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2009: Eating Really Really Cheap


kutsu
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If ever there was a time to make your own Scotch Broth, it's now, lassie!

I made some last week, using one lamb shank (not exactly cheap, but worth it if you want a little tender meat in your soup) and some other cheaper lamb cut and made a stock. Then I used nothing but the basics: onion, celery, carrots, a little fresh thyme and barley . Salt, fresh ground pepper, and that's it. Yummy and nostalgic.

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Maggie hang in there!

Buy nothing prepared = just staples, make everything from scratch except maybe a $5 roast chicken (a wonderful thing). Several meals and then a soup from the carcass.

As others have noted - Ethnic markets can be great.

The marked down meats are a slam dunk. We rarely buy meat w/o the 50% off sticker.

Bake your own bread.

2 buck chuck is a passable table wine if you are near a TJ's.

Mae Ploy curry paste *rocks* - 1/4 lb protein, some veg, coconut milk , a tbs or two curry paste + steamed rice is a stupidly good meal for 2+.

Rice :biggrin:

BEANS! :raz: even Rancho Gordo is a bargain if you consider how many meals a pound of beans yields.

Walk into the market with what your food budget is in cash. Leave your credit/debit cards @ home. Amaze your friends with the so acquired mental arithmetic skills for years to come.

Here's a site that has a $45/week Menu/shopping plan. Just a starting point really but I like how she builds many meals out of just a few ingredients.

Edited by 6ppc (log)

Jon

--formerly known as 6ppc--

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Sales, sales, coupons, and sales. Especially when it comes to produce. I read those Wednesday flyers and plan my route. Yes, it uses a little more gas but even when gas was $4.00/gallon I figured that the amount I saved on cucumbers alone (3/$1.00 vs. $1.69 each) paid for the drive there. I rarely know what produce I'm going to buy until I see the flyers or the in store specials.

The coupons I clip pay for the newspaper and then some.

Know your prices. I know that Safeway charges twice what King Sooper does for some items.

I agree with the ethnic markets. It's a great way to get some variety in your diet when everywhere else has sales on the same things. But again, know your local prices. The meat at our local HMart is more expensive than the regular grocery stores.

Shop the "scratch and dent" section of the meat department. I've gotten some amazing bargains on meat that's about to "expire". And if it's just going in the freezer, who cares?

Keep a little set aside for buying in bulk when there is a special deal. I have a lot of $0.99/lb ground beef in the freezer, and some $0.79/lb sirloin pork cutlets.

Store brands can be a great money saver. I've found that most store brand canned tomatoes taste just as good as the name brands, and cost half as much.

I love my crockpot. Country style pork ribs or pork arm roasts come out so amazingly wonderful - and these cuts of meat are often on sale.

Don't forget what happened to the man who suddenly got everything he wanted...he lived happily ever after. -- Willy Wonka

eGullet foodblog

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You can learn some tricks with leftovers by tapping into the wisdom of the past, while simultaneously saving money on cookbooks, and having some fun with The family save-all, a system of secondary cookery (1861) – thanks to Google Books.

I love the attitude. Not cooking with leftovers, but “secondary cookery”.

I like the idea of Toad-in-the-Hole with leftover chunks of meat (and potatoes).

I draw the line at using fish skins to clarify coffee.

{edited to fix the link}

Edited by The Old Foodie (log)

Happy Feasting

Janet (a.k.a The Old Foodie)

My Blog "The Old Foodie" gives you a short food history story each weekday day, always with a historic recipe, and sometimes a historic menu.

My email address is: theoldfoodie@fastmail.fm

Anything is bearable if you can make a story out of it. N. Scott Momaday

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2 buck chuck is a passable table wine if you are near a TJ's.

I believe its only 2 bucks in Cali. Maybe other states too? I know in MI its $3.00. I use it for cooking. I wouldnt know the difference between that and a $10.00 or even $15.00 bottle.

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Just delurking and chiming in to say hang in there, Maggie! I know what scraping together is like. I've been that starving student who had to choose between buying things to go with rice, or buying gas for the car to get to classes.

I can suggest tentatively that oftimes forgoing meat can help with the food budget. Ethnic vegetarian dishes tend to cost less than ones with meat, and can help stretch the pennies further. Pulses, eggs, homemade yoghurt and cheese can be very effective at this, and result in some delicious meals.

My best wishes and good hopes go with you. :smile:

" ..Is simplicity the best

Or simply the easiest

The narrowest path

Is always the holiest.. "

--Depeche Mode - Judas

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Eggs. Don't underestimate the power of the egg. They are inexpensive and ultimately versatile. They can serve as the basis of a meal. They can add substance to another dish (mixed in with rice and beans, for instance). They can be an unusual accent (a poached egg on top of a pizza? maybe.).

I don't know where you get your eggs, but eggs have gone up like around 80% in the last 2 years. The egg industry has cut back on egg producing hens, thus increasing the price dramatically. Last I heard they are being investigated for this practice by the government.

They used to be a cheap meal and maybe will be again one day.

doc

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Eggs. Don't underestimate the power of the egg. They are inexpensive and ultimately versatile. They can serve as the basis of a meal. They can add substance to another dish (mixed in with rice and beans, for instance). They can be an unusual accent (a poached egg on top of a pizza? maybe.).

I don't know where you get your eggs, but eggs have gone up like around 80% in the last 2 years. The egg industry has cut back on egg producing hens, thus increasing the price dramatically. Last I heard they are being investigated for this practice by the government.

They used to be a cheap meal and maybe will be again one day.

doc

They are getting more expensive in the grocery store, especially if you want organic, free range or even pasturized, but they're still really cheap if you get them straight from local farms. We have a new farm store that gets eggs from lots of local farms, including Amish farms. I think more are showing up because people are looking for extra cash from "egg money" (which is what my grandma still called her extra cash).

"Life is a combination of magic and pasta." - Frederico Fellini

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I'm a purchaser of eggs, not a producer, but in defence of chicken farmers ... when the price of flour went up, that also meant the price of grains for chicken feed was going up. As well. when fuel prices blew sky-high, it cost more to heat chicken sheds and to deliver the eggs, along with the cost of delivering the chicken feed. Now that fuel prices have dropped, maybe we'll see an easing ... I notice that the fuel surcharge has disappeared from a couple of my suppliers' invoices.

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Hello Maggie!

Hang in there and good luck. One suggestion is that if you are buying meat, select types that pack a big punch of flavor for the lowest cost. You and I are lucky in Chicago to have access to really good Polish sausage-- a very small hunk of quality "Wedding Sausage" (Kielbasa Wedjnya, maybe misspelled) will provide a lot of flavor. My father-in-law told me to go into the sausage shop and just ask for the most smoky garlic-laden sausage they had-- that has worked well for me.

On other boards, I have seen some discussion of coupon-cutting, combined with in-store sales and double coupon promotions. However, I find that most coupons I see are for heavily processed junk-- rare are the coupons for actual food, so I prefer to do the Michael Pollan thing and buy ingredients.

Are you a writer? It seems you might be able to parlay this experience into something like a field guide to eating on the cheap in Chicago. Just a thought...

Best wishes and thanks for starting this topic-- it is quite useful!

Cheers, Jen

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I second the scotch broth suggestion - such a great winter meal, both flavourful and economical. Barley's a great meat extender and one I find much more satisfying than rice.

Growing your own sprouts (bean, radish, clover, etc) is very economical way to get a nutritious fresh ingredient. I grow my own for freshness (the sprouts in my local market never look fresh enough for my liking) and because it's so much cheaper.

Good luck and thanks for starting this useful topic.

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go to Sam's club or costco (if you don't belong, get a friend to take you, Sam's has free single day passes sometimes)

you can get a gigantic sack of rice (50 lbs) for $20.00, that's a lot of meals

you can buy 50 pounds of flour from your local miller (use google maps to find a miller near you) for about $15.00 (last time i checked)...that's a lot of bread.

some of the local grocery stores sell "scraps" of lamb and beef trimmings for less than a buck a pound..slow cooked, the meat is fabulous, and you can make stock from the bones.

similarly, large bags of pasta and beans can be had.

buy in bulk, then use seasonings, ingenuity to create diversity in your meals.

consider your local foodbank, church, and finally foodstamps.

lots of leftovers can be added to pasta or rice, to create a new hot dish or cold salad..you can toss anything on a pizza!!

finally, when weather permits, become a gardener...you can grow plenty of food with diligence, home made compost, and even seeds from the vegies, beans, fruits, and such that you already eat.

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An interesting sub-thread might be to consider making use of the bits that we often throw out, even when we know they could be used.

Like pumpkin seeds; roasted and slightly salted - great nibble.

Happy Feasting

Janet (a.k.a The Old Foodie)

My Blog "The Old Foodie" gives you a short food history story each weekday day, always with a historic recipe, and sometimes a historic menu.

My email address is: theoldfoodie@fastmail.fm

Anything is bearable if you can make a story out of it. N. Scott Momaday

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Two recent and popular threads here may fit into your plans well. One is stovetop popcorn -- cheap, healthy and keeps you busy. The other thread is the deer processing one; I don't know where you live, but where I do, some people will gladly give away whole deer.

Also, steel-cut oats can be bought in bulk at health-food stores and are a low-cost and very filling breakfast, especially when you add dried fruit.

From what I've read here so far, I think having these limitations will in the long run strengthen your cooking instincts.

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I too am always looking for ways to reduce food budget.

1. We don't eat a lot of meat

2. We eat a lot of legumes, beans and rice.

3. We eat a lot of pasta.

4. We bake some of our bread (easier stuff like foccacia, challa, pita/naan)

5. Buy in bulk and buy on sale (w/ liberal use of coupons)

6. Shop ethic groceries (I find fruits and veggies a lot cheaper)

7. We don't do this now with a family but when I was single, we'd do pot luck (substitute for going out)

8. I do "fridgerator" soup couple of times a month (doing cabbage sausage soup as I write) where I start a pot of soup/gumbo and go through the fridge and put in stuff that normally the wife would through out in the cleaning of the fridge. Have done some unsual combination but you'd be surprised at how forgiving soup is.

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I suggest people get to know their local farmers and start learning themselves how to grow their own food

In Chicago???

I came across this yesterday (looking for something else, as happens) -

Manas Journal of May 19, 1971

In an article on Food, Clothing, Shelter, in the right hand column on page 2, there is this interesting bit:

“ … It isn't that there is any deep lesson in any of this, but that, over all, the more people relate for themselves to the sources of their food, the more natural their lives become, and a change of taste is always at the beginning of any lasting change in life. What about people in the slums? There it is more difficult, but last year a young man from

East Harlem came to California to learn how to build what he called a "food cabinet" – an ingenious arrangement of redwood planks in V formation, one trough above another, five in all, about six feet long, closed in in greenhouse style, with a big metal reflector on one side to shine the sun's rays in at every level. The food cabinet, it was said by its inventor, a California orchardist, would feed a family the year round, if proper care was taken of the soil in the troughs. The man from East Harlem hoped to get people in the ghetto to build food cabinets for their roofs and fire-escapes, and start growing vegetables for themselves. Wild ideas like that can be the beginning of a cycle of progressive self-reliance, in some cases.

Sounds like an idea whose time has come. Anyone know anything about this invention and inventor?

Happy Feasting

Janet (a.k.a The Old Foodie)

My Blog "The Old Foodie" gives you a short food history story each weekday day, always with a historic recipe, and sometimes a historic menu.

My email address is: theoldfoodie@fastmail.fm

Anything is bearable if you can make a story out of it. N. Scott Momaday

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I'm sorry to hear of your situation -I've been there as well, and it's not fun!

Here are my tips:

Make from scratch whenever you can, since you now have time on your hands. For example, pre-shredded coleslaw costs $1.29 for a 12 oz bag, but whole cabbages are 39 cents per pound at that same market. Looks like you already do this, but maybe there are a few things you can look at, like crackers.

Start a garden, at least for herbs.

Freeze leftovers of all sorts. And freeze trimmings and such that cannot be used right now for soup later.

Carry a notepad and note prices on items so it's easy to compare and get real deals.

Grocery Outlet is your friend....Check their website to see if there's one near you. For me, they are an invaluable source for frozen peas and canned tomatoes. (and remarkably good wines)

Smart & Final has as much or more variety than Costco at about the same prices, no membership required. (although they do have a free frequent shoppers card) They are an excellent place to buy cheese (5lb mozzarella for $11.99), oil, rice, and pasta.

Some dollar stores have food. The chain called 99 Cents Only actually sells produce. I live in AZ, and most of the produce I have seen there comes from farms in AZ or CA. (I am avoiding Chinese produced foods.) I tend to buy onions, carrots and tomatoes there, but anything can show up -like artichokes and pomegranates!

The big Asian supermarket in Phoenix has bags of all sorts of rice at the best price in town. I'm lucky, they stock food for pretty much every Asian country plus the Caribbean, so they have 20+ types/brands of rice in big bags. Of course, they carry all the sauces and spices you'd expect, often in larger sizes than the supermarket, at a reasonable price. They also have cheap produce -for example, they sell fresh leeks for 59 cents a pound while my regular market has them at $3.

Beans/lentils/peas can be cooked into all sorts of dishes, falafel comes to mind as a good alternative to stews and soups. I roll mine into flour tortillas because they are cheaper to buy than pita bread, and, if you wish to make from scratch easier/faster to make.

Don't forget tofu as a protein source! It can substitute for paneer cheese in Indian foods, and some meats in other dishes. Once again, my Asian market has it cheapest.

The best grocery in AZ for produce is a co-op chain called Sprouts. I know they are only in a limited region, but if you have one check it out. Their produce varies wildly in availability and quality, but, they are a co-op of growers. One week, artichokes will be 6 for $1, next week, cucumbers will be a dime. Yes, it's winter and the variety isn't as good, but they are worth checking once a week for specials.

+++

My favorite cheap dinner is tomato soup and foccacia bread:

I get a big #10 can of whole tomatoes at Smart & Final for $2.49.

I use an onion, a little oil and some garden basil to make soup.

If, and only if, I have a little cream or a cheese rind, I add those, but they are optional.

I bake bread.

The leftover soup (and there's usually at least 3 pints) gets frozen into single serve portions.

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My sympathy, Maggie! Been there, done that, got the scars and the T-Shirt to show for it. :shock: First, go sign up with several Temp. agencies, Kelly Girl and the like. Second, get thee to the library and grab Lynn Rosetto Casper's How To Eat Supper. Great, cheap ideas and plenty of 'em. Some also not so cheap, for when you've gotta have a splurge. (Even a big, juicy hamburger can be a splurge some times. :rolleyes: )I have lived on frozen veggies cooked with a little bacon, potatoes ditto, cabbage same for a long time. Just vary the veggies... Are you totally without income, or do you have a partner who is getting paid? Go apply for your unemployment benefits, and let the good folks there know of your situation; they can be a help with benefits and assist in finding new employment, too! Best of luck and Bright Blessings!

"Commit random acts of senseless kindness"

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I know many people feel the need to rush out and plant a vegetable garden. When you loose a job it may not actually be the wisest investment if you have no gardening experience. We've been doing it for many years and just the start up costs can be tough to recover for a few years. If your inclined there are local cooperative extension Master Gardener courses offered most everywhere (in the US). Community gardens also can be a great place to hook up with people and learn.

We've been placing our 2009 seed orders the past couple of weeks and prices seem to have jumped quite a bit. We actually save a couple hundred variety of seeds but somehow we just managed to spend a few hundred more. We going to try a new idea and do a CSA in reverse. We are going to put boxes together for the food bank with recipes and give them away.

As a practical matter gardening is fun and can easily distract you from seeking out the job you need.

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Another quick suggestion. Make friends with home brewers. They are often quite happy to share their craft with you.

Dan

"Salt is born of the purest of parents: the sun and the sea." --Pythagoras.

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If you have time to spend in lieu of $$, I think foodie on a budget can definitely be achievable.

...

Comment of the thread.

There's a sad corollary to this - that those of us with more money than time wind up wasting much of our food budget.

I hate to think of the amount of food that goes to waste because I'm too lazy to really work out a food budget. I could probably slash my food budget in half if I just took the time to plan my meals and avoid waste...

And then there's my crazy work schedule. Sometimes I purchase food for the next few days, only to discover that I'll be out of town on business. So I scramble to find ways of preserving the food rather than wasting it.

So Maggie, take heart in the one luxury you have: You've got way more time than many of us (think we) have. You can eat as well on much less than half of what most of us spend on food. Shopping carefully, planning judiciously, and budgeting scrupulously, you can eat very well on a slim budget.

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I suggest people get to know their local farmers and start learning themselves how to grow their own food

In Chicago???

I live in downtown Vancouver, Canada. We grow herbs in pots; it saves a lot of $$; the grocery here sells sells herbs at $3 for a small bunch. The cost of seeds, pots, & soil can be daunting. I started with one pot of basil. :-)

As for buying at Costco or Sams Club, it helps if you can get together with a friend or neighbor to share a big package of "something". Our storage space is quite limited, and so we don't often buy in bulk unless sharing is an option.

Sometimes we invite friends over to cook together; each couple brings an ingredient, or we split the cost; everyone takes home some of the food. The host gets to keep leftover wine(s). And, if there was a Costco bargain, we divide it after supper. Someone "who has a car" usually brings the heavy/bulky ingredient :smile:

Oh, and we make wine @ a u-vin outlet; if you can find a couple friends to do likewise, then you can even have variety.

Karen Dar Woon

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