Theoretically, stew is supposed to be a cheap meal, because it’s a conglomeration of inexpensive ingredients — namely vegetables — with a little bit of meat. The idea is to stretch out that little bit of meat to feed more people than you’re convinced that it can.
The problem is, when most people make stew, they build the dish around meat — two or three pounds of it to serve four people — and the few vegetables, swimming forlornly amongst the meat, weakly cry out,
“Here I am. I’m inexpensive. And I’ve got fiber, you know.”
It’s as if we think, “If I don’t put enough meat in this dish, then the people eating it will think I’m poor.”
God forbid that anybody ever think that we’re not insanely rich. They may not see our eternally revolving consumer debt, but they do see the amount of meat in our stew, or the brand of our phone, or the number of days before we have to wear the same pair of shoes.
I’m here to encourage you to free yourself from this trap. Live within your means, and make no apologies — to anyone — if there are holes in your socks, patches on the knees of your jeans, or less meat than conventionally normal in the stew you serve to your family or guests. Being rich is not a virtue, and being poor is not a sin, but being grateful — for food, shelter, clothing, freedom from fear, and the freedom to pray, or not pray, is wealth in itself.
It’s all in the way you look at things.
Save Money Pork Stew — feeds four
1 pound pork steak or chops (I bought mine in the meat clearance section, so I pretty much picked up whatever cut had the 50 percent off sticker on it. If you want to use beef, use beef, and just change the name of this recipe to Save Money Beef Stew)
1/3 cup oil (I use mild olive oil from Costco)
Flour for coating the meat
2 onions, peeled and sliced
4 cups vegetables (all I had were organic potatoes of varying colors; you can use celery and carrots if you’ve got them; since this is a stew, you might want to stick to the more mild, “winter” vegetables like potatoes, sweet potatoes, parsnips, carrots, pumpkin, winter squash, and celery)
8 cups water
1 Tablespoon Beef Better Than Bouillon Paste, or equivalent beef bouillon product
1 cup chopped frozen spinach, chard, or kale (optional; I used this to counteract the sheer quantity of potatoes; if you have a variety of root vegetables to put in, you can skip this)
salt to taste
Cut the meat into 3/4 inch chunks (when the pieces are smaller, it seems as if there is more meat) and toss with the flour to coat. Heat the oil over medium heat until hot, then brown the meat, stirring regularly.
While the meat is browning, slice the onions, then add to the browned meat mixture. Pour in 2 cups of water. This will sizzle and be slightly thick because of the flour on the meat. Add another two cups water, stir, and let this cook, over medium heat, while you chop the root vegetables.
Add the root vegetables, bouillon, and 2-4 more cups water to thin out the base, but not too thin. Stir to blend, turn the heat down to medium low, cover, and let the stew gently cook for an hour. Stir every 10-15 minutes to make sure it doesn’t stick, and add more liquid if the stew seems too thick. Adjust the heat to maintain a gentle bubbling simmer that doesn’t turn into a boil.
After an hour, test the vegetables to make sure that they are cooked. Stir in the spinach, chard, or kale, if using. Heat, then add salt to taste.
Thank you for joining me at This Woman Writes, where I post recipes on Tuesdays.
If you are interested in saving money, keep learning to cook — it is the single most important thing you can do to develop a sense of independence, which is what you need to successfully save money.
My book, Live Happily on Less, is a series of gentle, easy-to-read essays that encourage you on this journey to save money and live well in a rough economy. Saving money is a mindset, which develops into your unique lifestyle, and getting there is a process. Any resource that promises 100 easy bullet-pointed tips to saving money is going to frustrate you, because what works for one person doesn’t necessarily work for another.
I have also written Grammar Despair: Quick, simple solutions to problems like, “Do I say Him and Me or He and I?” with the same attitude of acceptance. Grammar Despair addresses the common problems that most people have when it comes to writing, and it dispenses with them quickly so that you can get back to the important thing — your writing.
Speaking of writing, you can find my column on Commonsense Christianity at BeliefNet.com. As a Christian of 31 years who has been a Catholic, a Protestant, and in and out of the contemporary corporate church culture (presently out, and happily planning to stay that way), I encourage believers and seekers to trust in themselves a bit more, and in the voices of leadership and authority a bit less.
As far as art goes, I am married to Steve Henderson, the Norwegian Artist, who does on paint what I do at the keyboard — he seeks truth, beauty, wisdom, and joy, and he puts it on canvas. He sells his paints as originals and licensed open edition prints.