Tag Archives: Scarcity

Scratch Cooking

If you’re not sure what day it is, let me be the first to say TGIF! I know, I know, one day is the same as another in quarantine. Here in Minnesota our “shelter at home” rule kicks in tonight.

As we face shortages at the store, and maybe because we have time on our hands, more and more people are turning to scratch cooking. So I thought this week I’d share with you some of my favorite made-from-scratch options.

Baked Beans
1 package dry navy beans, covered in water and soaked overnight
1/2 cup molasses
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 cup ketchup or tomato sauce
onions and/or bacon as desired
12 oz tomato juice

Soak beans overnight. In the morning, cook beans and water with a pinch of baking soda on the stovetop for 15 minutes. Rinse and drain.

Place drained beans in a slow cooker, and add the other ingredients. Cook on high at least 6 hours, or low for at least 10. Add water as needed to keep moist.


Soft White Sandwich Bread (based off a recipe from eHow) – Makes 2 loaves

2 cups warm water (about 110 degrees)
2/3 cup sugar
1 1/2 Tbsp dry, active yeast
1 1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 cup oil
6 cups flour (bread flour is best, but I’ve also made it with all-purpose, whole-wheat pastry flour, or a mixture of half whole wheat and half white flour)

Put the water in your mixer’s bowl and add the sugar and yeast. Stir until the sugar is dissolved, then let sit for about ten minutes until there’s a bubbly foam on top of the liquid.

Add the salt and oil to the yeast mixture, then slowly stir in the flour, one cup at a time. When the dough is well-blended, knead it for a few minutes, then place it in a greased bowl and cover with a clean cloth. Allow the dough to rest and rise for about an hour, or until it doubles in size.

Punch down the risen dough, knead for a few minutes, and divide the dough into two portions. Form each into a loaf, and place in greased loaf pans. Cover loaves with clean cloths, and allow to rest and rise for another 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, preheat oven to 350 degrees. Bake loaves, uncovered, for 30 minutes. Allow to cool completely.


Beer Bread (Missing something for sandwich bread? Maybe you have what you need to make beer bread)

3 cups flour
3 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
1 can beer (12 oz)

Preheat oven to 420 degrees. Quickly mix all ingredients together, and spoon into a greased loaf pan. Top with shredded cheese if desired. Bake for 40-60 minutes, depending on the loaf size.


Pancakes from Scratch

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
1 Tbsp. white sugar
1 1/4 cups milk
1 egg
3 Tbsp. melted butter

Sift together dry ingredients and place in a bowl. Make a well in the center and pour in milk, egg, and melted butter. Mix until smooth. Scoop onto a heated griddle. Turn to cook both sides until golden.


Scalloped Potatoes

8 medium potatoes, peeled and sliced thin
4 Tbsp. butter
3 Tbsp. flour
1 1/2 cups milk, gently warmed

Melt butter. Add milk and flour. Stir and cook until thick. Add potatoes and pour into a greased baking dish. You can add cheese, ham, bacon, diced onions, etc. Bake at 350 for one hour.


I hope this is a valuable resource for you! Stay well!

Book Review – Scarcity: Why Having Too Little Means So Much

I have a confession. I have a high school diploma, an associate’s degree in general education, a bachelor’s degree in history, and a master’s degree in public history. I’m not uneducated by any stretch. But I’ve never taken an economics course. Never. Not micro, not macro, not even a 101 intro class. It’s a hole in my learning, for sure.

Recently I downloaded the audiobook¬†Scarcity: Why Having Too Little Means So Much by Sendhil Mullainathan, and Eldar Shafir. I was expecting a social justice book. What I got was a mixture of economics, psychology, sociology, social justice, and more. Sendhil Mullainathan is a behavioral economist, and Eldar Shafir is a psychologist. The book reads like an academic paper in some regards, but manages to be approachable at the same time. Like I said, I don’t have any background in economics. Yet I found their thesis fascinating.

The main argument of this book is that scarcity, defined as not having enough (be it time, money, food, companionship, or really any basic need), causes people to “tunnel” or focus in on what they lack. This is a good thing in the short-term. We’ve all experienced how productive we can be with a deadline approaching, or how thoughtfully we spend our money when our account balance gets low. But long-term scarcity has negative consequences.

People experiencing long-term scarcity loose sight of things that are approaching. They’re so focused on their immediate need that they can’t see the big picture. They put off things that may be more important, but which are less pressing. They don’t invest in the things they should. They take on future commitments that they’ll regret, like bad loans for the money-scarce, and future projects for the time-scarce. These commitments, in turn, lead to more problems in the future and result in falling further and further behind.

What I enjoyed about this book was the way it considered the psychology of human behavior. Mullainathan¬†and Shafir explain that within the tunnel, when we’re so focused on our immediate problems, we actually lose some of our cognitive ability, or bandwidth. This is why stressed-out parents are impatient with their kids, and why drivers on the phone get in more accidents. Your mind can’t be divided without losing processing skills.

Okay, so we all know that being too busy, multi-tasking, or being stressed out make it hard to focus, but for people living in poverty, this is a constant problem. Their minds are always divided between the tasks at hand and the worry in the back of their minds about how they are going to make ends meet, put food on the table, etc. It’s like trying to live your life while on a constant phone conversation at the same time. People living in chronic scarcity constantly struggle to see the big picture and juggle everything on their minds.

The last part of the book talks about how we can avoid falling into scarcity traps by creating margin in our lives. Margin helps us handle the kind of every day shocks that can drop us into seasons of scarcity. But even more than that, the closing section suggests ways that aid programs, policymakers, and others can work within or around peoples’ scarcity tunnels and lack of bandwidth to make more of an impact on their lives. I love this because they don’t just suggest throwing more money at problems, but in helping aid dollars go further and helping people get out of the downward spiral of scarcity.

If you work in social services, policymaking, or the non-profit sector, I highly encourage you to read this book. It will help you to understand what scarcity does to the human brain, and how to work with those challenges to build better programs and services.