Monday – November 28th, 2016 Meal Costs :-)

Filed under :Challenges, Daily Meal Costs Challenge

Here’s the recap of our meal costs for today.   This is for two adults:

  • $3.39 Breakfast
  • $1.86 Lunch
  • $1.40 Dinner
  • $6.65 TOTAL for the day

It’s amazing that two adults can eat for a full day for a price that is less than the cost of a extra value meal from McDonalds :-)   Yes, it takes some planning and it takes a little time in the kitchen, but it is so well worth it!

Imagine if two adults ate out for 2 meals each day for 5 days per week for an entire year.  That’s 260 days of eating out.  If each purchased meal for those two adults cost $7 each, then the total cost for the year would be 260 days X $14 (for two adults) = $3,640.

If the same two adults cooked those two meals per day at home at= $ a cost of $2 for each meal, then the cost would be 260 days X $4 (for two adults) = $1.040.

The savings would be $2,600 for the year or over $215 each month!


Monday – Lunch and Dinner

Filed under :Dinner Costs, Extreme Frugal Meter, LEFTOVERS!, Lunch Costs, Meal Costs

For lunch today, we took the easy way out and just had turkey and cheese sandwiches :-)   The cost for sandwiches made at home is very frugal LOL!    For us:

$0.48 — 4 slices of bread at 12 cents each

$1.12 — 1/4 lb of lunch meat (1/8 of a lb on each sandwich) at 56 cents per 1/8 lb

$0.26 — 2 slices of cheese at 13 cents per slice

$1.86 — Total for lunch for 2 adults

I didn’t cunt the cost of the mayo.

I had a question from a reader who asked what we drink with our meals.  We are drinking filtered tap water :-)   My husband and I both have a time drinking the recommended amount of water per day, so drinking water with our meals really helps.

For dinner tonight, it’s leftover black-eyed peas with ham :-)   And that cost is 70 cents each for a total of $1.40 for dinner for both of us.


Monday Morning Breakfast (Cyber Monday)

Filed under :Breakfast Costs, Extreme Frugal Meter, FRUGAL METER, Meal Costs, Meal Planning

Well this morning is a bit dreary and overcast.  Rain is in the forecast for tonight – finally!  We have been in a drought situation for about two months so rain will definitely help the situation and threat of woods fires.

As I continue to document and track food costs, it also gives me a chance to look more closely at how much money we are spending and where there are opportunities to reduce costs.  One of the immediate things I noticed was how incredibly expensive it is to eat out versus cooking at home!  In some cases, one meal for a person cooked at home is less than the cost of a soda when eating out.

So, this morning’s tally of breakfast costs for two adults:

  • $2.24 — 1/2 lb of Conecuh Sausage
  • $0.75 — 3 eggs
  • $0.40 — 2 biscuits
  • $3.39 — Total or about $1.70 per person

Analysis:  Today’s breakfast was a bit more expensive since we had the 1/2 package of Conecuh sausage.  But, I cooked more sausage because I only had 3 eggs (we usually eat 2 eggs each).  Plus my husband loves sausage :-)      Instead of just baking the two biscuits, I went ahead and baked an entire pan of biscuits (it takes just as much electricity for an entire pan as it does just 2).  So I will put these into ziplock bags and place in the refrigerator to go with other meals in the next couple of days.  For the price of the eggs, I always purchase the free range eggs so I pay a little bit more for those.

Back to the sausage — I will add Tennessee Pride Mild Sausage Patties (30 ct box) to my grocery list.  This would have been a better and more economical choice for breakfast this morning to go with the eggs and biscuits.  Each sausage patty cost is only about 26 cents each.

While $3.39 isn’t a bad cost for breakfast for two adults ($1.70 each), our breakfast costs could have been even lower:

  • $0.52 — 2 sausage patties
  • $1.00 – 4 eggs
  • $0.40 — 2 biscuits
  • $1.92 — Total or about $0.96 per person

I will be adding more eggs and the Tennessee Pride Sausage Patties to my grocery list :-)    How cool is it to get breakfast costs for an adult below $1!

 


Sunday Dinner – Making Use of Thanksgiving Leftovers (Ham)

Filed under :Extreme Frugal Meter, Meal Planning

Today we are making use of leftovers from Thanksgiving :-)

We have large family gatherings for Thanksgiving as well as Christmas.  It’s always nice to be able to take the time to spend with our families at the holidays.  And, food is an important part of our celebrations.   To ensure we have enough food for everyone, we always cook much more than what we know we will need.

Part of the cleanup after Thanksgiving dinner was putting away the leftovers.   We always purchase spiral cut hams (bone-in) because they seem to have the best taste.

I package up ham leftovers in ziplock freezer bags with enough to make a pot of beans.  So this year I ended up with 6 packages of ham and 1 package that contained the ham bone with some meat.   I froze all of the packages of ham except for one that I saved in the refrigerator to make a pot of black-eyed peas for today.

So our Sunday dinner costs are as follows:

Pot of Beans:

$1.48 — Great Value Black-eyed Peas from WalMart 16 oz bag

$0.68 — Great Value Diced Tomatoes w/Green Chilies 10 oz can

$0.16 — Chicken Bouillon Cubes (from Sam’s Club) QTY 4 cubes

Dill Weed / Salt for additional seasoning

 

Rice — I purchase the ParExcellence Premium Rice from Sam’s Club (10 lb or 25 lb).  I found that this is the best rice to pre-cook and then dehydrate to make instant rice.  I re-hydrated 1 cup of rice to go with our black-eyed peas.  I would estimate that the cup of rice costs no more than $0.50.  Next time I purchase rice from Sam’s to make instant rice with, I will price out the exact costs per cup.

After eating dinner, we have enough food for another meal – which we’ll be having for lunch tomorrow :-)    So, the total cost per person per meal was approximately 70 cents :-)   I didn’t count the cost of the ham since it was just leftover from Thanksgiving.   I love costing out the price of our meals and then comparing it to the cost of going out to eat.  It’s amazing how much money you can save by cooking your meals and eating at home.


A Couple of Important Benefits to Food Dehydration Versus Other Methods of Food Storage — Food Storage/Dehydration – POST #4

Filed under :Dehydrating, Food Storage

A Couple of Important Benefits to Food Dehydration Versus Other Methods of Food Storage — Food Storage/Dehydration – Post #4

First, let me go ahead and say this – yes, dehydrating your food for storage can take a little more time in preparation than maybe other methods of food storage.  But, most of time spent in dehydrating items is in the dehydrator – so, you can multi-task and do other things during this time.

Many items such as yellow squash, corn, okra, etc. have to be blanched regardless if the item is being prepared for frozen storage or dehydrated storage.  So, the prep time is about the same.  These same items can be much more labor intensive in preparation and processing it they were being canned.

Now, let’s take a look at several very important benefits to dehydrating items for your food storage versus other methods such as freezing or canning.

The most important benefit that I have for using dehydration for food storage is the longevity of the finished product.   Dehydrated food, when stored properly, can last up to 20 or more years!    Yes, the extended shelf life is so worth the effort.   Let’s dig a little deeper into the phrase “when stored properly”.   The best method of storage that I’ve found and works for me is canning jars and using my FoodSaver and the FoodSaver Wide-Mouth Jar Sealer and Regular-Mouth Jar Sealer.   This ensures I have vacuum sealed storage of my dehydrated food in food grade canning jars.   I also store my sealed jars in my pantry – a dry, cool, and dark place.

I live in an area that is prone to hurricanes.   This means that there can be times that we are without power for a week or more.   If my food storage was frozen and I did not have electricity for a week or more, all of my food storage would ruin.  This is another reason that I like to dehydrate.   There are similar issues for those of you who live in other areas of the country that are prone to power outages for various reasons.

Another benefit to food dehydration is dehydrated foods maintain the majority of their nutrition and color.  Dehydrated foods don’t lose their nutritional value and maintain water soluble vitamins and minerals.   And yes, I had to test this because it was a little hard to believe that a dehydrated corn could be re-hydrated and look just as it did before I dehydrated it – but it did :-)

A very important benefit is SAVING MONEY!   I noticed this especially with herbs and spices.  At the grocery store, herbs and spices can cost quite a bit per container.  But, if you purchase these items in bulk (or better yet, grow your own) you can dehydrate them for a cost that is a fraction of what you’d have to pay for the same items at the grocery store.

Space – dehydrated fruits and vegetables take up substantially LESS space than their canned or frozen counterparts.

Another money saver – dehydrating items can help reduce waste!  Yes, every time I dehydrate, I check out my refrigerator and freezer for items that our family will not have time to consume before their spoil.   These items also go into the dehydrator :-)

Time Saver – using dehydrated food can be such a time saver for me and my family.   It’s so easy to make those “convenience foods” and even snack foods myself (without preservatives!).  One of the greatest time and money savers for me is dehydrated rice (instant rice).   When I use my rice cooker, I go ahead and cook an entire cooker full – not just the amount that we are going to consume for the one meal.  Then, I dehydrate the rest and make my own “instant rice”.

I would love for you to post some of the benefits that you’ve identified :-)

 


Buying During Peak Harvest Season – Food Storage/Dehydration – POST #3

Filed under :Dehydrating, Food Storage

Food Storage/Dehydration – POST #3

This is our 3rd in a series on Food Storage/Dehydration

One of the best times to dehydrate produce is when you find opportunities to buy it on sale - usually when a particular item is in season and being harvested.  You can find many produce and fruit items on sale in bulk, at farmers markets, or even directly from the farm.   That’s when it’s time to stock up your pantry with dehydrated food!  So, in this article, we are going to discuss when the best time is to buy certain vegetables and fruits and where you can find them for the best price.

Buy what is fresh, cheap, and in season.

 

First, the most comprehensive listing I’ve found is at www.usda.gov .   It’s the “Seasonal Produce Guide” and can be found here:  https://snaped.fns.usda.gov/seasonal-produce-guide

Here’s a great chart too:

Just some notes — get familiar with the harvest seasons in  the area of the country that you live.  Depending on your “planting zone”, you may be able to find produce at times different that what this chart shows.

To get started, let’s look at blueberries.   Most blueberries are harvested in the early summer from mid-May to early-July.  During this time, you can find fresh blueberries at much lower prices than other times of the year.  If you like to do bulk shopping, try Sam’s Club or Costco for some really good deals on fresh produce and fruits.  If you can locate a blueberry farm near your home, this would be a good time to make a visit.  Some farms allow you to “pick your own” and you can save even more money.  Purchase an amount that you feel comfortable being able to dehydrate within a week.   Be familiar with your dehydrator, its capacity and the amount of time it will take for each dehydrating session.

Another really good time to purchase produce and get some amazing prices is during the holiday season.  For example, pumpkins are priced at their lowest price right before and after Halloween.  This is a great time to pick up a few pumpkins to dehydrate for your food storage.

Around Thanksgiving, it seems I can always find sweet potatoes on sale – most of the time much lower than 50 cents per lb.    Just like other potatoes or even pumpkin, sweet potatoes is a great dehydrated food storage item.

Before making your weekly trip to the grocery store, be sure to check out the local advertisements for produce sales.  And don’t forget about sales on frozen foods – sometimes dehydrating frozen foods (such as sweet corn) can save you a lot of time since the corn has already been removed from the cob and blanched.  I’ll write an article on this coming soon :-)

Farmers markets are another excellent way to shop for “in season” vegetables and fruit.   And, it’s a great way to shop  local and purchase directly from your local farmers.  You can get some amazing deals and the freshest produce available when you purchase directly from a local farmer.

And for those who grow your own produce – dehydrating your fruits and veggies is a great way to preserve your garden bounty.

 

 


Types of Dehydrators – Food Storage/Dehydration – POST #2

Filed under :Dehydrating

Food Storage/Dehydration – POST #2

There are several important options and specifications that you need to consider when you begin looking at food dehydrators.  And what is one person’s preference may not suit your needs.  There are pros and cons to each – and you just have to find what you like and what will work for you and the foods that you dehydrate.  Here’s the topics we will cover that I believe are the most important for you to consider when purchasing a food dehydrator:

 

  • Shape of trays/machine
  • Location of Fan
  • Expandability (addition of more trays or fixed number of trays)
  • Screens/trays and flats for more liquid foods (fruit rollups)
  • Option for Temperature Setting
  • Option for Timer
  • Reviews from other buyers

Shape of trays/machine — First, there is the shape of the machine and the trays.  By far the most available for immediate purchase are the round tray dehydrators that you can typically find in the big box stores.   This is the type dehydrator I first purchased and used for several years.   If you are not really sure about your commitment to dehydrating, then I would say that these machines are an excellent purchase.  The price is usually aroun\d $50.    These machines are advertised for making your own jerky or fruit rollups, but work just fine for dehydrating foods for storage as well.  The only negative comment I’ve read or heard about the round machines is that you lose some dehydrating space for the counter space the dehydrator takes up versus the square machines.  And I can say, having owned both round and square, I do get more dehydrating space with my square machine versus the round machine.

Location of Fan — Most of the dehydrators that you can purchase from the big box stores have the fan on the bottom of the machine and it blows upward and over the foods.  While this setup does work quite efficiently, there are some problems with food falling into the fan.   So, my preference would be either purchasing a dehydrator with the fan on the top or on the side.

Expandability — With many of the dehydrators that you can purchase in the big box stores, you have the flexibility to add more trays and expand your drying to up to 9 trays.  And this is a good option but I’ve found that when I did increase the number of trays, I had to rotate the trays throughout the dehydrating session to ensure even drying.   With my Excalibur, it has a set number of trays – 9.   I do not have to use all of the trays and can remove the ones that I do not have food on.    I do like my Excalibur because if I have food that is a bit taller, I can just load every other tray and allow for it – this was not something I could do with my round tray dehydrator.

Screens/Trays and Flats — Most of the foods that you will dehydrate will work with the typical trays and screens that your dehydrator comes with.  But, you do want to have the flexibility to be able to dry other items that are smaller (and would fall through the regular trays or screens) or items that are more liquid (like fruit puree).  So, make sure that your machine either comes with other types of trays or that they can be purchased separately.

Option for Temperature Setting – with the typical round dehydrator I purchased at the big box store, there was no adjustable temperature setting.  I have to say that this is more important that I originally thought now that I have my Excalibur with a heat setting.   With my round dehydrator that did not have this option, everything was dehydrated at one temperature – which was a high temp.  Having the flexibility to set a temp setting on my Excalibur is a option that I wouldn’t do without in the future.  That’s because you just want to dehydrate your food – not cook it.  I found that if I left my food on the round dehydrator that did not have a temp setting an hour or more longer because it wasn’t dry enough, sometimes it would burn a little because it was not just dehydrating, but it was cooking as well.   And, all foods have different temp settings for dehydrating.

Option for Timer — this is a really good option to have and I have found it to be quite useful.   The machine automatically turns off at the end of the dehydration session.

Reviews from other buyers — Definitely read the buyer reviews from several different stores online for the specific dehydrator that you are interested in purchasing.   Reading reviews really helped me in selecting the dehydrator that I currently use on a weekly basis.  And I learned a lot from reading what others thought was important in a dehydrator.

I hope this article helped you and will give you information on some of the topics that I found were most important in selecting a dehydrator.  Your purchase can be economical or expensive – but what is most important is that you select the machine that will fit your needs.   A dehydrator is an investment and you want to make sure you purchase the model and brand and that you are satisfied with the results.