Cooking on a tight budget is tough. Cooking well on a tight budget is even tougher. I was challenged by a few readers to make a meal worthy of serving to guests for under 22$. Can it be done? To make it simple I am going with a meal for 4, you know having one other couple over. What makes this especially tough is if you are trying to eat relatively healthy. Toxic crap can always seem to be had on the cheap. I am convinced that they put crap in there to get us addicted to it but this isn’t the time for a conspiracy theory article.
I have great sympathy for those who live on really tight budgets. Not knowing if you have enough money for food for the week is about as stressful as it gets, especially if you have to worry about feeding kids. When I was a college student in the mid-90s I was as poor as it gets without being homeless pretty much. There were weeks when 20$ was all I had for groceries for the entire week. While it certainly wasn’t fun struggling to make rent, pay school, my bills and feed myself it was somehow some of the funnest times of my life. I guess I was too young to know any better and well, when you are in it you just find a way to adapt and make due. Those were the years where I really started to hone my cooking skills and improved greatly because, well, what choice did I have? I still remember when I was dating this well to do girl back then asked me why I don’t invest at least 10% of my income for the future. Oh that one had me in stitches for a while. There I was hoping that a loaf of bread, some cheese, sliced ham and a bit of veg would last me the week when all along I should have been building my stock portfolio! Well that relationship didn’t last long.
I’m not sure with how the cost of living has gone up since then that I could still do it. I’ve got two young kids now so I hope I never have to find out. Forgive me, I get mushy during the holidays and my heart really does go out to those who struggle to get by. So, before I get onto the rest of this piece let me say that if you are doing alright then take a moment to give some non-perishable food to those without, volunteer some time to help out those who just don’t got, or donate some cash, clothes, whatever you can to help. Being poor sucks the bag. I hope this article can inspire someone who is stuck in hard times to improve how they eat or even just give them some ideas and get out of the rut of eating the same stuff over and over when times get tough. If I make any jokes in here I am not making light. I been there. I just have always used humor as a coping mechanism. If you don’t find me funny well then problem solved!
I’m not including the full recipe here since I see that I’ve already rambled on quite a bit but if anyone wants it just hit me up with an email or message and I’ll gladly post it. I decided to try to make something pretty healthy too so I could see if it was doable. I went to the grocery store with a pre-conceived idea of what I was making with the thought that it just might fit into my budget.Today’s meal is a take on Chicken Stroganoff. I picked up two chicken breasts, grain-fed hormone free might I add. Like any respectable dude I like my breasts healthy. I also got a leek, a pack of pre-sliced mini portobello mushrooms, a pack of fresh parsley, some cooking cream, and a pack of bow tie pasta. This recipe also calls for half a lemon, a tablespoon of olive oil, a glass of white wine, and a small chunk of butter, all of which I already had at home. I buy cheap boxed wine for cooking and it works fine for most recipes that call for some wine but if you are really strapped for cash feel free to sub in some apple juice or white grape juice or even just use a glass of water.
So, as you saw by the receipt I came in at 20.07$ not including what I already had at home. Factor in also that I still will have parsley left over and some of the cream to use another day. This really is a kickass dish too and it takes less than 30 minutes to throw together. Aside from the cooking cream it is a healthy plate and besides, a little cream won’t kill you either. My kids love this dish too. I’ve served it to guests before and it’s always been a hit and it doesn’t hurt the bank account.
I understand that when you are living low on funds you can feel ashamed and pretty down on things. I think jazzing it up in the kitchen and being able to still host people for dinner can really pick you up. Some other things to keep in mind in these situations…Inexpensive cuts of meat can be found and stretched to make meals for the whole family and guests. Look for stewing beef, pork loin or chops or chicken thighs instead of breasts. Buy the vegetables that are in season. Lord knows we get enough flyers for stores at our door, go through them and look for sales. Stock up on non-perishable items when they are on sale if you can from time to time. Keep in mind we don’t need to eat 12 ounces of meat with our meals. We’ve been conditioned to eat that way but we don’t need it. This meal uses two breasts and it feeds 4 easily and could even feed 5.
I enjoyed writing this piece. It took me back to a crazy time in my life that I don’t think I’d want to live again but that means a lot to me since it greatly shaped who I’ve become. So, hey, if you liked it, share it. Throw more numbers at me and I can do a follow up piece. Keep the amount at 10$ minimum though please. Sorry if this was a more sombre piece but I felt like I had to write it. The holidays are nearly here so think of those who ain’t got and share the wealth if you got it.
Categories: Phood Philosophies