Skip to comments.Cooking Conservatively in Tough Financial Times
Posted on 02/18/2009 2:24:13 PM PST by JRandomFreeper
Its tough out there and may get tougher. Job cuts, pay cuts, and expenses are going up. Whats a conservative to do? Conserve, of course.
That doesnt mean you have to eat less healthy food, or eat foods that arent so good, or eat less. With a few of the right ingredients, some practice, some planning, and some time, you can produce excellent quality nutritious meals for surprisingly little money.
The catch, of course, is the time it takes. But if you are unemployed, or under-employed (like me), you have more time than money.
Fine cooking is about treating good quality ingredients right. Inexpensive cooking is about picking the right ingredients, some planning, and some labor.
My favorite ingredients are good quality, good price, and ingredients with many uses. That means shopping fairly frequently, watching for specials in the flyers that fill up my mailbox, and talking to family and friends about the REALLY GOOD DEALS that we all run across sometimes.
I rarely buy canned or frozen, with a few exceptions, (canned tomatoes and frozen corn, namely) I use what is fresh and in season, and cheap. I also have a garden, and eat what is seasonal from the garden.
Basil is expensive in the grocery store, but is easy to grow. And it shows up about the same time as the tomatoes. Can you say Italian?
Meats are more problematic. Ive pretty much given up on beef, except once a month. Im fortunate that I can get game locally, like venison and boar, and we raise a few goats for the freezer.
Pork can be found on sale in large roasts that can be cut up and prepared in many ways.
Chicken also can be found on sale in bulk and frozen in appropriate sized portions.
Bulk products, like flour, cornmeal, rice, beans, masa, and sugar can be purchased in bulk and transferred to appropriate sealed containers to keep the bugs out.
Since Im single, I know how much of what Im going to use in a month and plan accordingly. Breakfast is whatever you eat for breakfast times 30. For me that means 60 eggs, 30 sausage patties, 30 frozen biscuits, and 60 oz of homemade salsa for the month. Sausage patties weigh 2 oz each, so thats 60 oz of that pork shoulder for breakfast for the month.
A word about individually frozen biscuits. I use them, they are good. I can, and have mixed up a batch of biscuit dough to cook just one biscuit. I won my bet, and would never do it again.
Lunch and dinner I plan for 8 oz of meat, 6 oz of cooked starches, and 4 to 6 ounces of vegetables. So for planning thats 2 meals times 30 days = 60 meals. So I need about 30 lbs of meat, 22 lbs of starches, and 20 lbs of vegetables for the month.
A word about starches. 2oz of dried beans, rice, or pasta roughly equals 6 oz of cooked starches. For things like potatoes, rutabagas, and turnips, use the full 6 oz measure when buying.
Fruit is as in season, and inexpensive. Sometimes, that means that I just get preserves.
Salads for me come from the garden if they are in season. Down here in Texas, Ive usually got something most of the year.
I make my own breads, desserts, and lots of my own sauces.
This article is meant to stimulate discussion on cost savings and maybe provide some advice during these difficult times. There are quite a few freeper Chefs, food service professionals, and darn good non-professional cooks on this site.
A little about my food background; I am a graduate of the USAF Food Service Course in Lackland, and a graduate of Aims Culinary Academy in Dallas. I served my internship (slave labor) at some of the nicest restaurants in Dallas. I have cooked in dives, golf clubs bars, sports bars, and for servicemen and women around the world.
Thanks to all the folks that helped me edit this. I hope it can become a resource for freepers on a limited budget.
I will answer any questions that I can, or refer when I can't.
Grow all your herbs, cheap, easy, and way better than buying the jarred dried stuff.
Considering your background, I know you can attest to this, some of the absolute best foods are or where once considered ‘poor’ person food. Feijoada from Brazil pops to mind- pork scraps and black beans..
One cheap cut of meat that is a foodie secret is beef cheeks. Correctly cooked, and they are more tender than any roast you can find, they are similar to Wagyu at 1/10th the price.
Our local grocery store had whole beef tenderloins on sale for 4.99/lb. So, I made fajitas. Best I ever had. My mom said I’m crazy, but wait till I make her some.
Whatever happens, we ain't gonna starve.
Dried for Italian, fresh and dried both for Mexican foods. Personal preference, obviously.
I ordered a nice size order of grass-fed ground beef from Tallgrass Beef when there was a free shipping special. Add in the 20% coupon I had, and I yielded the highest quality ground beef at a cost of $3.19/lb, delivered. Individually vaccum sealed in 1-lb packs, and they all went into the deep freezer.
Pinging the “Surviving Socialism” listkeeper.
I don't generally present that face to the public when I'm being food serious, but all real Chefs know that if any culture eats it regularly, you should at least taste it.
Woo hoo! We’ll be right up.
I won't buy beef for more than $1.25US/lb. Which means brisket around here, or 7-bone (aich bone). Lose 30% in fat trimmings (I use that for other stuff like sausage). And you wind up with ground meat that you can count on to NOT have been dropped on a floor where someone has recently thrown up, and YOU control the fat content.
I use about 23% fat content for burgers, and 17% fat content for chili.
PlainsRadio is going to have a weekly show on how to prepare for hard times. One last week was very informative.
Our store puts whole pork tenderloins on sale for $1.99/lb about every 6 weeks. These are usually about 8-11 lbs, but the store will cut and wrap. We get these cut into some small roasts, and some chops. There is almost no waste, and can be cooked many ways, delicious! Also, I try to buy whole chickens when they are $.79/lb or less. While we did not have a garden or farm, my mom sure did a great job of feeding 5 children on minimal money when I was growing up. I hope FReepers share their stories of creativity!
I may have tasted her cooking talents.