Friday, December 12, 2008

Chowder for Less

This month's edition of Bon Appétit magazine is all about eating better for less. I like that idea because even though I don't need to stick to a grocery budget personally, I am interested in finding recipes and menus that are tasty and good for you but don't cost a mortgage payment. In January '08, the sale of canned tuna increased 34%, and the sale of boxed mac & chesee increased 19%—these are signs of hard times, I have to say. Thank God for Bon Appétit who gives us economical alternatives to crap.

I am following a week's worth of recipes—meat loaf, pasta with roasted winter vegetables, fish cakes with slaw, vegetarian black bean chili, and clam chowder. I won't bore you with the results of the whole week, but I will bore you with the clam chowder. The magazine suggested this meal would cost $14.11, but I only spent $12.34. That could be because I didn't count the carrots, the little bit of flour or the seasonings because I already had those things, and I skipped the parsley. I used canned clams as the recipe suggested at $1.99 a can—I would have preferred steaming my own clams, but they cost $5.99 for a dozen cherry stone clams, and I probably would have needed more than a dozen.

This made a full batch with dinner for two plus three more servings—lunch the next day. And it was pretty darn good.

Question: what do you do to cut costs on dinner?

New England Clam Chowder

6 thick bacon slices, cut crosswise into 1/2-inch pieces
1 large onion, chopped
2 large carrots, peeled, chopped
1 1/4 teaspoons dried thyme
3/4 teaspoon crushed dried rosemary
3 tablespoons all purpose flour
4 cups whole milk
1 8-ounce unpeeled white-skinned potato, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
3 6 1/2-ounce cans chopped clams in juice
1 8 3/4-ounce can corn kernels, drained
Chopped fresh parsley

Cook bacon in large saucepan over medium heat until crisp. Transfer bacon to paper towels to drain. Pour out all but 3 tablespoons drippings from pan. Add next 4 ingredients to pan; sprinkle with salt and pepper. Sauté until vegetables are crisp-tender, about 5 minutes. Sprinkle flour over; stir 1 to 2 minutes. Gradually add milk to pan, stirring constantly. Bring to boil; reduce heat to medium and cook until slightly thickened, stirring often, about 5 minutes. Add potatoes, clams with juice, and drained corn. Bring to boil; reduce heat to medium-low and simmer until potatoes are tender, stirring often, about 10 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Divide soup among bowls, sprinkle with bacon and parsley, and serve.

Oh, and speaking of cheap food, here is a link to today's newspaper article.


dive said...

Macaroni and cheese in a box?
Icky, Robyn!

And can you really buy clams in a can? Surely that takes all the fun out of cooking them.
I'm going to try this one (with real clams, though … luckily they're dirt cheap here). I do love clam chowder but never seem to get around to making it at home.

You are an angel for the voluntary work you do helping feed the homeless and teaching immigrants.
I hope you get a good response from your newspaper article.

Mrs. G. said...

I have been cutting grocercy costs by re-introducing the dried bean into my cooking. They're cheap and good.

Rich said...

Yummy chowder recipe there Robyn. Tuna and Mac& cheese has always been part of my diet so things have not changed for me.

yes, 355.000 jobs lost in november alone. Americans may have to go back to something insane like...buying American.

Shan said...

I wonder if this chowder would be just as delicious without the clams. I think so with bacon involved. Sounds really good. I don't do seafood but I s'pose I could make it that far and then let Jamey add in the clams-ewwwwww clam juice. Sorry, it's a phobia.

That menu sounds great for the most part though. I've been adding in more veggies and using beans for meat here and there to cut back. I have a black bean crock pot lasagna recipe that is actually quite tasty AND healthy for the people and the pocketbook as well. I'm really not that good with specific budget details. We don't eat fancy ever really though as we've not had the means (and I don't really try as hard as I could in that department).

Great article. It's very scary to see our economy in this condition. I'm concerned about how bad it might get. Triple eeks all around.

lynn said...

Well done, Robyn!

Yes we all have to tighten up a bit, or at least know.

What do I do? Well I buy quite carefully, going for quality rather than quantity where I can on food and on basic things we need for the house, I don't mind going to the cheaper stores like Lidl.

I bake my own cakes, biscuits and mostly, I cook from scratch. It's always cheaper and it tastes so much better! I've already made quite a few sweets for Christmas and put them in the freezer, which will help and this weekend will make my mince pies. I do keep unused portions and will reheat the next day, depending what it is, for lunch and I freeze them too - very useful if you're struck down with flu like Dive and you can whip them out of the freezer; home cooked with no effort and much cheaper. I usually cook far more than there are bods around the table, knowing that I shall be putting a few extra servings into the freezer. Um... that's about it I think. Always watchful. I have to be, unfortunately.

Shannon and Paul said...

We found the clearance foods section. We build recipes around what is a good deal that week... Tilipia filets, this week. We buy the bulk package which is usually cheaper per ounce. This might mean using an item in a day or so or freezing it but that's doable. I don't mind paying a little more for good, specialty ingredients, on occasion, but often it's six one way, half a dozen the other. ALL the fish in Colorado has been frozen already - none is fresh that day unless you have a blackmarket supplier with a private plane. And I feel like it's good stewardship to pay attention to what food costs.