Friday, July 25, 2014

Ground Beef and Summer Veggies and the Weekly Special with Mary Anne

Kroger has regular ground beef (73% lean) for $1.99 a pound in five pound chubs. That’s $9.95 for the chub. Cherries are $1.88 a pound. A four-pound bag of sugar is 99 cents. Eckrich franks are 88 cents for 14 ounces, which I assume is eight franks. Buns are 88 cents for eight hamburger or hot dog buns. That’s 11 cents each for the franks and the buns. (It’s not particularly healthy what with the processed frank and the white flour bun, but that’s only 22 cents for a hot dog, or say 30 cents with ketchup and so on. Not bad for a summer supper – once in a while!)  Local muskmelons (which as far as I know is just another name for cantaloupe) are two for $3.00, or $1.50 each. (Kayte got one and said it was wonderful! That's what she used in her watermelon/cantaloupe/cucumber plate that she prepared on Friday.) Peaches, plums and nectarines are 99 cents a pound. You may have noticed that there aren’t many peaches at the Farmers Market this year. The long cold winter damaged the blossoms so there’s a very small crop of peaches locally. Sour cream is ten for $10.00 or $1.00 per pint (16 ounces). Yellow squash, zucchini, broccoli crowns, and green beans are all 99 cents a pound. Cherry tomatoes are two 10.5-ounce boxes for $3.00, or $1.50 per box. Cheese is two packages of 12 – 16 ounces each for $7.00, or $3.50 per package. That’s a good price if you get the 16 ounce packages. Indiana sweet corn on the cob is ten for $3.00, or 30 cents each. I didn’t see it in their ad, but when I was in the store on Thursday I saw “jumbo” seedless watermelons for $3.99 each. (I have no idea how the “seedless watermelons” for $2.49 at Aldi compare to the “jumbo seedless watermelons” for $3.99 at Kroger.) Prices are good through Wednesday, July 30.

Aldi has sweet onions, two pounds for 69 cents, or 35 cents a pound. I usually stock up on yellow onions when they’re three pounds for 99 cents, or 33 cents a pound. Same price. Corn on the cob is four ears for 99 cents, or 25 cents each. Seedless watermelon are $2.49 each. (I have no idea how the “seedless watermelons” for $2.49 at Aldi compare to the “jumbo seedless watermelons” for $3.99 at Kroger.) Mushrooms are 99 cents for 8 ounces. Zucchini (the smallish regular size ones, not the big ones like you can get at the Farmers Market) are three for $1.49, or 50 cents each. Green peppers are also $1.49 for a three pack. Organic baby carrots are 99 cents a pound, which isn’t a bad price even for conventional baby carrots. Ground turkey is $5.99 for a three pound chub, or $2.00 a pound. Plain non-fat yogurt is $1.69 a quart (32 ounces). Prices are good through Tuesday, July 29. They weren’t advertised, but the last few times I’ve been to Aldi milk was $1.69 a gallon and eggs were $1.19 a dozen.

I’ll go with the ground beef this week. Fortunately vegetables are cheap and can be used to stretch the meat. Hurray for the Farmers Market! (And don’t forget to double your food stamps with Market Bucks!) And while we’re talking about the Farmers Market and doubling food stamps and ground beef, the Market Bucks you get in exchange for your food stamps can be used to buy meat, too, which makes ground beef there about the same price as at Kroger. The one place I remember looking had ground beef for $5.50 a pound, or $2.25 with the 2-for1 Market Bucks. And you can probably find it cheaper than that at other stalls.

Zucchini (Or is it zucchinis? It sure sounds wrong with the s on the end, but that’s what the dictionary I looked at said was correct. I’ll go with what sounds right.) abound these days. They’re one of those bland foods that you can add quite a bit of because it doesn’t have much flavor of its own, as long as it’s fixed with other foods that do have a lot of flavor. That works best with grated zucchini, which sort of disappears. Do you remember the BZM (BASIC ZUCCHINI MIXTURE) I talked about last week? Recipes are available at the Hub near the zucchini, in case you didn’t get it last week. You can use the big zucchini that are so cheap this time of year, make up a batch or two of BZM and freeze it in two or three cup portions and use them all year long. Like in BZM-MHC ZUCCHINI MEATLOAF. It’s just a basic meatloaf except you add some BZM to it. You don’t even notice the zucchini. A big loaf of it costs about $5.10 and makes six good servings at 85 cents each, or $3.40 for four servings. Add CARROT SALAD or COLESLAW for about $1.00 each for four servings and an ear of corn apiece for another $1.00 and you’ve got a big meal for only about $5.40 per person. Depending on the size of the watermelons, you might be able to squeeze out watermelon for everyone. If not, make ORANGE MILK SHAKES (about 50 cents if you make a double batch and give everyone about a cup and half each, or you can give them more if you add some ice and make it into a smoothie) or ORANGE ICE POPS (25 cents for a whole batch of them. How many it makes depends on how big you make them. If you don’t have popsicle molds, just use small paper cups and popsicle sticks.)

The zucchini in ZUCCHINI AND GROUND BEEFCASSEROLE is cut into ¼” dice, so it doesn’t disappear like the grated zucchini, but the pieces are small enough to soak up all the flavor. Assuming that you use one large zucchini (they seem to be pretty much 75 cents each regardless of size at the Farmers Market), it should cost about $3.45. Serve it over half a head of lettuce with a cup each of shredded cheddar and sour cream (1/4 cup each per serving) for a total cost of $5.40. Half a cantaloupe at 75 cents would bring the meal to $6.15, or just over my goal of $1.50 per person. Or serve WATERMELON ICE POPS or homemade vanilla yogurt to keep it under $1.50. (Just add a bit of sweetener and about a teaspoon of vanilla extract to a quart of HOMEMADE YOGURT.) Not that you really need a dessert, of course. You could save that extra 60 cents and use it another day, instead. I’m just trying to show you how much food you can get for $1.50 per person.

When I was at the Hub on Tuesday (Did you go to the Hub Family Lunch? What a delicious bunch of food! And a lot of it came from things they had grown in the various gardens.), they had beautiful carrots with fresh feathery tops. When I saw the recipe for CARROT AND GROUND BEEF SKILLET, and especially the description of the little truly-baby carrots the author gets from her local farmer (about the size of her finger), it reminded me of those carrots. Not in size, of course, but in the fresh crisp sweetness of them. Actually, it seems a shame to use those Hub carrots in cooking; they should be savored raw and plain and fresh. Just buy some at the store. It won’t be as good as using the super-fresh carrots, but a lot more practical. A batch of this should cost about $4.75, assuming that you have to buy the green onions. If you happen to have some in your garden that need to be thinned anyway, you’ll save $1.00, and it will only cost about $3.75. But I’ll assume that you’re going to be buying them. You shouldn’t need much to go with it. How about a seedless cucumber (50 cents at the Market last Saturday) in either sour cream or vinegar and oil? Or some fresh fruit – maybe a couple of peaches diced and added to HOMEMADE YOGURT? Two peaches and a quart (4 cups) of yogurt and you’re still under $6.00. Or the cucumbers for a total of about $5.50. You can’t have both, unfortunately. But you could have the cucumbers and either ORANGE ICE POPS or WATERMELON ICE POPS and stay under $6.00.

Eggplant (another of those words that I don’t know whether to add an “s” to) is not nearly as prolific as zucchini, but it’s widely available at the Farmers Market now. (Kayte said they should be getting lots of it from the Hoosier Hills gardens later this summer.) They were running 75 cents to a dollar each on Saturday. It seemed to depend in part on the size but also on the vendor. If you have time, check around for the best deal. The original recipe for EGGPLANT AND GROUND BEEF CASSEROLE called for slicing four medium eggplants, sautéing them in butter, and then layering them with the meat sauce. Using one big eggplant, dicing it and combining it with the sauce makes the casserole a lot quicker and easier to make. It’s not as pretty, but lots, lots easier. The cost of $4.60 leaves room in the budget for a pound and a half of green beans or broocoli.

The final recipe, TURKEY LOAF, is meatloaf with ground turkey instead of ground beef. Since it’s on sale for the same price, I thought I’d include it. The problem is that with all the veggies in it, it costs $5.15 for a loaf. You can either go with four big slices and just have a simple salad or a pile of buttered zucchini to go with it, or you can get six smaller slices out of it. With six slices, four servings are just $3.90 and you can have a salad and/or ZUCCHINI AND CARROTS and/or some fruit for dessert. Any two out of three should keep it under $6.00.

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