One of my biggest pet peeves is when people say that you can't eat healthily on a tight budget. This is the excuse that many people offer when justifying only shopping at Wal-Mart or buying processed junk "foods" for their family, and it really gets me going. If you know what you're doing, you can eat quite healthily on a normal or smaller budget and never have to step inside Wal-Mart. Keep in mind, I am speaking to my experience as a married gal with no kids...but I think even factoring kids into the equation that I would still be able to do this, because I always make food for an army (I'm Italian!) Anyway, bear in mind that this is my living situation, and I personally prefer to avoid Wal-Mart about 95% of the time. I would much rather our money go to smaller chains or even more preferably to local businesses when I can (our town doesn't have very many of those, unfortunately.)
Anyway, today I happened to stop at one of the few local businesses that we do have, that is very near us. It is a small produce store called Best Harvest and I love it. They have a lot of stuff that is not only USA-grown, but also some local stuff. This week I got some local organic golden beets. Best part of all...it is not at all an expensive store! Places like these are fantastic to shop at to feed your family healthily! So, I walked in to get some potatoes and Boar's Head cheese to make BBQ Pulled Chicken Baked Potatoes for tonight, and they had 5-lb bags of potatoes for 1.79. I decided that since my hubby loves taking soup for lunch and usually buys cans of Progresso Corn and Potato Chowder, that I would make him some from scratch. Got two ears of corn for 20 cents a piece and got to work. It is simmering in the Crock Pot as we speak. I will give you the recipe-ish that I used (I did this on the fly), and then compare how it stacks up against pre-made, processed soup.
Three large potatoes
Two ears corn
1 32-oz box lower sodium chicken broth (you could really get healthy and do organic but I just bought what the produce store had, which was Swanson's
3-4 cloves garlic, crushed and minced.
1/2 cup half and half
Salt, Pepper, Dried Parsley, and any other spices you might like, to taste. I added Onion powder and paprika, but you can pretty much put whatever you think would taste good.
I roasted the corn in the oven in its husk at 425 degrees for about 20 min. I cut the potatoes into small chunks. I shucked the corn and used a knife to scrape it off the cob. I minced the garlic. I put all of these things plus the broth and my seasonings and put in on high in the crockpot for 4-6 hours. It's still going now, but about 20 minutes before it is done, I plan to add the half and half to make it creamier and then let that heat through. Then, I will puree half of the soup with an immersion blender to thicken it. I will likely let it cool and refrigerate or freeze it, and voila, my hubby will have a work-week's worth of soup to eat.
Now, let's see how this compares to store bought soup. The soup my hubby buys is, if we are lucky, 2 for 4 dollars or 2 dollars each. Say he buys 5 cans for the week...that's ten bucks if it is on sale.
Total Cost Per Serving: 2 dollars
Total Cost Per Week: 10 dollars
The soup he buys is not BAD for you persay, but I do like making my own. The sodium can be controlled, along with the fact that there are no bad chemicals or preservatives.
NOTE: The soup he buys has chicken, the one I made was vegetarian since I didn't have extra chicken on hand. You could add a chicken breast to the recipe, I would add about 1.50 to the total cost if you do.
Let's see how much the homemade stuff cost. The prices are costed to represent how much of the ingredient I used in this recipe.
Potatoes---approx. 35 cents
Corn- 40 cents
Chicken Broth- 2.49
Garlic- 10 cents
Half and Half- 63 cents
Spices- these were all on hand, but let's call it 25 cents over time...and that might be over-estimating. Salt and pepper and onion powder are dirt cheap, dried parsley isn't much either, and the paprika was a gift...
Grand total: 4.22
Total Cost Per Week: $4.22
Total Cost Per Serving: 84 cents!!!!!
Total Hands-on time expended: 20 minutes!!!
So, you can see that feeding your family from scratch meals does not have to be expensive. I bought almost everything for this meal at a local produce store. The only exception was the half and half, which I got a couple weeks back at a Kroger store.