Saturday, December 5, 2015

Pantry Cooking for a Cause

While hunger is a year long problem in communities, messages at Christmas time combined with increased charitable drives sheds more light on the needs of families and individuals.  For families already on the margin, add extra days home from Thanksgiving for school kids and potentially two weeks off from school in December, families not able to utilize the school lunch program will be making some meal stretching decisions. With another mouth to feed in the house in December (two more for a week), I can see that our groceries will rise pretty rapidly. 

DD#2 is a vegetarian, but she has also become a pretty creative, while being thrifty cook, blending cheap pantry staples, with a few fresh ingredients. She made a couple meals for us this week, that I feel no doubt could have been served in a hipster cafe, but for pennies on the dollar.  While the rest of us like a little meat, we can easily fill our tummies with her meals. With her home, we also have an extra cook in the house, so lessons the need, or want, for takeout or restaurant meals on the fly. I have this idea of tracking a few of her meals, and looking up comparable restaurant meals. After calculating out the difference, I want to add up the difference between the restaurant priced meals and our pantry staple home cooked meals, and add that difference to our end of year regular donation to the local family service and food shelf organization.  

I have some ideas to get into the act as well, drawing heavily upon recipes from a few recognized chefs such as Jack Monroe and assorted other talented folks, and of course will credit and link when anything is borrowed or referenced. Recommendations are greatly appreciated. I'll add recipes from myself or daughter as I can get them pulled together on the recipe page. I'll start with two this week, because one, we didn't succumb to the mid week mindset that we are too busy to cook, let's pick up take out instead, and two) we originally thought we were going to go out last night, but changed our minds when we looked at the abundance of activities ahead of us for the month.

DD's Tomato and Zucchini Risotto fed the four of us to stuffed, with a healthy leftover portion for a lunch the next day. She learned this recipe from her new found Italian brother M when they were all poor students in London.  They did not have the money for cafe or pub meals, but would pool their collective cooking resources together to make international family meals.  She has been wanting to make this for a while, but it make so much, and is best served fresh, she waited for a cold winter night with all of us home  Here is my estimate of what it cost:
 Rice $ .50
Tomato Sauce  $ .89
Canned Tomato $ .59
Two zucchini  $ .89
Medium yellow onion  $ .15
$3.03 not counting assorted garlic powder, olive oil, and Italian seasonings.  Let's put a  50 cent allowance for those, and call it $3.53 for four people (not counting leftovers), $ .86 plate. 

August Special at D'Amico and Sons was a tomato and garlic Risotto at $12,99, with bread.  I'll deduct $1, generously for the bread, and call it an even $12, for DD's coming in at a savings of $11.14. or $44.56 for the family.

My Spinach, Cheddar, and Mushroom Souffle, served with roasted Italian potatoes, and a pantry shelf box of Uncle Ben's broccoli cheddar, and our own bottle of Red Wine, made a very gourmet and chi chi Friday night meal.  

8 Eggs  $1.50
1/3 bag spinach  $ .60
Can Aldi's Cr of Mushroom $ .49
4 ounces shredded cheddar (what was left in a 1 # bag) $ .82
8 ounce sour cream  $ .50
5 small russet potatoes $ .50
Rice  $ .89
Wine from wine club, so just putting 1/3 our monthly membership fee (high estimate because we have tastings every month, with appetizers, plus other special events.) $17
Grand Total for four (no wine for DD#2-just so that is on record)  Meal only $5.30, meal per person $1.43, wine for two (DH passed) $8.50

As I couldn't find anything specifically comparable, which makes this more of a home run meal because it isn't same old, I'll use a modest Omelet plate as comparison.  I found low cost from $8,99 to up to $12.99, which included sides of potato and toast, so comparable sides. A low range bottle of red was at least $22.00 a bottle.  My savings, using $10.99, mid range for omelet comparison, was $9.56 per person, $38.24 for family plus $5.00 for wine, so $43.24.

While financially, I might not be able to do every meal, the entire family, as a donation, this will give me a nudge to forgo an extra meal out of the house, in exchange for giving more to people who need the basics so much more than I need a restaraunt meal. How about you?  I'm reading a lot of creative ways people are stretching their own means in efforts to be more generous to others, from donating the second buy one get one, to pledging donations for every pound lost between now and New Years. If you are on the receiving end, here's hoping your opportunities expand, and you feel the love and support of your community, friends, and families.  We are all in this thing called life together. 

Speaking of clever and creative shoppers, pop over to Sluggy's Site for her December Gift Box give away.  Read farther back in posts and you will see how she has mastered not just shopping for her family, but has been able to be generous to the needs of her community.  Hat's off to  you Sluggy!

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