One of the big adjustments you have to make when you start spending less on groceries is the lack of prepared foods. However, there is an inexpensive staple that's even easier to make than frozen pizza: couscous. It can be flavored in almost any way you can think of, and it takes slightly more time than boiling water. Here's the basic procedure:
Put the dry couscous in a lidded container (a single serving is around 1/4 of a cup) with a dash of butter or oil. Pour in an equal amount of boiling water, cover, and let sit for 5 minutes. Fluff the couscous with a fork, and it's ready to eat.
Sounds easy, right? It also sounds unbelievably boring. That's why you throw whatever seasonings strike your fancy over the dry couscous. Garlic-- either raw or sauteed in a bit of olive oil-- is a classic. For breakfast, try a little cinnamon and sugar. If you're feeling energetic, you can even replace some of the water with hot milk. Saffron and pea couscous is a great when you're having dal (Indian lentils) but don't want to deal with rice; add a pinch of saffron threads and a handful of frozen peas before pouring on the hot water. The possibilities are endless. Once, I flavored couscous with a spicy Asian glaze left over from cooking tofu, and it was amazingly delicious. Feel free to experiment with spices, nuts, cheeses, fruits, vegetables. . . anything. It's a fast, simple way to play around with different flavor combinations. If you, like me, are usually afraid of improvising in the kitchen, couscous is the perfect place to start.
I hope this has inspired you to go down to your friendly neighborhood bulk section and pick up some couscous today. It's easy, cheap, and anything but boring.