I’m going to open with a magic trick. A magic muffin trick.

This particular muffin started with a few almost-gone peaches. They were too wrinkly and soft to eat from the palm, but still too good for the compost heap. A more ruthless cook might have just tossed them and moved on, but I fancy myself a waste-not-want-not type of cook, and I just couldn’t do it. I’m seasoned enough in the kitchen to know how their story would end, though. I felt guilty already. You know.

Then I had a bit of cream left over from another recipe, and I noticed the jar of shredded coconut was almost empty. And then it hit me: Muffins.

That’s the magical thing about this muffin recipe: One minute I have a hodgepodge of leftover, orphaned and sad-looking food, and the next minute I have a dozen sweet or savory muffins on my countertop. It makes me feel like a frugal ninja.

The thing you need to know is that these particular muffins started with a few almost-gone peaches, but on another day they might have started with some leftover carrots, a handful of squishy blueberries or a surfeit of homegrown zucchini. This recipe uses up that half-eaten apple, the bits of oatmeal that never made it into a bowl, and those last two tablespoons scraped from the bottom of the peanut butter jar. Food that was destined for the compost pile becomes a butter-smeared afternoon delight. Also: Cheap.

eah, you heard me. Cheap. Around here we like that word. This recipe is what I like to call “something-from-nothing” cheap. Weiner-water-and-toaster-shakins cheap. Bare-cupboard cheap. Free-lunch cheap. Cheap cheap cheap. Say the word out loud and it loses its power. Own it.

The other cool thing about this recipe is that you get to be creative in the kitchen. No vegetable oil? Grapeseed, then. And toss in those rock-hard raisins or that crusty bit of honey at the bottom of the jar. Chocolate chips? Sure. Just put away your recipe book and kitchen scale; you’re cooking from the hip now, frugal style.

Before we get started, let’s take a moment and give thanks to the great Amy Dacyzyn, the frugal zealot who pulled this recipe together for her Tightwad Gazette newsletter some two decades ago. I’ve updated it a bit to incorporate flours, grains, milks and sweeteners many of us use now. I added a bit of clarity here and there, based on what has worked for me since I first made this recipe in a dingy Toronto bachelorette pad about 15 years ago. But the final word should go to her:

…Blindly following recipes won’t help you save the maximum amount on your food bill. … Instead of sharing a single muffin recipe, I wanted to share the process of creating muffin recipes. This will allow you to use ingredients that are cheap in your part of the country, use up odd leftovers, and accommodate dietary restrictions.”

As for me, I’d really love to hear how yours turn out. Also, if you haven’t read The Tightwad Gazette, I highly recommend it.

 

Magic Tightwad Muffins
 
Recipe Type: Snacks
Cuisine: Frugal
Author: Amy Dacyczyn
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
Serves: 12 muffins
A choose-your-own adventure muffin that transforms sad, orphaned and leftover food into a delicious, frugal treat. Be daring!
Ingredients
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  • 2 – 2 1/2 cups white flour, oatmeal, cornmeal, whole wheat flour, rye flour, oat flour or gluten-free all-purpose flour. If you have leftover cooked oatmeal, rice, cornmeal or quinoa, add 1/2 cup of those leftover cooked grains to your muffins, and reduce white flour and liquids by 1/2 cup each.
  • 1 cup milk. You can also use buttermilk, soy milk, almond milk or fruit juice.
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil, or 4 Tbsp melted butter or margarine. Substitute grapeseed, canola, coconut oil. Olive oil is good in savoury muffins. Peanut butter will work, too.
  • 1 egg, or substitute 1 heaping Tbsp soy flour and 1 Tbsp water. I have not tried flax or aquafaba but I bet they will work. Also: If you use a cooked grain, separate the egg, add the yolk to the batter, beat the white until stiff and then fold into the batter.
  • 2 Tbsp – 1/2 cup sugar, or 3/4 cups brown sugar. Substitute 1/2 cup honey, molasses, brown rice syrup, maple syrup, or agave, and decrease the milk to 3/4 cups.
  • 2 tsp baking powder. Increase to 3 tsp if you’re using whole grains, cooked grains or more than one cup of additions (see below). Decrease to 1 tsp if you’re using buttermilk, and add 1/2 tsp baking soda.
  • 1/2 tsp salt
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  • OPTIONAL ADDITIONS
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Instructions
  1. Preheat your oven to 400F and grease your muffin tins.
  2. Combine dry ingredients in one bowl, then combine wet ingredients in another bowl.
  3. Combine the two, stirring until lumpy.
  4. Bake 20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the centre of a muffin comes out clean.