Simple Pleasures - Figs St. Antoine
Coriander and Cilantro

Saving Money on Groceries

Recently I saw on TV a news feature saying that families are eating less healthy foods because they are trying to save money during the current economic crisis.  The the Washington Post ran the this article talking about changing consumer habits at the grocery store.

I seem to recall Irma S. Rombauer, matriarch of the Joy of Cooking dynasty, or maybe it was Julia Child , saying that when she was asked how one could save money on food, she would tell the questioner to learn how to cook.  That is certainly still the case.

Suppose you are planning to entertain and need four chicken breasts.

On a recent trip to the store, I noted that skinless, boneless chicken breasts cost $18.72 per kilogram, about $8.36 per pound.   I could find packages of three chicken breasts each, at an average cost around $11.25 a package or $3.75 per chicken breast.  In the same store, on the same day I could find whole chickens at $7.47 per kilo, or $3.33 per pound.  A single whole chicken cost about $10.60.

If you know how to break down a chicken, you can get two chicken breasts, two drumsticks, two thighs, and two wings, as well as the leftover carcass from each whole chicken.  Two chickens provide the four chicken breasts you need, plus enough for several other meals:

  • the thighs can be used to make stew, or they can be deboned, stuffed and rolled. 
  • the drumsticks are great on the barbecue, one or two per person, and
  • the wings can be broken down further to make Buffalo or Asian wings.  The wings from two chickens are about enough for a single serving.

Wrap and freeze the thighs and drumsticks in family sized portions.  Save the wing portions, frozen, until you have enough for a meal, and save the wing tips with the carcass to make stock or soup.  Pick the bits of meat from the carcass, and you have the makings for chicken salad for sandwiches. 

Now the math -- two chickens cost $21.20, roughly.  Four skinless, boneless chicken breasts cost $15.00.  For a difference of $6.20, you get maybe seven or eight more servings of chicken for less than $0.90 per serving, plus you save another three or four dollars on soup or stock, bringing your costs down even further.  Looked at another way, you get 3 meals for a family of four, plus some extras, for $21 versus just one meal for $15.

With a sharp knife and a little extra work in the kitchen, it is easy to find ways to save on groceries, and still maybe to afford a few luxuries, without resorting to less healthy junk foods to stretch your budget.


Thank you so much for pointing out that eating healthily does not have to cost more! I'm a fan of Michael Pollan's In Defense of Food, and knowing that processed food is often cheaper than whole foods, I realize that many people will turn to the less-healthy in order to "save money." Your breakdown of the actual cost of healthy, whole foods, with advice on how to make it stretch, is very much needed. You can be sure the processed food industry is going to be trying to keep consumers' hard-earned dollars for themselves. If we are willing to invest a little time into our health, it can have big dividends.I would also venture to add that most people do not actually need an entire chicken breast in a meal. I would suggest that 4 chicken breasts could actually be 4 to 8 servings depending on their size (keeping in mind the idea of a 4-ounce, deck-of-cards serving size). Chopping meat up to make stir fry, stew, etc. makes it go even further. Those concerned about having enough protein (only the most active/athletic among us--protein is one thing most North Americans get more than enough of) can do well with the addition of lentils and other less-expensive sources (and I'm a meat-lover).Thanks again for a timely and relevant post!


I absolutely agree with your comments about the serving sizes for protein. At home, I aim for 3 to 4 ounces of meat per serving. As you suggest, that is about the size of a deck of cards, or the palm of your hand.


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