Category Archives: projects

One Pound of Chicken Thighs…

I usually buy organic chicken thighs, bulk pack, in 5 lb packages. I split this into packages of 3 each, about 1 lb.

I just used the last 1 lb package. I thought I’d use this to figure out how well I did with  the meat cost per meal. I did pretty well, but not what I need to!

Day 1: Lemon chicken 3 thighs, all cooked (part of the oven meal). We ate 2. I put aside the drippings and 3rd thigh.

Day 2: I made a burrito bowl (this one). Except I never use instant rice, I just cook rice separately. I also can’t eat roma tomatoes, so I pay for heirloom non-red tomatoes and use about 1/2-1 tomato’s worth. Yes, it’s expensive, but it’s better than having an upset stomach for hours!

Day 3: Picked the meat off the last thigh. Made gravy from the drippings. We had left over rice (the burrito bowl)  with a little of the chicken/gravy on it and sauteed greens on the side.

Day 4: Chicken and rice soup. Took the remaining gravy with chicken, added water, the last of the tomato, and chicken bullion to taste. Added the remaining rice. Made up a condiment plate with cooked greens and minced jalapeno.

Into the freezer: 1 serving of the soup. I added the last 2-3 tablespoons of cooked greens and the minced jalapeno.

The chicken costs $2.49/lb. How much did I spend per meal for the meat?*

I put it in 6 meals. If we eat the last serving in the freezer? The price is .36/meal.  If we don’t eat it, but toss it? The price per meal goes up to about .42!

How could I have done better? I could have saved the bones, skins and scraps to add flavor to another soup or stew or just make broth. If you add just one more meal that way, the cost per meal for the meat goes down to .31!

As a list:

  • 3 meals if we’d eaten all of it as one-piece of meat per serving: .83/meal. (We didn’t do this.)
  • 6 meals, cost per meal =.42, (We’ve did this.)
  • If we eat the last meal in the freezer, the cost per meal is reduced to .36 (We’ve done this.)
  • If we eat the freezer meal and I’d used the scraps? price per meal = .31

Obviously, I need to start a container for soup scraps! Otherwise, I’m never going to get even close to my desired .25 cost/meat per meal.


*These numbers are rounded. $2.49 just doesn’t divide evenly!


To get to my target price, I’d have to make approx. 11 portions from my 1 lb of meat. I don’t think that’s very likely, do you? And, since I know the $2.49/lb price is a real bargain, I think this means I need a reality check! As it is, we ate, on average about 2.29 oz of meat in each of the 7 meals.

So, unless we start raising our own chickens or something similar, I think that the best I can realistically expect is the price for the 6 meals above, or .42 per portion.

My idea was that the meat would probably be the single most expensive piece of a meal, budget that hard and the rest of it’s not so bad.


Eggs are one of the cheapest sources of protein around. If we eat them, we sometimes have 3 or sometimes 4 omlette, for a single meal, which feeds both of us. I buy eggs from a neighbor for $3/dozen these days. A four-egg omlette costs .50/person. A three-egg omlette .38/person.


Organic ground beef from the local market costs $8.99/lb. I’d have to make > 20 meals to get that down to .40 or less per person. Again, not realistic. Even if I allow myself $1/lb, it’s 9 meals from a single pound of ground beef — really? One meatball, right?


My menu plan only has meat in it two days a week. The plan is:

      • Monday Double Veg meal
      • Tuesday Leftovers
      • Wednesday Double Veg meal
      • Thursday Eggs
      • Friday Double Meat meal
      • Saturday Sandwiches
      • Sunday Double Meat meal

When I came up with this, I was trying for a few things: less meat, less cost, less cholesterol, more veggies, less work on the days I’m really busy (Weds, Sat, Sun).

My week hasn’t followed the pattern this week because we were eating the 2nd meat/leftovers, until Tuesday. Ate veggies Weds. and will tonight, Thursday, too.

The double veggies I made are some of the end of last year’s farm crops (root veggies), some I bought at the market when we ran out (cilantro, potatoes & parsnips), and rice (when I made the burrito bowl last week, I made a double batch of plain rice and froze the extra).

I have no idea how to figure, with any kind of accuracy, the six month’s worth of veggies we got from the farm and how many meals it went into! Some of it is in 1/2 made dishes in the freezer, some of it is in the pantry, but most of it was eaten fresh.

 

 

Oven Meals — 400 Degree then 350 Degree — Menu Plan (and reality)

Not sure why I’d do this? See here for an explanation.

400:

  • Jacketed potatoes, for up to 2 hours.
  • Oven fried chicken, 400 for up to 1 hour.
  • Mexican Green peppers, 400 for 45 minutes.

350 for 30 minutes:

  • Ham slice, 25 minutes
  • Candied sweet potatoes, 30 minutes
  • spinach tart or tomato flan, 30 minutes

The 400 meal: The chicken usually works for 2 meals. The pepper recipe is for 5 peppers, although you could no doubt do 2 or 4 or 6 for that matter….

The 350 meal: The spinach tart uses a pie shell, the tomato flan does not. Also, spinach is available (here) first thing in the spring and in fall, the tomatoes are only available in summer, so that could easily affect why I’d choose one or the other.

Note:

I’d love to try doing this as an experiment!

However, I do NOT have the peppers, corn to stuff them with, the ham, cottage cheese (for the spinach tart), spinach or tomatoes. Given the current state of things, due to Corona, I have no idea when I will be able to just buy those again! When I can? I’ll be happy to do this as an experiment. If I do?

I’ll post a link to the write up here.


I’m going to do the 400 degree meal tonight. However, I didn’t find a ham slice yesterday at the market. The only sliced ham was sliced for sandwiches, not something I’d want to put in a 350 oven for 30 minutes!

I’ll have to modify the recipes to suit what I have, but I think I can manage! This is Friday, so my meal is supposed to be a double meat dish, that feeds us tonight and Sunday night too. I have 3 thighs in a freezer container, thawing. We’ll eat 2 tonight.

We’ll have dirty rice for lunch, it’s left over from earlier this week.

And I might make a burrito bowl from the last thigh on Sunday.


I tried this! I wrote about what worked and didn’t here.

Retirement Planning: Frugality/Oven Meals

Potatoes have the highest “satiety” value of any veggie. That is, they make you feel full and satisfied faster than other veggies — they’re cheap! More, I can grow them here with a little work.

So, potatoes are part of the retirement food plan. Researching new ways to cook them yielded a recipe for British “jacketed” potatoes. We both liked them a lot!  I used this recipe.

What I didn’t like? Baking in a 400 degree oven for up to 2 hours??? Okay. If I’m going to do that, then I need to find other recipes which cook at 400 to go with the potatoes.

I went through 2 of my all purpose cookbooks. Today I went through and marked the oven meals in cooking pamphlets.

The oven-fried chicken I make (with lemon or plain) cooks at 400, which will no doubt become one of our “set” meals. But there are also these other things I may add:

Mexican stuffed green peppers (peppers stuffed with other veggies).

fruit cobblers, etc.

Baked Tomatoes

Cornbread

Baked Pears

At least 2 eggplant dishes

I will find others but this was much harder than I expected!


It also occurred to me that I could cook ahead, a meal that uses 375 for say 30 minutes,  while we’re eating the 400 degree meal and take advantage of my already hot oven.

Oven  meals cooked at 375 or 350 would be a lot easier to put together! Most oven meal recipes I’ve found are cooked at 325, 350, or 375.

I need to find a few bread recipes to go along with this too.


So, no “meal plan” per se, but an oven plan?

Turn oven on to 400. Prep/start potatoes. Prep/cook other items which cook at 400 to eat with the potatoes (the oven fried chicken takes about 45 minutes).  Prep a second meal, which cooks at lower temp for approx. 30 minutes.* Remove 400 degree cooked food when done. Turn down oven.

Wait a few minutes for oven to cool. Plate 400 degree cooked food. When oven is the correct temp, insert new oven meal. Cook the second meal while eating potatoes and other 400 degree food.

*The 30 minutes is arbitrary. It’s about how long it takes us to eat a meal. YMMV!


I don’t know that I’d want to do this in the middle of summer, but otherwise it would be fine!


I  made up a potential menu to try. You can read about that here.

Goldilocks Dilemma: Clothing

Remember the French Dressing post, here? I decided I was going to reduce my clothing to a capsule wardrobe of 10 items per season, not counting underwear and outerwear.

It occurred to me the other day that I basically have reduced my day-to-day clothing use to a capsule, without thinking about it!

I have a basket which lives in our bathroom on a shelf. It contains the set of clothes I’m not wearing. At home, without company, I wear pj pants and a long-sleeved shirt, cheap plastic socks. When I go out I wear a tank top, a long-sleeved shirt, long johns or leggings (when it’s cold), jeans, and washable wool socks.  During summer I’ll wear the leggings or the jeans but not both.

(I also wear sweaters.)

Company/going out rotation:

  • ? long-sleeved shirts
  • ? tank tops
  • 1 long john top
  •  2 long john pants
  • 3 pairs of jeans
  • 4 pairs of leggings
  • ? washable wool socks.

No company/staying home rotation:

  • ? long-sleeved shirts
  • ? tank tops
  • 1 long john top
  •  2 long john pants
  • 3 pairs of PJ pants
  • 4 pairs o leggings
  • 6 pairs of cozy socks.

When I get home I undress in the bathroom, examining clothes as I remove them. If they can be reused? They’re rolled up and put into the bathroom basket. If dirty, they go into the laundry. I then put on the clothes in the basket and supplement, as needed, from dresser and closet.

This means that the only day-to-day clothes in my closet should be: the unworn long-sleeved shirts, sweaters, and out of season/special event clothing. The clothes in my drawers should be unworn tank tops, leggings/long johns, and pants.


Given this, culling my clothes should be simple! I really like the feel and “flow” of this system. It evolved over time and works for me. YMMV.


Six shirts culled! 10:54 a.m. 3 more 11:12 a.m. 1 more 11:32

 

Goldilocks Dilemma: Supplies, part 2

Given what I know about supplies, how do I determine how much space is needed?


These factors affect supply storage: use rate, back stock needs, available space.


Once I know the use rate, I can determine reasonable back stock. For example, we use about 3/4 of a roll of paper towels a week, mostly to deal with pan grease. Having a 2 week supply seems reasonable. That means I need a back stock of 1 roll. But my usual source for these sells them in 4 roll (or bigger) packages.  I need to decide if having 3 rolls in storage makes sense? If it does, then the back stock amount/space for 1 roll won’t work, obviously.

It seems I need TWO types of back stock storage: immediate and a supply closet or shelf. Immediate storage near where the product is used, an extra bar of soap under the sink, for example. But if I buy a 6 bar bundle, most of those should go somewhere else, like a supply closet.

I don’t have a supply closet right now… soon! One planned summer improvement is for DH to build a broom closet. When he does, the wardrobe that’s our current broom closet will be empty. 

There’s space available elsewhere, I’ll use that until the wardrobe is empty.

My minimum for the shelf-stable supplies we use the most often? One complete refresh. I have that. It isn’t what I’d like because it isn’t the most frugal option, but given that I have nowhere to store a large back stock? It makes sense.


“When you keep an account of your stores, and the dates when they are bought, you can know exactly how fast they are used…”

Miss Beecher’s Domestic Receipt-Book, 3rd ed.,1856

Goldilocks Dilemma: Durable Goods (Spreadsheet)

The questions of Just Right? Not Enough? Too Much? for Durable Goods is easier than that for supplies. (Not sure why I said that? See here.)

From an hour’s worth of work, I concluded that storage limits are a major determinate for me — every item I considered it was an issue.

  • So, imposing a SPACE BUDGET should always be my first step when considering an item to keep, cull or purchase. The next consideration is whether or not what I’m considering is a durable item or a supply item?

(A SPACE BUDGET is a given amount of space allocated for a certain item.)

Here’s the spreadsheet I created for Durable Goods;

Storage Limits?

Used all at once?

Perishable?

Lifecycle/ use rate?

Costly?

Fixable?

Used inside, outside, car?

Special storage?

Dry?

Semi- liquid?

Liquid?

Artwork: wall

yes

yes

no

3 years or more

can be

maybe

inside

no

y

n

n

Artwork: sculpture 

yes

yes

no

3 years or more

can be

maybe

inside

no

y

n

n

Artwork:  other

yes

yes

not likely

unknown

can be

maybe

depends on piece

likely not

?

?

?

Books

yes

yes

no

3 years or more

can be

maybe

inside

no

y

n

n

Clothing

yes, closets for those hung

yes

no

1 year or more

no

yes

inside

no

y

n

n

yes, dressers for those folded

yes

no

1 year or more

no

yes

inside

no

y

n

n

Computers

yes

yes

no

3 years or mroe

can be

maybe

inside most often

no

y

n

n

Dishes

yes

yes

no

3 years or more

can be

maybe

inside

no

y

n

n

Furniture

yes, piece must fit in the room it’s for

yes

no

5 years or more

can be

yes

inside

no

y

n

n

Linens

yes

yes

no

3 years or more

can be

yes

inside

no

y

n

n

Pots & Pans

yes

yes

no

3 years or more

can be

maybe

inside

no

y

n

n

Phones

yes

yes

no

3 years?

can be

maybe

inside most often

case

y

n

n

Obviously, this isn’t complete, but you get the idea!

The Goldilocks Dilemma: Supplies

For me, there are two types of things stored in my home: durable goods & supplies.

  • Durable goods – anything made to be used and reused repeatedly: clothing, furniture, rugs, buildings, automobiles, linens, dishes, pots & pans, etc.
  • Supplies – anything made to be used once and used up or changed in some way where it can’t be reused: paint, food, firewood, cleaning products, etc.

Figuring out how much is enough or too much with durable goods is less complicated than trying to determine the same for supplies.

For one thing, most supplies require specialized storage. And some, like frozen foods, requires VERY specialized storage. Others don’t require anything so specific: cat litter for one. But supplies do need storage which prevents them from becoming unusable.


Considerations: Storage Needed

The question is, is the supply .  .  .

highly flammable? fuels, firewood, firestarters, matches, kindling, waxes, polishes, etc.

heat sensitive? frozen foods, foods needing refrigeration, seeds, wax candles, etc.

light sensitive? photography supplies, some fabrics, etc.

Or:

Should it be in a waterproof/water resistant environment? This covers many of the remaining supplies: soaps, fabrics, toilet paper, thread, etc.


Considerations: Supply Form

Is it dry, semi-dry, or a liquid? 

  • Dry supplies are usually the most stable: dried spices, cat litter, toilet paper, powdered soaps, etc.
  • Semi-dry supplies usually things which require a bit more care than dry supplies. Items like paste shoe polish, some waxes, bar soaps, vegetable shortening, demiglace, etc.
  • Liquid supplies require a waterproof container. Many are cold sensitive, if they freeze their bottle will burst. These include: shampoos, liquid laundry soaps, olive oil and other cooking oils, vinegars, etc.
  • Food supplies obviously require storage which will help keep them fresh, if possible. This is true whether the food is dry, semi-dry or a liquid.

Considerations: Designated Use

Supplies are normally made to be used for a specific purpose. Food is made to eat, thread to use on fabric, compost on the garden, etc. The easiest way to divide this again is to separate it by locale: inside, outside, or for a car?


Supplies are complicated: there are many factors to consider when determining where and how much to store!