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Spice of life: Cooking up tips for economical meal ideas

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Pizza burgers are a fast inexpensive meal that any family can add their own flavor or twist to.
Submitted photos Pizza burgers are a fast inexpensive meal that any family can add their own flavor or twist to.

Recently, I was contacted by two local women in need of help.

They found me through my column, and both needed some real help. I was touched that they asked me and struck by the fact that they, like me, were hard-working women just trying to provide for their families.

They had very different circumstances, but their stories were familiar and included divorce, homelessness and loss of job or caring for their parents. These women were facing problems that any of us could face. One minute you are living your life, and the next you are trying to survive day to day.

I have written about the problem of food insecurity before. It seems to be a problem that gets worse, not better. I wonder how many of you have ever checked the statistics in Johnson County.

How many people, our neighbors, our friends, maybe even our family, are struggling to make ends meet?

These women were searching for information, recipes and tips on how to feed their families on a shoestring budget. One also needed resources on how to make meals ahead and freeze them for later.

Now, I am by no means an expert, but I am a part of a network of food writers from all over the world, so I set about forming a plan.

I posted a blog on my website in which I asked my network of readers and other writers to link up their favorite budget and freezer recipes. I explained that for each post that was shared on my site at basilmomma.com, I would donate 1 pound of food to a Center Grove-area food pantry. My friends at Conagra Foods generously agreed to match my donation with one of their own to Gleaners Food Bank in Indianapolis.

This post has elicited a huge response from people trying to find a way to help. I bet we all have a few choice recipes in our hip pocket that we depend on from time to time that we can share, such as a time-saving tip or great make-ahead dinner. As of today, I have almost 100 recipes that have been added to the post. I could not be happier.

The posts run the gamut from dinner ideas to tips on drying herbs and freezing breakfast foods. I cannot thank everyone enough for sharing a little bit of their wisdom with my readers.

Hunger knows no season, but it seems as if there is always a push to donate around the holidays. I can see why. Busy parents are focused on trying to give their families a special day, and grocery shopping can fall by the wayside. What better way to help out in an easy way than to share recipes and tips. That’s the least that I can do.

Today, I am sharing a recipe with you all that not only costs less than $15 but also is tasty and kid-friendly. Feel free to substitute ingredients to suit your tastes and budget. This pizza burger literally tastes like a slice of pizza on a bun. I added sauteed onions, mushrooms and green peppers to mine, but don’t be afraid to make yours your own.

Remember: A budget meal also can be fresh, exciting and enticing. I hope that if you are looking for ways to add more wallet-friendly meals to your rotation that you take a second to visit this particular post. Not only will you maybe gain a few new recipes, but you will also see you are not alone.

We all need to help each other.

Heather Tallman lives in the Center Grove area and writes the cooking blog Basilmomma. Send comments to letters@dailyjournal.net.

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