Tag Archives: frugal living

Frugality: Schmaltz and Extreme Food Frugality Discussion/Links

Partly because of some reading I’ve been doing about fats and cooking more frugally, I’ve been doing a few things differently.

My dad every now and then would cut fat from a steak and cook it in its own grease. Tasted great. We hardly eat beef these days, mostly because of cost, but there’s also environmental concerns.

We also eat very little fish, that’s been true much longer, I decided back in the 1980s we were over fishing and stopped using fish as a regular food.

That leaves poultry. Recently, I’ve been doing Dad’s trick, but with chicken. I take the skin/fat off the pieces of meat, and use the chicken fat to grease the pan. This is easiest when the chicken is partly frozen, but the fat is a resource I’ve frequently ignored in the past. Laying chicken skin, fat side down in the pan where you’re cooking onions you’ll add to the chicken a bit later isn’t all that hard, tastes good, creates less waste, and costs $0! (Remove the skins with a fork after the fat melts, or you can make them cracklings, I rarely do.)

I finally found a recipe for schmaltz, but have yet to make it. If I’m skinning the chicken and not using the fat otherwise, I’ve been freezing the skins/fat, with the idea that I’ll make schmaltz. Not quite enough in the freezer yet…soon!

Don’t know what schmaltz is? It’s rendered chicken fat. Here’s a recipe.


The spring CSA we’re a part of this year put up an expected harvest chart, so I’ve spent much of the morning figuring what to make with it. On average, the produce cost us $3-$4/lb, not including the overhead to get it. That price is right in line/a little bit cheaper than organic produce at the local market. It will be fresher,  local, and supporting a local farm too. All good!


I found a youtube channel with a woman doing extreme frugality for a family of 6. It was interesting to watch her make up 126 meals for $31. Don’t know that I’d like to eat all the food she made without additions — but it sure reminded me how nice it is to have a backlog of herbs/spices/condiments to just casually add to make a meal more satisfying!

You can find her youtube video here.

Things I don’t do that she does?

  • I don’t shop at Walmart.
  • I don’t use house brands.
  • I don’t use chicken boullion.
  • I can’t eat tomato paste out of a can without having a major stomach upset, so I don’t.

I could do all of that and if I need to in the future, I will. I’ve admitted before that we’re food snobs. We are. But I’m also a realist.

My job, as long as we can manage it, is to keep the food as we like it, at a price we can afford. If our economics changes? Obviously, other things change too.

She’s making 126 meals for $31  — I spend on average $50 a week to make lunch/dinner, or 10-14 meals, with staples and other items set aside towards future meals.

In the video, she says one criticism she’s gotten is using foods she already has in stock, so she didn’t do that in this extreme frugality post.

 

Extreme Food Planning: Part 1

Most Americans spend < 10% of their income on food. However, unlike mortgage interest, credit card minimum payments, utility costs, etc. it is one expense we all control.

Some of this is certainly dictated by location and available income. You can’t afford to buy $50 worth of bulk soap if you need to feed 3 people for $60 a week and you have a hard time doing that.

That said? I’m fortunate enough to be in the pool of people that can afford to use food planning to reduce our expenditures, at least for now.

So, along that line, I decided to do a category food plan. I’m not doing menu planning. When I did detailed menu planning, I hated cooking, it became a chore I had to get through, like scrubbing a toilet, just another chore. My idea here is to make a loose framework, not a menu plan.

There are two or three things going into this:
  1. I have to empty the freezer by the end of this month to be ready for the summer flood of veggies.
  2. I want to save every nickel I can.
  3. I want to use the above two items as a goad to both finally organize my cooking information and eliminate excess stuff.

What to do?

Convertible meals. One meal that becomes 2 or 3. Right now I have 2 lbs of cooked chicken and consommé in the fridge. That is easily 2 meals. I also have some cooked rice. Okay. Chicken and rice soup is one meal.

The others? The meat pulled off the bone can be made into chicken salad for lunch or dinner or lemon chicken. I have lemons and we’ve both been fighting colds for more than a month. I could add the chicken to the end of the salsa and we could have tacos, which would use up some of the tortillas, or….

Getting 3 meals from 2 lbs of chicken isn’t hard. I think I have 1 more lb of chicken, divided, in the freezer.

I also have a small pork roast, and some bacon. (I wanted pork while I still trusted it.)

I guess that’s another thing I can add to my learn-to-do-this list: learn to make a sausage substitute from chicken and grains…. it’s my observation that self-regulation never works. There are historical reasons why food regulations are so cumbersome. Go back and look at an old cookbook which talks about testing for chalk in flour, etc. before you buy it. I have those books, I have no desire to go back to arsenic in eye drops, chalk in flour, etc.

In my opinion? People are going to die and/or get very sick and then things will start the other way again. That’s a few years in the future yet… in the meantime, I can stop buying so much processed food and do more diy. I also sent a question to my local organic food organization asking about organic pork processing and how it differs from conventional?

Categories.
  • Egg. One egg meal per week. Quiche or omelette or just breakfast. Eggs, unless they get too warm are hard to adulterate and usually cheap protein.
  • Soup/Salad/Veg. Salad or soup or just a veggie plate night, maybe with hummus or other dip. Use up those bits & pieces!
  • Double Meals. One or more double meal nights or converted food nights. Any large piece of meat, large veg, casserole, etc.
  • Sandwich. Self-explanatory.
M -Veg enough for 2 meals
Tu -Soup or salad, using the uneaten and no plan for it bits and pieces
W – LO veg
Th – Egg
F – Meat meal enough for 2 meals
Sa – Sandwich
Su – LO meat

That should work. It’s broad enough that I probably won’t get bored. It also doesn’t give us meat 7 days a week, has a built-in left over day, and uses eggs to drastically lower food costs, as eggs are, after dried beans, almost the cheapest high protein source available. I’m not cooking complicated meals on the weekends, when DH and I tend to do home improvements.