I’ve gone through various stages of frugality in my life. I wouldn’t necessarily say that it’s engrained in me to be frugal, but I would say that I can “push the frugal button” when need be. I clip the occasional coupon, I seek out the cheapest item when there’s a choice, and I compare the cents-per-ounce on the grocery shelf’s label. I am aware of what’s necessary and what’s not, and when things are – ahem – tight, I cut back accordingly, without hesitation.
My first real experience with frugality was long, long ago, in a galaxy far, far away, when Hubs and I were a wee dating couple, circumnavigating the island continent of Australia in a 1981 Ford Falcon station wagon that ran on leaded gas and a prayer. I’d saved all of my tutoring and babysitting money to help fund our trip (if that’s any indication of how poor we were), and we lived out of a tent and cooked all of our meals on a backpacking stove for the better part of four months. We got creative with ramen noodles, familiar with potted meat and even mastered the art of oatmeal. Since we didn’t have the money for all of the fun touristy things, we spent evenings by the campfire with our books and our didgeridoos, getting totally ston- well, anyway…
As life had its way with us and time moved along, we got comfortable in our jobs back in Fayetteville, acquiring rental property and squirreling away every dime we could. Life was easy and complacent and we didn’t really worry about money, to be perfectly candid. We were part of the lucky minority who didn’t have car payments, student loans or credit card bills looming over us; this isn’t to say that we completely threw frugality out the window, but we were comfortable. I’ll leave it at that.
Our comfort eventually transformed into boredom and restlessness; I was sick of the office life, and Hubs was coming to the disheartening realization that an architect is a desk job with a fancy title. We made the decision that instead of just dealing with our unsatisfying-yet-comfortable situation, we’d cast our sails and steer life in a different direction. Eight months later, we’re living in Boulder, Colorado, barely employed and loving every second of it.
Of course, the downside to being barely employed is the barely-any-income part. Lucky for us, we’re floating on our savings from a more lucrative phase of our lives until something comes our way; but six weeks in, I’m feeling my Australian frugality beginning to resurface. I’m clipping more coupons, I’m actually reading the weekly fliers grocery stores publish and cooking cheaper meals. This weekend was a prime example: The Poor Pot.
The Poor Pot was a regular feature in my mom’s recipe repertoire: cabbage, potatoes, onions and kielbasa in a soupy broth, all sopped up with crusty bread. I like to think that it’s got a German flair to it, but in all honesty, every country on the planet probably has a version of this dish. The ingredients are inexpensive and a big pot lasts for several meals, and it’s hard to get any heartier than sausage and potatoes. My secret ingredient? A bottle of beer for depth of flavor.
The ingredients are simply tossed in a soup pot along with copious amounts of butter, and left to soften and mingle until the beer and water are added. Once the potatoes are fork-tender, you’ve got yourself a big ol’ pot of dinner. To riff on the frugal idea, you could even freeze the leftovers for another meal another time. My advice? Love life. Save money. Live better. Wal- Ma – WAIT, WHAT? Enjoy!
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The Poor Pot
4 Tbs. butter
1 large onion, chopped
1/2 medium head of cabbage, chopped
5 medium potatoes, scrubbed and quartered (peeling is optional)
1 lb. Polska Kielbasa
1 (12 oz.) light beer
1 1/2 c. water
2 Tbs. red wine vinegar
salt and pepper to taste
In a large soup pot, melt the butter and add the onion, cabbage, potatoes and kielbasa and cook over medium heat until the onion begins to soften, about 8 minutes, stirring often. Add the beer and water; cover and cook over medium-low heat for 30-40 minutes, until the potatoes are fork tender. Add the vinegar and cook for two minutes longer, then remove from the heat. Season with salt and pepper, and serve with crusty bread.
* If the above slideshow doesn’t load, you can view all the photos from this recipe on Flickr.
Laura is a regular contributor for the Fayetteville Flyer. She was born and raised in Fayetteville, but has recently moved to Boulder, Colorado. She is a self-proclaimed foodie and avid cook. For more from Laura, see her past stories, visit Flyer Foodie on Facebook or check out Prana & Pie.