco seasoning packet.

This makes enough to season 1 pound of ground meat. When I’m making this, I often get out three small bowls and triple the recipe. That way I can just store the extra two mixes in the cupboard and they’re there when I need them.

Secondly, instead of using a bag of prepared salad greens, I buy a head of green or red leaf lettuce and tear it up myself. Heads of lettuce are cheaper per pound, and from what I read, they’re also less prone to mold and rot since the leaves are left intact.

Thirdly, I save the oil that’s leftover from frying the tortilla strips (I do more of a deep-fry than a stir-fry…the strips are crispier that way). This is more difficult to do if you’re frying something like fish, which gives the oil a definite flavor, but tortilla strips have a very benign flavor and leave behind oil that is almost as good as new. I pour the cooled oil through a mesh strainer into a glass jar.

Since I don’t deep-fry all that often, I store mine in the freezer so that it will stay fresh. This is slightly less convenient than storing it in the fridge, but even if you forget to thaw your frozen oil ahead of time(I forgot this week, actually!), it defrosts really quickly in the microwave.

One other non-frugal tip about this recipe…the original dressing is way, way, way too garlicky. I’d recommend either cutting way back on the garlic and possibly the onion as well, or using some other salad dressing that you like.

And just in case you die-hard frugal people are wondering how in the world I ended up with a jar that used to house high priced peaches, here’s how it happened. I didn’t actually buy it myself…I’d sent my husband to Costco to buy a gianormous can of peaches, among other things, and since they didn’t have the can at the time, he bought a multi-pack of these peaches. They were pretty expensive, at least for canned peaches, but they were delicious. 

Anyway, we ate them and enjoyed them, and I saved the jars, which have proved to be really useful for storing milk and homemade yogurt, and, of course, leftover cooking oil.

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Saturday 16th of August 2008

That is good point...the seasoning packets are probably unnecessarily salty.


Saturday 16th of August 2008

Thanks Kristen..this is great because now I can control the sodium! :-)


Friday 15th of August 2008

This is also a very handy recipe to have around if you decide to make tacos and realize that you just forgot to buy a need to run to the store!


Thursday 14th of August 2008

I was already in the grocery store this week when I wondered what exactly goes into taco seasoning...and then I bought the packet. Now I'll be set for next time -- thanks!

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