Friday, September 18, 2009

Five Meals From a Bag of Beans - Part One

This is a tough time for many families. Their money must stretch further and do more than ever before. Last night on the news they said that one in eight children in our area now lives in a family that has an income below the poverty line.

This means it's vitally important to know how to adequately feed yourself and growing children a nutritious diet without spending a lot of money. The sad fact is that $1.00 buys 1200 calories in the form of nutritionally inadequate potato chips but less than 200 calories of vegetables and less than 100 calories of fresh fruit. Those who point to the impoverished, who are overweight despite having little money to spend on food, have no idea what it is like to raise children on an inadequate income.

So how do you feed a child adequately on $20.00 a week? It's not easy, but it's possible. Here are some ideas that might help.

I bought a one pound bag of dried pinto beans at the store. Cost $2.39. I picked through them, removed any blemished, shriveled or broken beans, washed them and set them to soaking overnight. In the morning I cut up an onion and browned half of it in a spoonful of oil in a large pot. Onion $0.35. Oil $0.10.

I drained the beans, rinsed them again and added them to the onions in the pot. I covered them with cold water, and stirred in one tsp of meat tenderizer ($0.10). I turned on the heat under the pan. Cook uncovered for ten minutes on high, lower heat and cover. (If you are using a crockpot, cover and set to high) Do not add salt to the beans before they are cooked. Salt keeps them from softening. After 10 minutes lower the heat, add two bay leaves, and cook on low heat from five-six hours, or until the beans are easily mooshed with a fork. With a crockpot you can leave the temperature set to high.

Once the beans are tender drain a 15 ounce can of diced tomatoes. (cost $1.49 here), or add a chopped ripe tomato (from the garden $0.00). (If you use canned tomatoes save the juice, you can use it other recipes.) Mince two cloves of garlic ($0.05) and add. Also add the rest of the onion chopped earlier in the day. Cook a further hour. Remove one cup of beans from pot, mash them with fork or potato masher, return to pot and stir in. This thickens the liquid.

Now, for $4.48 we have the backbone of several meals. I was able to make five meals with one pound of dried beans. This equals 10 adult-sized servings or 20 child-sized ones, depending on the age of the child. So we calculate 45 cents for an adult sized serving and 23 cents for a child's one.

First meal: Beans, just as prepared, with pan-fried potato and coleslaw or carrot sticks and milk.

I cook an entire large pot of scrubbed Russet potatoes at one time. Once cooled they go into the fridge to be used as needed. For pan-fried I dice half an onion, cook it in a spoonful of oil in my non-stick skillet, and add the sliced potatoes. Let them cook without stirring until the potatoes on the bottom have developed a nice brown color, then stir and continue to brown for several minutes.

Beans and potatoes, with the addition of some carrot sticks or coleslaw and milk, is a nutritious and healthy meal. Potatoes vary in price, at the moment they are cheap like dirt. The market has a special of 10 pounds for $2.00. But if you pay the more usual price (here) of $4.98 for 10 pounds, a couple of large potatoes will cost about 50 cents. The half onion say 15 cents, the oil 10 cents. Three adult-sized servings for 19 cents each, a child's serving 10 cents.

Shredded cabbage slaw can be bought here, bagged, year round for $1.49 a package. This package makes 10 servings of plain slaw, with a dressing of a tbs of mayo, a tsp of vinegar and a tsp of sugar for four servings. Say 15 cents a serving for the slaw and 10 cents for the ingredients for the dressing = 70 cents for four servings of slaw. Alternately a large carrot will make a dozen sticks. Two pounds of carrots are $1.98, and hold about a dozen carrots. 16 cents a carrot. 32 cents for four adult-sized servings.

Let's say this meal needs to serve two adults and two children. Calculated at two servings for the adults and one and a half servings for two children, a 12 year-old boy with a good appetite and a six year old girl, who eats about half of what he eats.

Total cost of the meal:
$1.58 for the beans
$ 0.67 for the potatoes
$ 0.70 for the slaw or alternately $0.32 for carrot sticks
$ 0.75 - a glass of milk for each person
$3.70 cents for the entire meal for four!

So, what do you do with the rest of the beans? Watch for the next post. And what do you do for a frugal meal? Can you prepare a meal for a family of four for $5.00 or under? If so tell us about it!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...