One of the things I have learned over the years about frugal cooking and entertaining is the importance of stocking the freezer and pantry with foods that I can quickly incorporate into meals in order to either stretch a dish or provide something vegetarian or vegan to include guest who eat those ways. We also try to buy local vegetables when they hit their lowest price point of the season and preserve them for use during the winter. I also look for the 10 for $10 sales at our local grocery stores and try to buy $10-$20 worth of frozen vegetables every time I can.
My vegetable stocks look something like this:
Eggplant: much despised but very versatile vegetable that we find especially useful for adding to dishes that normally contain meat in order to mimic the way that meat fat gives a good feel to food. We usually try to have at least one gallon bag of small blocks of eggplant in the freezer.
Peppers: We keep whole peppers, sliced peppers and roasted pureed peppers on hand. Almost none of these are green bell peppers. We mostly keep colored bell peppers, and semi hot peppers like Carmen and Hungarian Wax as well as a small selection of habanero? and other hot peppers.
Tomatoes: When we can get an adequate supply of cheap flavorful tomatoes, we roast or roast/smoke and puree these to add a little depth to other dishes prepared with commercially canned tomatoes. After researching we decided that commercially canned tomatoes on sale taste as good and cost less then canning our own. Again I try to stock up either at the discount grocery or during a 10 for $10 sale on large cans. I buy crushed, diced and whole tomatoes.
Greens: Especially Kale which we love and which is easy to freeze.
Vegetables I buy frozen:
Beans: Green and lima
Broccoli: florets or stalks but not cuts
Corn: usually yellow but sometimes white and yellow mixed
Peas: also peas and carrots mixed for soups
Spinach: Usually whole leaf as I find it doesn’t get so watery when cooked.
All of these are easily incorporated into other dishes. Often I will cook a pound of some vegetable for lunch in addition to whatever else we are eating. I watch for sales both at local grocery stores and ask vendors at the Farmer’s markets I go to about damaged or excess vegetables. We have been reducing our meat intake over the years in favor of more bulk in our diet, and I find that with a little bit of effort I can reduce our costs while eating more vegetables which is healthier for us anyway.