Thursday, 25 February 2010

Food Wealth

We recently emptied the fridge in the garage and turned it off, as we did last year about this time. This required de-frosting and re-organising the contents of the one in the kitchen. In the process I became aware of how much frozen protein – particularly turkey – we actually have. Everything from egg yolks to slabs of beef – and a lot of turkey – not to mention prawns, grated cheese, sausages, frozen yogurt. Not the ice cream-like stuff you can get in the US, but actual yogurt I wasn’t going to use before it went off so I froze it in muffin sized rocks portions.

The egg yolks are from my days of making angel food cake and I tried, but didn’t much care for the complexity or calories involved in, egg yolk-containing sauces. I decided I would add them to rice dish meals a few at a time, for a vaguely Chinese effect.

I’ve not figured out yet what to do with the yogurt when it’s thawed, beyond mixing it with mayonnaise and lemon juice for a delicious vegetable salad dressing, as long as the texture is OK after it's thawed. We don’t really do many salads in winter here, though, so that will have to wait. I might try thawing a portion and mixing it with honey to put over fruit salad, our usual dessert. I don’t really like unsweetened yogurt much, finding it a bit tart, but it is so good for you, I persist in buying it. How stubborn is that?

The wealth of food in the freezer (Did you know they sell insurance cover here, to insure against the failure of your freezer? Nope, I'm not covered.) made me think that with just a little discipline our grocery bills could continue to be quite low. We spent all of £3 in January. At this writing I don’t know how much we spent in February, but I’m betting it’s less than £60. Vegetables, fruit and milk will be our largest expenses for a while.

This all reminded me of an article in the Tightwad Gazette (Issue 49, page 6, if you have her newsletters) where she compared her food budget with that of a USDA report on the cost of food at home. She was quite depressed that she didn’t quite match their figures; she only fit into the 'low cost plan', not the 'thrifty plan'. Then she realized she was comparing their costs by week with hers by month!

This led me to look up the current figures. You can find them here. As you can see, on the Thrifty Plan the monthly cost for two people between 51 and 70 years of age in December 2009 was $327.80, about £201.96. Last year we averaged £104 per month ($168.80) on groceries. I can't tell you what we spent on eating out, because Bill generally pays for this and I don't make him account for where he spends his money unless it is for groceries we eat at home, which I nearly always buy. I'm certain, however, that we don't spend £100 eating out in any month unless perhaps when we are on holiday. Given that last year our two main vacations were spent visiting family, I doubt we spent even this but I'll not go making claims I can't substantiate.

These figures are both an estimate of what it would cost to eat food that met recommended nutritional requirements and of what low-income people, those within 130% of the poverty line, will have spent. I think they did some pretty fancy mathematical modelling to bring those two data sources into line. The costs appear to have increased about 55% since Amy used these USDA figures. Back in 1994 she concluded that either the government was inept or that people were clueless in the supermarket, or perhaps both. Before you decide I'm completely crackers, looking at all these numbers, I do have good reason to be interested in the cost of living in the US as we plan to move there sometime in the next few years. I found the USDA figures both alarming and reassuring.

When I looked up these figures,
I was thinking about aiming to see if we could squeeze into the weekly category for the Thrifty Food Plan the way Amy did (that would give us £46.96 per month, given their $75.70 per week), but then it dawned on me to look at the Liberal Food Plan just for fun.

It's too boring (even to me) to compare the lists line for line, but what I did notice about the 2nd report was that a) the Liberal Food Plan includes more fruit, vegetables and dairy products, but not more sweets, oils or sweets, than in the thrifty plan; also that b) food wastage was factored into each plan: 10% of thrifty, 20% of low and moderate-cost and 30% for the liberal food plan. So, I take it that we could join the liberal plan, spend $628.10 per month on food and throw $207.23 of it away. Sounds awful, doesn't it?

That said, I have to confess to having ditched two of the three turkey carcasses we pulled out of the garage. I'm very sad about that, but I wasn't prepared to run the garage freezer to keep them any longer, they wouldn't fit in the kitchen fridge and one huge pot of turkey stock was all I could cope with given that Bill doesn't much like turkey soup.

The Kitchen Witch just published this incredible recipe that I'm looking forward to using. Given that it is made with beans, it can't cost much. I’m tempted to try it with different kinds of beans, of which we have plenty, both tinned and dried. We have almost as many beans as we do packets of frozen turkey.

My bread maker cookbook has a recipe for pita bread dough which I need to try anyhow, as homemade tortillas prove to be still difficult and that is our staple food for running club nights. I haven’t given up, but fresh pita bread sounds wonderful, too. I’ll let you know how it all goes.

In the meantime, any suggestions for using thawed out yogurt?


Tish Jett said...

Hmmm, thawed out yogurt, nope, no ideas.

Shelley, my dear, please pop over chez moi. I have a surprise for you.

Warmest regards,

Jo said...

I have been trying to clean out the freezer and cabinets, more time to figure out how to use some of the items. I know I had a recipe in mind when the items were bought, but have forgotten since them. This has made our food bill go down.

Sorry, can't help you with yogurt, Rick doesn't eat it unless it is really hidden in the meal, which would take more time and energy than it was worth. As for flavoring it for dressing, Rick's favorite is honey mustard, which should work well with yogurt.

Struggler said...

Goodness - sometimes I wonder quite why our grocery bills feel so high, but we eat out very little and don't throw much away, so whatever it is we're spending, at least it's going inside us.
Do you like smoothies? Throwing in your yoghurt with fruits might work nicely.. and Mountain High (they're a brand, I guess) have a page of recipes too.

Frugal Scholar said...

Well, I'm crying over those turkey carcasses. For the yogurt--try it stirred into couscous. That's my husband's favorite "starving student in Paris" recipe.