August 21, 2011

Tightwad Gazette III tips and more

I am lining up food for a weekly meal for our youth group and being as we have limited funds, I will be putting together some frugal meal plans. Today someone mentioned that when the high school football players got together for a meal, someone served homemade baked macaroni and cheese and they scarfed it down. Some had never had the "real" stuff, so I am thinking that could be one of our meals. I have a recipe that will make a 9 x 13 inch pan of macaroni and cheese and it uses about 12 oz. of cheese slices melted into a "roux" (butter and flour mixture cooked on the stove until bubbly). Fortunately I attend a church where there are a lot of people willing to help out, which makes it so much more fun especially when it comes to cooking.

In the financial realm of my life we had a great milestone this month, we paid off our car. This is the vehicle that our youngest son drives and will be his to drive throughout college and then we will sign over the title to him. When you pay off a debt of any amount it really gives you a sense of pride and spurs you on to tackle more debt.

I'm spending some time perusing my recipes for some really tightwad, frugal casseroles and such to post. I have been spending some time re-reading some of my mother's and grandmother's recipes that I received years ago. I'll have to post some later in the week.

Now for some advice from Amy Dacyczyn.

In her third book Amy lists some quotes from famous people. Here are two of my favorites. "Budgeting is doing well with one dollar which any bungler can do with two." Arthur Wellington - British Soldier and Statesman. "Economy is the art of making the most of life." George Bernard Shaw I love this quote especially. So when you are out grocery shopping and are stretching a dollar remember that you are making the most of your life.

Tip One: A reader wrote in to say that she uses inexpensive hair conditioner in place of shaving creme. A little bit goes a long way and doesn't dry your skin. I've never tried this but I do use a cheap lotion in place of shaving creme to shave my legs. It works great too and softens the skin.

I Wouldn't Steer You Wrong

A few readers wrote in to ask some questions about purchasing meat. One asked "Could you write down your rules of thumb such as the prices that you generally pay for meat?" Another reader asked "I have been toying with the idea of purchasing a steer and having it slaughtered for my family's consumption. Have you researched the cost to purchase meat in this manner versus store bought?" And still another, "Shopping for chicken is frustrating. It can be bought in at least 6 different packages, all with different combinations. Are boneless breasts really that much more expensive when you consider all the bones and innards you throw away from the other packages?"

Before Amy tackles the question of meat, she talks about her protein philosophy. “Meat consumption is a subject surprisingly loaded with political, environmental and health beliefs. Our less-meat meals might not meet with the approval of vegetarians or hard-core carnivores. So you can make different choices based on your beliefs, health restrictions, or personal preferences."

Amy researched three basic ways to compare meat prices:

1. Keep track of the prices of all the various cuts of meat. Unfortunately there are too many types to track easily, and there are variables within each type, such as how much bone or fat are included. I keep track of the cuts of meat that I normally buy. These include ground beef, chicken pieces, bone-in chicken breasts, boneless breasts, roast and so on.

2. Calculate the cost per gram of protein. This is quite tedious and although you could use a chart, it is very time consuming. There is more protein in chicken breasts than in a hot dog because of the fillers. Amy actually doesn’t feel that we need to track our protein consumption as the majority of Americans get enough protein and even eat too much protein. Unfortunately due to our economy, many people are not getting proper nutrition and they should make sure that they are getting protein in their diet.

3. Calculate the cost per portion or the cost of one meal for your family. For example a one serving portion might be 4 ounces of turkey, but just 1 ½ ounces of cheese. So although the turkey costs less per pound, the actual cost of the meals might be the same.

When Amy was trying to reduce her food budget, she rejected the first two methods. Instead she used the third method. Amy paid attention to how much each type of protein meal cost. For example if she bought a roast and it yielded four family dinners (with all of the leftovers put into casseroles or sandwiches), Amy would divide the price of the roast by 4 and she would use that number for comparison with other protein sources.

From this she developed guidelines. At the time of the writing of the book, Amy would pay 69 cents per lb. for bone-in meat and $1.19 a lb. for boneless. Her guidelines eliminated the following meat from her diet: seafood, chicken breasts, and most cuts of beef, deli meats and pork chops. As of today I use $1.99 as a sale price for ground beef, $1.50 for boneless chicken breasts, $2.39 for beef roast and $1.79 for pork roast. Last Thursday I was able to buy 5 boneless chuck roasts for only $1.99 a lb. These were marked down to be sold that day.

Amy’s family doesn’t eat 100% organically raised meat or some of her meal choices are not always the ones with the least fat and preservatives. Meat is used as an ingredient most of the time rather than as a main course.

As to buying a steer, many times Amy noted that you pay wholesale price and you end up with cuts of beef that you may not normally buy such as steaks. Also is the price of the whole steer the same amount that you would pay as if you had purchased the beef as you needed it on sale.

And as to the last question regarding purchasing chicken, the amount of waste with skin and bones varies but you can use as a rule about 1/3 of the meat is waste. So if boneless costs 1/3 more, then it is about the same price as bone-in. The only way to really test this is to buy both and see how many meals you get out of both options.

I have been missing in action for a couple of days but for wonderful reasons.  My oldest son turned 26 years old yesterday and we celebrated with him and his wife and his wife's parents. Our youngest son starts college tomorrow.  Life is good, no matter what the economy looks like. 

1 comment:

~Carla~ said...

My hubby & kids love homemade Mac & cheese too... I use shredded old cheddar and make a topping of bread crumbs sautéed in melted butter... there's never leftovers! ;)