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Dinner Diva | Mixin’ it up

Back in the day when the kids were young and money was scarce, I was an expert at saving a ton of money at the grocery store. I gave myself a few rules for groceries (like I’ll never pay over 10 cents/ounce for dry cereal, for example) and I stuck with them. That helped me cut grocery store dollars way, way down and gave me the much needed boost I needed to be able to put money into something else other than food. It was amazing how drastically I cut my costs!

One of the places you can cut costs is making your own seasoning blends and mixes. I am particularly fond of taco seasoning and still make this same mix, 10 years later:


Taco Seasoning

1 cup dried minced onion
1/3 cup chili powder
2 tablespoons cumin (I actually add an extra tablespoon—we love cumin)
4 teaspoons crushed red pepper
1 tablespoon oregano
4 teaspoons garlic powder
2 teaspoons onion powder

Combine all ingredients and store in a cool, dry place.

When you’re using for Mexican dishes, use about 1 tablespoon or so per 1 pound ground beef, or chicken or beans. More if you like the extra flavor.


Noodle Mix
1 cup instant nonfat dry milk
2 tablespoons grated romano cheese
1/4 cup dried minced onion
1 tablespoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon white pepper

Combine ingredients and store in a sealable container or zipper topped plastic bag. This will keep for 2 months in the pantry, however, I would personally store in the fridge because of the cheese; plus it will last longer. Mark the date on the zipper topped bag with your Sharpie pen. This recipe doubles and triples well.

To Use: combine 1/4 cup mix with 2 tablespoons melted butter and 1/4 cup milk. Toss with 8 ounces pasta (cooked).


Homemade Shake and Bake
1 cup bread crumbs
1/2 cup flour
2 teaspoons garlic powder
2 teaspoons poultry seasoning
1 teaspoon paprika
salt and pepper to taste

Combine ingredients and store in a sealable container or zipper topped plastic bag. This will keep up to 4 months in the pantry, depending on the humidity (you may just want to keep it in the freezer). This recipe will also double or triple well.

To Use:

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Place one cup mix in a plastic bag.

In a bowl, mix an egg and 1/2 cup of milk. Dip chicken pieces one at a time in the milk mixture, then shake one at a time in the plastic bag.

Place on a baking pan and bake for appropriate time (depending on the chicken you’re using—as a little as 20 minutes or up to an hour for bigger, bone-in pieces).


Homemade Flavored Rice Mixes
4 cups uncooked rice (I always use brown rice)
1 envelope dry onion soup mix
1 teaspoon garlic powder

Combine all ingredients together and store in a zipper topped plastic bag or sealable container. This will keep up to 4 months if stored in a cool, dark and dry place. With brown rice, you may want to keep it in the freezer.

To Use: Mix 1 cup mix with 2 cups water. Bring to a boil, lower heat, place lid on rice and simmer till liquid is completely absorbed, about 20 minutes or more. Check if you need to. (I would add an extra half cup liquid for the brown rice.)

Variations: to make Vegetable Rice Mix, substitute an envelope of vegetable soup mix.

To make Spanish Rice Mix, substitute 1/2 cup Taco Seasoning (see recipe above) for envelope of onion soup.


For more help putting dinner on your table, check out Leanne’s website,, or her Saving Dinner book series (Ballantine) and her New York Times bestselling book Body Clutter (Fireside). Copyright 2008 Leanne Ely. Used by permission in this publication.

augusta free press
augusta free press