Appalachian Food

Making Do with Food

jars of applesauce in canner

We’ve been on a mission to get out of debt for the last year. We’re not there yet, but we’re getting there. In the grand scheme of things we don’t owe as much as most folks or at least as much as most folks we know.

In our quest for debt freedom we’ve made some lifestyle changes like getting rid of paid tv programming. Another area we’ve focused on is the cost of food.

We rarely eat out, its just not something we’ve ever done, we’ve always preferred to cook and eat at home. So there wasn’t really anything to change on that front, but we’ve thought more about the food we buy to cook.

Growing a big garden like we do helps with food cost tremendously, as does deer hunting. Our basement freezers are full of good things as are our canning shelves.

A few weeks back when I was trying to figure out how to squeeze a little more money from the weekly grocery visit I remembered a series of posts I did way back in 2011 about make do foods.

Here’s part of a guest post written by Pam Warren with tips on making do when it comes to cooking.


Eat What We Have.

That means checking the freezer and the pantry and figuring out how to make meals from what we find. This usually means casseroles, soup, pancakes and other thrown together meals. When the kids were little, we always had soup one day and pancakes one day each week. We also had bean soup with homemade bread once or so a week. I usually had flour and yeast to make bread, and beans have always been inexpensive. We eat navy beans most up here in Michigan, they are grown in the farm country just north of were we live.

When my grandsons were living here with their mother we had a lot of casseroles, I called it hamburger surprise. There was always more surprise than hamburger in those dishes, and often it was ground turkey or chicken, not hamburger. Funny how the things (like hamburger) that were cheap and became familiar while I was a child have become pricey these days.

In the 1960’s, there was a “tuna scare”, but I cannot tell the exact reason. Anyway, canned tuna was cheaper than cheap, and my mother bought a lot of it. We ate tuna everything for months.

These days, I save all the odds and ends of meat, broth and veggies, and my husband makes soup every Sunday. He carries it in his lunch very day, it is actually free, if you don’t count the cans of vegetables and tomato juice from our garden that he opens up and adds.


Use whatever cheese you have (or don’t use it) when called for in a recipe. Use milk instead of cream/half and half or whatever. It won’t matter that much. You can make any casserole with less meat, a cheaper meat (like ground turkey instead of beef). If using less meat, substitute more vegetables instead of using more starch.

Make your own.

Forget buying cookies, cakes, brownies pies or other dessert items. Make your own, and serve less often. You can buy the ingredients to make many cakes for the price of one cake mix. Frosting is much cheaper to make that to buy in a little can, and yours will taste much better.

Don’t buy frozen dinners, packaged individual servings of anything, or other highly prepared foods. Many contain things you wouldn’t eat if you thought about it, and way too much salt.

With all that in mind, here is the recipe that I use for dumplings. They make whatever you eat with them go a lot farther!

Fluffy Dumplings:
2C flour (consider using at least half whole wheat flour)
4 t baking powder
a pinch of salt
3T butter, margarine, or shortening (use what you have)
An egg if you have it

Mix four, baking powder and salt in bowl with a spoon. Sift together if desired. Work shortening into the mixture with a pastry blender or 2 knives.

Beat the egg in a measuring cup, and add milk to make just over 1/2 cup, and dump into the bowl with the flour mixture. Mix with a spoon, and add more milk a little at a time to make a stiff dough.

Quickly drop by teaspoonfuls on the top of simmering soup or stew, and put a tight lit on the pot.  Lower the heat and cook 20 to 25 minutes. Spoon the dumplings out onto a plate and serve with the soup.

Do not lift the lid, and make sure it fits tight or the dumplings will be soggy.


I hope you enjoyed a peek back at Pam’s make do tips. If you’ve got any ideas to add to her list or any make do sort of recipes please share them.


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  • Reply
    b. Ruth
    February 4, 2020 at 12:10 pm

    How could I forget one of the best things we ever ate thru the years! We had loads of fun and basically free when we caught fish for the freezer. We raised our boys to fish. We weren’t hunters much, although husband hunted. We filled our freezer with “crappie” and those fish fry suppers were to die for…
    Now it is dangerous here on our lakes to eat any fish more than once or twice a week..Just makes me sick to think of it! We used to catch enough Crappie to freeze would last us thru the winter…sigh..
    Thanks Tipper,
    PS…Our hunter friend supplies us with venison, as he goes on hunting trips all over the USA and generally has lots of game…all we do is pay the processing fee (meat free to us) that is unless his freezers are getting low..
    We have lots of deer and other game on our place, although the coyotes have taken more than their share of our rabbits, turkey, quail and grouse. I am not a squirrel fan but if things get tight they are fat as pigs! Eatin’ the bird seed for our “singing tweeters” that we put out daily..
    I am concerned about the “wasting disease” found in deer…seems to be a problem in some areas. Guess Deer Hunter has heard of the deer diseases…

  • Reply
    b. Ruth
    February 4, 2020 at 11:45 am

    We finally got there a few years ago. Not easy when there is sickness in the family, etc.
    Doubling up and no extra charging. No cash/no buy! I can’t say, like (I’ve heard from kinfolks) mine included: “we have scrimped, starved and saved!” Nope, it was just making choices for what we wanted to do!

    We would buy our new tires from a small company that offered no interest pay off, three months same as cash! So we rotated tires until we had to buy all four at one time. We paid them off in three months! Sometimes I think mountain curvy drivin’ wears the edges off the sides of tires…”just sayin'”…I’m laughing with you!

    Even before we had layin’ hens and our own eggs, we ate eggs various ways…Eggs on toast, Goldenrod eggs for supper, egg salad sandwiches for lunches, potato salad with eggs, omelet with veggie sandwiches…eggs are cheap and good for you…of course the traditional eggy ways to cook and bake..

    I always made extra mashed taters…Kept the leftovers to stir up some tater cakes the next night for supper or stir fried with bits of bacon or ham for my country style hash browns…
    Many times I’ve added a extra cup of dried beans to the cooking to make sure I had plenty of beans for chili in the next few days or so…We love chili here in the winter. Then there is always a pot of soup one can add beans to for volume in the pot…NO STONE SOUP FOR US!…I guess being a mountain girl you’ve heard that story of the starving mother that made stone soup!

    Left over, chicken, beef roast or pork roast…will soon be BBQ in a day or two or made up and put in the freezer to pop out and thawed for great weekend sandwiches, etc.

    I could write a book about cuttin’ corners, making good meals out of penny purchases, etc. Even at our ages seventy nine and holdin’….we still have gardens…our raised beds grow more than we can use in a good year most of the time.

    I hope you reach your goals soon…Loved this post..
    Thank you Tipper,
    PS..We still eat out more than we should…However, we take advantage of KFC senior day on Tuesdays…Shoney’s senior day on Sundays…Buddy’s senior day, too….Then we take advantage of my husbands military discounts and senior discounts…

    Being a daughter of the Appalachians I was blessed to learn how to make do. That’s the mountain way! Home life has to be managed for the good of the families survival.

  • Reply
    Sue McIntyre
    January 30, 2020 at 8:18 am

    During to harvest season Moma always said, “Eat all you can, and can what you can’t.”

  • Reply
    January 28, 2020 at 12:08 pm

    I think Ed said what I think: “I don’t trust what goes into the processed food we get from stores. They are not about feeding people, they are about making money.” Companies producing sort-of-foods are mostly about making a profit, I think.
    I’m not 100% homegrown, homemade, or organic, but I try. My garden and my freezer and my hens provide a lot of my food, and a lot of the stuff I buy is the basics like beans and rice, and not processed or very expensive. The one thing I spend most on is dairy, because I love milk and butter and cheese, and this is one “food group” where I will always buy organic if it’s available.
    And whenever an unexpected expense comes up – like a car repair or a big vet bill – I always think, well, it’s time to skip the grocery store and find out what’s in the back of the cupboard! Sometimes it’s a nice surprise 🙂

  • Reply
    Glenda Beall
    January 28, 2020 at 1:15 am

    When my husband and I first moved to the mountains, 25 years ago, we found we could eat our main meal of the day with meat and three vegetables for about twelve dollars for the two of us here at some local restaurants. The food was good and inexpensive, but today those restaurants are gone except for one in a nearby town. I live alone now and cooking a full meal just for me usually ends up with too much food and too much waste. But sometimes on Sunday afternoons, I cook a pork roast and a couple of vegetables. The pork roast will last me about three meals. I don’t like or buy processed food. Our Ingles has a salad bar and a part of the produce area where I can buy fresh vegetables in small quantities. Like Gayle said, I wish rolls and buns came in small packages. My freezer compartment of my refrigerator is always full of frozen vegetables. It seems to me that the cost of food has gone up substantially while salaries and especially income for us retired folks has not, so we all are having to cut back and find a more frugal way to live. When I hear about this great economy, I wonder why I don’t feel it. I love the dumpling recipe. I have never made good ones, so I want to try this. Great post, Tipper.

  • Reply
    January 27, 2020 at 7:31 pm

    Yes Gayle the bun packages have too many so I put in the freezer and pull out as I need. Let thaw on the counter while I’m cooking then into the toaster for a few seconds. It works for us and keeps me from wasting the buns. Great post Tipper.

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    January 27, 2020 at 6:44 pm

    I haven’t eaten out in years. I did indulge in a liver dinner from KFC that Missy got me for my birthday last year. I eat hamburgers but they are from meat I grind myself. And the buns are homemade. I don’t trust what goes into the processed food we get from stores. They are not about feeding people, they are about making money. There are things I have to get from a store but I try to buy the least processed I can find.
    I have to cook for one now. Recipes written for a single serving of anything are rare. The few days ago I made spaghetti. A couple of months ago I had made some sauce for lasagna and it turned out to be three times as much as I needed. The lasagna recipe made enough for three meals. I decided I would freeze the leftover sauce. So the other day I got the idea to make spaghetti with some of the sauce. I didn’t know how much spaghetti to use so I used a one pound box. Well, I had spaghetti 5 days in a row. I don’t really like spaghetti but I ate it because I hate to waste food. It will probably be a long time before I make spaghetti again. “Why don’t you just open a can?” “Because I know what I put in mine. I don’t know what they put in that can!”

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    January 27, 2020 at 4:25 pm

    I rarely eat out and discontinued my cable several years ago. I prepare what I eat from scratch, as they say, because it is healthier as well as less expensive.
    It came a time for me to listen to my heart and forget about what the rest of the world is doing or eating. It’s lonesome sometimes but very satisfying.

  • Reply
    January 27, 2020 at 2:55 pm

    Tipper, it is amazing how venison in the freezer can help greatly with the family budget and nutrition. My elder son has two teenage sons and his freezer was empty by hunting season and they were looking for “meat”. Early in the season everyone is hunting bucks, as we have always had doe available on our farm. this emergency meat supply was taken for granted. Well, the 2019 deer hunting season saw the elder sons family coming up empty for venison. However, unbeknownst to me, there was a Holiday Hunt for two days over the Christmas holiday. Soooo, he and his eldest son went out in the bitter cold, in deep snow on Christmas Eve day to once again look for the family meat. Surprise to us all the doe appeared and each of them were successful. It was hard work getting the deer up the steep hills, across deep snow covered fields, and down a long unplowed road and back home. We were all grateful for their success and as they left our house with their venison and headed back home, a three hour drive, they too were very glad for venison in the freezer.
    Here in WI we are seeing less and less deer hunters. We have to educate our young people to hunting and we have to make more public land available to them. We had to invest in land many years ago, as all of our farmer friends were beginning to lease out their land to city hunters. As we had two hunter sons and two hunter grandsons, we decided to invest. Yes, it was a big investment, but it was a good investment for many reasons. 1. God only made so much land and hopefully an investment is going to be a good investment. 2. Time spent with your family in the great outdoors, whether working or “playing” is time well spent. Such good memories! 3. Teaching the younger people about conservation, forestry planning, nuts and their gathering and use, Morel mushroom hunting, identifying of songbirds and small critters, trapping of damaging animals, use of digital cameras and their valuable information, and the fun, responsibilities and strategies of hunting. 4. Passing along the family history of butchering and sausage making.
    Well, enough. Glad you have a full freezer of very nutritious venison and shelves filled with you garden produce. I just made a huge pot of venison vegetable barley soup for our family’s big men’s winter ice fishing, card playing, snowmobiling, and male bonding week up in Northern WI . They all were glad for a hot bowl of venison soup.

  • Reply
    January 27, 2020 at 12:59 pm

    thanks so much for the dumpling recipe; you had me at “fluffy.” i have my mom’s recipes, but there isn’t one for her yummy dumplings. –suz in NE ohio, just inside appalachia.

  • Reply
    aw griff
    January 27, 2020 at 11:18 am

    I forgot to mention that like PINNACLE CREEK we cut off our cable tv and landline and got a Roku. We felt like we were being robbed.

  • Reply
    January 27, 2020 at 11:11 am

    We rarely eat out because my husband is such a good cook. He made a big pot of chicken and dumplings Friday night and cooked a pot of fresh collards because they were on sale and looked fresh. Boy, was it good! I took some to our neighbors down the street. They are in poor health and money is tight. My husband is a master of creating meals out of nothing. We eat very few convenience foods and we’ve always cooked from scratch. One tip is to plan your meals around the sales. We could not live without a freezer, in fact we have two. We stock up when there are sales, and we always have plenty to eat. My husband also makes breakfast sausage, Italian sausage, and Bratwurst. It’s very lean and delicious.

  • Reply
    aw griff
    January 27, 2020 at 11:10 am

    I think we have become more frugal with age. We shop at Aldi grocery. They have many good products and some organic foods and their prices are the cheapest around here. I looked up location for aldi in N.C. and they are only located in central part of state according to google but saw a map at local store showing one in W.N.C. The smallest garden I ever raised this past Summer is way gone and I wasn’t up to cutting firewood. Hopefully this coming Summer. Some of the things we do to cut expenses is cutting back the thermostat a couple degrees. Also on sunny days we open up curtains and blinds for the morning sun and open up back side of house for the evening sun. Another big waste of electricity was my water heater. The water was scalding hot so I turned down the thermostat on it too. By doing these simple things we have cut our cost about $50 a month. That will buy some serious food at Aldi. Now if I can only get my Grandson to close outside doors and turn off lights when he is here. I believe most of Blind Pig readers were taught that when you left a room you never left a light on or as we are apt to say, cut that light off!!

    • Reply
      b. Ruth
      February 4, 2020 at 11:05 am

      AW Griff,
      ….Well, that last sentence brought back memories!…I also hear my Mom yelling, “Don’t slam the screen door on your way out!” Enjoyed your comments…

  • Reply
    January 27, 2020 at 9:09 am

    My grocery bill is insane when I think about how much I spend just to feed myself. I often wonder how large families make ends meet, especially when most of their cart is filled with convenient foods like Hot Pockets and Pot Tarts. My cousin fusses at me for cooking for just one person. She said it would be easier and cheaper to bring home fast food. Like you, fast food and going out to eat has never been a place where I spend my money.

  • Reply
    January 27, 2020 at 8:46 am

    I very much remember when your blog had the “making do” posts, and I enjoyed them very much. I rather hate all the years I was so busy I was just throwing food in a cart randomly, and using drive throughs. Those were days when meals were random and not so healthy. Recently I have been following homesteading channels on YouTube because I enjoy them, and picking up many hints on gardening and meal planning. I got rid of cable tv, landline, and replaced with a Roku and Magic Jack. I love the Roku, and I mostly use it for YouTube where there is a kazillion options to watch including The Blind Pig videos. I mostly use the Magic Jack phone to hunt my cell phone 🙂 I like that I can put tv show on pause and run to throw clothes in the dryer etc.
    My latest great find was a cookbook called “Dining on a Dime.” It was originally published as the book called “Not Just Beans” What sold it to me is her recipes do not cause you to make a trip to the grocery store, because they are simple ingredients found right in your cupboard. She has ingredients for simple foods I was used to purchasing such as puddings, homemade breads, pancake mix, baking mix, and many many more. No more having a bunch of ingredients on hand that you never use. The book is written by Tawra Kellum, and she can also be found on a YouTube channel called Living on a Dime. These are tasty homemade meals she demonstrates. My biggest thing I do on my own is roast becomes soup next day and leftover chicken becomes numerous dishes the next day. Leftovers are boring, but if you turn it into a completely different dish next day it gives variety, I really have gained a lot of ideas from your postings also. Tipper, if you had time you could do an amazing cooking show on YouTube. You have the skills and dependability needed, and they are paid by YuTube once they gain a certain amount of subscribers. Many people are looking for ways to get out of debt, and the best way to start is with the food budget. Thank you, Tipper, for approaching subjects that sometimes others are not apt to tackle!

  • Reply
    Ron Stephens
    January 27, 2020 at 8:17 am

    I think we live as you describe pretty much except that I do not deer hunt and we do not have a freezer. (now if I had a farm ….) However, I also am pretty sure there is more ‘fluff’ in our groceries than I want to believe. I would rather fool myself.

    I have resisted letting eating out become a lifestyle. It is astonishing to me still how much that has become commonplace for some folks in my lifetime. So very different from my childhood.

    As to stretching the food budget, one of the things the ladies do after church dinners is trade leftovers. Those who cook a dish often don’t want to take it back home but there are other dishes they like. So it is a good trade all round.

    For things you don’t grow, farm markets sometimes have ‘ugly’ vegetables and fruits at a cut rate that can be bought in bulk.

  • Reply
    Gayle Larson
    January 27, 2020 at 7:53 am

    A few months ago I discovered mugg cakes. I was not baking cakes anymore because it was a waste of time and money for two. We would eat a few pieces and then I would end up throwing the rest away or it would get stale. Baking cakes in a mug or muffins is great. They now have a whole section in the grocery just for mug cakes. The mugs made great Christmas gifts for folks living alone, retired couples and those on diets.
    Great way to save money Now if they would come up with smaller packages of buns. Six or eight are just too many for two or one living alone.

  • Reply
    Sheryl Paul
    January 27, 2020 at 6:58 am

    I went on that same mission 2 years ago. I have no debt, living expenses yes. Unfortunately no gardens allowed where I live, but on my own now I eat mainly produce which is vey low cost compared to meat and I also make everyyjing from scratch. Cut food by 2/3

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