When I’m trying to save money on food, I look toward recipes that heavily rely on pantry ingredients.  An added bonus for many recipes of this kind is that they’re also good comfort foods for chilly winter days, just like the beans and cornbread I made this week.  The cornbread is a childhood favorite that my mom always used to make with her famous chili.  The oatmeal and the wheat germ give the cornbread a little extra bite that I absolutely love, and all of the ingredients I keep in my pantry. 

For the baked beans recipe, I wanted to try something a little different from the usual sickeningly sweet cookout fare.  I found these oven-baked Italian-style beans which intrigued me because of the tangy ingredients like tomato sauce, Dijon mustard, and balsamic vinegar.  Again, the ingredients were mostly in my pantry; I only had to buy bacon, beans, and an onion.  (I suspect many people might have all of the ingredients in their pantry.)  If you decide to make both of these dishes together, I would recommend mixing up the cornbread first and putting it in the oven, and then start on the beans.  This way, if both of your pots don’t fit in the oven at the same time (like mine) you’ll be taking the cornbread out around the time you want to put the beans in.  Plus, you can snack on the cornbread while you wait for the beans to finish in the oven 🙂 


1 ½ c. ground cornmeal
½ c. flour or whole wheat flour
½ c. oatmeal
¼ c. wheat germ
2 ½ tsp. baking powder
½ tsp. baking soda  
½ tsp. salt    
¼ c. sugar    
1 egg    
½ c. oil    
2 c. lowfat milk  


Preheat oven to 400°F.  Beat egg, oil, and milk in a medium bowl.  Add dry ingredients and mix until just moistened.  Pour into a greased 9×9 pan and bake for 25 minutes, or until golden brown. 


Italian-Style Baked Beans (Giada de Laurentiis)

Ingredients   Cost
6 oz. bacon, chopped $1.35
2 onions, chopped $0.30
4 garlic cloves, minced pantry
1 1/2 c. tomato sauce pantry
1/3 c. brown sugar pantry
1/4 c. balsamic vinegar   pantry
3 T. molasses   pantry
6 tsp. Dijon mustard   pantry
3/4 tsp. salt   pantry
1/2 tsp. pepper   pantry
4 (15-oz) cans cannelini beans, drained   $3.12
  Total cost for 6 servings $4.77
  Cost per serving $0.80

Preheat the oven to 400°F.  Cook the bacon in an oven-safe pot over medium heat until crisp, about 8 minutes. Add the onions and garlic, and sauté for about 5 minutes.  Mix in the tomato sauce, brown sugar, vinegar, molasses, mustard, salt, and pepper.  Stir in the beans and bring to a simmer.  Transfer to the oven and bake uncovered until the beans bubble and thicken, stirring occasionally, about 45 minutes.


udonSometimes I buy groceries that I think look good at the time but don’t end up using right away.  This especially happens to me with meat: take the pork chops that have been sitting in my freezer for who knows how long.  I had plans to use them a few weeks ago when I made applesauce, but my laziness got the better of me and I ended up just eating the applesauce and never cooking the pork.  Oops.  I was determined to get rid of the pork this weekend, so I scoured the internet for recipes that didn’t involve the customary applesauce.  I found this recipe from Robin Miller, whose dishes I’ve generally had luck with in the past.  The only changes I made were to use apricot preserves instead of orange marmalade (I have an issue with orange marmalade…eww), and to add a few red pepper flakes into the sauce.  The dish was fast (start to finish 35 mins), easy, and delicious!  If I were to make it again, which I probably will, I would add more red pepper flakes and perhaps some garlic and ginger to the sauce.  Below is the recipe, with a breakdown of the costs of each item.  Items like chicken broth and scallions are prorated.


Ingredients     Cost
4 pork loin chops (~5 oz each)   $5.57
salt and pepper     pantry
1 T. vegetable oil     pantry
1 c. apricot preserves   $2.49
1/2 c. reduced-sodium chicken broth $0.18
2 T. reduced-sodium soy sauce   pantry
1 tsp. sesame oil     pantry
red pepper flakes to taste     pantry
10 oz. udon noodles     $2.29
2 T. chopped scallions   $0.25
      Total cost (4 servings) $10.78
      Cost per meal $2.70

apricot-glazed pork with udonBring water to a boil and cook udon according to package directions.

Meanwhile, heat vegetable oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.  Season one side of pork with salt and pepper; add to skillet seasoned-side down and season the reverse side.  Cook pork about 2 minutes per side.

In a bowl combine the apricot preserves, chicken broth, soy sauce, sesame oil, red pepper flakes and mix well.  Pour over pork in the pan and let simmer for 5 minutes until sauce is reduced.  To serve, top noodles with pork and sauce and garnish with scallions.