Kitchen savings.

No matter what part of the world we are living in, prices of everything are going up. From essentials to what we could classify as wants, many of us are looking for ways to reduce costs and adapt to the rising food prices.

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Here are a few ways we are trying to adapt to this, and still maintain healthy and tasty meals at home:-

  1. Reducing store bought snacks. Things such as popcorn are much cheaper and easier to make at home than buying store bought packs. Baked or air fried crisps using our traditional starchy vegetables such as arrowroot, green bananas (matooke), and sweet potato taste just as good.
  2. Making juice at home- you get to choose what you can put in it. No sweeteners, stabilisers, fake colours and preservatives that may not be that good for you.
  3. Reducing on deep fried foods. Cooking oil prices are absurd in Kenya and Uganda at the moment. So as much as I love my deep fried treats such as mandazi and chips (French fries), I am not making them as often as I did.
  4. Planning for shopping. Having a list is important and sticking to it will save coins. We prefer doing our shopping once a month for stuff such as dry provisions, toiletries and the like. Fruits and fresh vegetable runs can be done biweekly or weekly.
  5. Frequent grocery runs will have you spending more, so reduce on those by avoiding to go to the store often. Also remember to shop on a full stomach so you do not get tempted to load on junk food.
  6. On the same shopping note, planning meals and snacks around what is in season in terms of fruits and vegetables makes economical sense. Use what is available and more affordable than stretching your budget to accommodate what is pricier.
  7. Compare prices across stores when you can. If detergent is cheaper at a store that may be on a side of town I do not frequent, I can pick up some when I happen to be on that side of town.
  8. Where we live has an interesting dynamic, you had rather walk than drive to the grocery these sides. Also, buying at the green grocer who is a bit further off road and smaller is cheaper than the one who is at the forefront or right on the road side. Most markets are like that back home too so, always head a bit further in.
  9. Using a water purifier instead of water dispenser. Instead of buying drinking water weekly, or boiling water, having a purifier has saved us a heap this past two months. We use this brand that is easy to install, maintain and the water has such a fresh clean taste and cool too.
  10. Eating less meat. Yes I know it doesn’t seem like it makes a difference but it does. Contrary to what many believe, meatless meals can be tasty, colourful, filling and fun to have with your family. I have many meatless recipes up on the blog that are worth a try. From stews to curries to roasted vegetables, they are all delicious. No meat or eating less meat does not mean you stick to just beans, there are many lentils and types of cereals in the market that are not hard to make. Searching for recipes on the internet is so easy to learn how to make what you have never tried before. Experiment a bit more.
  11. Buffering meals with minced vegetables or lentils stretches the meal further and adds more nutrients, so it is a win for all. This works well for casseroles, soups and pies.
  12. “There is rice at home”. I think every African child knows what this statement means. Eat at home as much as you can, it is easier on the pocket.
  13. Are breakfast cereals a must in your house? Breakfast doesn’t necessarily mean loading your kids with sugar filled store bought cereals in the morning. You can discuss with the kids if old enough what options are available that they wouldn’t mind to have in the morning. I make millet or banana porridge sometimes, oatmeal, soup, cocoa or leftovers from the previous night’s dinner can be warmed up or revamped.
  14. If you can, make your own stocks, soups and even seasoning mixes. Once you clean your vegetables and chop, save the usable scrapings, such as the stalks and leftover bits and pieces in a ziplock and freeze. once they are a sizeable portion, make a tasty vegetable stock with them. Same applies for bones and chicken carcasses, instead of throwing out the wing tips and back bone, or fatty bits and bones of your beef, you you can use them to make your own chicken or beef stock. Leftover cooked meat can be reused in soups, salads, stir fries and sandwiches.
  15. By buying my spices whole, I get to grind and blend up my own seasoning as I please. Pilau masala, curry mixes and tea masalas all use ginger, cardamon, cinnamon and black pepper among others in varying quantities. Making my own also ensures their purity and potency. Some commercial brands have been known to add rice flour to boost volume which makes spices less potent. Check out my post here on my preferred spices. I will also do a post soon on how I make my various spice blends.
  16. Trying other less costly brands – this had not been easy for me as I am the type of girl marketers love. LOL. I am a sucker for ads and loyal to brands that have served me well over the years or have great ad jingles. Hahaha. I am however trying, key word trying, to use other brands that cost less than my favourite ones, and get the job done just as well, stuff such as bathroom and Toilet cleaner, glass/window cleaners, bleach etc. Also using vinegar and baking soda has helped in reducing use of commercial brands in our house. Distilled vinegar can be used to clean windows, and most surfaces (diluted please), freshen up laundry and many more uses. Baking soda for the oven, faucets and sinks etc.
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By no means should you compromise on quality and safety of what you use, whether to cook or clean, so adapt slowly and researching on substitutes that are friendly to both the family and the environment.

On the same saving note, it is important to teach our children to save and be more economical with what they have. Keep them informed on changes in economies in a way they can understand. For many of us money was a taboo topic while growing up and let us be honest, it has affected (mostly negatively), how we make our financial decisions as adults. Let us do better by our young ones.

There is of course that thin line between being wise / frugal and scarcity mentality. We need to be intentional that we do not cross that line when sharing how to be prudent about not only money but other material things too.

This is not an exhaustive list, just some of the things we are doing to try to maintain our household costs.

What are some of the ways you are coping with the rising food prices and cost of living in general?

Let us share and learn from each other.

Tasty Njahi Patties.

Njahî, also known as hyacinth beans or dolichos beans are a staple where I come from (Central Kenya). They are quite nutrient dense, rich in iron and other minerals that make it a beloved food in my culture; especially for breastfeeding mums as they are believed to encourage lactation.

They are usually soaked, boiled then mashed with steamed green bananas, both unripe and ripe. Very sweet when had with stew and vegetables on the side. One can also have them stewed. I like them with lots of grated carrots or curried with some coconut cream. Very delicious and filling.

These beans are not easily available in Uganda, but my MIL (Bless her), ensured I had enough stock when we came back after visiting home. So look out for some more njahi recipes coming soon.

We had them on simple wraps with a garlic yoghurt sauce, and some vegetable accompaniments.

Let us start with these veggie balls using this bean. It is easy to make, uses what you have on hand, and so delicious. Perfect for lunch, dinner or the kids’ snack boxes.

Ingredients for the veggie balls are:-

About 3 cups njahi, already boiled and roughly mashed.

1 1/2 cup of minced vegetables. ( I used onion, garlic, bell peppers(green, red and yellow), coriander and mint).

Spices used: 1 tsp garam masala, I tsp paprika, 1/4 tsp turmeric, I tbsp toasted cumin seeds.

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste.

2 tbsp breadcrumbs.

2 tbsp grated cheddar cheese (optional).

1 tbsp vegetable oil.

Method.

These type of beans take long to cook, an average of 3 hours on the stovetop. So I soaked then cooked them on the instant pot to cut on cooking time. (Bean function in high pressure- 30 minutes, then let them release pressure naturally).

Once ready, drain, let cool then roughly mash. Add in the minced veggies, spices, herbal salt and bread crumbs. Last goes in the cheese and form into balls.

Put them in a lined baking sheet, spray with the oil and bake at 180°C for about 20 minutes.

As the beans cook you can get started on the accompaniments.

The whole wheat wraps are quite easy to make. 2 cups atta flour, I cup water, 1 tsp baking powder, 2 tbsp oil, 1 tbsp mixed herbs, salt and pepper. Knead well into a soft dough. Cover and let rest for about 20 minutes, then roll out and cook on a dry pan with no added oil. Keep covered with a clean cotton cloth so they do not dry out.

As for the garlic yoghurt sauce, I used one cup unflavoured yoghurt, 2 heaped tbsp mayonnaise, 1 tsp paprika, one minced garlic clove, freshly ground pepper and freshly squeezed juice from half a lemon. Mix all well and let chill for flavours to blend well.

The vegetable accompaniments were a simple kachumbari and a simple shredded cabbage and carrot salad seasoned with salt, lemon and black pepper.

Kachumbari, sort of like pico de Gallo.
Simple but refreshing cabbage and carrot salad.

Once everything is ready, you can assemble and serve. You can opt to have the balls on a bed of the cabbage salad then topped with the salsa / kachumbari and yoghurt sauce, or on the wrap as shown below.

Either way, they are delicious and filling. The balls hold their shape well after baking and a bit crispy on the outside but soft and moist on the inside. The seasoning is everything in this dish. The minced veggies go well together with the spices used and also add colour, moisture and nutrients to the dish.

How would you like to have yours, in a wrap or just plain with the salad?

I like veggie balls as they are great way to ensure you load up on your veggies in a fun and tasty way. It is all about getting creative. I have already shared how I made lentil balls in peanut sauce here, and also here on couscous with a creamy cashew sauce. Try them all and let me know what you think.

Love,

Wanjoro.

Berry Good Banana Bread.

We love our banana bread in this house, as it is, with chocolate, with yoghurt, with nuts and now with berries.

The best thing about this cake is it works well with whichever berries you have on hand. I have made it with blueberries, strawberries and raspberries and it always turns out great. I have also made with with sugar, and honey and it turned out well too.

Banana strawberry goodness!

This is a perfect treat for breakfast, tea time, school snack, dessert and even as a gift for a loved who loves banana bread.

Let us get started.

Ingredients are:-

1. 2 1/2 cups self raising flour. (If using All purpose flour, remember to add 11/4 tsp of baking powder and 1 tsp baking soda, plus a small pinch of salt).

2. 1 level tsp ground cinnamon.

3. 1 tbsp desiccated coconut (optional).

4. 1 1/2 cup sugar or sweet honey.

5. 4 large mashed really ripe bananas.

6. 1 cup frozen strawberries or raspberries. (I usually let them thaw a bit and mash roughly).

7. 1/3 cup coconut oil (or vegetable oil).

8. 2 large eggs.

9. 1 tsp vanilla.

10. 1 cup strawberry or mixed berry yoghurt.

Method.

1. Preheat oven to 180 °C and grease your baking tin really well.

3. Sift your flour and cinnamon in a large bowl, add the coconut and mix well.

4. In another bowl, mix the oil, sugar and eggs till well combined, then add the mashed banana and berries, followed by the vanilla.

5. Add dry ingredients to the wet as well as the yoghurt. Be careful not to overmix.

6. Add the batter to the pan and bake for 45 minutes to 1 hr, till cake is ready and a skewer comes out clean. I usually lower the temperature to about 160 after twenty minutes, and it takes about the same time to bake.

7. Let cake rest in pan for ten minutes then flip it carefully onto a rack and let cool completely in an airy area.

Baking times may vary as ovens are different so start checking at about the 50 minutes mark.

Looks so good!

Cut a slice and enjoy it!

Tip: I love making it in my bundt pan, but it works well in any large baking tin.

Baked this one with honey, it’s just a bit darker but tastes just as delicious as the one made with sugar.

It looks, smells and tastes so good. It is moist and crumbs beautifully too. Definitely worth a try don’t you think?

A Simple Bean Stew.

This is one of my favorite ways to have beans. If you can make this ahead of time, and let it sit a bit for the flavours to settle in well is even better.

It goes well with any flatbread, rice or savoury crepes.

You can also make it spicy and add chillies or cayenne if that’s your thing.

To make this delicious meal we will need:-

  1. 2 tbsp coconut oil. Your preferred oil will do too.
  2. 2 -3 cups already boiled red beans.
  3. 1 chopped onion.
  4. 1 tbsp ginger garlic paste.
  5. 4 tomatoes, blanched, peeled and pureed.
  6. 1 large carrot, grated.
  7. 1 bunch of coriander, stems and leaves separated.
  8. 1 chopped green bell pepper.
  9. Salt and pepper to taste.
  10. Spices- 1 tsp each paprika, curry powder, dhana jeera powder.
  11. 1 tsp mixed dried herbs.
  12. A small pinch of sugar (optional).
  13. 3 cups of water / vegetable stock.

The ingredients are simple, but healthy, flavourful and come together in a beautiful sauce that is finger licking good.

As usual, heat your sauce pan, add 2 tbsp of coconut oil. Add the onion and cook till soft.

Add the green pepper, coriander stems and ginger garlic paste. Add the spices and let them release their aroma and flavour, make sure they do not burn. You can add a tbsp of water as the spices cook.

Add the tomatoes and let them cook down till mushy. Salt and pepper can be added here too.
Add your carrots and broth. Cover and let them cook on medium low for about twenty – thirty minutes. The sauce will reduce and thicken. Do not rush the process. The beans will soften, absorb all the flavour and be a lovely colour too.

Once ready, add the chopped coriander leaves and let sit a while before serving.

This is a perfect make ahead dish as the longer it sits, the more time the flavours have to mix together well. So if you are into batch cooking, this simple bean stew is a great dish to make.

The beans slap really well on their own or with some rice too, and an avocado slice on the side. Mmmhhh. Yum!
Chapati Madondo aka Beans and Chapati are a perfect comfort food.

How do you like your beans?

Kashata. Coconut Candy.

Kashata is a tasty treat that I loved while growing up. Originating from Kenya’s coastal area, this sweet has made its way inland and is a beloved treat to many.

Kashata is either made with coconut or peanut. This here is kashata ya nazi. Nazi is Swahili for coconut and njugu is Swahili for peanut.

I prefer the coconut version to the peanut one.

Dessicated coconut, sugar, cardamom and food color are all you need, plus a bit of patience.

You can use any food color you prefer.

They are so good, don’t blame me if you cannot get enough of them!

Below is the recipe card.