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War on a Budget: Some simple recipies to stretch meals

War on a Budget:

Some simple recipes to stretch the meals.

Amber Ulfsdottier


In the current economy going to war or any event can mean trying to find ways to make ends meet.  The longer the event the more concern there is on how to do this, and still eat well, have gas and have funds for Merchant’s Row or the Auction at fund raisers.  One way is to find recipes that can be stretched, altered slightly, or made ahead and frozen thus spreading the cost out over several months.  An other way is to make sure you have your menu planned and you know how many are coming to your camp for meals, having lunches that are mostly premade for easy access on those busy days or snacks for fighters in need of a boost, and minimizing the time and energy that needs to go into making the meals.
One of the first things you can do is it take a head count for your camp, or feast.  It also helps to know how your household, friends or family eats.  Do you have heavy eaters, fighters that need the extra in the morning, children who might be light or picky eaters, and who has allergies.  This later is getting more and more important as some of the allergic reactions can be fatal.  Once you know who is coming and taken in to account what they will all eat, set a budget and then stick to it.  (For group kitchens it is recommended that you add $2 to $3 per person for propane for the stoves, make alcohol BYOB, and if you have someone with special dietary needs that they bring the necessary foods)  If you have kids in camp, and the parents want them to have special drinks, make certain that the parents bring them, and keep them in a cooler not in the common area.  This avoids conflict with others in camp who might not realize that the drink or snacks are for certain people only and it keeps the overall food budget down.
Make ahead meals are the easiest, and can be spread out over several months if done right.   Stews, soups, chili, omelets, and the like, mostly one pot meals, and they can be thawed quickly or make as boil bag meals.  One note on boil bag meals be sure the bags you are using can stand the heat, and will not come rupture in the water.  Read the box carefully, some bags also give off a chemical that can get in the food and flavor it.
Another make a-head meal or snack is meat pies.  The meat pie is one of those icons of events and they come in as many different flavors and types as there are people who make them.  You can make them for breakfasts, lunches, snacks and dinner and you can make them ahead.  Certain recipes can be made and frozen for up to six weeks, for less time.  You can put almost anything in a meat pie; in fact you can not add meat and make them for your vegetarian guests as well.
You can also make meal packs using heavy foil.  This is a bit trickier than other types and takes some extra work and care.  It works well for fish meals.  One thing to note with the meal packs is the vegetables in them will cook faster than your meat if you put them on the fire frozen.  It is also suggested that you blanch the vegetables before freezing.  Meal packs are cooked on a griddle, grill or the wire cover of a fire pit and you need to keep a close eye on them.  The nice thing about meal packs is that they can be cooked at the convenience of the person eating.  If you are standing court or have guard duty and need to eat early, get a meal pack and cook it up and go. 
If you want to make your meal on site, you can still do a lot of the prep work at home and freeze it.  Buy your meat at a store that has a butcher case.  Many of the grocery stores will cut your meat for you at no charge.  You can then buy a less expensive cut of meat in a roast form, and have the store cube it for you’re for stews, or slice it for breakfast steaks.  You can do the same with your vegetables as well, but be sure you blanch them before freezing; this will keep them from turning into mush when you thaw them out.  By doing the prep at home, you can add your seasonings, and marinades a-head of time lowering the risk of spoilage and food borne illnesses.
Making the Do A-Head meals can also be a fun way for a group or household to have a get together.  My household has meat pie parties and we usually make about 12 dozen in an evening, we have a lot of fun, and the kids really enjoy helping.
There are many ideas and recipes on the internet, in magazines and in the notes of friends and other SCA folks for make ahead meals and budgets.   The following are a few of the ones I have collected over the years and tried out many times.  Feel free to copy them, change them, add to them and share them, they are yours to use.
Meat Pies:  Amber’s Famous Meat Pies of the Five Ingredients.
There is a joke about my meat pies and the recipes I use having only five ingredients.  It is simply that the base is the same five things; it is the spices and extras that are different.

The basic meat pie starts with a bread or pie crust, and you can do both.  If you make the pie crust type, you can make these ahead up to about 3 weeks.  After that long I have found that the crust gets either dried out or gummy when thawed.  Word of caution: I never use mushrooms, they can go bad too easy and I have tried several ways and just don’t feel comfortable with making a do ahead with them.  On site meals, I use canned store bought, for the same safety reasons.   


Pie Crust Type:

This is a basic pie crust recipe for a two crust 8 to 9 in. pie tin:


2 cups flour

1 tsp salt

2/3 c shortening

4 to 5 tbls water


Put dry ingredients into bowl, cut in shortening til thoroughly, add water one tablespoon at a time til flour is moist and almost cleans the sides of the bowl.  Gather into a ball, place on flour covered board or counter and shape into a flattened round.  Cut in half and set one half aside.  Shape first half into rounded flat and with rolling pin; roll out to a circle 2 in larger than the pan.  Fold circle onto quarters, place on the pan and unfold.  Fill the pan with ingredients, mounding them.  When it bakes is will reduce down a bit so you want to add more than you think you need.  Rollout the second half the same way and cover.  Pinch edges together and put a two inch wide strip of foil around the edges.  Cut vents into the top.  Bake at 425 F degrees until the crust is brown.

The trick with a pie crust is not to handle the dough to much.  The more you play with it, the tougher it gets.  For really flaky dough you want to avoid handling it much.


Meat Pie Type:


Here it is a matter of using bread dough of some kind.  This dough can be biscuit dough, yeast bread dough or un-levin bread dough.  My favorite recipe for bread is one I got out of a Sunset Magazine years ago.  That article is in the June 1976 edition and can be found on the internet and was first an award winning one for a lady named Anita Orbe Mitchell.  Here it is:


3 c very hot tap water (105 to 115 degrees F.)

½ c butter, margarine or shortening (according to the article she used Crisco) I use butter.

½ c sugar

2 ½ tsp salt

2 pkgs active dry yeast

9 to 10 c flour


Put water, sugar, salt, butter or shortening into a bowl, and stir til the shortening melts, allow to cool to warm and add yeast, stir, and then set aside until bubbly, about 15 min.  Add about 5 cups of flour and stir until smooth, then start adding flour one cup at a time until the dough cleans the sides of the bowl and makes a stiff ball.


Put ball on a floured surface and kneed for about 5 min, place ball in a greased bowl and cover, set in warm place a let rise double, takes about 2 hrs.   Here is where I deviate from the recipe and make this into meat pies.


Cut the ball of dough into quarters and set three aside.  On a floured surface, roll the dough out thin, being careful not to tear the dough.  Once you have it rolled out you are going to make 5 to 6 inch circles.  I have a Rever Ware lid for my small sauce pan that I use like a cookie cutter that is 6 inches.


From here you can do two things, and I do both.  One is to get a muffin tin, regular muffins not the mini muffins, and put the round in the muffin hole and then add filling and pinch the dough over to so it looks a lot like a popover.  Or just add a large spoon or so of filling and make a pillow folding it in half and pinching the edges like an empanada or piroshky. 


Bake at 425 degrees F until brown, and let cool, then freeze.


Filling for Meat Pies:


Hamburger or Sausage or a mix of both,






Those are the five basic ingredients I use.  Brown the meats, add the onion, and cook down, add the garlic, salt and pepper to taste.  This can be used as is, served over rice, and noodles with your choice of sauces as well.  The variations come from the extras you can add.  Below is a partial list, and it is always fun to experiment with new ones.

Raisins, Currents, Dried Fruits, Chopped Nuts, Cinnamon, Nutmeg, Allspice, Turmeric, Saffron, Curry, Ginger, Rosemary, Thyme, Sage, Leeks, Cabbage, Carrots, Potatoes, Bell Peppers, Chiles, Cheese, etc.
You can change the beef for Chicken or pork.  You can leave out the meat and just do vegetables.  But what ever you do, you do not want too much broth or gravy.  You need some moisture, but you don’t want the meat pie to be soggy so be careful to drain your mixture well.  If you do gravy, make sure it is a thick one, and will take freezing and thawing well.
My personal favorite is one my mother made for us when we went camping.  She called it a Bierock and my husband’s family made one that is his favorite and they called it a Krautrunger and they may be the same thing, variations on the Bierock or German Meat Turnover.  I have listed the ingredients for both of these below.


1 lbs ground beef/or sausage mix

1med onion chopped

1 clove garlic, crushed and chopped fine

Salt to taste

Pepper to taste

1 small head of cabbage chopped med


My mother and I do:


1tsp cinnamon, ground

1tsp nutmeg

½ All spice

1 c raisins or currents


My husband and his mother do:


2 tbls Worcestershire

1 ½ lemon pepper


A third variation is to do:


1 tsp Curry or Turmeric

1 tsp All spice

1 c raisins

Omit the Cabbage


Have fun experimenting, but once you have a stock of variations, you can make enough for lunches every day and not have the same flavors twice.



Beef Stew:


This recipe can be made ahead of time or on site as you choose.  It is also one of the best for filling people up and can be made in small batches or huge ones.


Stew beef or cubed beef pieces (I prefer 1 in cubes, easier to eat with spoons)

Cubed Potatoes

Onion chopped

Garlic chopped fine

Carrots chopped

Celery chopped

Beef broth (I prefer Swansons)

Water to cover the whole thing



Worcestershire Sauce



Optional Stew Seasonings like McCormick’s or Shillings


In a sauce pan full of water put the barely and cook until tender.  Once the barley is tender you can go on to the next part.  If you are making this on site, you can cook the barely there, or omit it.  The barely is what takes the longest to cook.

In a large pot, brown the beef, add the onion and garlic, salt, pepper and Worcestershire sauce, once the beef is browned remove and add the broth and optional seasonings at this time.  Heat to just boiling and add flour to make a medium thick sauce.  Add back the meat, the vegetables and cook til the vegetables are just about done, still firm.  Add the precooked barely and cook till vegetables are done.  Serve in bowls, with bread on the side.
This can be made as a do ahead and frozen.  It can be done as a boil a bag or thawed and put in a pot to heat or made fresh on site.
For those off you that have a Dutch oven, cast iron preferred, and a fire pit of good size I have a recipe that is easy and not to expensive to make. 


Hubby’s Peach or Cherry Cobbler


Line a cast iron Dutch oven with heavy foil, grease.  Get the fire going so you have lots of coals.


Get a box of Bisquik or the like.  For the adventurous make from scratch, make the cobbler recipe on the box.  It will vary in amount depending on the size of your Dutch oven.

Get two to three cans of Pie Filling, either Peach or Cherry.  Make sure you have a can opener if they don’t have a pull top.

Put the fruit in the bottom of the Dutch oven and put the batter on the top in dollops like dumplings or biscuits.  Put the lid on.

You need to have twice as many coals on top of the oven as you do on the bottom.  Rule of thumb is for a 12 in Dutch oven, 8 brickets on the bottom and 16 on the top.  Let cook for 45 min.  You can check by lifting the lid and seeing if the batter had turned golden brown.
When done remove and serve warm.  Optional vanilla ice cream or whipping cream.
Have fun with the recipes and make some of your own.  It is not hard to eat well at War or Events and it does not have to be expensive.  Most of the above are not really period, but cases can be made for meat pies and stews being around forever.  The cobbler is just a great desert for the end of a great meal and is a real crowd pleaser.  We have had neighboring camps wander over to find out what we are making it smells so good and stay for dinner.  Half the fun is having a enough to feed a friend you just made.


Yours in Service

Lady Amber Ulfsdottier

Aka Penny Melson