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.