Thursday, February 10, 2011

Cooking on the Cheap

Last week I made jambalaya and I took the time to estimate how much that one dinner cost me (in fact, I've been trying to estimate my daily food expenses for almost 2 weeks). I tried to overestimate on stuff I didn't know, and I saved some because I had the sausage from my Dad's smoker, but this is definitely ~$1 per serving. Here's what I put in the jambalaya and how much it cost, or my best guess if it was something I didn't still have the receipt for:

- frozen chicken (5 pieces) ~ $1.50
- smoked sausage, from Dad
- 3 bell peppers, $1.92
- 1 onion, $0.88
- 5 cloves garlic, $0.25???
- 1 can stewed tomatoes, $0.69
- chili powder + cayenne pepper, ~$0
- 1 tsp worchestershire, $0.25???
- 5 bay leaves, $0.50???
- tomato paste, $0.70???
- white rice, $0.50
total: $7.19, ($0.89 per serving)

Over the course of the last couple of weeks, I've found that my average is $1 or less per meal, which makes it sound like I live entirely off of mac 'n cheese, but I actually think I eat quite well. For the most part, my groceries are all ingredients. I buy very little prepackaged food, so what I make is more healthy than most alternatives (even when occasionally it is fried chicken...mmmm).

Now, I'm a huge believer in wasting as little food as possible. The jambalaya recipe called for me to boil the chicken and sausage together and use the broth to cook the rice. When I was done with the recipe, I still had a gallon of broth that didn't end up in the final jambalaya. Why throw out that yummy, smoky chicken broth when I could use it as a base for chicken soup? So earlier this week, I busted out the broth and made some chicken soup, which went great with my crackling fire for the cold weather. Here's another example of a tasty, cheap meal.
Smokey chicken broth = money in the bank!
Chicken Noodle Soup
- free broth from jambalaya
- 1/2 onion ($0.43)
- 3 stalks celery ($0.25?)
- 3 carrots ($0.44)
- 2 chicken thighs ($1.33)
- 3 boullion cubes ($0.36)
- 1/3 bag macaroni ($0.30)
- spices (salt, pepper, sage), ~$0.10
Total = $3.21, or $0.40 per serving

This experiment of keeping track of my eating expenses has really reinforced my reluctance to eat out. How can I really justify spending $10+ on a single meal, when that could feed me for 3.3 days? Not to mention that I definitely eat more healthy food when I eat at home. Moral of the story? Cook more, from raw ingredients = healthier, happier, thriftier!

1 comment:

  1. That sounds super yummy! I think one of the best aspects of community supported home cooking is that we each get to learn from one another.