Many recipes found in cooking magazines and cookbooks are unfair, in that they often call for unnecessary ingredients that can make cooking at home prohibitively expensive.
Exhibit A is stock—essentially flavored water—which I believe is totally superfluous for basic home cooking. Water (free!) works fine, while many stocks (up to $5 for a quart!) are loaded with questionable ingredients. And if I had a dollar for every container of half-used stock left for dead in refrigerators across America, I'd be a very, very rich man.
Rice, quinoa and other grains cooked in water are delicious, while meat stock is replicated when the meat in meat-based stews and braises is cooked in water. (Use your saved money to buy better-quality meat or to pay the new service charges on your debit card.)
If, however, you do need a quick stock (like I did for last night's butternut squash risotto; photo, left), simply throw some vegetables, salt and peppercorns into a pot, cover with cold water, bring to a boil, lower to a simmer and let cook for about 30 minutes (photo, above right). I used one organic carrot and one organic parsnip, which cost me less than $1, but half an onion, a stalk of celery, some mushrooms or asparagus stalks would work just as well.
An added bonus? Using water or making your own quick vegetable stock will make you the darling of the 99 percent.