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2009: Eating Really Really Cheap


kutsu
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MtC, so sorry for your predicament.

Saw the savory bread pudding idea on the Recipes 2009 discussion, after it was already what I was going to contribute to this one.

Am not familiar with the recipe referenced there, but the concept is easy enough to suss out and endlessly adapatable, to, as you say, fridge contents, or, personal whim.

One time recently my fridge yielded a few banh mis leftover from a gathering and I made a really really good one with them... sliced, into baking dish, eggs/milk poured over, soak in fridge overnight, bake. Sort of delicious, if you can imagine.

Priscilla

Writer, cook, & c. ● #TacoFriday observant ●  Twitter    Instagram

 

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I was thinking some more about this...here in Japan, household budgets are still common. I often write down what we ate and rough costs on a big calendar in the kitchen.

Does tracking or budgeting your food spending actually help to reduce expenses - or free up money for those soul-saving luxuries? Or is it just a PITA?

The other thing with clamping down on food expenditure is BOREDOM - nobody likes to feel forced to restrict their choices.

Does it help to cook a large amount of something, and then swap a portion with a friend who also cooks?

Gardening...for me this is as much about boredom as budgeting. With limited ground and sunshine, I want maximum bang for my bucket, and so I like things like snowpeas and herbs, which only need a small amount to lift a dish out of the ordinary, and young greens, which are ready to harvest and re-plant so quickly.

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I definitely agree, if you don't have much money, but have a lot of time on your hands, you can eat well - as long as you're willing to sacrifice daytime TV for cooking. Or if you can set your TV up in the kitchen, you can have both.

Just this evening I was remarking to myself about the versatility of daikon. I bought a huge one - maybe more than a kilo in weight? - for 70 yen at my nearest discount supermarket. I soaked the tops, then blanched them and dressed them for a side dish for dinner. I peeled the rest of it, and sliced the peels thinly for a kinpira, along with some chopped peels and stalks of some broccoli I found in the discount bin. (The broccoli tops went chopped into the freezer to be pulled out later this week and micro-steamed to round out bento.)

Then, I divided it in three - one part cut in thick hunks for nabe for dinner. (Pork, mushrooms, negi, yuzu, noodles, and daikon hunks, simmered in dashi and soy, and rounded out with some noodles.) I've also just simmered it with a bit of stock and soy to go with rice and some pan fried tofu - yowza! Good, cheap, and you get that little thrill that comes from making something from nothing. I can feel my Scottish granny doing whatever is the opposite of rolling in the grave.

Two more parts for quick pickles for dinner- one part cut into triangles, salted and pressed for ten minutes, squeezed, then tossed with sugar, vinegar, and fresh grated ginger.

The other part sliced into thin rounds for a two-day pickle project that will involve the slices first being dried, then rolled around yuzu peel, then dusted with sugar and vinegar to make a crazy-unbelievably-good pickle that one of my students taught me to make. One vegetable, one dollar, five tastes, four meals.

As a bonus, not all of the daikon hunks were eaten out of the nabe, so I fished them out and popped them in the fridge to go into bento - which are the ultimate user-up of tiny bits of things that normally get thrown out, but instead magically become lunch. Last fall when I had to live in Tokyo, but had a very small food budget, learning to make bento and incorporate bits and pieces of vegetables, rice and proteins from the night before saved me hundreds of dollars. When I abandoned the idea of having to make sandwiches and have a whole separate category of foods on hand for lunches, lunch became a heckuva lot cheaper. Maki at Just Bento! makes some good arguments for making bento even if you're at home all day.

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Same boat here. I lost my job last week and now have to figure out how to feed four people, three meals a day... which I've never had to do before. That seems odd to say. My two-year-old and five-year-old ate breakfast and lunch at grandma's house, I ate frozen lunches or leftovers, and my husband usually picked up something for lunch. So, now I'm down an income and up two meals a day. Yeeeesh. It's probably going to me a few weeks to get into the swing and see how everything flows but I think we can do it. Husband and I made a pot of chili last night so whatever we don't eat tonight will be frozen and tomorrow I'll be making a big batch of pancakes to freeze. Actually, the hardest part of this whole ordeal so far has been convincing the kids that not all food comes in nugget form. :raz:

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A few years back my little sister found herself in the midst of a divorce, going to school and raising 3 kids.

She helped organize a group of people in the same predicament to get together and cook in a community centre kitchen.

The cost was $5 - $10 per person and a vegetable or cheese item. The menu was pre-planned and the $ went towards the meat purchase while each person was given a list of something to bring. Like 10 lbs of potatoes or 5 lbs of carrots. Oh, and you had to bring empty casserole dishes to take home what you made.

One of the ladies took turns looking after any of the children brought along, and the rest of the group got a cooking lesson. They all contributed to making a large meal or two. Apparently it was done twice a month with everyone leaving with 2 meals for the family and sometimes a lunch too!

She seemed to like the day out with friends while her family got to reap the rewards of a day of cooking. I think community cooking would be a great way to spend the day with friends, just like community gardening has become so popular.

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Just this evening I was remarking to myself about the versatility of daikon. I bought a huge one - maybe more than a kilo in weight? - for 70 yen at my nearest discount supermarket. I soaked the tops, then blanched them and dressed them for a side dish for dinner. I peeled the rest of it, and sliced the peels thinly for a kinpira, along with some chopped peels and stalks of some broccoli I found in the discount bin. (The broccoli tops went chopped into the freezer to be pulled out later this week and micro-steamed to round out bento.)

Then, I divided it in three - one part cut in thick hunks for nabe for dinner. (Pork, mushrooms, negi, yuzu, noodles, and daikon hunks, simmered in dashi and soy, and rounded out with some noodles.) I've also just simmered it with a bit of stock and soy to go with rice and some pan fried tofu - yowza! Good, cheap, and you get that little thrill that comes from making something from nothing. I can feel my Scottish granny doing whatever is the opposite of rolling in the grave.

Two more parts for quick pickles for dinner- one part cut into triangles, salted and pressed for ten minutes, squeezed, then tossed with sugar, vinegar, and fresh grated ginger.

The other part sliced into thin rounds for a two-day pickle project that will involve the slices first being dried, then rolled around yuzu peel, then dusted with sugar and vinegar to make a crazy-unbelievably-good pickle that one of my students taught me to make. One vegetable, one dollar, five tastes, four meals.

As a bonus, not all of the daikon hunks were eaten out of the nabe, so I fished them out and popped them in the fridge to go into bento - which are the ultimate user-up of tiny bits of things that normally get thrown out, but instead magically become lunch. Last fall when I had to live in Tokyo, but had a very small food budget, learning to make bento and incorporate bits and pieces of vegetables, rice and proteins from the night before saved me hundreds of dollars. When I abandoned the idea of having to make sandwiches and have a whole separate category of foods on hand for lunches, lunch became a heckuva lot cheaper. Maki at Just Bento! makes some good arguments for making bento even if you're at home all day.

This is fascinating and humbling. I've been trying to think of an equivalent example in my own culinary repetoire and can't come up with one. I'm happy to freeze leftovers, which is a good thing, but nowhere near as resourceful as this. Can anyone else add to the throw-down of "one vegetable, one dollar, five tastes, four meals" ??


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Maggie, and all the others who have lost your jobs; I'm so sorry. I've been in that boat for a while now.

I have two words, which no one has mentioned: Food Stamps.

Yes, I know, they're for "other" people - those poor ones who are always destitute - NOT!

Did you know that Food Stamps are a Federal Program, and you've been paying into it your whole working life? Just like Unemployment, you are entitled to this help. And I Never use the word "entitled".

Really, check it out. Each state has different requirements, but you may be able to do a quick check online to see if you qualify. Just Google Food Stamps and your state.

If you do, it's totally worth it to apply. Here in WA state, as a single person, I get $176 per month. It goes up to a max of around $500 for a family, depending on your qualifying factors. Once I qualified, I smacked myself for not doing it sooner. It's not overly generous, but it keeps food on the table.

WA has a "pay back" deal where you have to either work at a job for 20 hours a week, or volunteer 16 hours a month. I found this annoying, and of course said to the woman "If I could get a job, I wouldn't need the help!". So I'm volunteering at the Leukemia Association - doing mailings, computer work, etc. a few days a month. They're very nice people, and it's good to keep my computer skills at a workable level.

And it's not literally stamps any more - it's a debit card that works just like a credit card. All major stores take it. They have different ways of ringing up your purchase (some need to know that you're using the card before you swipe it). I've never been treated badly or been embarrassed because of it.

Check it out, it's well worth it.

Edited by lala (log)

“"When you wake up in the morning, Pooh," said Piglet at last, "what's the first thing you say to yourself?"

"What's for breakfast?" said Pooh. "What do you say, Piglet?"

"I say, I wonder what's going to happen exciting today?" said Piglet.

Pooh nodded thoughtfully.

"It's the same thing," he said.”

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Let me also mention:

In my experience, Trader Joe's has pretty much the same prices as Costco, but in smaller packages. Sometimes I buy the aged gruyere, sometimes the less expensive emmenthaler...

Drug stores can offer some great deals on food - I've bought walnuts at $6.00/lb, Bob's Red Mill products for $2.00/pkg, raisins, pasta, organic canned tomatoes ... so check out the food aisles at your drug store when you pick up your toothpaste!

A Safeway card gets you 3 cents off per gallon of gas. If you accumulate $100 in purchases, you get 10 cents off per gallon.

As well, for unemployed folks, there's local help - with phone bills, utilities, insurance, etc. Look for local help and take it if you need it. It's all karma, pay it back when you're flush again.

It's also fun to call your friends and pantry shop to put together a potluck. We've done quesadillas, pasta and stews, while watching videos from the library. As much fun as going out, and you don't need to dress up!

Stick together, we'll all get through this. :wink:

“"When you wake up in the morning, Pooh," said Piglet at last, "what's the first thing you say to yourself?"

"What's for breakfast?" said Pooh. "What do you say, Piglet?"

"I say, I wonder what's going to happen exciting today?" said Piglet.

Pooh nodded thoughtfully.

"It's the same thing," he said.”

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Another thing I don't recall seeing mentioned before is coupons. There are coupon sites that allow you to print your coupons on your personal printer -- and the variety is great. There are sites that help you "match" the current coupons to the sales in the grocery stores located within your area.

It can definitely be worthwhile to look into this. I was watching a news show and they interviewed a lady who took advantage of the coupon deals in her area. Her $300 purchase went down to $77.

And good luck to everyone in trying times. Hope things turn around real soon. Meanwhile, it's always a good time to save money. Using coupons are one of my 2009 resolutions. It's almost like free food -- and that helps any budget.

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Another thing I don't recall seeing mentioned before is coupons.  There are coupon sites that allow you to print your coupons on your personal printer -- and the variety is great.  There are sites that help you "match" the current coupons to the sales in the grocery stores located within your area. 

It can definitely be worthwhile to look into this.  I was watching a news show and they interviewed a lady who took advantage of the coupon deals in her area.  Her $300 purchase went down to $77.

And good luck to everyone in trying times.  Hope things turn around real soon.  Meanwhile, it's always a good time to save money.  Using coupons are one of my 2009 resolutions.  It's almost like free food -- and that helps any budget.

Can you tell us where to find such a coupon site?

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Lots of great tips on this thread....efficiency in the kitchen is one of the best ways to trim your food budget. Make sure you've used all parts of everything you buy. Waste nothing, just as our forefathers & mothers did. Buy whole things, not already cut apart things; hit your farmer's market or farm stands for good deals on whatever's in season. Find out which local grocery store has the best price on eggs: an affordable source of high-quality protein (typically protein is the most expensive dietary need).

Make a weekly food budget and stick to it. See it as a challenge to your creativity!

Salvage grocery stores are great, too. If you don't mind the whole down-at-the-heels aesthetic offered by some salvage stores, you can find incredible bargains, and not just on packaged/processed foods. I got a gallon of olive oil for a fraction of the price of a mere quart recently....and some salvage stores honor coupons, too.

Edited by HungryC (log)
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Another thing I don't recall seeing mentioned before is coupons.  There are coupon sites that allow you to print your coupons on your personal printer -- and the variety is great.  There are sites that help you "match" the current coupons to the sales in the grocery stores located within your area. 

It can definitely be worthwhile to look into this.  I was watching a news show and they interviewed a lady who took advantage of the coupon deals in her area.  Her $300 purchase went down to $77.

And good luck to everyone in trying times.   Hope things turn around real soon.  Meanwhile, it's always a good time to save money.  Using coupons are one of my 2009 resolutions.  It's almost like free food -- and that helps any budget.

Can you tell us where to find such a coupon site?

I wish I could remember the one where the lady received $300 of groceries for $77. It had her name in it, so it's not easy for me to Google and find. I'm just now starting to look for coupons, but check out this article with sites. It seems like a nice place to start and the comments include readers suggestions for other sites:

Click Here for Smart Money Article

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The Frugal Girl has some great tips, and she is on a campaign to waste no food at all.

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 also remember watching a news clip of a woman who went all the way with bulk shopping, coupons, sales, deals, haggling etc, and ended up paying a total of 10-20 dollars for her groceries. Now that's a true skill. Not sure if she's the same lady

Edited by takadi (log)
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I think I found the news article for the coupon lady:

Queen of Cheap Shares Grocery Game Secrets

ABC News - Jan 5, 2009

Teri Gault has been called both the "Queen of Cheap" and the "Coupon Queen," but the penny-pinching advice on her Web site, www.thegrocerygame.com, ...

However, ABC's site says it can't find it. :wacko: Anyway, the picture on her site looks like the woman I remember (blonde and pretty)

Click for The Grocery Game Site

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Cabbage. I mean you can do a multitude of things with cabbage. But this is what I'm doing right now.

I took off outer icky leaves, washed it, sliced off a section to expose the core, cut it in half from the core down. Then with one half, remove core, cut thin.

So I've got half a head of cabbage sliced thin so they look like curly noodles.

Got the iron skillet hot,

turn the flame down,

put in two tablespoons of oil, the cabbage & some salt.

Mix it up a bit,

let it sit for about 7 minutes so it starts to carmelize and look burned.

Give it a stir and another 7 minute sit then stir and as many times as you want

until it gets as carmelizely as you like. (Probably 3-4 more times.)

Slap on the lid, turn off the fire wait 10 minutes.

Killer! Freakin' awesome.

Edited by K8memphis (log)
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Cabbage. I mean you can do a multitude of things with cabbage. But this is what I'm doing right now.

I took off outer icky leaves, washed it, sliced off a section to expose the core, cut it in half from the core down. Remove core and cut thin.

I've got half a head of cabbage sliced thin so they look like curly noodles.

Got the iron skillet hot,

turn the fame down,

put in two tablespoons of oil, the cabbage & some salt.

Mix it up a bit,

let it sit for about 7 minutes so it starts to carmelize and look burned.

Give it a stir and another 7 minute sit then stir and as many as you want

until it gets as carmelizely as you like.

Slap on the lid for 10 minutes.

Killer! Freakin' awesome.

I wonder how cabbage would work out cooked like the roasted cauliflower?

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Leftover omelet or pie. The concept is simple: you use your collection of leftovers to make a pie or omelet. Spaghetti omelet is quite good and so is shepherd's pie. With a bit of imagination and experimentation, it is surprising what one can make.

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I think I found the news article for the coupon lady:

Queen of Cheap Shares Grocery Game Secrets

ABC News - Jan 5, 2009

Teri Gault has been called both the "Queen of Cheap" and the "Coupon Queen," but the penny-pinching advice on her Web site, www.thegrocerygame.com, ...

However, ABC's site says it can't find it.  :wacko:  Anyway, the picture on her site looks like the woman I remember (blonde and pretty)

Click for The Grocery Game Site

What's interesting about her site is that she charges you to use it. $1 for the first month, and then $10 for the first store on your list for 8 weeks.

I'm not all that fond of manufacturers' coupons, They tend be for prepared items, or mixes (cake mixes, hamburger helper).

We're feeding five on one income, and "looking forward" to a college tuition next year (gasp/choke).

I'm better off using my in-store coupons. At this time of year, canned tomatoes and frozen vegetables (at least here in MN) are often far fresher than the "fresh" stuff.

Another trick I've learned is the cycle of the supermarket flyer. Ours comes out on Sunday morning, so late Saturday night (think 10:00 pm; if you're a regular at the market ask when), they start marking down -- heavily -- the stuff that was on that week's flyer. Two weeks ago the overflow of chicken leg/thigh quarters were marked down from $.79/lb to $.49/lb. Find out when they clean out the produce bins and strike a deal.

And, I do have a Costco membership, which has benefited me for eye care, milk, eggs, and some staples. A friend has gone on with me on the membership, and it means that we can split those mongo hunks of cheese.

And, never forget the power of bacon ends to enhance soups, roasted vegetables, etc. A few crispy lardons on a bowl of potato leek soup taste and look artful. A little goes a long way to make some dishes seem luxurious. (oh, and save the grease for sauteeing!)

Susan Fahning aka "snowangel"
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Cabbage. I mean you can do a multitude of things with cabbage. But this is what I'm doing right now.

I took off outer icky leaves, washed it, sliced off a section to expose the core, cut it in half from the core down. Remove core and cut thin.

I've got half a head of cabbage sliced thin so they look like curly noodles.

Got the iron skillet hot,

turn the fame down,

put in two tablespoons of oil, the cabbage & some salt.

Mix it up a bit,

let it sit for about 7 minutes so it starts to carmelize and look burned.

Give it a stir and another 7 minute sit then stir and as many as you want

until it gets as carmelizely as you like.

Slap on the lid for 10 minutes.

Killer! Freakin' awesome.

I wonder how cabbage would work out cooked like the roasted cauliflower?

I don't know but I ate the whole thing. <burp>

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I wonder how cabbage would work out cooked like the roasted cauliflower?

I would guess pretty well, if you cut it right. I do Brussels' sprouts roasted all the time, and LOVE them. You'd want the cabbage shredded pretty thickly, I'd think.....

--Roberta--

"Let's slip out of these wet clothes, and into a dry Martini" - Robert Benchley

Pierogi's eG Foodblog

My *outside* blog, "A Pound Of Yeast"

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I've been looking more at the dried beans available at my grocery store since pasta is getting more expensive (the cheapest was $1.55 for a bag of macaroni [i don't know why the same weight of pastas cost so much more - 12 oz bags go for anywhere between $1.55 to 2.69 depending on the shape, but that's another story]). I noticed they started carrying dried chickpeas. I've never cooked them before; what would be the best way to do them? I'm looking for a good side dish or base for braise-y meat dishes we seem to cook most in the winter.

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

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I've been looking more at the dried beans available at my grocery store since pasta is getting more expensive (the cheapest was $1.55 for a bag of macaroni [i don't know why the same weight of pastas cost so much more - 12 oz bags go for anywhere between $1.55 to 2.69 depending on the shape, but that's another story]). I noticed they started carrying dried chickpeas. I've never cooked them before; what would be the best way to do them? I'm looking for a good side dish or base for braise-y meat dishes we seem to cook most in the winter.

Soft polenta works really well in those applications.

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tips are great here!

one more thing I have to add is that we need a social life when poverty strikes

my friends and I have a poverty pot lucks... Right now everyone is struggling ... most of us work per diem and have lost a lot of work this year for various reasons (not just the economy but illness and grief, personal issues) we are all struggling right now so empathy abounds out there for you and everyone!

what we do is just say lets gather this weekend and have a pot luck ..declare a theme and then whomever hosts it gets to keep the leftovers that we all help wrap up and freeze ..it is really nice ..kind of like a big stone soup :)

I take poverty on as a challenge having had to deal with it on and off for the past 30 years when my husband was struggling to find his muse ...

My tip besides having gatherings with friends and sharing food ..

yes you can eat beans and rice but that carby stuff makes me hungry!!! base your meals around healthy fats! they stick with you a lot longer you buy and eat less of them! calorie for caloire my money goes on the fats to make food stretch rather than the carbs :)

good luck and I imagine you now know from this great thread you started that you have tons of support and best wishes during these hard times

Edited by hummingbirdkiss (log)
why am I always at the bottom and why is everything so high? 

why must there be so little me and so much sky?

Piglet 

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