Tag Archives: using it all up

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 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 would have been = .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.

*I discovered that the same market where I get the cheap chicken thighs ($2.49/lb) also sells bulk packages of ground beef ($6.49/lb), which instantly saves us $2.50/lb just because I get to break up the packages myself.

I can manage that. A 2 lb package of meat will give us at least 3 meals (2 @ 1/2 lb each and 1 @ 1 lb). At that rate, it’s $2.17 an average portion. I d probably get at least one more meal from the package and that reduces the price per portion to $1.62 .



My (Still Being Tweaked) Food Tracking

I came up with a schema which seems to work. It tracks what we use up, what comes in, provides a way to make a shopping list AND track additions to the pantry. However, it’s still being tweaked.

I’ve found the easiest thing to do is to enter the items from the shopping receipts. What I end up with looks something like this:

(item source) Description *| | | | | Remainder Long Term Freezer/Pantry Qty

  • Source: pantry, fridge, freezer, store name or initials.
  • *: Indicates a change in the stored quantity.
  • The next four columns stand for Fri(dge), Pan(try), Fre(ezer), Dry. I put a + when something is added to the storage or a – when it is removed from storage.

So, if I use some frozen chicken, these columns will look like this:

| *| | | -| | which tells me there’s a changed quantity (*) and it’s taken from the freezer.

  • Remainder: If the change is a net addition to the stored foods, I put it in italic. If the change is a net decrease and I don’t replace it, it’s put in bold and [bracketed]. If there are leftovers, they are just listed. As I use the left over items they are lined out.
  • Long Term Freezer or Pantry Qty: Gives a rough estimate of what I should have of the items in long-term storage.

I used a butternut squash this past week for example. I have the end of a shelf of them. (I had so many I was giving them away in December!) I have NO interest in counting squashes. The last column reads: “6+ butternut squash” which tells me I don’t need to buy any for some time. The same is true of any veg. I keep quantities of, long term: potatoes, sweet potatoes, whatever.

At the end of a meal, I go through and line out what I used and list any left overs. The next time I work on the chart, I make sure I update those items.

The really great thing about this? Going down the “Remainder” column gives me a potential shopping list. And going down the far right column gives me a partial pantry, fridge, and freezer inventory.

Although it sounds complicated, it really isn’t. It’s still too easy for me to forget to add things or note what I’ve used making a meal, but as I said, I’m still tweaking this. I suppose, if I also didn’t want to track the left overs or generate that shopping list, I could eliminate that column:

Description, * |fri |pan |fre |dry |,  Long Term Freezer/Pantry Qty

Listing the leftovers has been good, we’ve been using everything up since I started this!

The other big “issue” is that I have no computer in the kitchen, so I have to go back and forth. I think ideally, the answer to that is to make this a blank form I keep in the kitchen on a clip board. God only knows if that means I won’t keep it up to date, like all the other kitchen tracking I’ve tried in the past! But so far? So good.