Skip to comments.Time in the Kitchen Can Cook Up Some Savings
Posted on 06/12/2007 4:07:45 AM PDT by Kaslin
Growing up in a family of seven posed all sorts of culinary challenges. It was impossible, for instance, to divide a 12-pack of Popsicles evenly, or a cherry pie, without angering somebody. Bruised feelings were also inevitable whenever my mom pulled out the cookie sheets or a Duncan Hines cake mix. After she finished making the batter, the kids fought for the beater, spatula and bowl.
To end these kitchen free-for-alls, I decided to become the cook so I could claim ownership over any leftover cookie dough or icing. I started cooking in grade school and never stopped. In journalism school, my goal was to one day replace Craig Claiborne, the longtime food critic of The New York Times. I abandoned that idea after concluding that if I wrote about cooking for a living, I'd probably stop enjoying it.
What does this have to do with personal finance? Well it's a stretch, but since this is the third anniversary of my column, I thought I'd mix my love of cooking with my love of saving money. With gasoline prices rising, budgets are even tighter, but I see little evidence of people saving money by cooking. Look at any grocery store today and you'll find the expanded freezer sections stuffed with foods like pot roast, french toast, fried chicken and vegetable soup that people used to prepare themselves.
This willingness to spend more and get less is just as evident in the produce section where you can buy fruits and vegetables already sliced. When I was at the grocery store last week, I was amazed to find red potatoes that were already chopped. Who knew people couldn't cut up potatoes themselves?
The potatoes were near other unnecessary items like diced bell peppers and snack-sized packages of celery for lunches. The little package of celery costs $2.29, or about 33 cents an ounce. That might not sound so horrible unless you realize that buying a stalk of celery at that price would cost you more than $5 a pound.
While I was at the store, I paid $1 for a cantaloupe that weighed two pounds, but steps away from the pile of fat cantaloupes, I found precut cantaloupe that would have cost me $6.99 for 20 ounces. I can't help but wonder who buys precut fruit at these prices.
All this convenience comes with a higher price tag - and in the case of frozen entrees - less taste. I found lots of expensive food in the freezer case too, including a two-pound package of frozen pork ribs for $13.59. A few aisles away, the store was having a great sale on fresh pork ribs for just $1 a pound.
Some people assume that clipping coupons is all you need to do to save money at the grocery store, but that's not true. It's often the processed foods that offer coupons, which is why I rarely find any worth clipping. Instead, you can save money by buying healthful foods and cooking them yourself. If people tried cooking good wholesome meals from scratch, even just once or twice a week, they could probably shrink their grocery bill.
To get you started, I'm sharing my recipe for roasted chicken and mashed potatoes, which I've been making for my family for many years. It not only tastes good, but it's pretty easy to make and it costs much less than a frozen chicken dinner.
Most people dry chickens out by roasting them on low heat. Unless you enjoy chicken shoe leather, broil the chicken first to trap the juices.1 chicken (I buy mine at whatever grocery store is selling them for 99 cents a pound or less.)
Set oven for broil. Sprinkle chicken with salt and broil in roasting pan for 10 or 15 minutes. Reduce temperature to 425 degrees. Bake until the chicken's drumstick is easily pulled out. For a 4.5-pound chicken, the bird should be done within 90 minutes.
3 pounds potatoes - Idaho or Yukon Gold
1/2 stick butter
1/4 cup cream, half & half or milk
Peel potatoes, cut in large chunks and simmer in pot of water until barely soft. Drain thoroughly. Beat potatoes and butter together with a mixer or use a potato masher. Add liquid and combine. Salt and pepper to taste.
Most people would require hypnosis before they'd believe they can make gravy, but it's not hard. And making your own is far better than the jarred gravy glop that stores sell.1 cup drippings from roasted chicken1/3 cup flour1 can chicken broth
Heat chicken drippings in a pot on medium heat and then stir in flour. Continue stirring over medium heat for about a minute. The mixture should become a paste. Gradually add the broth. Continue stirring until the gravy combines and gets thicker. Season with salt and pepper.
If you don't have a cup of drippings, I generally use a ratio of three parts drippings to one part flour. If the gravy seems too thick, add a little water.
tsk, tsk. I make my own chicken broth & freeze it in recycled cardboard dairy product containers. (Bag & freeze skin, excess fat trimmed from chicken. Once you have a good sized quanity, boil it for broth. Skim fat & freeze the broth.)
The boiled chicken skin from the broth then goes into another pot with more water, brown rice & oata & cooked up for the doggies. The fat skimmed from the original broth gets saved to use as fire starter in the fire pit where yard rubbish & credit card offers get incinerated.
oats, that is. Not ‘oata’.
My mother-in-law did something similar. She placed her chicken and beef roasts in a hot oven, 450 degrees or so, for the first 10 or 15 minutes ('til the roast sizzled a while). Then she turned the oven down to 350 degrees.
Much like searing steak, initial high heat does help make a juicier roast. However, I usually roast chicken at about 400 the entire cooking time, basting regularly.
I think I'll try that next time. I've tried roasting a chicken upside down, in a bag (which I DON'T like), etc. to keep the breast meat moist, and the advice to let the bird rest 20 min. is golden.
The author is right -- people waste tons of money buying prepackaged/processed food.
When it comes to mashies, redskins are the best, hands down. They are very thirsty potatoes so you end up using more milk, but the flavor is wonderful. I throw in a handful of finely chopped parsley and dill from my herb garden and I never have leftovers.
Roaster chickens are the best. There’s 4 good meals in one for me and my kids. Roast chicken, with stuffing, mashed, etc on one night, chicken sandwiches for lunch, chicken with pasta for the next dinnner, and once it’s pretty well picked, chicken and rice soup. It’s nt hard to get a good 4 meals for less than $10.
If I an grilling for a crowd, I love to buy whole roaster chickens and cut them up. at $0.79 a lb, I can feed a hell of a lot more people than if I am buying cut up chicken at 2 1/2 bcks a pound, and there’s more selection. It’s generally much better tasting, too.
Purdue! Everything else isn’t as good.
My friends and neighbors thank you..........well that's not quite true, the neighbors are 170,000 broiler/fryers that my friends grow for Perdue!!!
I'll have to try them. I've been using russets.
Now imagine she simply takes a chicken out of the freezer in the morning and puts it in the fridge. When she gets home (earlier, because she didn't stop at KFC), she tosses it in the oven. Then she has time to go get comfy, get some things done, etc. She doesn't have to call the kids to come eat, the chicken will. When they come in the kitchen, lured there by the smell and their empty stomachs, she can give them chores, like set the table, empty the dishwasher, etc. It is nothing to whip up a few sides. Dinner is eaten right after it is cooked, when it tastes best.
I'll try that sometime. It would be nice to speed up the time it takes to roast a chicken.
And leave on the skins, the major source of nutrients in any potato.
LOL, NOT during softball/lacrosse season! It just doesn’t work!
I'd like to know where this is - anywhere in SE PA or MD the melons are $2 or more per. Not even the Amish sell them for less.
Well, I make my own dirt. Then I make my own chickens from it. I made the diamond for my wife’s ring by squeezing coal with my bare hands.
Damn kids are spoiled today.
Watch out for the redskins with the “gold” flesh. They’re waxy and make really lousy mashies.
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