Look in the door

What do You do if there is nothing to eat in the refrigerator? Some of the suggestions I found on line were: go to the store, check out the pantry and eat at mom's. Going to the store would be the intuitive answer if you are going to re-stock. The problem with going to the store when you are hungry, is that you can really rack up a bill. Plus when you impulse shop you tend to buy non-healthy foods such as soda and chips to fill up on.

I used to be on a tight $40 a week grocery budget when I lived with my former husband because he wasn't working. At the time I didn't know he was a drug addict, he had me convinced his health issues were other issues, i.e. migraines and back aches. Since I felt sorry for him, being "disabled" and all, I must admit I turned an indulgent eye toward his need to hit the corner market when there was "nothing to eat around here." I noticed that with $40 and a menu in mind I could feel us quite well on whole foods. I made vegetable soups, homemade breads, and casseroles. He, on the other hand, could plow through $40 on ice cream fancies and candy bars and chips and soda. IT was the combination of going to the corner market, which is more expensive than a regular grocery store, as there is less shelf space and they can't buy items in bulk with the discount larger stores have, AND the fact that he was buying all processed food.

Probably the most useful thing I learned from being on Welfare, Aid to dependent Families, when I was younger, is that processed food is the most expensive way to shop on earth. Put it to you this way, the more things you do to an item, the more it ends ups up costs. So a potato out of the produce section is going to be cheaper than a can of potatoes by weight, and cheaper than a bag of frozen hash browns. And the most expensive way to buy a potato at the grocery store is as a potato chip. And if you add on top of that cost, going to a specialty store or health food store instead of a grocery store or club, then you are spending even more money filling your belly.

Suggestion number 2, check the pantry comes into play here. If you know how to make potato chips at home, not only are they cheaper. They taste better and they are healthier. I wouldn't have thought this was something people made at home, until the first time I had some at a friend's house. Wow! They were so good, and they had no extra additives or colorings, just thinly sliced friend potatoes lightly salted. Checking the pantry, and having a few culinary skills can not only save you money – it will improve your health.

The Wainae diet, made famous in Hawai'i was created for ethnically Hawai'ian people who live along the Wainae Coast of Oahu, one of the more poor neighborhoods on the island. Obesity and diabetes are common in the area. The Wainae diet, rather than talking about portion control or nutritional facts focuses on teaching people to eat whole foods. Basically you can eat whatever you want as long as you make it yourself. Special merit is given to returning to a natural Hawai'ian diet (which we were told does NOT include Spam.) Really, if you went back to eating fish, poi, vegetables and fruits, you wouldn't have to count calories. If you drank water instead of soda your body would be healthier and more hydrated, and you would lose weight.

So I'm all for checking the pantry. If you feel cooking takes "too much time" or is too difficult, start simple. Find a nice beginners basic cookbook on line or in a used bookstore from the 1970's era. That way you will not be required to invest in expensive appliances or equipment to prepare the food. One of the best ones I have found for a true novice is the Good Housekeeping cookbook. This book has a photograph of every recipe in the book. The book is divided in to fruits, vegetables, meats, breads etc. Which is useful; when I first started cooking I used to randomly bring home vegetables from the supermarket and wonder what to do with them. The Good Housekeeping Cookbook lists all the vegetables in alphabetical order with two or three recipes for each of them.

I also used to like how in the 1980's the Family Circle magazine would print a week of menus, complete with the shopping list. It was really a budget saver to plan ahead that way. Too often in modern magazines, the assumption is since nobody cooks they don't print a recipe unless it's something pretty special. The problem is you end up buying odd spices or ingredients for the recipe, which then languish in the pantry, never to be used again. Worse, the recipe is tricky because it's special, which is off putting for the beginner. A good cook book for families that follows this premise is called "Saving Dinner." Buy it online or at a used bookstore, as it's not new. It is organized around a weekly menu and shopping list rather than by type of food as the Good Housekeeping book is. "Saving Dinner" includes some interesting ethic recipes beyond burgers and grilled cheese, which are still simple enough for an absolute beginner.

The last option, GO TO MOM's, if there is nothing to eat, is not a bad. She's always happy to see you, and it probably warms her heart to feed you.

Since l became single I find it a challenge to make myself cook. I don't like to be stuck eating the same thing for dinner and lunch the next two days. I find my other single friends have the same problem. One of friends calls cereal and milk "Bachelor Chow." The last option, I offer myself, round up some friends and offer to make a meal for them. It's social, and everyone can get some leftovers.