Tag Archives: depression

Eating on a budget

Meatloaf dinner

Meatloaf dinner

Just the idea of meatloaf conjures an image of TV dinners, Depression-era cookbooks, and eating for cheap. It’s not an inspiring image for a foodie, but I figured there must be a way to make a slightly more modern, healthier version of those dinners and still save money. So last night for my weekly Tuesday dinner club, I decided to make a gourmet version of meatloaf and green peas and add up the total cost.

Here’s what I made with the cost of ingredients:

Last year, The New York Times featured a piece called Fancy Meatloaf in the food section – the author was having Nora Ephron over for dinner—so I knew this was not going to be my mom’s meatloaf with the ketchup and the smiley face made of olives and gherkins. I’m a pretty amateur bread maker, but I wanted to do this whole meal as cheaply and as homemade as possible, so I threw together a loaf of whole wheat bread the night before and let it rise. And how can you have a meatloaf dinner without green peas on the side?

I had the basics already in the fridge (leftover bread, flour, milk, oil, butter, eggs, vinegar, salt and pepper), so adding to that I spent:

For the meatloaf:
1 pound ground chuck (I bought local, non-hormone treated beef): $7.77
1 pound ground veal: $5.64
1 link, hot pork sausage: $1.00
1 cup white wine: $10/bottle (and you can drink it with dinner!)

For the peas:
1 package green peas: $1.19
2 slabs house-cured bacon from the local deli: $2.50
1/2 pound mushrooms: $1.50

For the bread, in addition to the flour, I needed:
1 packet dry yeast: $.75
1 can beer $1.50

TOTAL: $31.85, for a meal that serves about six people. That averages out to just over $5 per serving, including a glass of wine. Not bad!

Then and now

Crash of 1929/image: courtesy PBS

Crash of 1929/image: courtesty PBS

What is the relevance of the Great Depression to the situation we find ourselves in today? While we’re in a pretty bad recession, the U.S. isn’t close to the levels of poverty and displacement seen after the stock market crash of 1929, but there are lessons and similarities between the two events.

“I think the big question then and the big question now is whether the government can do anything to help us solve our problems.,” Newsweek’s Jonathan Alter said in an online interview for the PBS American Experience documentary “The 1930s.”

“The 1930s are an example of time when Americans felt like their government was looking out for them. Even if the Depression wasn’t ended for several years, FDR provided jobs and hope.”

There are similarities in the voices of people who lived through the Depression and people coping with the recession today. Interviews with dust bowl survivors and Hoover Dam workers, economists and newspaper delivery boys give a first-hand look at the Depression era.

Farming is a key industry that is facing frighteningly similar challenges as it did in the 1930s. The history of California farmworkers in the 1930s is chronicled in a 2007 report on PRX by Rachel Anne Goodman. She looks at how the Depression affected European immigrant workers in the Central Valley, including labor battles and unemployment issues among migrants.

Just this week. Emily Apel reported at KAZU in Monterrey that farmers are struggling to find decent health care.
“According to the most recent numbers from the U.S. Department of Labor, only 23 percent of farmworkers were covered by some sort of health insurance in 2002.”

Today, Patchwork Nation’s Tractor Country map shows the economic climate across farm-rich areas.