Category Archives: Comparing DIY to store bought food

Rainy Day “Almost Instant” Chicken Soup

It was pouring earlier today. Not a day I want to drive to a farm or go pick my own at the farm either, — so no farm today.

That’s a  problem only because I was planning dinner from the farm, as I usually do the days I go. Digging through the freezer, I found a package of chicken bones, $4.33 worth at $2.75 a pound. That’s approx 1.57 lbs of bones and meat. There were 3 backs in the package.

So I started a pot of water boiling and plop in the brick of frozen chicken. Skim the worst of it off in a few minutes. Separate the pieces when I can. Keep simmering. After an hour, I’m pretty sure the meat is cooked, I pull the first back from the pot. Cut off the tail, fat and skin and then scrape the remaining  meat off.

I use a tool for this I’ve never seen/heard anyone else talk about for this purpose. I use a pickle fork, like this one:

pickle forkj

The little barbs on the end make shredding the small bits of meat as I scrape it from the bone really easy. That means I don’t have to CHOP the meat. Most of it is so small I’d have to do that minimally anyway, but the pickle fork pretty much guarantees that I don’t need to.

I’ve done two of the backs (the 3rd is cooling while I write this) and I have a cereal bowl of chicken shreds, ready to go back into the soup with carrots, celery, onion, potato, and more seasoning. Pretty much just before I serve it, I’ll add some chopped red pepper and peas. (I put some rosemary and peppercorns in the water with the chicken.)

I expect I’ll need to add some better than bullion (demiglace) to actually have flavorful stock, I don’t have time to simmer this down, skim it, chill it, remove the fat, season it and then make soup. If I was making rich stock, I should have at least put the bones back in! I’m not for two reasons: I skimmed the marrow out earlier and I don’t have time to chill it to remove excess fat. I did skim off most of the excess fat too.

This isn’t really instant soup. It will have cooked 3- 3.5 hours by the time we eat dinner. However, compared to traditional from scratch, home-made stock with fresh veggies added? Yep, it qualifies as “almost instant”!

Yield: 10C broth (NOT stock!) and 2C meat shreds, about .36 a cup (10 c broth + 2c meat = 12C, $4.33/12 = approx .36 a cup. Does not include fuel, other veggies, herbs, water, demiglace, Our typical serving is 1.5C (the size of our soup crocks). If you figure everything else costs 3x the amount of the broth/chicken, then it’s .36  + .18 +1.62. Or, it’s $2.16 a serving. Certainly cheaper than any organic broth, meat, veggie combination you can buy!)

Is DIY worth it? A Slightly Different Way to Decide

For example, take bread. Probably the cheapest way get a year’s worth of bread would be to grow your own grain, grind it into flour, use a DIY sourdough starter and then make bread as needed. Of course, if you live in a city apartment, that alternative is just nonsense. If you’re working 3 part-time jobs to make ends meet, it’s also nonsense.

Frequently, you’re trading your time and efforts for money. To decide if it’s worth doing something like baking your own bread you can go one of two directions. You can price it out by ingredients, or you can decide the effort is worthwhile based on the other factors: the time and effort to avoid DIY.

To compare store bread,  in my area  to making my own:

I based it on what I’d make if I made bread as an unskilled job.  (I’m not a professional baker.) If  I make $10/hour and baking bread takes 3 hours a week, that’s approx. $30/week.  (Yes, it ignores the fact that you don’t spend all 3 hours making bread, I know and doesn’t talk about the fact that the recipe I use make 2 loaves at once.)

In our neighborhood, a loaf of the bread we like is about $5, we use an average of 2 loaves a week, or $10. Bread takes 3 hours start to finish for 2 loaves here, or $30 of my time. On the face of it, it would  seem to be cheaper to buy it than make it. ($10 for store bought as opposed to $30 for DIY.)

There are the other factors: we’re about 11.5 miles from the closest supermarket. At $3/gallon for gas, that’s about another $5.50 in gas, for two round trips.* That makes our weekly total,  about $35.50 (baking time + gasoline). Also, that 11.5 miles takes about 1/2 an hour to drive each way, so that’s another $10 in time spent, per trip.

So you have DIY= (time without fuel for baking or materials=) $30
Buying from a store $20 (driving time x 2) + $5.50 (gas) + $10 for the bread.=$35.50

For us, it’s cheaper to make our own bread using time and fuel as well as the final product to compare. As the saying goes, your mileage may vary!

What prompted this blog was the many price comparisons based only on ingredients for  DIY vs. store bought. The best approach would be to include all of the above factors AND all the ingredients and fuel to bake bread. However, that would include things I do not know, how much fuel my stove (propane) uses in an hour of baking time, for example.

If you use a partial DIY alternative, like buying frozen bread dough, you can cut the time factor down for DIY to simply the hour and a half to let the bread rise and then bake it.

So  a partial  DIY= (time without fuel or materials=) $15 Which is of course cheaper still!

And no, I do not have a price handy for frozen bread dough. I’ll have to look the next time I go to the market! Bread dough is usually sold in 3 or 4 packs.

So would it be cheaper to bake your own bread or not? You decide!
*I don’t know about you, but I almost never actually buy 2 loaves of bread at a time, so we end up making two trips a week. If you eliminate the 2nd trip, making bread at home or buying it at the market are almost equal. You know yourself best!