Frugal Feasting – Gourmet Dining in a Recession

In this time of high fuel costs, we find ourselves trying to cope with, among other things, higher food prices.  We are probably just barely eating well; now we have to further compromise the quality of our diet by buying and consuming cheaper food, just to get it on the table.  But some observations by one of America’s best chefs give some insight on how to stretch our food dollars, and, with five others, offer gourmet recipes that won’t break the bank. (Some of which I’ll try in coming weeks; more on that in a moment).

 

TIME Magazine put a challenge to six chefs to create a gourmet meal for around $10.  Reading the article, you get the impression that it wasn’t an easy thing for these chefs.  Restauranteer and Top Chef judge Tom Colicchio, while shopping for the challenge, was surprised at how much the average consumer pays for food:  The cost of pasta took him completely by surprise!  Colicchio points out to writer Joel Stein that a key to food buying is to look for values:  Better to buy a whole chicken at 99¢ a pound than boneless, skinless chicken breasts for $4.99 a pound!  Processed foods can add to the price tag:  A can of beans costs about the same as a bag of the dried ones, but the bag will yield more food in the long run. 

 

 
Chef Tom Colicchio and TIME writer Joel Stein dish up Colicchio’s pork and pasta meal

 

But Colicchio also recognizes a problem:  Smart shopping takes time, and people don’t have it.  Their busy, demanding schedules barely leave them time to cook, let alone spend an hour or more shopping.  While the culture of the 30 minute meal, led by Food Network maven Rachael Ray, has helped us get dinner on the table quickly, many of the ingredients in those quick meal recipes can tend on the pricey side, like the boneless, skinless chicken breast.  In the end, we pay for the pre-prep and processing that helps us make quick meals.  What a dilemma!  

But there is help!  Tips for managing time and food budgeting can be found on the internet, such as these from US Department of Agriculture (don’t let the food stamp heading put you off!), as well as tips for shopping, like these from The Frugal Shopper.  Even if the savings seems miniscule from week to week, and the discipline of management irksome, it’ll be worth it when you see the benefits over time.

I plan to cook a couple of the recipes in the coming weeks, after which the staff and I will do a taste test.  I’ll then post the results in a future blog:  The first of a series that I’ll call “The 641 Project,” which will discuss food, cookbooks and other food topics.  Stay tuned!

 ———————————————————–

Many 30 minute and quick cooking recipes and websites can be found on the internet by searching “30 minute meal recipes,” “quick meals” or “quick dinners.”  Try the quick recipes at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s EveningEdge.com.

Rachel Ray’s 30 minute meal books are available at CCLS and through PINES.  Her recipes can by found on the Food Network website.

Here are more tips for cutting down your grocery bill from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution website.

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Published in: on July 19, 2008 at 4:37 pm  Comments (1)  

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  1. Frugal Feasting – Gourmet Dining in a Recession…

    In this time of high fuel costs, we find ourselves trying to cope with, among other things, higher food prices. We are probably just barely eating well; now we have to further compromise the quality of our diet by buying and consuming ……


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