Thrifty eating – Buying day-old or veggies on sale stretches grocery dollars |

Thrifty eating – Buying day-old or veggies on sale stretches grocery dollars

Last night I served broccoli for the third time in a row. I named the first concoction “Far Out Broccoli,” the second “Viva Broccoli,” and the final version “Broccoli Encore.” It’s not that my winter garden’s producing baskets of these bushy brassicas; broccoli’s been on sale!

In my opinion, good deals are as yummy as chocolate-peanut butter fudge. Ask my daughters. For years they thought that bread was found only on the day-old shelf.

And need I even mention that passe mushrooms are often the main ingredient in my soups, burgers, and stroganoffs?

I’ve also learned that shopping for discount clothes encourages both wardrobe and personality diversity. For instance, when I feel shiny and frivolous, I wear my thrift store sequined sandals and mirrored Afghani tunic. For more professional moments, I swagger around in a shoulder-padded dress I once plucked off a Macy’s sale rack.

When my kids were young, they cheered when I dragged the “too-big” bags down from the closet shelf.

These bags were packed with hand-me-downs and thrift store treasures. Gold lame pants, pink peignoirs trimmed with fluffy boas, white plastic go-go boots: we accessorized each outfit with stories and giggles.

I created the following recipes after scoring something that was too good to pass up. Don your best-deal apparel and give them a whirl.

Mama Ganouj

(one and one-half cups)

My heart always flutters when I see a blue-banded eggplant.

1 1-pound eggplant

3 tablespoons lemon juice

2 tablespoons tahini

3 garlic cloves

2 tablespoons chopped parsley

Salt and pepper

2 scallions, thinly sliced

1/4 packed cup chopped roasted red peppers

1/4 packed cup chopped black olives

2 tablespoons chopped Ortega chiles (mild to painful: the hot factor is up to you)

Cut the eggplant in half lengthwise and place it face down on a lightly greased baking sheet. Bake in a 400 F oven for 30 minutes or until it’s easily pierced with a fork.

When it’s cool enough to handle, scoop out the innards and puree it with the lemon juice, tahini, garlic, parsley and salt and pepper until ultra smooth. Stir in the remaining ingredients by hand. Chill and serve with chips, veggie sticks, or bargain-priced pita bread.


(Serves 8)

I made this when I rescued our aging garden spinach from ending up in my over-the-hill department. This recipe also includes one marked-down mushroom package.

8 ounces mushrooms, halved and sliced

1 onion, chopped

1 tablespoon olive oil

2 pounds fresh spinach, steamed and chopped

1 tablespoon dried dill

A few gratings of nutmeg

Salt and pepper

4 large eggs

2 cups feta cheese, crumbled

2 cups low-fat cottage cheese

2 tablespoons flour

1/2 cup walnuts, toasted

1 pound filo dough, defrosted according to directions

Olive oil spray

1/2 tablespoon anise seeds

Saute the onion and mushrooms in olive oil until soft. Turn off the flame and stir in the spinach, dill, nutmeg and salt and pepper. In a bowl, mix together the eggs, feta, cottage cheese and flour. Add the veggie mixture and stir until well incorporated. Stir in the walnuts. Those who’ve previously freaked at the thought of using filo dough can take a breath, for this process is akin to making lasagna. Unwrap the filo, lay it out flat, and cover with a scarcely damp dishtowel. This prevents the leaves from drying out. Spray a 9×13-inch glass pan with olive oil spray and layer on eight leaves. Ideally you want each leaf sprayed separately, but if you’re lazy or the leaves stick together, just spray every three. Spoon on half the veggie/cheese mixture. Then it’s eight more leaves topped with the remainder of the mixture. Layer on the last eight leaves, spray the top with olive oil and sprinkle on the anise seeds. Bake uncovered in a 375 F oven for 45 minutes until golden. Let it sit for 10 minutes before serving.

Banana-Chocolate Chip Muffins

(12 goodies)

A red-banded bunch makes me go bananas!

2 eggs, beaten

3 tablespoons vegetable oil

5 tablespoons non-fat vanilla yogurt

3/4 cup brown sugar

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 large ripe banana, mashed

2 cups white flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips (non-chocomaniacs may add walnuts or raisins instead)

An electric mixer makes this a snap. Mix together the eggs, oil, yogurt, brown sugar and vanilla until smooth. Add the banana and mix well. Blend in the dry ingredients until just incorporated. Stir in the chocolate chips by hand. Spoon the batter into a lightly oiled muffin tin and bake in a 350 F oven for about 18 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out almost clean.

I’m sorry to end this column so quickly, but I’ve got to go and grab those on-sale string beans before someone else gets them.

Ronnie Paul is a cookbook reviewer, freelance writer, vegetarian chef and teacher at Wild Mountain Yoga Center. She can be reached at

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