Sunday, June 22, 2008

Cheap is as cheap does

How to maintain your budget with current food price inflation is not so bad…if you can work cheap. I grew up with this cost-per-meal strategy, and the logic behind inflation fighting cooking. We were solidly middle-class, but food for nine meant you had to plan. My parents did…and some of that remains in my memory.
Shopping Saturday meant my parents had checked out every newspaper ad and choose the most cost effective meals, stopping at lots of supermarkets on any given Saturday in East Hartford, most defunct and unknown to youngsters in 2008: First National, Stop&Shop, Top Notch, Popular and Meatown. Luckily, the family vehicle was a VW Microbus with room for nine and many groceries.
Their strategy might include an Easter ham. An expensive bone-in ham was a value (irregardless of the price of that ham) because you got over the course of a week: a nice dinner, 6-8 sandwiches, ham and potato ccasserole (two days) and ham and navy bean soup (two days). So the cost per meal when calculated was modest. And the soup was the payoff for me. Value v. Price allowed for that ham (figuring in today’s pricing of maybe $50-$60 for such a ham).
Forward to 2008. The current income and oil and food inflation says one has to be creative about food. Today it’s chicken and pasta. The chicken was boneless chicken breasts, purchased BOGO (no, the second one costs less per unit…it is Not Free!). So two packages at $9.65 make at least four meals for this price. The meat for four meals is $2.65 per meal. Not too bad.
The pasta and tomatoes were sale priced at $1.00 each, the bell pepper was $.050 and we had chicken broth, onion and garlic on hand. The whole pot cost about $5.50, and there should be a main meal for four and at least two lunches. Excellent food although not haute cuisine. So each portion’s food costs are around $1. Okay in 2008. Of course, there are only four of us, so larger families may have a tougher go of it.I’m not really anal about these things, just with food prices and regular gasoline at $4.39 around here; it becomes more of a challenge to keep overall costs in line. Ralph and Eileen would have approved.


Odat said...

I know the feeling. Every time I go food shopping I think about big families who don't make much money and how they survive! It's getting a little out of hand with these prices. I try too to make something good go a long way. Altho I haven't been cooking up my normal meals lately. I just nibble my way thru the day.

Looks like you've done good!


Linda said...

Sounds to me like your parents would be quite proud of your inherited meal planning skills!

Not to mention that looks pretty darned tasty, too!

sari said...

We're looking at value here as well, you're not alone.

Lynn said...

With two foreign exchange student turning our family of 5 to a family of 7, (at least for the next few weeks) I think that I better take some lessons from you on thinking about costs per meal and value. When will you be holding classes?