Saturday, February 28, 2009

It's the economy, stupid

I have to admit that all this bad economic news is getting to me. Ricardo & I had our own "economic summit" a few weekends ago to go over our finances, and surprise-surprise, the conclusion was that we need to cut costs where we can.

I do most of the grocery shopping, and I think I'm a pretty good home economist, but I wanted to see for myself how much I spend per meal on a critical ingredient: meat.

Another thing I have to admit, is that I'm really choosy about my meat. Basically at this point I buy almost all of it at Whole Foods or at an occasional shopping spree at the local farmers market. Not to get all lecture-y or preach-y, but gone are the days when I can buy Purdue chicken or random ground beef from Safeway. Anyway, here's my recent bulk haul from Whole Foods: boneless chicken breasts, spicy pork Italian sausage, ground beef, and some pork.

How much does all of this cost per meal? Is one cheaper than the other? I have no idea, so let's find out. Follow me as I prepare the food for the freezer...

First, I started with the ground beef. I put aside some for tonight's taco dinner (avocados are in season and only cost a buck a piece), and I decide to make the rest into hamburgers. I pulled out one of my Weber cookbooks, and found a simple recipe for hamburgers (thanks to my dried herbs from my garden).

Okay, in a few minutes I have 6 hamburgers (3 meals) ready.

Here they are, packaged for the freezer. It may not be grilling weather just yet, but I want to be ready on the first warm day.

Next up, boneless chicken breasts. Ricardo used to give me a hard time about buying chicken from Whole Foods, but compared to Safeway's organic brand, it's much cheaper and way better tasting. Ricardo and I can only eat a half breast between the two of us, so I cut them up and trim off the yucky parts.

Then, the trouble starts. Samantha smells chicken.

Samantha loves any kind of bird. But raw chicken is her favorite.

When I take too long to fill up her treat bowl with the scraps, she climbs up as high as she can, giving out a loud, demanding meow.

Okay, Samantha's head is now deep in her bowl, allowing me to finish cutting up the chicken, and sealing them up in individual bags, and then packing four servings together in another bag, for an added layer of protection.

And here's the spicy Italian pork sausage, each one wrapped in parchment so they won't stick together, then put in a big zip lock. I don't usually buy 8 at a time, but they were on sale, and Ricardo loves sausage on his pizza. (I like to peel the label off the package and stick it in the bag.)

Here's everything, ready for the freezer. If you decide to do this, make sure you label the packages with the date. I used to think I'd remember what's what, but it's all too easy to get confused. (I use freezer tape, and I love it -- it stays on but is also easy to peel off with no residue.) Also, I've been re-using my ziplock bags in another attempt to save money -- it's kinda a pain in the neck to wash them, but I figure it's worth the extra effort.

And here's everything put away in my giant freezer (along with a lot of other stuff like my homemade raviolis, chicken broth, tomato sauce and pesto).

I broke out the calculator, and was pretty pleased with the results.

Cost for a dinner for two:
boneless chicken breasts: $2.75
ground beef: $2.85
sausage: $1.08 (but there's also the cost of cheese to consider)
pork cutlets: $2.71

Not bad!

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