Where we try to eat on the cheap

On another website, someone recently wrote about a project their kid had from school; make dinner for a family of 4 for $4.

Could I do it?

Let’s see.

I need to bend the rules a bit here: I need a few days to average it out. Also, seasonings were not counted, so all my spices are considered free.

I haven’t done this math yet, so let’s see how this goes:

We were at the Farmer’s Market last weekend and something at the piggy store caught my eye. I spied some “meaty backbone chunks”…mmmmm….meaty chunks. It was only $1.19 per pound and looked rather meaty. Assessing porcine anatomy, I figured that these pieces were not going to be gristly or anything; in fact, they looked downright lovely. A low and slow approach would render them heavenly. I scored about 6 1/4 lbs of the good stuff.

Total spent: $7.42

I cooked the meat on Sunday. It got seasoned with salt and some of Ruth’s Savory Seasoning. Several hours later, I checked it and the meat was bubbling away in its own juices; practically begging me to shred it apart and allow it a longer simmer. I happily obliged.

What to serve with it???

I also had wanted to make sauce. 2 big cans of tomatoes, 1 can of tomato paste and half an onion came to probably about $4.50. Of course, I ended up freezing half the sauce, so, for this experiment; the expense was only $2.25.

We need pasta! $1.20 because in NC people don’t know how to properly discount pasta.

Throw in a head of lettuce for a salad: $1.49.

1/3 of a previously purchased and discounted loaf of garlic bread: $.33.

I ended up splitting the meat in half and packing away a large container of it. The other half got tossed into the sauce pot along with several ladles of the pork juice. The pasta was tossed in.

This fed the 3 of us on Sunday. Of course, we only ate half of the pasta, so we’d generated leftovers.

Monday: I dove into the remaining pork.
I split half of it out of the container (lovely now-gelatinized juices and all) and plopped it into a large pan. I set it on low and just let it melt.

The remaining half of the onion got cooked with 2 cups of rice. What’s that cost? About $1.00???

I thawed out a Mexican-type green sauce that I had made the week before. It had probably cost about $6.00 to make and I thawed half. So, the dinner-related expense was $3.00.

I simmered the pork until a lot of the juices reduced out. This left me with super-concentrated pork. I put the rice and onions on a plate, spooned on a helping of pork and put the sauce on top. Viola! Dinner. The rest of the salad was served on the side.

We managed to eat nearly all of it. We left a little rice behind.

We’d gone through the lettuce the night before, so we needed to buy more. $1.49 down the drain. Shmuppie ate some leftover ribs and the rice for dinner and JewelrySlut and I had the remaining pasta.

Mind you; at this point, we still have enough pork left for another dinner.

So, let’s run that math and see how I did:
Pork: $7.42
Sauce fixins: $2.25
Pasta, Lettuce, garlic bread: $3.02
Rice and onion: $1.00
Green Sauce: $3.00
More lettuce: $1.49

Total: $18.18. And…remember, we still have pork left over for tonight. I sense burritos or tacos in my future.

Math rules: Let’s count Shmuppie as half a person when it comes to food consumption. She makes up for it in her “Pain in the ass” factor so she comes out whole.

I got 7 1/2 adult servings for $18.18. And the math says: I didn’t make it. It came out to $6.06 per meal. However: I have another dinner tonight to make and am still using that 2nd head of lettuce and the remaining meat. I may not quite make it under budget, but will be damned close.

What’s my point? As usual, I don’t have one. But, when I saw the price of that pork, it got me thinking that I could probably produce food good enough to make you cry and do it very cheaply. This is a big help, especially when you consider the wine bill from this week. But, we’ve been economizing there too and the wine of choice for us is 3-buck Chuck.

The lesson learned: It doesn’t have to be expensive to be damned good.

That s all.

***Basement update on the left*** (or right)

One thought on “Where we try to eat on the cheap

  1. I get mad when people say it’s too expensive to eat good food. While a family meal for $4 might not work every time, there are ways to get pretty damn close. It just takes effort.

    (Look, I didn’t curse ONCE in this comment. I AM SO CIVILIZED.)

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