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M. Leary

Ye Olde Food Budget

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I am always interested in hearing other people's favorite ways to save money in the food budget. We have about a dozen stock menu items that are both inexpensive and healthy. But what are some of your classics?

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Over the past few months, we have been making great strides in this area, using two similar approaches.

I. Cookbook Index binder.

II. Cooking Magazine binder(s).

I. Cookbook Index binder.

Goal: Photocopy all indexes of your (hopefully many and varied) cookbooks and put them in a binder, separated by tabs for each cookbook.

Of course, keep in mind that you would want to purchase cookbooks that specialize in cheap recipes, fast recipes, healthy recipes, and foods you like. A personal preference, but I highly recommend getting a couple of quality vegetarian cookbooks, as produce is on sale weekly, and can be the cheapest items on a menu. Same with canned beans. You _can_ find great recipes that will employ both sets of ingredients, that will be delicious and pleasing to the eye.

II. Cooking Magazine binder(s)

Goal: Purchase four colored binders that represent the four seasons (Green=Spring, Orange=Autumn, Blue=Winter, etc). Remove the binding of the cooking magazines and hole punch them. Then sort through them, removing articles and ads, and focus entrirely upon the recipes.

The reason is that cooking magazines, more than any other source material, are largely based upon seasonal cooking. There will be a greater emphasis on recipes that are based on vegetables that are in season, which means they are at their freshest, cheapest, and most healthy.

Most of these magazines have a recipe index page. Photocopy that page only, and place in the front. Separate the (remainder of those) magazine contents by dividers.

This project, I can attest, is well worth it.

Also note: Many cookbooks are perrenially on sale at your local Borders/Barnes & Noble bargain bin. And many cooking magazines (like Cooking Light and Eating Well) are on sale at Amazon. Previous years of both of these can be purchased on eBay for a great discount.

Does this help?

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I mentioned this in another thread, but: learn how to work a chicken.

Buy two whole chickens (preferably when on sale, and preferably the higher quality "humanely-raised" stickered ones)...

Learn how to cut and separate the wings, thighs, legs, and breasts. Skin and debone them. Place in separate Ziploc bags.

Take the rest of the bones and put them in a plastic bag. With a hammer or a mallet, wack these bones until they break. Then dump these bones into a crockpot, preferably one that is lined with a slow cooker liner.

Bake for 8-10 hours on low.

Then add quartered onion, cut carrots, cut up celery, and some bay leaves, and poor a lot of water up to the top.

Bake for 10-12 hours on low.

Remove the liner bag (with the broth inside it), and puncture both corners of the bag, in such a manner that it pours easily into a few more Ziploc bags.

Freeze.

Now you have four skinned legs, four skinned and deboned thighs, skinned and deboned breasts, and four wings, plus around three quarts of quality homemade chicken stock. All for use in any number of recipes that call for it, whenever you need it. Do this two more times within the next several months, and you will have enough wings for a Superbowl party.

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I don't have an informed answer for you. My wife buys the food and budgets accordingly. She used to do something called Once A Month Cooking, through which she made several meals over the course of a day or two, and could then freeze the meals and feed us all month long.

The trouble with these recipes is that they're heavy on starches -- lots of rice and potatoes, which freeze well (or so I hear). I've low-carbed it for several years, and my wife and I have bought lots of vegetables, pork and beef from local farms.

As she moved away from Once A Month Cooking, she replaced those dishes with the magic of ... the Crockpot. It's become a fixture on our kitchen counter. By the time it's dried out and is ready to be put back in the cabinet, it's time to cook again. The thing has become a piece of furniture. I see it every day on the counter. It's not attractive, but I can't deny that nearly every Crockpot dish tastes delicious.

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With food prices going up, and food dollars going down, this is a very relevant topic. We try a strategy of fixing a weekly amount, and trying to plan meals so that we'll have leftovers.

A couple staples that we use:

1) Chicken quesadillas: 1 bag flour tortillas ($3), 1 jar chunked chicken ($3), 1 bag shredded cheddar ($3), spice blend (I blend my own, 1 tsp cumin, 1 tsp chili powder, salt, pepper, pinch of garlic powder, generous pinch of mexican oregano), butter, salsa (we have canned our own, but you could account for, yes, another $3.) Heat a skillet to medium, or medium high. Rub the outside of the tortillas with butter. Mix the chicken and spices. Layer the cheese, chicken, then more cheese on one half of a tortilla (non-coated side), fold, then fry for 3 to 5 min/side. You could also add peppers, onions, etc. $12 bucks/two meals.

3) Ragu: 1 lb mild Italian sausage ($5), 2 jars marinara sauce ($4), 3-5 garlic cloves ($0.50), 1 bay leaf, 3 tbsp olive oil, mixed Italian seasonic, oregano, 2 tsp salt, pepper, 1 tsp sugar, 1 lb pasta ($2). Saute the crushed garlic in the olive oil until translucent, then add loose italian sausage. Cook until browned, then drain excess fat. Add the rest of the ingredients, stir. Bring sauce to a boil, then reduce heat to low, and simmer, covered for 30 minutes to 2 hours. Prepare pasta as directed by the package. $11.50/2 to 3 meals.

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With food prices going up, and food dollars going down, this is a very relevant topic. We 1) Chicken quesadillas: 1 bag flour tortillas

See?

3) Ragu: 1 tsp sugar ... Prepare pasta as directed by the package.

SEE?

This thread deserves to be split off to talk about food prices, and why eating cheap, while possible, can also be bad for one's health.

[No offense, Buckeye. If you're not packin' on the pounds, more power to ya. But I can't eat like this on a regular basis, even though I AM havin' me some fish tacos tonight at the local cantina]

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I'm with Christian. Way too much processed food as ingredients. I like Nick's ideas for whole chickens. Some of my own tricks cooking for The babe who would not have survived two minutes in the kennedy household. Very finnicky and fussy.

Tomato sauce: Can of tomato paste and a can of low salt tomatoes (anything but crushed). Small can of paste w/14 oz can of tomatoes. At least a large can if using a 28oz can of tomatoes. Crush 'em yourself, or use diced tomatoes to start with. Mix and add sauteed garlic, dash of red wine (something not finished recently. Dump it in instead of pitching it), pinch of salt and tsp of sugar. Spices are your choice. Choose generic italian blend, basil, rosemary, thyme, etc. This a variation on Clemenza's recipe in The Godfather. It's quicker.

Ooh, I'll add later. Gotta go.

Edited by Rich Kennedy

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Well, this is more my wife's department - not because of "traditional role definitions" but because that is how we divided the home workload. The loss of an income caused us to become even more creative in the area of "Ye Olde Food Budget." My amazing wife took a deep plunge into the complex world of couponing (coupons+store sales+BOGOs+manufacture's instant rebate+catalinas = $300.00 off our monthly food budget+even more food than before. She is AMAZING!! And it still allows her to maintain a incredible level of generosity. She loves making meals for people, giving food to those in need, and providing our guests with the best we can offer.

One deal: 2 14+lbs turkeys costing $4.50 after she applied her brilliant shopping mind. Therefore, we have turkey the first night with so many left overs - turkey sandwiches, turkey soup by the gallon (freezing half the batch), turkey burritos, and turkey as another main course. Oh man, I could tell you stories about her unbelievable gift. We have shampoo to last us for over a year which amounted to enough money back that we purchased the next week's groceries with it.

We also introduce pasta to many meals either as a side dish or an additive. Chili, soups, sliced chicken breasts, TURKEY, olive oil with seasoning are all good with pasta.

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With food prices going up, and food dollars going down, this is a very relevant topic. We 1) Chicken quesadillas: 1 bag flour tortillas

See?

3) Ragu: 1 tsp sugar ... Prepare pasta as directed by the package.

SEE?

This thread deserves to be split off to talk about food prices, and why eating cheap, while possible, can also be bad for one's health.

[No offense, Buckeye. If you're not packin' on the pounds, more power to ya. But I can't eat like this on a regular basis, even though I AM havin' me some fish tacos tonight at the local cantina]

Have you seen how much I bench?

;)

Hey, its not the dinner carbs that get ya, its the hidden carbs throughout the day (soda pop, grazing at work, etc). There's plenty of alternatives out there for the taking, like whole wheat pasta or whole grain tortillas. But there's not much I can eat that's inexpensive, quick, and reasonably healthy without carbohydrates.

Rich, I'll see your tomato sauce and raise you home-canned salsa with vegetables from my own backyard. :P

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Well, this is more my wife's department - not because of "traditional role definitions" but because that is how we divided the home workload. The loss of an income caused us to become even more creative in the area of "Ye Olde Food Budget." My amazing wife took a deep plunge into the complex world of couponing (coupons+store sales+BOGOs+manufacture's instant rebate+catalinas = $300.00 off our monthly food budget+even more food than before. She is AMAZING!! And it still allows her to maintain a incredible level of generosity. She loves making meals for people, giving food to those in need, and providing our guests with the best we can offer.

One deal: 2 14+lbs turkeys costing $4.50 after she applied her brilliant shopping mind. Therefore, we have turkey the first night with so many left overs - turkey sandwiches, turkey soup by the gallon (freezing half the batch), turkey burritos, and turkey as another main course. Oh man, I could tell you stories about her unbelievable gift. We have shampoo to last us for over a year which amounted to enough money back that we purchased the next week's groceries with it.

Amazing indeed. :D.

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The Crockpot is my best friend and it doesn't make it back into the pantry very often either.

We steer clear of beef in my house for various reasons, nothing to do w/ being vegetarian. :) I toss several chicken breasts into the crockpot and let them cook all day. Then I shred them and have cooked chicken ready to go for various dishes. Since returning to school, menu planning has become a must, so I write down what I plan to have every day. I make my grocery list from that, so I'm not wandering up and down the grocery store isles trying to figure out what to get, over buying on somethings, not buying something at all that I need, or ::GASP:: having to make multiple trips in one week.

I consider grocery shopping a necessary evil, :evil: so the faster I can get it done the better.

I have get several cooking magazines and list the meals that meet family approval (or at least a majority), also the ones that got a thumbs down. Nothing like making something "new" only to realize when you're done you've made it before and no one ate it. ::blushing::. I have them split up by pasta, chicken, turkey etc. w/ recipe names, magazine & issue, and page numbers listed. I pull these out when I make out my grocery list and also write on my menu what I'm having and where it's located. My goal is to add to the list over Christmas break and have new dishes to make by the time the new semester rolls around.

I also try to make double when I can so I have leftovers--my youngest and my husband are always home for lunch.

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Rich, I'll see your tomato sauce and raise you home-canned salsa with vegetables from my own backyard. tongue.gif

That's no joke. I have the brownest thumb east of the Mississippi. I'll call your salsa. Literally. I'd love to try some.

Oh, more ideas. Anyone like veal dishes? Northern Italian stuff? Buy boneless porkloin when on sale. The whole thing. Cut thin slices and trim fat. Pound w/ meat mallet.

The only way to tell that it's not veal scallopini when sauteed is to make note of the grain. Scallopini costs $9.99 a pound in bulk at Costco. Way more anywhere else.

Porkloin usually can be had on sale for less than $2.00 a pound.

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Oh, more ideas. Anyone like veal dishes? Northern Italian stuff? Buy boneless porkloin when on sale. The whole thing. Cut thin slices and trim fat. Pound w/ meat mallet.

The only way to tell that it's not veal scallopini when sauteed is to make note of the grain. Scallopini costs $9.99 a pound in bulk at Costco. Way more anywhere else.

Porkloin usually can be had on sale for less than $2.00 a pound.

Thank you for posting that. I had sworn off veal after reading how they were raised in "Diet for a New America". Knowing that they have a worthy, cost-friendly, and (potentially) more humanely-raised solution is something worth celebrating.

Nick

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you for posting that. I had sworn off veal after reading how they were raised in "Diet for a New America". Knowing that they have a worthy, cost-friendly, and (potentially) more humanely-raised solution is something worth celebrating.

Well, hog farming can be controversial too. I've gone to porkloin and pork tenderloin for the cost savings myself.

I'm a bit skeptical of some of the anti-veal and pro-free range arguments. I'm not sure that in many cases animals have a conscious desire to have space to move around if they don't have the opportunity to distinguish between confinement and free roaming. Broken limbs and such are another matter. Pain is a different issue. Humans can compare in the abstract. I'm not sure that farm animals can.

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you for posting that. I had sworn off veal after reading how they were raised in "Diet for a New America". Knowing that they have a worthy, cost-friendly, and (potentially) more humanely-raised solution is something worth celebrating.

Well, hog farming can be controversial too. I've gone to porkloin and pork tenderloin for the cost savings myself.

I'm a bit skeptical of some of the anti-veal and pro-free range arguments. I'm not sure that in many cases animals have a conscious desire to have space to move around if they don't have the opportunity to distinguish between confinement and free roaming. Broken limbs and such are another matter. Pain is a different issue. Humans can compare in the abstract. I'm not sure that farm animals can.

I'm actually quite careful with my words--I said "Humanely raised", which goes beyond the limitations and the problems of a free range environment. Also, the issues of overcrowding (which applies mostly to chickens) and the issues of pigs being raised in unsanitary cages atop of cages do not, in my mind, compare to the bizarre circumstances upon which veal is raised. Veal is the meat of a young calf, but our factory farming specialists discovered how to raise full cows with the attributes of veal. It's a lifetime of a warped diet, deprived of many major vitamins, in a room where even the heads of nails are shielded, lest the cow lick them to get iron. The photographs are terrifying... they're the making of a horror movie, except people don't want to know what to do with this situation.

I do think the likelihood to finding humanely-raised pork is smaller than that of chicken. But the likelihood of finding humanely-raised veal is only found at local farms, and it's top dollar for that.

I apologize for the thread hijacking, but I think this fits into the issue about how cheap food sometimes comes at a higher price from the moral problems inherent within the factory farming industry. Believe me, I'm no vegan, and I'm certainly no PETA advocate. But this is a personal conviction that I want to pass on to my children, that we are to raise animals with dignity and that exercising dominion over them is not an excuse for abusive and terrifying lifelong environments. Raise a dog the way a veal is raised will land one in jail, and rightly so.

Nick

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OK, and I respond hoping that this is not a hijacking, but tangential to the discussion at hand. You raise valid points (I did not know that one can "age" veal, so to speak). My concerns are with the fact that there is not much black and white here on either side of the issue. I would think that the logical end of the humane raising argument just might mean not raising animals for food at all. I don't think that one would cotton to raising Fido in order to harvest his meat at some point. I'm not prepared to grant that eating animals is immoral. The line between right and wrong raising of animals for harvesting iss not easy to draw with a firm hand to my mind. However, I am not prepared to reject out of hand the choices of others with respect to diet. Destruction of property in the name of standing against inumane treatment I will always oppose.

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OK, and I respond hoping that this is not a hijacking, but tangential to the discussion at hand. You raise valid points (I did not know that one can "age" veal, so to speak). My concerns are with the fact that there is not much black and white here on either side of the issue. I would think that the logical end of the humane raising argument just might mean not raising animals for food at all. I don't think that one would cotton to raising Fido in order to harvest his meat at some point. I'm not prepared to grant that eating animals is immoral. The line between right and wrong raising of animals for harvesting iss not easy to draw with a firm hand to my mind. However, I am not prepared to reject out of hand the choices of others with respect to diet. Destruction of property in the name of standing against inumane treatment I will always oppose.

How somebody responds to the factory farming industry is their own personal decision, so I wouldn't dare wish to interfere. But I do want to say that there is a middle ground that I'm comfortable with. The Bible does not forbid eating of meat, but I think we should eat less meat, but definitely on major celebrations of the slaughter-the-fatted-calf variety. But for the meat we do consume, we have a responsibility to treat all God's creation with dignity as long as they're alive.

Living this way means I eat meat only a couple days a week. Which, interestingly enough, is in line with the national food pyramid and the Mediterranean diet. Go figure.

Nick

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