Tag Archives: food

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!

A bitter taste

The announcement this morning that Conde Nast is shuttering Gourmet Magazine (and three other titles), is just the latest in a string of struggles facing the publishing industry. I recently wrote about the challenges African-American media outlets are confronting, along with other niche publishing areas and the industry as a whole.

Food is one of the easiest ways to understand economizing at home, and Gourmet Editor-in-Chief Ruth Reichl shared her recession favorites on the Leo Lopate show on WNYC earlier this year.

In an older interview on Charlie Rose, Reichl talks about the importance of food in our lives.

But rather than wallow in the past, maybe the best thing to do is have a (classic 1940s Gourmet-approved) cocktail.

Reaping and sowing

The economy has put farmers in a tight spot, but there is good news out there, too.

NPR today reported on dairy farmers in California, the top dairy-producing state in the country. And while they may have funny commercials featuring talking cows, farmers like Joey Mendoza aren’t laughing.

“Mendoza says he’s squeezed between competition from mega-dairies, the high cost of feed and the dip in consumer demand. These days, he’s earning only about half of what it costs for him to produce each gallon of milk.”

From PBS NewsHour’s Patchwork Nation, there’s somewhat comforting news in Tractor Country, a key community the project is following. In Sioux City, Iowa, farmers are not feeling quite as despondent as Mendoza after a damp spring. Blogger Donald King wrote about the start of summer in farmland and shared his thoughts about the current climate.

“For areas like this, agriculture is totally wrapped up with the health of the economy. So it is as hard to ignore the state of the economy in Iowa as it is anywhere these days. I can report that at least in traditionally strong agricultural communities like Sioux Center and Orange City, Iowa, we are holding our own. Sure, everyone is behaving cautiously, spending is fairly flat, but no one is panicking, and unemployment is still below the national average.”

There’s also good news for the industry as a whole. This feature from earth-friendly web site Mother Nature Network features 40 Farmers Under 40 – many of whom are experimenting with new techniques of both growing and selling.