Friday, April 25, 2014

Menus for a Week on a Budget, and Weekly Specials with Mary Anne

April 25, 2014

The sales aren’t great this week. IGA has ground chuck, in three pound or bigger packages, for $2.99 a pound. Honeysuckle fresh ground turkey, 93% lean, is also $2.99 a pound. Shredded cheese is $5.00 for three 8-ounce packages, or $1.67 each. Cauliflower and bunched broccoli are both $1.99 each. How good a price this is depends on how big they are. Prices are good through Sunday, April 27.

Aldi’s ad is unusual this week in that the only food shown is vegetables and one kind of meat. The rest is mostly yard and garden related stuff. Grape tomatoes are 99 cents for 10 ounces. Baby carrots are 79 cents a pound. Mushrooms are 89 cents for 8 ounces. Multi-colored peppers are two for $1.29. Cucumbers are 99 cents for a three pack. Prices are good through next Tuesday, April 29.

Marsh has sweet corn, ten ears for $3.00, or 30 cents an ear. Ground chuck in the family pack is $2.99 a pound. Chicken leg quarters in the family pack are 79 cents a pound. Johnsonville cooked brats or sausage is two 14-16 ounce packs for $6.00, or $3.00 each. Prices are good through next Wednesday, April 30.

Kroger has boneless skinless chicken breasts for $1.99 a pound. Fresh green beans are 99 cents a pound. Eggplant is 99 cents each. Breakfast sausage is $2.79 a pound. Assorted cheeses are $3.79 for 12-16 ounce packages. A good price for 16 ounce packages, not so good for 12 ounce. Pints of cottage cheese are three for $4.00, or $1.33 each. Prices are good through next Wednesday, April 30.

It’s not a great bunch of sales this week, is it? Some OK prices on meat, but nothing fantastic. The vegetables at Aldi are the best of the bunch. Doesn’t really leave much room for budget cooking. However, that’s what we have to deal with so, so I guess there’s no point in complaining. Even though it does feel good to do so, sometimes.

I was trying to decide what meat to feature today, and nothing jumped out and said, “Use me! Use me!” I just talked about pork chops a couple of weeks ago, and I’ve talked about chicken a lot, and that’s as close as it comes to good specials this week. So I decided to do something different. I’ve been giving recipes and menus for about three individual meals per week, but there are 21 meals in a week. As I’m sure you know, especially if you’re trying to feed a family.

I decided that this week I’d give a whole week’s worth of menus, trying to keep it within the average food stamp benefit received in Indiana. I’m not sure exactly what that is, but the benefit actually received in Indiana was $132.46 per person per month in 2012 (according to the feds) and it was reduced by about 5.5% last year, so that would take it down to about $125.17, or about $4.17 per day, or about $29.21 per week. Since I’m going to do menus for a week and I’ve been assuming a family of four, that would be about $116.83. That’s as close as I can figure to the average weekly food stamp benefit actually received by a family of four after the cut last year. Anyway, that’s what I’m using as my goal.

So, here’s the deal. I would try to come up with a week’s worth of menus for a family of four, using this week’s ads and current prices for everything not on sale, and keep it below $116.83. And I would stick with my goal of eating just meat, eggs, vegetables, and dairy. No fillers like bread or rice or pasta or noodles or potatoes or beans or things like that. I had no idea when I started whether I’d be able to do it. No, that’s not really true. I was pretty sure I wouldn’t be able to do it, given the dismal state of the weekly ads. At least, not without a lot of tinkering and cutting.

I was very pleasantly surprised. It actually came together very easily, which it doesn’t always do, even when there are great deals. I’m very fortunate that I don’t have to rely on food stamps, but I have done the Food Stamp Challenge several times, sometimes for real and sometimes on paper. Which is not, of course, the same thing as eating on a food stamp budget because you have to. Even on paper is seldom comes together this easily.

How did I come out? I’ll give you my menus and shopping list in a minute, but I’ll give the basics first. It came out to $105.90, or an average of $3.78 per person per day. That’s what I would have had to shell out at the store. For example, that includes a quart of half-and-half, even though I only need two cups this week. But mostly I used up everything I “bought.” I did go back and make some changes that way, so I didn’t end up having to buy a second jar of something if I only needed a couple of tablespoons. And I assumed that I had a few things on hand, like mustard and Worcestershire sauce and salt and pepper that I only needed a little bit of.

One more caveat, and then I’ll get into the nitty gritty. I eat very low carb. I believe that it’s the healthiest way for me to eat. That doesn’t mean it’s the healthiest way for you to eat. I’ll leave that up to you and your health care professional. But these menus are based on a low carb eating plan. There’s no cereal or bread or potatoes or rice or pasta or noodles or so forth, but there are lots of vegetables and probably more meat than you’re used to. And definitely lots more eggs and fats! Don’t freak out about that. There is a lot of research that shows that dietary cholesterol isn’t a problem as long as you keep your carbs way down. I’m not a doctor or a dietician and I don’t give medical advice, but from what I’ve read, if you eat a lot of carbs, don’t eat a lot of fat. If you eat a lot of fat, don’t eat a lot of carbs. These menus are low carb and so it’s all right for them to be high fat. Just don’t add a bunch of bread or cookies or dried beans or whole grains or whatever to it and expect it to be healthy.

Okay, now to the menus, and a couple of recipes, and then a shopping list. I’ll tell you where I’m buying things, and if something isn’t on sale this week, I’ll tell you what I used for the cost and why. I didn’t go out and check the price of everything not on sale, but almost everything is on sale and the other prices are pretty current. Again, this is for a family of four for a week, and assuming that you are providing all of the meals. No school lunches, no skipping meals, no eating out, etc.

The menus include a lot more eggs and fat than you’re used to, but also a lot more meat and vegetables. And you’re right – very little dairy and no fruit. That’s intentional, and again, there’s science behind that, but that’s probably the hardest thing for people to accept about eating low carb. If you feel that you need to add milk, make it whole milk, and for fruit use melon and berries if at all possible. Cantaloupe are on sale this week.

There are only three recipes for the whole week, which is actually a lot more like the way I actually eat. I’m much more likely to throw a pork chop in a skillet and nuke some broccoli than I am to fancy things up with a recipe. So three recipes. First, JOE’S SPECIAL, which is a scramble of hamburger, eggs, mushrooms, spinach, onions, and, sometimes, parmesan cheese. It’s a classic from the 1930s or so from San Francisco. Second, HAMBURGER VEGGIE SOUP, which is exactly what it sounds like. Use whatever vegetables you happen to have on hand or are on sale. It makes lots. A dollop of sour cream is good in it, but then a dollop of sour cream is good on just about anything. And finally, SAUSAGE AND MUSHROOM QUICHE. A dollop of sour cream on top of this is good, too.

Now for my shopping list, showing you what I bought and where and for how much. (Remember, this is all on paper; this isn’t my real menu for the week. I’m using up stuff in my freezer and pantry and buying as little as possible this month.)

So that’s how I build a menu out of what’s on sale. It very rarely comes together as nicely and as easily as it did this time. And I know that there can be a world of difference between works out nicely on paper and what works out nicely in the kitchen and on the dining table! What makes it work is the eggs at 79 cents a dozen (if they’re back to their old price of $1.59 a dozen they’ll cost almost $5.00 more), the chicken at 79 cents a pound (though Walmart’s usual price has been ten pounds for $6.90, or 69 cents a pound, which would save over a dollar, even after buying the extra pound), and the great prices on the veggies. Pork chops for $1.59 a pound helps, too. If the ground chuck weren’t on sale, we could have gotten regular ground beef for around $2.50 a pound, so the sale on ground chuck is nice but not critical. And you’ll notice that I didn’t include any coffee (or tea, for me) or desserts or snacks. You may feel that these are important for you and your family. If you have kids (and I am assuming a family of four) then you may need to include snacks. It’s a far from perfect menu, but I hope that you can get some ideas of things that you can include in your meal planning process to help you plan healthy, appetizing meals on a budget.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

The Hub takes a bite of the Big Apple! - WhyHunger

As a part of Why Hunger’s Nourishing Connections Community Learning Project, Mother Hubbard’s Cupboard (MHC) is engaged in a peer to peer learning experience with Neighbor’s Together (NT), a Brooklyn emergency food provider with a mission to alleviate poverty and hunger.   This past week, MHC staff Stephanie Solomon and Brandon Shurr visited with Neighbors Together for an in-depth look at their innovative advocacy work.
Beyond offering hot meals, NT has caseworkers on site to build community connections to available resources as well as community organizing around neighborhood issues of poverty and hunger.  MHC’s visit came just in time for us to attend a member meeting with discussions about New York state legislation that would potentially affect NT members.  They were preparing for NT’s annual Lobby Day, coming up in March, when members and staff head to Albany to advocate around issues of poverty and hunger.   We were extremely impressed by the cohesion of the community, and the strong voices involved in the member meeting.
We used the time with Neighbors Together to learn more about their membership model, and specifically, how they create space for members to engage in advocacy.  We also took time to learn about NT’s Leadership Development Series, which is an intensive leadership training focused on equipping participants with the knowledge and communication skills needed for community organizing.  Our visit with Neighbors Together fortified us with the background and inspiration needed to organize back in Bloomington.
In talks with NT back in August, MHC was inspired to begin our own community meetings, which we now offer monthly, to create a space for Hub community members to come together and discuss important pantry issues.  We call them our Hub Family Meetings, and already they have been a space where the Mother Hubbard’s community can come together and come up for solutions that make our programs more inclusive and in line with our vision and values.
While in New York City, we had the opportunity to visit two additional community-based organizations, the Brooklyn Food Coalition and the New York Common Pantry.  We were blown away by the success the Brooklyn Food Coalition had in advocating for changes in the nutrition quality of school food, and the focus on nutritional standards in the New York Common Pantry.  Our whirlwind week of visiting with innovative players in the New York food justice movement brought new vigor to our work with Mother Hubbard’s Cupboard.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Apples for Dinner

Apples at the MHC Food Pantry. Photo by Stephanie Langan

When we think of cooking with apples, we typically picture desserts like apple pie, or apple crisp, or even baked apples. But apples can find there way into savory dishes as well. 

Take for instance the Apple Carrot Casserole. Apples add a touch of sweetness to this nourishing, easy to prepare meal.

Or these recipes that combine apples and meat:

Honey Mustard Chicken and Apples
Spiced Beef with Apples
Maple and Apple Baked Chicken
Chicken and Apples with Creamy Sauce
Mustardy Pork Chops with Apples and Onions
Apple Beef Stew
Baked Yams, Apples and Canadian Bacon (or Ham)
Mulligatawny Soup

Apples can be used in side dishes, too, like

Friday, April 18, 2014

Eggs, Eggs, and More Eggs!

Due to time constraints (I was out of town until the wee small hours Thursday morning and this had to be in Thursday because MHC is closed on Friday), I won’t be able to work with what’s on sale this week. Instead, I’m going to be talking about what to do with leftover Easter eggs. Or things to do with hard-boiled eggs in general. They’re usually a cheap source of protein.

When I was a kid, I loved to decorate Easter eggs. And with four kids in the family, we needed a lot of them for our Easter baskets! And that, of course, meant lots of leftover Easter eggs. I assume that families have the same problem today. Whatever do you do with all those hard-boiled eggs? I don’t know why it is, but for some reason leftover Easter eggs seem more “leftover” than just a batch of hard-boiled eggs that you make up to have on hand.

You know the basics, of course. Egg salad sandwiches and devilled eggs, and eggs in potato salad and macaroni salad. But then what do you do? I’ll give a few “real” recipes, but mostly just some general ideas of things that you may have forgotten about or that you hadn’t ever thought of but that you’ll know what to do with.

First the general ideas…

Turn coleslaw or cabbage salad into a whole meal salad by adding some chopped hard boiled eggs and some bacon and/or cheese. Or some sausage cut into small bits. Some sunflower seeds are good, too. I usually shred the cabbage for a whole meal salad instead of chopping it. It somehow makes it seem more substantial. I have this a lot in the summer when I don’t want to cook, but it’s good any time of year.

Combine raw cauliflower, a bit of celery (optional), chopped hard boiled eggs, ranch dressing and sunflower seeds (optional) for another main dish salad. Use lots of eggs, since this will be the protein for the meal.

Add a chopped hard-boiled egg to a can of tuna when you make tuna salad. It stretches the tuna. It works with chicken, too. Or ham.

Make a Cobb salad, with lettuce, tomato, bacon, avocado, egg, and blue cheese. Or any combination of these. I seldom use all of them at once, though they’re all part of an official Cobb salad.

Make a chef salad with lettuce, tomato, cucumber, egg, cheese, and leftover meat. Add some olives if you like them.

Make a spinach salad with spinach, bacon, egg, onion, mushrooms, and hot bacon dressing or a sweet dressing.

Serve chopped eggs in white sauce over toast. Asparagus is good with it, too. Mom usually uses canned cream of mushroom soup instead of the white sauce.

Add some chopped eggs to soup as a garnish. Especially good with potato soup or a  green soup like cream of spinach or cream of broccoli.

Add some eggs to creamed spinach.

Or just use chopped eggs (especially the yolks) to garnish cooked vegetables like broccoli and spinach.

Peel them and throw them whole into a jar of pickle juice for pickled eggs. Or into the juice from canned pickled beets. Or add the juice from a can of beets to some pickle juice and add the eggs to that.

Chop the eggs and add them to fried rice.

Make your usual meatloaf, but before you bake it put some whole eggs down the middle. Put a layer of meatloaf on the bottom of the pan (it needs to be a loaf pan for this) and put the eggs in a row down the middle of the pan. Put the rest of the meatloaf around and over the eggs. The eggs need to be completely covered. Bake as usual. When you slice the meatloaf, there will be a slice of egg in each slice.

Scotch Eggs - Wrap each egg in bulk sausage meat so it’s completely covered, dip in beaten raw eggs, then roll in bread crumbs. (You can skip the raw egg and bread crumbs if you want.) Place on an ungreased cookie sheet and bake at 400 for about 35 minutes, or until the sausage is done. Scotch Eggs are traditionally deep fat fried, but baking is easier. The picture from Betty Crocker shows them on a stick, like a cake pop sort of thing, which might please the kids.

Add chopped eggs to a white sauce and toss with pasta. Or Alfredo sauce instead of white sauce.

Make a sandwich with pumpernickel bread, mustard, sardines, and sliced hard boiled eggs.

Peel the eggs and marinate them for a few hours in 1 tablespoon rice vinegar, 2 tablespoons soy sauce and 1 teaspoon sugar. (recipe from the Boston Globe via several people online)

Add eggs and vegetables to your favorite curry sauce. Or just make a white sauce and add some curry powder and use that as your curry sauce.

Make a “layered” salad. In a big bowl (glass if you have it, so you can show off the layers), put some chopped or torn lettuce. Then a layer of frozen peas, a layer of hard boiled eggs, another layer of lettuce, a thin layer of sliced green onions, a layer of halved cherry tomatoes (sliced regular tomatoes get too juicy), a layer of crumbled cooked bacon and a layer of grated cheddar. Mix some mayo with some salt and pepper and a couple of teaspoons of sugar and spread it over the top, sealing it all the way to the edges. Refrigerate overnight. You’re supposed to serve it from the glass bowl, but I find it works best to show it off, then mix it all up myself. Otherwise some folks get just lettuce and others get the good stuff. It’s a really flexible recipe. Sometimes it calls for broccoli or cauliflower, sometimes for sliced water chestnuts. I like to put some sunflower seeds in it, and some people use chopped or whole peanuts. Basically, just use whatever you have. You could mix some ranch dressing with the mayo for the topping, too, if you wanted to.

Hard boiled eggs are in most chicken liver pate recipes, too. Cook the chicken livers (in bacon grease is best, of course) and set aside. Cook some onions (again, preferably in bacon grease) until very soft. Combine the livers and onions in a food processor until mostly smooth. Add some chopped hard boiled eggs. You’ll probably need to season it too. Salt and pepper, of course, and sometimes a bit of Tabasco sauce. Or however you like your chicken liver pate. It’s good with cream cheese mixed in with it, too.

Add chopped hard boiled eggs to cooked green beans and some onion that has been cooked in butter with a bit of garlic.

Now for some “real” recipes…

Friday, April 11, 2014

Celebrating Springtime, and Weekly Specials with Mary Anne

IGA has boneless skinless chicken breasts for $1.69 a pound, leg quarters for 69 cents a pound, and legs (drumsticks) for 99 cents a pound. The chicken breasts are “previously frozen” so technically you shouldn’t refreeze them, but I always do anyway. Fresh green beans and Red Delicious apples are both ten pounds for $10.00, or a dollar a pound. That’s a particularly good price for the apples. Del Monte canned fruit is ten for $10.00, or a dollar a can, which may or may not be a good price. Frozen vegetables are ten one-pound bags for $10.00, or a dollar a bag, which is a very good price. Pollack fillets are $2.69 a pound, which is a good price for fish. Pollack is a mild white fish. Ground turkey is $1.99 for a one pound roll, as is turkey breakfast sausage. You might want to check the nutritional info. Some ground turkey has a lot of fat in it. The more fat, the more it will cook down and the less cooked meat you’ll have. Two pound (32 ounce) bags of shredded cheese are $5.99, which is $3.00 a pound or $1.50 for eight ounces, so that’s a good price. (I don’t know why I sometimes say that something is a good price. I wouldn’t be listing it here if I thought it wasn’t.) Prices are good through Sunday, April 13.

Marsh has sweet corn, ten ears for $3.00, or 30 cents an ear. Sweet potatoes are 79 cents a pound. Libby’s canned vegetables are 50 cents a can, but you have to buy at least ten items from a list of things. Frozen vegetables are 67 cents for a one pound bag, but only Thursday the 10th through Sunday the 13th. Lots of ham on sale for Easter. Prices start at 98 cents a pound for the Sugardale Prestige Fully cooked Hardwood Smoked Shank Portion, which is a water added product. Indiana Kitchen Heritage House Spiral Sliced Ham Hams are $1.28 a pound, limit of one and you have to buy at least $25 of other stuff. Marsh Honey Gold Half Spiral Sliced Glazed Hams are $10 or $20 off for a whole ham, but they don’t tell you how much they are per pound before the discount. That always makes me suspicious, though I’ve gotten some really good deals that way. You may need to calculate the per pound price yourself. Prices for hams go up to $2.39 a pound, depending on the brand, size, etc. With the exception of the frozen vegetables, all prices are good through Wednesday, April 16.

Aldi has hams on sale for Easter, too. (I guess IGA doesn’t this week because they’ll have new sale prices on Sunday.) Appleton Farms hams (a water added product) vary from 99 cents a pound to $1.69 a pound, depending on whether they are sliced and whether they are shank or butt portion. Eggs are 79 cents a dozen, which is a great price! The ones I bought a couple of weeks ago were $1.59 a dozen. “New low prices” are butter for $2.19 a pound and 99 cents for eight ounces of cream cheese. This may mean these prices will continue for a while. Pineapples are $1.49 each, four pound bags of oranges are $1.99, baby carrots are 69 cents a pound, asparagus is $1.49 a pound, and a ten pound bag of russet potatoes is $1.69, or 17 cents a pound. Strawberries are $1.49 a pound. Canned green beans and corn are 49 cents a can and cream of mushroom soup is 59 cents a can. Prices are good through Tuesday, April 15.

Easter menus aren’t as fixed as Thanksgiving menus. Ham and lamb are both traditional, and some people have roasted chicken or turkey. Here’s what I would probably have for Easter dinner, based on this week’s sales. If you don’t celebrate Easter, this would make a good dinner to celebrate Spring, instead. I’m assuming eight people for dinner.

Sweet potatoes
Asparagus with Hollandaise sauce (don’t worry – it’s easy if you have a blender)
Green beans
Maybe a green salad, but probably not
Strawberry Pavlova or individual strawberry meringues (again, very easy)

Serve the dinner in the kitchen and give each person a full plate, rather than putting the food on the table and letting everyone serve him/herself. Each plate gets a slice of ham, a whole (but cut in half) or half sweet potato that’s already been buttered, and a pile of asparagus with Hollandaise sauce poured over it. The reason for plating in the kitchen is that there’s only about two tablespoons of the Hollandaise sauce per person, which is plenty because it’s so rich, but people might take more than that if they served themselves. If there’s any food left after filling the plates, you could put the extra on the table for seconds. Clear the table, and then serve the dessert. If you’re serving Pavlova, serve it at the table because it looks impressive whole. If you’re serving individual meringues they can be plated in the kitchen.

HAMI’d check the price on the Marsh Honey Gold hams after the $10 or $20 off and see whether it was actually a good price. I’d probably end up with the Sugardale ham for 98 cents a pound, even though it is water added. Figure you get about 12 ounces of meat from each pound of ham (because of the bone). The bones will be about the same size regardless of how big the ham is, so you might as well get a big one and have lots of leftovers. If you get a ten pound ham, you can serve eight ounces of meat (about a cup and a half, if it were cubed) per person and use just barely over half the ham. Let’s assume you’ve got a couple of little kids and say you’ll use half of it. That’s $9.80 for the ham (let’s call it $10.00) and you’ll use half of it, so that’s $5.00 for the ham, plus another 25 cents or so for the cloves, or $5.25 total.

SWEET POTATOES – Six ounces of sweet potato per person would come to three pounds total, or $2.37 (let’s call it $2.40). A tablespoon of butter per person (I like lots of butter on my sweet potatoes!) would run another 55 cents, or a total of $2.95.

ASPARAGUS – Figure three pounds, or $4.50.

HOLLANDAISE SAUCE – Figure 70 cents for the butter and 15 cents for the egg yolks (the other 15 cents are for the whites), or 85 cents total for the sauce. See the recipe below.

GREEN BEANS ALMONDINE – Three pounds of green beans is $3.00, plus 15 cents for the butter and 60 cents for the almonds, or $3.75 altogether.

STRAWBERRY PAVLOVA or INDIVIDUAL STRAWBERRY MERINGUES – The strawberries themselves will cost $1.50. The meringue (whether you make it in one big shell for the Pavlova or in individual shells for the strawberry meringues) will cost about 40 cents (you’re using the whites from the yolks you used for the Hollandaise sauce). The whipped cream filling will cost about $1.60. That’s $3.50 for the Pavlova or $1.90 for the meringues without the whipped cream. See the recipe below.

The total cost of the meal – ham, sweet potatoes, asparagus and Hollandaise sauce, and Strawberry Pavlova – will be about $17.30, or $2.20 per person for eight people. For the ham, sweet potatoes, green beans with almonds, and Strawberry Meringues (no whipped cream), the total cost will be about $14.10, or $1.75. These are generous, adult-size portions. If you’re serving kids, too, it will all go further, and the cost per person will be less.

Friday, April 4, 2014

What? Pork Chops Again?! and Weekly Specials with Mary Anne

Kroger has 8-ounce packs of cream cheese ten for $10, or $1.00 each. I don’t think you have to buy ten to get that price. Butter is two pounds for $5.00, or $2.50 a pound. Chicken drumsticks, thighs, and whole fryers are 99 cents a pound. That’s not a great price unless you specifically want whole birds or just the thighs, but it’s not bad if you do. “Crisp broccoli” is three for $5.00, or $1.67 each. Unfortunately, it doesn’t say how big the “crisp broccoli” is, so there’s no way of knowing whether it’s a good price. I sure wish they would be more precise with their descriptions. Eggplants are 99 cents each and green beans are 99 cents a pound. It’s making me think of summer produce at the Farmers Market! Check the eggplant to be sure it’s fresh. If it is, and it’s a reasonable size, that’s a good price. Sweet potatoes are 99 cents a pound, too. Whole cantaloupe are two for $3.00, or $1.50 each. These prices are good through next Wednesday, April 9.

Marsh has red, white, and black seedless grapes and red grapes with seeds for $1.47 a pound. Family pack assorted pork chops are 99 cents a pound. And fresh tomatoes are 97 cents a pound. These prices are good through next Wednesday, April 9.

Aldi has strawberries for $1.49 a pound. Anjou pears are $1.49 for a two pound bag, or 75 cents a pound. Pineapples are $1.49 each and mangoes are 69 cents each. Fresh boneless skinless chicken breasts are $1.69 a pound in family packs. These prices are good through next Tuesday, April 8.

IGA has fresh fryer leg quarters in family packs for 59 cents a pound through Sunday, April 6. Dole Classic Iceberg Salad and Classic Coleslaw Mix are both 99 cents for a 12-14 ounce bag, but only on Friday, April 4. Large eggs are 99 cents a dozen, but again only on Friday.

Do you remember the column a few weeks ago when I talked about buying herbs and spices and gave recipes for three very different yet very similar fish soups? They all had fish, tomatoes, onions and green pepper, but the seasonings made them very different. I’m going to do something sort of similar this week. I’m going to start by talking generally about different seasonings for pork chops, and then will give the regular three recipes or so for pork chops and menus using them. Sometimes you don’t need a new recipe as much as you just need a new idea for varying an old standby with some new seasonings.

Herbs and spices that go well with pork.
Fruit that goes well with pork.
Vegetables that go well with pork.
Sauces that go well with pork.

I haven’t given any recipes yet, but I hope there’s something here that made a light bulb go off for you. While I don’t think you can get away with serving pork chops every night by just changing the seasoning, sometimes all it takes is a small change to make something acceptable instead of boring.

OK, now for some recipes and menus. The first recipe, creatively titled PORK CHOPS, is seasoned with tiny amounts of several Indian seasonings. Be sure to buy them in tiny little dabs at Bloomingfoods and not in the jars or cans at a traditional grocery store.

The pork chops themselves are going to cost about $2.00. Let’s say 25 cents for the smidgeons of spices - it only comes to a total of one teaspoon. If you use drippings, they’re free. If you use vegetable oil, it will cost less than 10 cents. Let’s call it $2.35 altogether. That’s so cheap you can spend more than usual on side dishes.

The original recipe says to serve it with applesauce (in fact, the original name is Pork Chops and Applesauce), so let’s go with that. You want unsweetened applesauce, and not very much of it – only about a cup, or a fourth of a cup per person. Let’s say 50 cents for the applesauce. Sweet potatoes would be good. Two pounds would allow an 8-ounce sweet potato per person. Just bake the sweet potatoes in the skins; they don’t need any butter or anything else. Add coleslaw or other cabbage salad for about a dollar and you’ve got a hearty meal for under $6.00, or $1.50 per person.

This next recipe, EASY MUSTARD PORK CHOPS, is super easy. The author describes it as a recipe for those days when just getting dinner on the table seems like more than you can do. We all have those days, don’t we?

The only significant cost here is the pork chops, which will run you about $2.00. The mustard, garlic powder, olive oil, salt and pepper won’t cost more than a dime.

If getting supper on the table is almost more than you can manage, you definitely won’t be spending any extra time on the side dishes. How about a couple cans of green beans ($1.00), half a head of lettuce cut in wedges (50 cents), two tablespoons of salad dressing per person or half a cup total (50 cents), with half a cantaloupe for dessert (90 cents). The whole meal can be prepared in less than half an hour for a cost of right about $5.00 or $1.25 per person, and no one will guess that it was that cheap and easy. Or have some broccoli instead of the green beans. It’s still well under $6.00.

The final pork chop recipe for SMOKEY CACAO NIBS ENCRUSTED PORK CHOPS. And just what are cacao nibs, you ask? Nibs are bits of cacao seeds that have been processed almost but not quite to the point of being ground for cocoa powder or made into chocolate bars.

I have to admit that I’m just guessing at the cost of the cacao nibs and smoked paprika. I haven’t bought them or checked the price in a long time. I’m going to guess about a dollar for the two of them. I think that’s probably high, but I don’t know. Let’s use that as an estimate anyway. The pork chops will run $2.00, the bacon grease would be free if you have it, or the butter would run about 35 cents. So let’s say $3.35 for the whole thing.

The picture on the blog shows the pork chops served with a baked sweet potato and something that I can’t identify. A pound and a half of sweet potatoes (six ounces per person, or about three-fourths cup) will cost $1.50, which leaves us $1.15 for something else. How about some fresh green beans (a little over half a cup of cooked beans per person) or, depending on how big the packages are, some fresh broccoli. Either way you should stay at right around $6.00, or $1.50 per person.

An old standby when it comes to sauce for pork chops (or just about anything else) is Campbell's Cream of Something Soup - Cream of Mushroom and Cream of Chicken especially, but also Cream of Asparagus, Cream of Celery, Cream of Onion, etc. A can is likely to cost at least $1.00 and, like all processed foods, be full of chemicals and stuff that you don't really need. CREAM OF WHATEVER SOUP MIX makes a substitute for those cans of soup. (I guess recipes these days don't call for Campbell's soups as much as they used to. Back in about the 1960s, practically everything called for either jello or Campbell's soup. Usually not in the same recipe.)

And finally, a couple of recipes for pork seasoning mixes. You can make them up ahead of time and have them ready the next time you’re cooking pork chops, or other pork dishes.