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Saturday, April 14, 2012

Good, Economical Eats

Today I'm making a long and involved split pea soup with the hambone leftover from last Sunday's roast. It's necessary to make every food dollar stretch these days so that you can afford little luxuries- like asparagus- for holidays. This will make roughly a gallon of soup. Along with boiling off the meat still on the bone, I've added carrots, celery and lots of onion, all still affordable, a couple bay leaves and some worcestershire. The split peas were on sale- 99 cents for the pound and a half. After it cools I'll freeze it in pint containers and have hearty soup that will still be good come the Fall. I'm an ant by nature. My freezer is my friend. One bit of meat may live in my freezer in 3 incarnations before it's gone.

First, I buy in "bulk" sizes. Chicken leg quarters go on sale for 99 cents a pound, in a 6 or 7 pound package. At home, they get wrapped individually and frozen. Two legs later are defrosted and baked. After that dinner, leftovers (bones and all) go into a pot with seasonings, bouillion cubes and vegetables that need using. Remove the bones, season the broth and voila! Dinner number two. The remaining soup will be divided, frozen and later defrosted and thickened into stew with the addition of potatoes, or rice, or topped with dumplings. Dinner number three. And so on with the rest of the legs, with them ending up at last in tomato sauces, burritos, a la King... always started as plain chicken, always ending in a combo dish. Getting 3 meals from a cut of meat is ecological as well as economical.

Living alone, I'm searching around for simpler things. Spring is here. I've been cooking for 45 years. I don't always have it in me to go through a big procedure. And so I'm happy to see ideas like these pop up-
Tuna has never been my favorite thing, and now that there's so much tsuris with the mercury and the practices and the shortages, I'm happy to go for mackerel and sardines. Usually cheaper anyway, they're small fish so no mercury issue, have those good fatty acids, and most are governed by fishery management agencies. However, some areas are being overfished
so there's always that problem. Honestly, if I could, I'd go back to being vegetarian. But this old body doesn't function well without meat, it's just the way it is. So I try to make the most of what I get.

If you can still afford beef and lamb, get creative and find ways to stretch your meat dollar. Meat will only get costlier and less eco-friendly. It behooves us to use every bit of it, to make the most of our food budget and to learn the ways to get the most value and nutrition we can from our purchases.


Anonymous said...

Yes, we have to stretch it where we can. I've been taking advantage of the chicken specials at Food Basics here...two chickens for ten dollars. Sometimes I cook them both at the same time and sometimes I quarter them and freeze really have to use your imagination these days.

klahanie said...

This all sounds rather appetising. I do my best to get my food budget to stretch. However, I will no longer risk my life at the reduced price section of my local supermarket. How dare I even try to grab something. Thus, I try to find the cheapest can of baked beans and buy something decent for my son :)
Take care and happy eating

Lisa said...

My taco soup recipe lasts several days. As does Derek's chili. Actually, that would be the old man's green chili :) My luxury meat product would be bison. However, at $9 a pound, it's not very economical... :(

The Elephant's Child said...

I am vegetarian. Himself is not. Just the same our dinners go through several incarnations and yes, the freezer is our friend.

Twisted Scottish Bastard said...

You sound like a very well organized and capable cook. I wonder what the younger generation will do when they have to "tighten their belts"?
Most of them have been raised on ready-made meals from the supermarket or fast foods over-the-counter.

Do you think mthey could even start to make pea soup?

Even blokes can cope.
See mince

Austan said...

Delores- Sometimes I cook off all the meat at once too, which saves on time later. The more creative you get, the better you can eat.

Austan said...

Gary- You have a "reduced price section"? Wow, I haven't seen one of those in years. We have scratch and dent stores, where you can get things at little cost because the packaging is damaged or it's gone past its code date. It's a caveat emptor kind of thing. Sometimes it's great, sometimes it's taste and toss. It's usually worth the trip.

Austan said...

Lisa- I never start out making soup anymore- that's the end result of everything from prior meals, lol! Even chili, made with leftovers and some beans and spice thrown in. It's good though, cuz I always have soup- or chili, or stew- in the freezer. My luxury this season was asparagus. Sauteed and sprinkled with a little salt, there were no leftovers. :)

Austan said...

EC- you know just what I'm talking about. I bet we could teach!

Austan said...

TSB- I'm showing my Gal Friday how I make things last and put things by. I think kids these days aren't taught basic self-sufficiency. I wonder how many could make pea soup from leftovers, or 3 entirely different dinners from one piece of meat, or sew their own clothing... I'm guessing not many. We were made capable by our parents. I made my own outfits in high school! All my brothers cooked. That was out of survival- my mother was a terrible cook. ;)