The following is a weekly feature brought to us by Sumiko from Near to Nothing. I’ve asked her to share tips and tricks (and recipes!) that show us ways to replace the items we’d typically buy canned or frozen from scratch at home for less! You’ll find a new From Our Pantry post each Monday.
I buy very little from the center aisles of the grocery store. My WinCo shopping cart is usually full of items from the departments on the perimeter of the store: produce, bulk bins, meat, dairy, freezer (veggies only!), and bread. Not only does this help keep my grocery budget in check, it also helps me keep our meals healthy.
When I do grab things off the shelves in the aisles, it’s basics such as canned tomatoes, olive oil, and tortillas. Consequently, I don’t do much browsing. I know the layout of my WinCo like I know my own house so I can get what I need without having to look around. This is vital for me especially when I end up doing my grocery shopping with the three-year-old twins and the potty-training one-year-old.
Well, the other day I had some extra time to kill before picking the twins up from school, so the baby and I took our time in Safeway. Of course, I was there for the BOGO Golden Grain pasta—final price $0.895 per pound. I found myself checking the prices of some of my favorite pantry staples, dried beans and rice. And this is what I found—precooked boil-in-bag whole long grain brown rice.
I just about choked as I paid the $4.22 per pound just so I could take it home and check it out. The last time I was at WinCo, I paid $0.61 per pound for long grain brown rice—a mere $2.53 for 4.14 pounds. That’s a savings of $3.61 per pound!
Anyway, I took my boil-in-bag rice home and put it to the test. I followed the stove-top directions and also made a pot of my WinCo bulk-bin rice. Of course, my analysis was in no way scientific, but I preferred the texture and flavor of the bulk-bin rice. My husband thought they tasted the same, but liked the texture of the boil-in-bag rice better because it wasn’t as sticky. A lot of the starch stays in the cooking water when you remove the bag of rice. Of course, by decreasing the amount of water in my regular rice, I could get mine less sticky too.
I can see two advantages to the boil-in-bag rice: 1) it’s fast; 2) it’s less starchy. But for me, it’s not worth paying an extra $3.61 per pound!
I use A LOT of brown rice so the extra cost would quickly add up. I often pair it with beans to make a complete protein or use it as a filler to stretch more expensive dishes. We always eat chili, beef stew, tortilla soup, and stir-fry over rice to make them go farther.
The easiest way to make rice is in a rice-cooker. I think every home cook should have one. Not only does the rice turn out better, but you will also never have to babysit the rice again! Rice cookers automatically turn off when the rice is done, preventing scorching. I wouldn’t make as much rice as I do if I had to make it on the stove all the time.
1 c. long grain brown rice
2¼-2½ c. water, more or less depending on desired texture
Rice cooker: put rice and water in rice cooker; turn on. Stir when done.
Stove top: Mix all ingredients in a 3 qt. saucepan and cover with lid. Bring water to boil, reduce heat, and simmer 45 minutes, or until all water is absorbed, being careful not to burn the rice. Stir well when done. Yields about 3½ c. cooked rice (1¼ lb.). Total cost: about $0.20 (That’s only about $0.16/lb. for cooked brown rice!)
I like to jazz it up a bit and add 1 Tbsp. butter and ½-1 Tbsp. chicken bouillon to the pot before cooking.
If I know I’m not going to be home an hour before dinner to get the rice started, I either make the rice ahead of time and reheat it when I need it or I put the rice cooker on a timer. This is another advantage of a rice cooker over the stove. I fill the rice cooker and plug it into a light timer set to turn on 45-60 minutes before dinner. Hot rice when I want it without having to pay for precooked. This is also a great way to soak your rice before cooking if you want to and have it cook on its own.