Friday, March 28, 2014

Where's the Budget Ground Beef? and Weekly Specials with Mary Anne

This is a horrible week for specials! Or maybe it’s just the price increases that they’ve been talking about so much and I don’t recognize good prices. Here are the few things that seem like good deals to me.

Marsh has family pack chicken leg quarters for 79 cents a pound. Three one-pound packs of strawberries are $5.00, or $1.67 per pound. Frozen vegetables are $5.00 for two 32-ounce (two pound) bags. That’s $2.50 per bag, or $1.25 per pound. When comparing this to the price for other vegetables, be sure to check the size of the packages. A lot of them are 10 ounces these days, or maybe 12 ounces. These two-pound bags come out to 78 cents for 10 ounces or 94 cents for 12 ounces. The picture shows corn and broccoli; other vegetables may be on sale, too. These prices are good through next Wednesday, April 2.

IGA has “bunched broccoli” two for $3.00, or $1.50 each. It may be a good price, depending on how big the “bunches” are. Don’t forget that the stalk is good eating, too. It needs to be peeled, though. I use a knife to cut back the thick peel, then pull it off. Most of it comes off that way. “Tomatoes on the Vine” are 99 cents a pound. Frozen vegetables are ten 1-pound bags for $10.00, or $1.00 a pound. “Selected varieties” are at this price; the picture shows a bag of mixed vegetables. “Selected varieties” of canned vegetables are two for $1.00, or 50 cents each. Three 8-ounce packages of chunk cheese are $5.00, or $1.67 each, or $3.33 per pound. Shredded cheese is the same price. These prices are good through Sunday, March 30.

Aldi has fresh broccoli for 99 cents for a 1-pound package. If you shop there, you know that their produce is all prepackaged. I’ve noticed that some vegetables are a lot bigger than they say. You might be able to get a better deal if you can find a big package. Strawberries are $1.49 a pound. These prices are good through Tuesday, April 1.

Kroger has Anjou pears and Asian pears for 99 cents a pound. Are you familiar with Asian pears? They look more like apples, have brown skin and very crisp slightly grainy flesh. Ground turkey is $2.50 a pound.

It seems like all I ever talk about is chicken and pork, chicken and pork, with an occasion foray into fish or hamburger. I’m tired of chicken and pork! But then again, what else is there besides chicken, pork, beef and fish? OK, there’s also lamb (too expensive), turkey (done that one, too), duck and goose (also too expensive), venison (if you happen to hunt), and beef other than hamburger (too expensive). But from a practical standpoint, there’s not much except chicken, pork, beef and fish. The thing to do is to find different ways of fixing them.

Do you realize I’ve been doing this column just over six months now? The first column came out on September 3, 2013. I went back and did some checking and, if I’ve counted correctly (always a questionable assumption), I’ve given 166 recipes so far! A few of them are duplicates, but not many. Probably 150 is more like it. That includes 11 recipes for beef (6 corned beef and 5 hamburger – I thought there were a lot more for hamburger), 40 recipes for chicken (no wonder I’m tired of talking about chicken!) and 10 for turkey, 4 for eggs, 11 for fish, 40 for pork (17 for pork chops and roasts, 11 for ham, and 12 for sausage), 29 for miscellaneous things like tortilla chips and pumpkin pie, 13 for salads, 15 for soups, and 51 for vegetables! Yes, I know that comes to a lot more than 150, but some things fall into more than one category. Like chicken soup is both chicken and soup. Based on this informal and probably inaccurate analysis, it looks like I should see what I can do with hamburger, if it ever goes on sale again. Even at sales prices, though, it’s still too expensive to be much of a “budget” meat.

Hamburger isn’t on sale this week, but IGA has ground chuck for $2.99 a pound in the three pound or bigger packages. I guess that is on sale; I just tend to think that a sale price on hamburger should be under $2.00 a pound. Let’s go with the ground chuck. I’m going to try to keep my dinners to $1.50 per person, but I’m allowing myself some leeway here. I’m willing to go as high as $2.00 per person. That means cutting back on breakfast or lunch to keep the day’s meals at $4.00 per person or less, so I’ll throw in a couple of menus for them, too.

First, BREAKFAST. My breakfasts tend to be pretty boring; how about yours? Especially since I don't eat grains of any type, so no cereal, pancakes or waffles, toast, etc. I don't know how much cereal costs these days, but I'd guess that my eggs are probably cheaper than most name brand sugary cereals.

What’s a cheap LUNCH? How about a big bowl of soup or salad? Not just a bowl of lettuce, but lots of protein, too. And definitely not just a can of soup!

Back to the hamburger recipes. Cabbage rolls are very tedious to make. Or at least it seems to me that they would be. I’ve never actually made them because they sound so finicky. CABBAGE ROLL CASSEROLE gives you the flavor of traditional cabbage rolls without all the blanching and rolling and filling and so forth. A batch of this will cost about $5.00 and will make four big servings. If you want to serve something with it, how about some carrot sticks. A good dollop of sour cream on each serving would be good, too. These will keep it to $6.00 total, or $1.50 per person.

KANSAS CITY BEEF SOUP is full of ground beef and vegetables in a rich butter-and-flour gravy. 
It costs about $9.20 for eight servings, or $1.15 per serving. How about some carrot and celery sticks to go with. Or some wedges of iceberg lettuce with dressing. You can stay under $1.50 per serving either way. Using a can of vegetables instead of the frozen would save 50 for the batch. Or you could use two cans of vegetables instead of the frozen vegetables, which would make it even chunkier and would make the servings a little bit bigger and it would still cost about $9.20.

The final recipe, CHEESY BEEF AND GREEN BEANS, is super quick. The cheese makes it a little more expensive than the other recipes. It comes to $5.80 for four servings. They’re big servings, but you’ll still probably want something to go with it. Some iceberg lettuce with dressing would be good, or a simple cabbage salad or coleslaw. Or some fresh fruit. You could slice up a couple of pounds of the Anjou pears or the Asian pears. They would probably have to be sliced and shared because they will probably be too big for everyone to have a whole pear. Or some canned fruit would be good. Just be sure to get some that’s canned in juice and not in a sugary syrup. It should come to under $8.00, or under $2.00 per person, with any of these additions.

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