Friday, October 4, 2013

How do we eat well on a food budget that is less than a dollar per person, per meal

One of the things I try to keep in mind when going grocery shopping is to try to keep the cost of the raw materials of food I purchase under $1 per pound.

Now, that's not what I pay for the meats we eat (unless I find a really, really good deal), so I have to make up for it with other items.

There are still some things I don't grow for a variety of reasons (the cole crops hate our garden, except for kohlrabi, no clue why), so I buy them in season and put them up or only eat them when they are in season and available fresh and locally sourced. Nothing wrong with that. It REALLY makes a difference in both price and quality, so it's the ever elusive win-win I look for in all things.

I also buy my staples in bulk, so flour, rice, beans, rolled oats and barley in 25lb or 50lb bags, straight from the grainmill in some instances. 50lbs of rolled oats for $18 really stretches the budget a whole lot, 'cause that's half a years worth of weekday breakfasts with only the addition of fruit or cinnamon and a little bit of sweetener (homemade maple syrup from our own tree, usually, and that is free, because I cook it down over a fire in the back yard while holding off the neighbours with a pitchfork) thrown in.

Quick bit of math: 2 people, 5 breakfasts each every week, that's 260 (3 oz, which is about a cup dry measure) portions that cost just under $0.08 each. Even if I used Evian (which I don't, spell it backwards, do!) and with purchased flavourings , I'd still have a breakfast that gets us going for under $0.30 each. Not a bad start to the frugal day.

Now this hypothetical (actually, more typical here at Pinch Manor than one might think) day goes on to include a sandwich for lunch, call that another $0.80, because I am feeling generous and we are left with a whopping $1.90 each or $3.80 for the two of us for dinner.

3.80 won't buy you a whole chicken for dinner, but it will buy you a dozen eggs, some potatoes and other veggies, for a filling, protein rich meal with leftovers for another two meals (check here for what I'm talking about) and money to put toward tomorrow so you can buy a whole chicken and make a few meals out of that (I'll do a full on post about how to stretch a chicken later, promise).

The Swiss Chard plant that has been keeping us in leaves and stalks since May

one of our five 12x4 raised beds, Tomatoes, peppers, nasturtiums, watermelon (already harvested and YUMMY) and bunching onions. 

And it didn't take me all day in the kitchen to do it, either.

Rolled oats take a bit longer and are slightly more chewy if made with the boiling water we already have heated up for our morning coffee (under $0.20 for the whole carafe), but we both like it that way, so that's a few seconds extra, the sandwich takes minimal time (you knew that) and dinner ($0.42 per serving) took about a half hour to prep, time in the oven another hour and a half and we ate by 7:30. for a grand total of...

wait for it...

$3.24 for the two of us, out of a budget of $6.00, which leaves us with $2.76 to carry over to tomorrow to give us $8.76 for the day. $0.60 for breakfast, $0.20 for the coffee, $0.84 for lunch, which will be leftover dinner from last night and we have $7.12 for dinner. Now THAT will buy a whole chicken.

It's doable. It's not lobster, caviar (yick) and champagne (why would you?) every night, but it's good, wholesome, hearty food that tastes as good as you make it and has exactly the ingredients I put in it.

One more thing: I don't talk about our beverages much. It's because we drink water or tea or lemonade, the occasional soda is a treat and we mostly brew our own alcohol and recently we started making our own sodas, as well, so it's pennies. Especially when we glean an entire tree worth of pears, juice them, then use the leftovers to make compote and vinegar.

That's all I got for now.
Happy Pinching

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