Using up all the food you buy is a great way to live frugally, but it can be difficult. We are conditioned to think of cheap ingredients as basically disposable, and also to think of a lot of ingredients in one specific context. Taking some time to think about the types of items you waste out of habit and how they could be used will eventually help you to save money on food costs, while also giving you the opportunity to get creative and to find new favorite foods.
I say this with complete sincerity, but I actually do not cook. When I was a kid, I liked to bake, but I never really liked to cook; that was my sister. My first husband was a decent cook, and my second husband is a phenomenal one. I used to cook very occasionally, but after our daughter was born, even that petered out to almost never, with the exception of a recent interest in canning and candying. Now, our daughter is 11 years old, and my amazing cook of a husband has decided to do it professionally. His evening shifts mean this gal has to dust off whatever skills she put away more than a decade ago and figure out how to feed herself and her child something more interesting than sandwiches and boxed mac & cheese. I’ve been spoiled, and it’s been a pretty frightening adjustment for me. My friends and family have even joked that at this point it might be easier for Cory to teach Kit how to cook and let her feed us in the evenings.
I have to prove them wrong, of course. In an effort to ease myself into the whole cooking thing, I’ve gone back to my roots; baking. I just KNOW I can use that oven. If I mix stuff together and stick it in the oven, it will eventually be edible. Right?
So, here’s the thing about hamburger and hot dog buns: We mostly think of them as having one job; making meat and cheese portable. Hamburger buns might be used for sandwiches and sloppy joes in addition to hamburgers, but most people don’t think of them outside of that genre of food, and hot dog buns, because of their shape, are even more specialized. Plus, buns are cheap; a dollar or two for a package of 8 buns. So if you buy a package of buns, the chances are that you won’t feel terribly guilty about throwing away the inevitable leftovers. But I’m here to tell you you shouldn’t! Stale hamburger and hot dog buns can be used for all the same things as other stale breads, and in a fit of laziness-inspired ingenuity, I discovered a really yummy one! I call them French Toast Muffins, and they go something like this:
4 stale hot dog or hamburger buns (The cheap, white-bread variety actually works best for this)
4 jumbo eggs (or just whatever eggs you have, but maybe increase to 5 if you use smaller eggs)
1/4 cup milk, or so (we use Vitamin D whole milk, but you could use half & half, cream, or 2%, I doubt it matters much)
Approx. 1/4 tsp vanilla extract
Approx. 2 tbsp white or brown sugar
Approx. 1/4 tsp cinnamon, optional
Approx. 2 tbsp butter
*Do NOT preheat the oven!
I was making this up as I went. It’s basically a french toast, only I don’t actually know how to make french toast, only what goes in it. So I sort of mixed up my eggs at the same ratio of eggs to milk as I use for scrambled eggs. It seemed to work, so I don’t question it. Everything else is to taste, really. I prefer my french toast less sweet, especially since you can add sweet after. My daughter likes just a hint of cinnamon. So whatever works for you is good.
If your buns are really stale, you can use them as is. If they aren’t, I recommend drying them out a bit in low heat. Whip the eggs, milk, vanilla extract, sugar and cinnamon together. In an 8-slot brownie / mini-loaf pan, use butter to grease the bottom of each cup, leaving a bit of butter in the bottom to melt while baking. Tear your buns into pieces, putting 1/2 of a bun into each cup of your pan. Divide the egg mixture evenly between the cups. Use a fork or spoon to smoosh the bread pieces down into the egg mixture, making sure your bread is completely covered in egg in a nice, even layer. At this point, turn your oven to 350 degrees. Let your pan sit on the counter while the oven comes up to temp, so the bread can soak up all that yummy sweet egg. Bake for approximately 20 minutes, or until a fork comes away clean from the middle of a loaf. (Baking time may vary depending on the type of muffin or loaf pan you use.)