Monday, February 19, 2018

Recipe Calculations

I'm a numbers geek. I like doing math equations and figuring out proportions, calculating interest, those types of things. I like to cost, at least roughly, the ingredients in recipes and compare to the equivalent restaurant or ready meal. It's a boring slight obsession I have, but with the cost of groceries going higher and higher, I'm starting to feel like it is a necessity to ensure I don't mindlessly toss money out the window overspending on our groceries. For those that think I should get a life and are completely bored with this sort of thing, hopefully you'll join me on my next post. For those of you equally numbers geek inclined or those that might be curious if you are getting value for your meal planning, thanks for sticking around. 

I love long weekends. I feel like I can get a jump start on meals for the week, on my house, and actually have some down time. With soups, stews, meats,and breads made ahead, we have leftovers and prep done for the busy nights ahead. Here's three of the meals I made for the weekend and week ahead. Nothing is very glamorous, but hearty and wholesome and will fill us up. Man, have prices gone up on some of my staples. It might be the time of year, but I'm finding pennies more on basic items and smaller packages as well. I now just a year or two ago I could make these meals for even less. For the most part, these are standard priced groceries, some a bit on sale, others purchased at Adi's or the cheapest store brand. I'd say pretty typical prices that at least in my part of the US are easily replicated. The ingredient cost is my estimate for the amount used based on my grocery receipts. 

Pasta, Vegetable Fagiole
 I should point out I was trying to use up spinach salad that I let get past prime. I don't normally throw it in the soup, and doing so added  $.67 tot he cost, but it also upped the nutritional value, so a win. I might also vary the extra vegetables. I had a zucchini so it went in the soup. 

$ 0.56        5 carrots 
$0.33         4 celery stalks
$.28           1 large onion
$0.25         2 potatoes
$0.80         8 stock cubes
$0.45         2 9dry) cups pasta
$0.69         1 15 oz. diced tomatoes
$0.69         1 15 oz chili beans in sauce
$o.67         1/3 bag Spinach
$0.42          1 zucchini
$5.14 for 14 cups, at 12 ounce portions, this soup comes to $0.55 per serving. DH bought Healthy Choice prepared soups for $0.89 for 12 ounce can, making mine $0.34 per serving cheaper. 

Chicken and dumplings (though mine were biscuits as I made for crock pot)
$2.40        3/4 pound chicken breast
$0.50         4 potatoes
$0.56         4 Carrots
$0.17         2 celery stalks
$0.14         1/2 onion
$0.10         1 stock cube
$0.06         1/4 cup milk
$$0.17        1/4 c yogurt
flour-negligible for thickening
$0.13         1 c four
$0.17         1/4 c vegetable oil
$0.06         1/4 c milk
$0.25          salt, soda, baking powder, garlic powder, Italian seasoning
$4.71 for four generous servings at $1.18 each. I didn't buy any, but I noticed the Dinty Moore microwave meals are $1.89 at Target. No comparison to taste. 

Banana Chocolate Chip and Oat Bread
I just started throwing together things I had on hand as DD2 and I were craving something sweet and decadent. this checked those boxes. 
 $0.16        1 c sugar
$0.12         1 egg
$0.25         1 banana
$0.34         1/2 cup vegetable oil
$0.25         1/2 C yogurt
$0.12         1/2 c milk
$0.19          1 1/2 c flour
$0.43          1 c quick oats
$0.98          1 c chocolate chips
$0.15           salt, soda, baking powder

$2.99 for four mini loaves, with each 1/2 loaf about the size of a bakery muffin, or $0.38 per serving.I had just made without the chocolate chips, but I had them on hand already opened, the cost per muffin equivalent would have been only $0.26. Our Cub Foods has muffins on sale in the bakery 4 for $3.99, or $1.00 a muffin. 

So there you have it. Three basic meals/snacks from my kitchen, compared to  equivalent or near equivalent pre-made. Hands down, my stuff wins for flavor. Learning basic kitchen skills is one of the best ways to keep your grocery budget down. I know  I have the luxury of a fully stocked kitchen, oven and stove top, so am not relying on foods that need to just be heated up. Convenience food and ready made meals are still important staples for many folks without adequate time or space to prepare foods. For this reason, I consider myself blessed being able to cook from scratch to provide for my family. 


  1. This is something I should do. I cook so much from scratch because it's cheaper, at least in my mind. I should put it down on paper so I know the exact figures.

    1. I'm regulalry calcualting things in my head-weird comulsion, so occasionally, I like to put to use. I meant the last oart thugh. I'm awre how smug an article like ths can come across and not my intent.

  2. My head starts spinning when I think of numbers! I am a complete opposite of you! :))) Though I always did well with math (one of the smart kids in class), it is definitely not my thing. But! I now totally get it - I understand being a geek about whatever, it's just what we are naturally good at PLUS we have passion for it. (One can be good, but not have a passion. Or have a passion, but maybe not so good at something? Though that is rare, I think.)

    Anyway, I love cooking and I love recipes. And I know of course that home cooking is cheaper (not to mention that it's so much tastier), but I had no idea just how cheaper it is, especially compared to restaurants. We enjoy eating out, and I would never stop going out completely, because you don't just pay for ingredients - you pay for the experience, and if you love the experience, then you see it all differently, of course. But we definitely could go out a bit less and save some money that way. I never buy at stores (or order at restaurants) what I can cook myself though, only something that I love, but haven't mastered.

    So thank you for this post, I did enjoy it! <3

    1. We too like a nice meal out. My problem was we were going out to often out of lazinesss not for the expereince. When we do go out, I try to order something I'll really enjoy, evenif it is soething I can make at home like a burger. There is something about a really good bar and grill burger, if made right, that I can't duplicate. Pasta though? I never order it out unless it is a handstuffed ravioli with somethng really decadent.

  3. The only pasta I order out(we never got to Olive Garden btw....why pay $10 for something I can "cook" aka heat up at home?!lol)is crab ravioli at a local pizza restaurant. Making this at home is not cheaper and it's time consuming from scratch.
    I use to price out my meals but pretty much we have the same basic menu from years past so I don't feel the need to do that any longer. Seeing on paper how much more it may cost b/c of ingredient inflation would just send me to a carton of ice cream for comfort. lolz

    1. We used to love Olive Garden when they first were on the scene in our area 30 years ago and still go to them on rare occsions for lunches when out of town becasue at least everyone likes the soup or salad and bread sticks, but yes, a lot of money for really basic food. I like the math exercise every so often-I cn do in my head, but for the purpose o a blog post committeed to the computer.Even basic vegetables like onions and crrots have gone up and I know it is not zuchini season, but holy cow-I spent $1.80 on four smallish ones for curry, soup, and pasta-really made them stretch!

  4. I actually think that eating homemade - even if more expensive than premade - is both healthier and tastes better so worth it. It sometimes shocks me that premade food is so cheap but really worthless on the nutrition side of things.

    1. I can't even look at the back of a box of something like Hamburger Helper!

  5. I too like to calculate my meals with my sale prices to prove to myself that stock piling is the way to go and it is!

    1. If a person has the funds up front and storage, though you can get creative with storage, stocking up is definitely the best way to get the lowest costs on ingredients.

  6. I envy you as I'm not very good at maths and am usually lazy about calculations. I've become , however,an "expert" in... calorie calculations, as there's just no other way to keep body weight normal. Well, luckily, 'calories', 'prices', 'homemade' -all are linked together. The richer the calories, the higher the costs, the less healthy the food. Homemade versus bought food wins, especially on the health front.

    1. Being able to see just what you put in the food and being able to pronounce all the ingredients is certainly a win.

  7. I used to do a meal cost but not any more. I have price points for buying everything I buy so I kinda always know the approximate cost per serving. Generally everything is cheaper when made at home vs. eating out, but like Cheapchick says, even if it is not a better buy it taste better and is better for you. (Unless it is something so time consuming that having a time value offsets the cost. However there are 3 specific restaurants here that are so incredibly delicious and I know I can make the same type of meal substantially cheaper, but why? Going to any of the 3 is a dining experience and worth every penny, which is why we only go to each one 1 time a year)

    1. I'd rather put my money into experiences and so many restaurants these days are not worth the time or money. When they are good though, very happy to have a nice evening out. Prces are all over the boards these days I can't even guesstimate anymore.

  8. Years ago, I calculated the cost of meals and servings. Since I know I can make it more cheaply, I rarely do the calculations. Oh, sometimes I figure it all for friend eating here. He really appreciates my efforts instead of wanting to go out and spend more money. He also enjoys what I cook!

    1. It's nice to feel appreciated. I feel like my efforts are not always understood, so these little exercises give me facts to go along with the actions.

  9. Oh, I don't know that space is an excuse--when I was working 12 hour days, with a kitchen smaller than my desk at work, we prepared ALL our meals at home. I used the hope chest-used-as-coffee-table for canned good storage and meal prep. Our crock pot would get set on the counter space in our bathroom, as it did not fit on the "counter" in our kitchen! I always get a kick out of people with gourmet kitchens who don't use them!
    My current "battle" is with DH. He loves to take the kids out to lunch on weekends. He'll grab a random kid for an errand, and the next thing I know, they're strolling in around 3 p.m., having eaten at a favorite stop! I don't think that's going to change, though.

    1. Being creative with what a person has and not succumbing to limitations is a tremendous assst to saving money.

  10. Your husband's errands might not be great on the budget, but it pays dividends in memories!

  11. We pretty much buy the same stuff each week, with a few add ons here & there. So, I do know the general price (e.g. my current favorite chicken rice dish requires avocados & cilantro for guac, plus two peppers). We stick to a lot of basics & just mix & match. We do eat more meat than I'd like. I need to work on that.


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