Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Simple Oil and Vinegar Slaw Dressing

I make up 2 or 3 cups of this at a time, and then store it in the refrigerator for a fast dressing for shredded cabbage. It's a nice alternative to the more traditional mayonnaise version.

Oil and Vinegar Slaw Dressing
Sugar 1/2 C
Vinegar 3/4 C
Oil 3/4 C
Mustard seed 1 tsp
Celery seed 1 tsp

Stir ingredients together in small saucepan.
Heat to boiling, stirring until sugar dissolves.
Simmer for 5-7 minutes.
Pour into canning jar and store in refrigerator for up to a month.
Use about 1/4 C per pound of cabbage.

Adjust the amount of sugar to your taste. Many people make this with twice the amount, but I find it far too sweet.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

The Price is Right

The Price is Right
Originally uploaded by darthdowney
Here's this week's best buys in southeast Michigan. Ingredients in italics are more expensive than the rule of thumb I use for truly frugal cooking, 45¢ per serving.
Cost for a cooked 3 oz serving
45¢ Ground chuck 1.78 per pound (Kroger)
46¢ Whole chicken .89 per pound (kroger)
46¢ Boneless, skinless chicken breasts 1.79 per pound (Meijer)

Meat Alternatives
Cost for equivalent to 3 oz serving of meat
25¢ Eggs .98 per dozen (Meijer + Kroger)
37¢ Milk 1.99 per gallon (Meijer + Kroger)
50¢ Cheese 2.69 per pound (Kroger)
50¢ Cottage cheese 1.99 per 24 oz (Kroger)

Fruits and Vegetables
Cost for 1/2 cup serving
12¢ Cameo apples .88 per pound (Kroger)
14¢ Onions .56 per pound (Kroger)
16¢ Green beans, frozen .91 per pound (Meijer)
17¢ Green beans, canned .60 per can (Meijer)
19¢ Broccoli, frozen .91 per pound (Meijer)
19¢ Zucchini, fresh .99 per pound (Kroger)
24¢ Avocado .91 apiece (Meijer)
26¢ Roma tomatoes, fresh .99 per pound (Meijer)

Stock The Pantry
Macaroni + spaghetti .50 per pound (Meijer)
Walnuts 3.99 per pound (Meijer)

Other good buys
Saurkraut .6o per 16 oz can (Meijer)
Mac&Cheese .40 per box (Meijer)

Many Meijer-brand products are on sale this week. It's a good time to stock up on the items on your personal shopping list.

Friday, April 24, 2009

How To Calculate The Cost Per Serving

Several people have asked how I know what the cost per serving is for different items.

My main source for information is the USDA database called The Nutritional Composition Of Foods. For years I owned the paperback versions that they printed in the 70s and 80s. Fortunately the information is now available online. I use other USDA publications as well, including a pamphlet I picked up when my kids were little that lets you calculate how much food to buy for day-care centers that serve meals. Now I use it to help my sons to figure out how much food to buy for their growing families.

Over the years, I've created a spreadsheet that does all the arithmetic for me. All I have to do is type in the price per pound, and the number of servings and it tells me how much to buy and how much it will cost. This week I spent a bit of time working on the spreadsheet to create some Magic Numbers for folks who read this blog.

The Magic Number for a food item is used two ways.

1) Multiply the Magic Number by the price per pound. That will give you the cost of a 1 ounce serving of cooked meat.
2) Multiply the number of servings by the size of the serving in ounces. Then multiply that by the Magic Number. That will tell you how much raw meat to buy.

Magic Numbers for fruits and vegetables work in a similar way. You'll get a different number of servings from a pound of fresh green beans than you will from frozen. And you'll get a different number of servings from a 1 pound can of green beans than you will from a 1 pound bag of frozen green beans. The Magic Number times the price per pound will give you the cost of a 1/2 C serving of that fruit or vegetable. The Magic Number times the number of servings will give you the amount you need to purchase.

When I post the price per serving each week, I take all these differences into account. That's how I come up with the comparisons between the various sale prices in the ads.

For those of you who want more details:
Let's try an example. The Magic Number for chicken thighs is .1202.

If chicken thighs are 99 cents per pound, you multiply .1202 times .99. That gives you .119. Read that as the dollars per serving, ie $0.119, or roughly 12 cents per 1 oz serving. (Only look at the first 2 or 3 numbers to the right of the decimal point. The rest is just junk).

If you need to serve 4 people, and you want each of them to have a 4 ounce serving of meat, you first multiply 4 times 4, or 16. Then you multiply the Magic Number by 16. 16 x .1202 = 1.92. Read that as 1.9 pounds of chicken thighs. If you want to serve 4 people 4 ounces of cooked meat, then you'll need to buy about 2 pounds of chicken thighs. If you only want to serve 3 ounces per person, then you'll only need 12 x .1202, or 1.4 pounds of chicken thighs.

If people want this information, I will start including it in my posts. Let me know by leaving a comment below.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Simple Savory Custard

Savory Custard
Originally uploaded by Simply Frugal
Most of us think of sweet desserts when we hear "custard". But custards can be savory as well. When eggs and milk are cheap, think about serving a simple custard that provides bunches of protein in a slightly different style. Quiches are one version of savory custards, but this is a fun version that doesn't require a pie crust and comes in individual servings.

Serve this with a salad for lunch, supper, or brunch. When it is cooler, steamed broccoli complements these flavors.

Savory Custard
6 Servings

Milk 2 C
Thyme 1/4 tsp
Garlic 1 clove
Eggs 3
Egg yolks 2
Cayenne pepper 1/8 tsp
Salt 1/2 tsp
Swiss cheese 1/2 C
Parmesan cheese 1/4 C

Preheat oven to 300F.

Crush garlic and shred cheese.
Boil about a quart of water.
Grease 6 custard cups or ramekins.

Put thyme and garlic into milk and heat just to boiling. Remove from heat (or microwave) and allow to cool.

Beat eggs, egg yolks, cayenne, and salt in a large bowl. Mix in shredded cheese and parmesan. Add milk and beat several times.

Pour or ladle mixture into custard cups. Place cups in a baking dish and place on oven rack. Carefully pour boiling water around the custard cups, until water is about 1 inch below the edge.

Bake until set, approximately 30 minutes. Remove custard cups from baking pan with tongs. Leave pan in oven until cool enough to handle easily.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Simple Broccoli Quiche

Originally uploaded by Simply Frugal
When eggs, milk, cheese, and broccoli are all on sale at once, try a new twist on the standard Quiche Lorraine. This quiche uses Cheddar cheese and broccoli for its flavors

Ingredient9 inch Tart
Broccoli1 C1/4 C
Cheddar cheese, shredded8 oz2 oz
Onion, grated2 tsp1/2 tsp
Flour1 Tbsp1 tsp
Salt1/4 tsppinch
Milk1 C1/4 C
Preheat oven to 450 F.
Grate onion, shred cheese.
Shred or chop broccoli small.
Combine cheese, onion, flour and salt, mixing well.
Layer filling and cheese mixture in pastry shell.
Mix egg and milk, pour over cheese and filling.

Bake in 450 oven 15 minutes, then lower heat to 325 and bake 30 minutes longer, or until just firm in center. Let stand 5 minutes before cutting.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Mango Salsa

Mango Salsa 1

Mango Salsa
Originally uploaded by Simply Frugal
Here's a way to use the mangos that are in season for the next few weeks

Mango Salsa
Red bell peppers 1 C
Mango 1
Red Onion 1/4 C
Cilantro 1/4 C
Green chiles 2 Tbsp
Lime juice 2 Tbsp
Chili powder 1/4 tsp

Dice mangoes, peppers, and red onions.
Mince fresh cilantro and green chilis.
Combine and sprinkle with lime juice and chili powder, stirring once or twice.
Refrigerate for 2-3 hours or overnight.

Extremely Frugal version
Use canned tomatoes instead of red peppers and canned green chilis.
Substitute yellow onions for red onions and lemon juice for lime juice.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Simple Three-Chili Chicken

Use mild green chilis, flaked hot red peppers, and chili powder in this chicken and rice combo. You can adjust the heat by adding more red pepper flakes.

Three-chili Chicken
Makes 4 servings
Chicken Thighs 2 pounds
Onion 2/3 C
Green chilis 2 Tbsp
Cumin 2 tsp
Chili Powder 1 Tbsp
Red pepper flakes 1/4 tsp
Garlic 2 cloves
Chicken broth 2 1/2 C
Rice 1 C

Chop onion and green chilies. Crush garlic.
Brown chicken thighs in frying pan, remove. Reserve drippings.
Saute onion, chilis and garlic in drippings until onion is translucent.
Add cumin, chili powder and red pepper flakes and continue cooking for 2-3 minutes.
Stir in rice, coating well. You may want to add a tablespoon of oil if the pan is dry.
Pour chicken broth into pan, and return the browned pieces of chicken.
Bring to a boil, cover tightly, and turn to low.
Gently steam rice for 20 minutes.
Check chicken for doneness before serving.

$5 Dinner Three-Chili Chicken

5 Bills
Originally uploaded by Simply Frugal
Put a Mexican-flavored dinner on the table with this week's bargains at Kroger
Chicken Thighs Menu - Kroger

This ~$5.25 dinner provides 4 oz of chicken, 1 cup of rice, and 1/2 C salsa per serving.

Three-Chili Chicken, Mango Salsa

Buy: Chicken thighs, mangos, cilantro, red pepper
Pantry: rice, onions, green chilis
For 4 servings

2 lb chicken thighs $1.90
1/2 lb rice $0.35
1 mango $1.00
1 C onion $0.58
1 can green chilies $.99
1 bunch cilantro $0.50

Total $5.30

Sunday, April 19, 2009

The Price is Right

The Price is Right
Originally uploaded by darthdowney
Here's this week's best buys in southeast Michigan. Ingredients in italics are more expensive than the rule of thumb I use for truly frugal cooking, 45¢ per serving.

Cost for a cooked 3 oz serving
36¢ Chicken breast, bone in 1.29 per pound (Meijer)
36¢ Chicken thighs, bone in .99 per pound (Kroger)
36¢ Pork shoulder, bone in .99 per pound (Meijer + Kroger)
50¢ Ground Round 1.99 per pound (Meijer)
51¢ Chicken, whole .98 per pound (Meijer)
53¢ Chuck roast, boneless 1.77 per pound (Kroger)
68¢ Chicken breast, boneless 1.88 per pound (Kroger)

Meat Alternatives
Cost for equivalent to 3 oz serving of meat
25¢ Eggs, large .98 per dozen (Meijer)
38¢ Cottage cheese 1.00 per pound (Kroger)
50¢ Cheese, chedder 2.69 per pound (Kroger)

Fruits and Vegetables
Cost for 1/2 cup serving
14¢ Apples 1.00 per pound (Meijer)
19¢ Grapes 1.00 per pound (Kroger)
20¢ Broccoli 1.00 per pound (Kroger)
26¢ Mango 1.00 each (Kroger)
30¢ Cantaloupe 1.50 each (Meijer)
30¢ Pears 1.18 per pound (Meijer)

Stock The Pantry
1.98 Milk, per gallon (Meijer + Kroger)
1.00 Mustard 24 oz jar (Kroger)

Other good buys
60¢ Campbell's Tomato or Chicken Noodle soup (Meijer)
Red bell peppers 1.00 each (Kroger)

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Let The Posting Begin (Again)

Weeks ago, I fell and crushed two bones in my right arm, leading to ambulance rides, hospital stays, orthopedic surgery, casts and total inability to use the keyboard.

But I've now got a splint instead of a cast, and I can take it off enough to do my physical therapy and type again!!

Watch for this week's Price Is Right posting on Sunday.