Archive: Cooking on a Budget

On Tax Day, Cheap Is on the Menu

Whether you’re early, late or hosting a tea party in protest, you know that today is Tax Day, aka Pay the Man Day. Even when I break even or anticipate a refund, inevitably I feel wrung out, much like that dingy sponge on the sink, exhausted by the process of crunching numbers, foraging for receipts and working myself into an irrational lather about meeting Uncle Sam’s deadline. Maybe you can relate, but the only thing that seems to ease my financial vertigo -- other than pretending to win the lottery -- is to pull out the cheapest tricks in the book and be as spend thrifty as possible for a few weeks, if not longer. Here in this space, I’ve sung the praises of the frugal and versatile egg, and you’ve shared some great ideas for keeping an eye on the ka-ching factor in the kitchen. But the drama of...

 

By Kim ODonnel | April 15, 2009; 08:30 AM ET | Comments (2)

Cheap Tricks: The Incredible Egg

(Kim O'Donnel) Looking for cheap protein during hard times? Have an egg for supper. Despite the financial challenges we’re all facing at the supermarket checkout, the cost of a dozen eggs remains a serious bargain. And I’m not just talking about the mass-produced variety in the refrigerated case in Any Town (which are currently about $1.50 per dozen); the local farmstead eggs (which I highly recommend for their unparalleled flavor) from your neighborhood farm market might run five or six bucks, tops – about 50 cents per serving. In fact, even if the price of a dozen eggs skyrocketed to a dozen dollars, the cost per serving would still be ridiculously cheap. (Now that’s a real dollar menu!) Here at the Casa, eggs are a supper staple not just because they’re so cheap, but because they’re so darn versatile both in method and flavoring. When it’s past seven, and...

 

By Kim ODonnel | April 7, 2009; 07:30 AM ET | Comments (21)

Eating Down the Fridge

eGullet co-founder and executive eater Steven Shaw is in the midst of a kitchen challenge worth chewing on; for an entire week, he’s taking a break from food shopping, using what he’s got stored in the freezer, fridge and pantry. A few months ago, I talked about this very idea with my editor, Nancy, who describes it as “eating down the fridge.” Her father -- raised during the Great Depression -- refused to toss any somewhat edible food item and would regularly go through their freezer and eat all "mystery" leftovers. Shaw, who lives in a New York apartment with his wife and son, is chronicling the ups and down of his experiment every day and is encouraging readers to join him for the frugal ride. Inspired by Shaw’s gumption, I took a cursory spin of the Casa Appetite larder, and here’s just a sampler from the ice box: a...

 

By Kim ODonnel | February 24, 2009; 07:00 AM ET | Comments (22)

Under-$20 Super Bowl Chowdown, 10 Ways

Here’s the deal: You’ve got 20 bucks to spend on vittles for Sunday’s big game on the big screen. Not a penny more. Whatever you decide to spend on booze, that’s your business. But when it comes to the chow, we’re going to keep it a budget-style affair. After all, who’s not pinching pennies these days? Sure, you can head over to KFC and pick up a 16-piece bucket for $20.99. And I hear Domino’s is offering its “American Legends” pies for $12.99. But honestly, how will your chow-in-a-box taste by the fourth quarter? That’s what I thought. Instead, have a look at what I’ve cooked up – 10 menu ideas with a festive flair, a cozy television hootin-and-hollerin’ vibe --- and with that under-$20 price tag. Of course, if you're feeding 20 people Sunday night, your budget will double or triple, but you get the idea. Your budget-minded suggestions,...

 

By Kim ODonnel | January 30, 2009; 04:00 AM ET | Comments (18)

Kitchen 'Rithmetic: Cheap Wine

When it comes to wine, how low can you go? As part of its recent Cheap Living Guide, New York Magazine tipped its hat to cheap wine as a way to enjoy the good life on fewer dollars. Instead of a $1,350 bottle of 1985 Krug Brut, they argue, you can sip on a $13 bottle of New Mexico-produced Gruet sparkling Brut instead and be sitting just as pretty. (My vote also goes to Cristalino Brut Cava, a Spanish sparkler that goes for about 8 or 9 bucks.) The most effective cost-cutting measure, however, would be to give up liquid grapes altogether, but here at Casa Appetite, we believe that a little vino goes a long way in the life-is-good department. And hey, the holidays are just around the corner; we’ll need to stock up on a lil’ cheer to entertain and get through the most stressful wonderful time of...

 

By Kim ODonnel | November 13, 2008; 07:00 AM ET | Comments (13)

The Ka-Ching of Kitchen 'Rithmetic

Back in April, when the Bureau of Labor Statistics announced that the cost of food was higher for the first quarter of 2008 than all of 2007, our ears began to perk up. In this space, readers got together and shared their kitchen tips and tricks on getting thrifty. Flash forward six months, and the economic climate is darker still, as the future of the world’s financial health hangs in the balance. Good thing someone out there isn’t just getting thrifty; he’s actually doing the math to show us the money. Culinate contributor Hank Sawtelle gets an A for doing his homework on the real dollars-and-cents savings of buying a whole chicken and cutting it up ($8.45) versus buying parts separately ($14.73) If you're thinking yeah, right, easier said than done, take a look at the following video, which walks you through the steps of cutting up a whole bird....

 

By Kim ODonnel | October 31, 2008; 07:00 AM ET | Comments (18)

Chat Leftovers: Summer-Fall Bridge, Vegan, Soy-Free Supper and Cheap Tricks

Downtown D.C.: The weather is starting to get a bit chilly around here. Any bridge-the-season ideas for summer produce, but fall weather? With the autumnal equinox fast approaching (Sept. 22), there’s indeed a chill in the air after the sun says goodnight. This is the time of year when our thoughts turn to soup, stew and other warming potions, but as you mention, using the best of the summer harvest. Have a look at the details for this roasted red pepper puree, a light-to-medium bodied potage that still has one foot in summer, with all those sun-kissed peppers. I’m also partial to this creamy tomato soup, a perfect companion for grilled cheese or a hunk of crusty bread. (I’ve also added cooked rice just before serving, and I feel like I’m back in kindergarten.) Speaking of rice and companions, there’s no better time to whip up a pot of eggplant...

 

By Kim ODonnel | September 17, 2008; 06:00 AM ET | Comments (11)

Getting Thrifty: Reader Tips and Tricks

It's pretty hard not to notice that the cost of food is all jacked up, and the prices are climbing faster than a cockroach fleeing for safety. Between February 2007 and February 2008, the Consumer Price Index for all food increased by 4.6 percent, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture' s Economic Research Service. The price increases are even higher for specific food items; cereal is up by 6.6 percent, milk is up by 16.8 percent and eggs are 25 percent more expensive than one year ago. The bean counters at the Bureau of Labor Statistics, which compiles the ongoing consumer price indices, have reported that the food index for the first quarter of 2008 jumped at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.3 percent, already higher than the 4.9 percent increase for all of 2007. As harsh as the sticker shock may feel in your neck of the...

 

By Kim ODonnel | April 22, 2008; 10:26 PM ET | Comments (0)

 

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