Friday, August 15, 2014

Steak on a Budget? Why Not? and the Weekly Specials with Mary Anne

London Broil, on the grill - and on a budget!
Some bad news to start things off. (If you receive food stamps, you’re already been dealing with this.) I’ve been working with the average benefit of $4.40 received per person per day in 2012 in Indiana, adjusted by the 5.5% reduction that went into effect a year ago, to come up with an estimated benefit received this year of about $4.15 per person per day. Today I looked online to see if I could find any actual figures, and I did. According to the Food and Nutrition Service of the USDA, the average benefit received per person in Indiana in May of this year was $122.48, or $3.95 per day. In April of this year it was $121.01, or $4.03 per day. Let’s call it an average of $4.00 per day.

I’ve been allowing $1.00 for breakfast, $1.25 for lunch, and $1.50 for supper, or $3.75 per day. I’ve been figuring that the extra 40 cents per day or $12.00 per month was available for things like buying a big jar or box of something when you only needed to use part of it during the month. Or maybe being able to stock up a little bit when there was a really good sale. In order to keep that 40 cents per day buffer, I’m going to have to reduce the meal allowance somewhere by 15 cents. I’m going to take it off of breakfast. I’m going to allow an average of 85 cents a day for breakfast. After all, breakfast tends to be pretty basic anyway, at least in my family. So from now on, it’s 85 cents a day for breakfast, $1.25 a day for lunch, $1.50 a day for supper, and a buffer of $12.00 a month for buying in bulk and things like that. Feeding a family on a budget gets more challenging all the time, doesn’t it?

But now to some better news. The sales. Mostly produce again, but some buys there. Here’s what I found.

Aldi has cantaloupe for 99 cents each and honeydew melons for $1.99 each. Red and green grapes are 99 cents a pound, or $1.98 for a two-pound bag. Eggs were still $1.19 a dozen when I was there earlier this week, but don’t know if they’re still that price or how long they’ll stay there.

Kroger has ten ears of corn for $3.00, or 30 cents each. Bartlett pears and Hatch chili peppers are both 99 cents a pound. Peaches, plums and nectarines are still 99 cents a pound. Roma tomatoes are 99 cents a pound, iceberg lettuce is 99 cents a head, and organic kale is 99 cents a bunch.

Marsh has boneless skinless chicken breasts in the family packs for $1.96 a pound. Boneless top round steak, roast or London broil is $2.99 a pound.

When I was at Walmart last week, chicken leg quarters were still 69 cents a pound, or $6.90 for a ten-pound bag. That has been their regular price for some time now, and I assume it still is.

I have wanted to do something with roast beef for a long time now, but it’s so expensive. And it’s not like you can do much with a casserole, like you can with ground beef. Anyway, the reason I wanted to do something with roast beef was because it’s nice to have a hunk of meat sometimes, instead of meat that’s been stretched with other stuff.

My plan for this week was to allow up to $2.00 per person for supper by including cheaper lunches and breakfasts, while still keeping the day’s meals to $3.75 per person. I’m going to go ahead and do it that way, even though I only have $3.60 per person to work with. I assume a family of four, so that’s $14.40 for the family for the day. Fruit will be an important part of my budget breakfasts and lunches.

The nutrition folks say that a serving of cooked meat should be 3 ounces, which would mean starting with about 4 ounces, before it cooks down. I think that’s pretty skimpy, especially if I’m having roast beef as a special meal. I’m going to go with 6 ounces per person of raw meat, which will yield about a little over 4 ounces cooked. Six ounces of the top round roast, top round steak or London broil will cost $1.12.

London broil is almost always marinated, which both adds flavor and also helps to tenderize the meat. LONDON BROIL has a typical soy sauce and garlic based marinade. It calls for a three pound steak. Eat half of it as steak the first night, and then the other half on a steak salad a day or two later. The marinade costs next to nothing. Let’s call it 33 cents, which is probably high. The three pound steak, then, will cost $9.30, and each half will cost $4.65.

The first day’s menu will be cantaloupe and cottage cheese for breakfast; tuna salad for lunch; and 
London Broil, zucchini and carrots, and tomato and cucumber salad for supper.

Breakfast for four – 1/2 cantaloupe (50 cents), 2 cups cottage cheese ($1.53), total $2.02.
Lunch for four – 3 cans tuna ($2.04), 2 eggs (20 cents), 1 head lettuce (99 cents), 12 ounces (four) Roma tomatoes (80 cents), 1 cup Thousand Island dressing (65 cents), total $4.68.
Supper for four – half recipe (1-1/2 pounds) London Broil ($4.65), 1 medium/large zucchini (67 cents), 2 carrots (25 cents), 1 pound Roma tomatoes (99 cents), 1 cucumber (67 cents), 1/2 cup sour cream (33 cents), vinegar/salt/pepper (5 cents), total $7.61.
Total cost for four - $14.31.
Cost per person - $3.58.

The second day’s menu will be Peach Smoothies for breakfast; Zucchini and Egg Casserole with cantaloupe and grapes for lunch; and STEAK SALAD with SIMPLE VINAIGRETTE for supper.

Breakfast for four – 6 cups milk ($1.05), 1 pound peaches (99 cents), sugar (.10), total $2.14.
Lunch for four – Zucchini and Egg Casserole ($3.75), 1/2 cantaloupe (50 cents), 1/4 pound red grapes (25 cents), 1/4 pound green grapes (25 cents), total $4.75.
Supper for four – half recipe (1-1/2 pounds) London Broil ($4.65), 1 head lettuce (99 cents), 1 pound Roma tomatoes (99 cents), Simple Vinaigrette (75 cents), total $7.38.
Total cost for four - $14.27.
Cost per person - $3.57.

I wish I could get the produce at the Farmers Market, but it just doesn’t fit in the budget. Other than the zucchini and cucumber, that is. If you get Food Stamps, though, you should be able to get more of the produce there, by exchanging some of your food stamps for Market Bucks and essentially getting the produce for half price. Ask around, too, and see if you can get “seconds” on the tomatoes for a discount. Seconds are tomatoes (or other produce) that isn’t quite perfect enough to sell for full price. Sometimes I’ve been able to get them for as much as half off. If you exchange Food Stamps for Market Bucks, that’s the same as getting 75% off! If they have canning tomatoes, ask if you can have just a few of them. They’re basically seconds, too, though the vendors would probably rather sell you a big box of them instead of just a few.

I hope you’re enjoying this lovely cool weather as much as I am!

---Mary Anne---

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