At a time when Americans face the uneasiness of when and if, the next shoe is going to drop financially, for many people, putting a meal on the table without turning to deli or takeout is a skill set that they are going to actually have to learn. According to the USDA, Americans eat out 25% of their meals and on average of 90 meals a month….90 meals eaten out in a four week period multiplied by (on average) $6.50 a meal, equals $585.00 a month.
Family and friends, who remember what Depression food was like, talk about thrift, growing their own, sharing with neighbors and learning to cope with what they had. But let’s face it, our society has moved too far forward in taste and technology, to think of making the flour sacks into clothes or stuffing the cracks in the walls with newspaper or even making bread with only 4 ingredients….Flour, baking powder, salt and water..
With a financial market that’s in shreds, it’s probably time to start thinking of ways to stretch the old Buck. If you want to save money, one way you can do it is to learn to cook again. But maybe not as fully as your ancestors had to. At this point in time, a loaf of bread is actually cheaper to buy and Hamburger Helper is a good stretcher and cheap too. Hey and there is nothing like Top Ramon.
However, even though we have convenience foods that will help us save and still eat, now is the time to go back to planning for leftovers and cook! A roasted chicken can last for days as chicken salad, chicken and rice, chicken and dumplings, pot pie, stew, stir fry, or soup.
I recently made a turkey pot pie from scratch. I saw the recipe in the LA Times and even though it was a time consuming to assemble it from scratch, it was excellent. All I did really was a little planning. Choosing a day to roast a turkey breast, make the gravy, pastry, and so forth. All in the planning and not as hard as you might imagine.
You can make a pot pie with precooked meat, a premade crust and frozen vegetables. A lot easier and definitely faster, but I can assure you, If you are someone who is too busy to cook or unwilling to learn, the modern version of a dish like pot pie, a dish designed to make leftovers appealing, becomes a collection of expensive ingredients and probably not as appealing in flavor.
The bottom line for all of us consumers is “Learn to Cook.” Spend one day a week cooking for a whole week and freeze it. Get the family involved. Plan how you can stretch and expend your leftovers. Take time to get to know your friends and take turns cooking for their family and yours. Why? Because buying bulk is cheaper and your family’s food selection and variation automatically doubles in imagination.
In closing you say, “Yes but Chef Sheila, Where do I learn to cook?” Ah Ha! The internet people. Youtube has some wonderful video to go with your favorite recipe. The Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook has great pictures and updated recipes. Americas Test Kitchen Cookbook is a gold mine of useful tips and techniques that even the best Chef would be thankful for.
Go Forth And Cook!