Friday, September 13, 2013

Pork, Ground Beef, and the Weekly Specials with Mary Anne

Here’s a little bit about me and my recipes and meal ideas. For various health reasons, I eat very low carb. This means no grains of any kind (no flour, pasta, ramen, rice, bread, noodles, corn, etc.), no sugar of any kind (no sugar, brown sugar, honey, molasses, etc.), no potatoes, and no low fat foods (they usually add sugar and starch when they take out the fat). In other words, none of the foods that are typically used to create inexpensive meals. Instead, I eat meat, vegetables, eggs, and dairy. By shopping the sales and knowing what’s cheapest where, I am able to eat this way and still keep my food costs fairly low.

The average food stamp (SNAP) benefit per person in Indiana in 2012 was $132.46, or about $4.40 per day. This is my target when I present my recipes and menus. I’m figuring on $1.50 each for lunch and supper, and about $1.00 for breakfast. The other 40 cents is theoretically used for stocking up on things that are on sale or that you only need a little of at a time, like a bottle of oil. Most of my menus range between $1.00 and $1.50 per serving, for an entire meal. This is using the most recent prices I have for all of the ingredients – the sales prices if there are any, or other actual current prices. This does sometimes involve going to several stores to get the cheapest prices. With the exception of things on sale, I usually shop at Walmart, Aldi and the Farmers Market. You may be able to get some of the things I use at Mother Hubbard’s Cupboard, or other food pantries. My costs assume that you have to buy everything. You may be able to get food at the Farmers Market for half price by converting food stamps to market vouchers. I assume that you are paying full price.

Sorting through all of the recipes online to find the cheapest good recipes that don’t use grains, sugars or potatoes is time-consuming. I love to cook and to look up new recipes, so I have a lot of recipes already. I hope you find this column helpful.

                                                                                                Mary Anne

Another week with pork on sale. Which is fine with me, because pork is my favorite meat. There are so many different things to do with it. However, it seems more suited to colder weather – fall and winter – than to the heat we’ve had the past few days. I’m really looking forward to the cooler temperatures they’re predicting for this weekend!

Back to the specials. Marsh has combination packs of pork Center Rib Chops, Country Style Ribs and Sirloin Roast for $1.28 per pound, which is a fantastic price! Two problems with it – first, the packs average 10 to 13 pounds, which may be more than you have room for; and second, you have to spend at least $25 on other foods there in order to get this price. Marsh’s everyday prices tend to be higher than at Walmart or Aldi, so you need to consider that in the price of the meat. I’m figuring that when you buy other things at the higher prices in order to get the great price on the meat, the meat’s really going to run you about $1.50 per pound. That’s probably a bit high, but it’s an easy number to work with. And it’s still a great price.

There are a few other good deals this week. Marsh has canned vegetables for 39 cents a can. Fresh are best, of course, but canned are certainly handy to have on hand, especially in the winter when fresh isn’t available. This is 10 cents a can cheaper than Aldi’s regular price, and about 20 cents a can less than the regular price elsewhere. Marsh also has onions on sale, three 3-pound bags for $5, or $1.67 per bag. While not a great price, it’s more than 50 cents less per bag than I’ve been able to find lately. Onions keep quite a while, so I’ll be stocking up on them. They also have collard, turnip and mustard greens for 88 cents a bunch. How good a price this is depends on how big the bunches are. They do go well with the pork, though. Be sure to look into the fuel savings, too. They’re advertising 5 cents a gallon off if you spend $25 or more with your Marsh card, which may help to offset the $25 of other purchases you need to get the pork. “Some exclusions apply.”

Aldi has baby carrots for 69 cents a pound, which is a good price for baby carrots. They usually have whole carrots for $1.29 for two pounds, which is 65 cents a pound. But the baby carrots are more fun to eat, and kids especially prefer them to the big kind. Grape tomatoes there are 99 cents for a pint package, and grapes are 89 cents a pound. Avocados are 69 cents each. Aldi and Kroger both have fresh broccoli for 99 cents a pound. Kroger has 18 eggs for $1.89, which comes out to about $1.25 per dozen, if you buy at least 5 qualifying items. Cream cheese is 99 cents for 8-ounce package on the same deal.

Kroger has 73/27 ground beef for $1.87 per pound. This is less than ground beef usually costs, but I want to let you know about another place to get ground beef. Kip and Whitney Schlegel of Marble Hill Farm raise grass fed beef. No grains at all. Grass fed beef has lots of health benefits. While they are not certified organic, the animals are not given hormones or antibiotics, and Kip hasn’t used sprays or artificial fertilizer since he’s owned the farm. Kip’s ground beef is usually $5 per pound, but he reduces the price if you buy more at one time. For example, it’s $4 per pound if you buy 10 1-lb packages. That’s still a lot more than $1.87 per pound, but it’s much leaner (I usually have to add some fat when I cook it) so it doesn’t cook down as much as the fatter meat. And if you get food stamps and you buy it at the Farmers Market, you can use the double vouchers ($2 in Farmers Market vouchers for each $1 in food stamps), so you’re really only paying $2 per pound. I talked to them at the Farmers Market about the vouchers, and they said that they have enough money in the double voucher program to be able to offer them through the winter and possibly into next spring. But if you want Kip’s ground beef, you’ll need to get it soon, because he’s not at the winter market. Other vendors at the Market also offer bulk deals and also have very good meat. Kip just happens to be the one I usually buy my ground beef from. If you see some meat you want from another vendor, be sure to ask if they give discounts on bulk purchases. It never hurts to ask. And all the vendors there take the vouchers, so, if you have food stamps, you’re really paying half price for all the meat. Up to the limit of $36 of vouchers for $18 of food stamps.

On to the recipes. You could use the meat in this week’s pork packages in any of the recipes I’ve given the past two weeks, so I’ll just give one new pork recipe today, . I’ll also give a couple of recipes for ground beef. One thing you should be aware of – grass fed beef tastes a bit different than commercial beef, and because it’s so lean it cooks a bit differently.

Mustard and apples both go well with pork, alone or in combination, as in MUSTARDY PORK CHOPS WITH APPLES AND ONIONS. This comes to about $3.25 for the whole batch and makes four servings, so it’s about 80 cents per serving. You’ll need another vegetable to go with this. Broccoli would be good, either the fresh broccoli at 99 cents a pound at Aldi and Kroger, or frozen broccoli for 98 cents a pound at Walmart. The fresh is better, but the frozen is more convenient. A carrot or two, sliced on the diagonal, and cooked with the broccoli, tastes good and adds some color. (You could slice the carrots straight across, but it looks fancier on the diagonal.) Or make ROASTED CABBAGE to go with it. 

Serve the cabbage with the pork chops, and put the sauce over both. With cabbage at 59 cents a pound, this comes to between 85 cents and $1.15 for the whole batch, or about 25 cents a serving for four servings. The whole meal, then, is about $1.05 per serving. You could do something similar, but easier, but coarsely shredding the cabbage and putting it into the pan with the apple and onion, instead of roasting it. It should cook in about the same amount of time.

And now to ground beef. Or hamburger. I use the terms interchangeably. You probably have lots of recipes of your own, but these may be a bit different. A few words first about grass fed beef, in case you chose to try Kip’s. Grass-fed beef tastes a bit different, so you might want to start by using it in a dish with other strong flavors, so the hamburger isn’t the predominate flavor. Because it is so lean, it also cooks a bit differently. You generally want to cook it at a lower temperature, and you’ll want to add something to add extra moisture to make up for the missing fat. Here are some suggestions for cooking withgrass-fed beef

Here’s a tip if you buy the three pound chubs at Kroger. I haven’t tried it, but I read that you can go ahead and freeze the whole thing instead of dividing it up into smaller packages. When you want to cook it, just dump it in a pot of boiling water and periodically chop it up with a spoon or spatula to separate it. It won’t brown, but it will cook through and can be used in any recipe that calls for cooked ground beef. Save the water you cooked it in to make soup.

As I’ve said before, I really like going to the Farmers Market, especially in the summer with all the wonderful produce. I usually come back with more than I need. One of my favorite ways to use it is in UNSTUFFED PEPPERS. I really like stuffed peppers – except for the peppers themselves! So instead of making a filling and putting it in peppers, I chop up the peppers and put them in the filling. It’s amazingly versatile. I usually use hamburger (or sometimes sausage or a combination of the two), plus onions, peppers and tomatoes, and zucchini and/or yellow squash. Or maybe some eggplant. It all depends on what I end up with when I go to make it. How much I use of each depends on the size of the veggie. It can also be seasoned in many ways. I use a basic taco seasoning a lot of times, or just add some chili powder, cumin, oregano and garlic powder. Or Italian seasoning. Or I tried some Moroccan seasoning I put together one time, and it turned out really good with that, too. Here’s the basic recipe.

Using Kroger’s ground beef, and veggies from the Farmers Market, this would cost about $4.00, or $1.00 per serving for four servings. A big zucchini is usually 75 cents, and sometimes the bigger ones are actually cheaper than the smaller ones. Because the veggies all cook together, the big zucchinis work just as well as smaller ones and are cheaper. I usually get large but oddly shaped red and yellow bell peppers for 50 cents each at one of the stalls. And “ugly” tomatoes, or seconds, for half price at another stall. Coleslaw would be good with this, or a green salad. Or use this to make a Taco Salad, by putting it on a bed of lettuce and adding some grated cheddar and a dollop of sour cream, with maybe a bit of diced fresh tomato. Any of these menus should cost less than $1.50 per person.

Fresh green beans are wonderful, but I have to admit that canned are cheaper and easier. You can use either in CHEESY BEEF AND GREEN BEANSYou could even use frozen, though I never use them. I think they have an off taste. A lot of people must like them, though, or they wouldn't sell them. Using the ground beef from Kroger, the canned green beans from Marsh and tomato sauce and cheese from Aldi (I know – that’s a lot of different stores to have to go to), the total cost of this is about $4.20, or $1.05 per serving for four servings. Coleslaw would go well with this, or a green salad, or some of the baby carrots from Aldi. You should be able to find a side dish or two to go with this and still keep the price below $1.50 per serving. If you use Kip’s ground beef and can get it with the double food stamp vouchers, it would add about 3 cents per serving. Paying full price for Kip’s ground beef would add about 53 cents per serving. 

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