February 1, 2009

How Much Do Our Meals Cost? (and a Recipe)

Out of curiosity I decided to start adding up the cost of some of our meals.
We base most of them around vegetables and fruit in season (for the most part), don't eat a lot of meat (Cassoulet being one exception!) and love rice, beans and pasta.
One rule I have: I won't trade quality for quantity. We try to buy as much organic as possible. Often the price isn't much higher and I think it's worth it.

We have been acutely aware of food prices for the last 5 years due to our a tight budget. Weekly shopping at the outdoor market in Olonzac every Tuesday for fruit, vegetables, cheese, eggs and some meat means that we only have to see the inside of a large grocery store about once every 10 days to 2 weeks. The average weekly expenditure at the market is usually between €10-20 and that fills the big straw market bag to overflowing.*

Swiss Chard - La Blette

A big bundle of Swiss Chard will set you back about €1.00-1.50 while in season. That's one kilo (2.2 pounds) of greens that are packed with iron, magnesium, potassium and vitamins K, A and C.
The leaves, which is what most recipes call for, will equal about one pound once they're trimmed from the stems, and the stems can be saved and enjoyed in recipes like this one or this one.

I tried this recipe with the bounty from last week's market. In a word...excellent!

Swiss Chard, Potato and Chickpea Stew
from Food and Wine magazine
serves 4
  • 1 pound Swiss chard, tough stems removed, leaves washed well and chopped
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 1/2 pounds baking potatoes (about 3), peeled and sliced 3/4-inch thick
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/4 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups drained and rinsed canned chickpeas (one 19-ounce can)
  • 3 cups canned low-sodium chicken broth or homemade stock
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 hard-cooked eggs, cut into wedges
  1. Bring a medium pot of salted water to a boil. Add the chard and cook for 3 minutes. Drain thoroughly and set aside.
  2. 2 In a Dutch oven, heat the oil over moderate heat. Add the potatoes and onion and sauté, stirring frequently, until the potatoes start to brown, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic, paprika, turmeric, cayenne, and salt and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 1 minute.
  3. Add the cooked chard, chickpeas, broth, and water. Bring to a simmer and cook until the potatoes are tender, about 15 minutes. Serve the stew garnished with the hard-cooked eggs.

The Cost:
1 kilo organic Swiss Chard - €1.00 (only used the leaves and saved the stems for another use)
1 ½ pounds organic potatoes - .60
small can chickpeas - .50 (normally I would cook my own so these would cost less)
1 onion - .20
2 organic eggs - .70
garlic, olive oil, various spices and stock - no idea so we'll say - 1.00

= €4.00 For four servings. Not bad.
This is just one meal, one example. There are more to come.

Are these food prices are comparable to the prices where you live?

A side note: Strangely, I was accused of socioeconomic insensitivity when I posted a photo of an über-processed chicken burger because a few readers thought that it mocked those who aren't wealthy enough to afford better food. Oh, the irony!
Better, more nutritious food does not have to cost a lot.
For the price of that chicken burger (€2.80) I can feed 2-3 people, yet for some reason many people think that processed food like this equals good value for money.

If you read this blog you know that I cook, eat and believe in real food.
Peanut Buster Parfaits being the exception, of course. Hey, I'm allowed one guilty pleasure, aren't I?

*(I keep eying these rolling shopping carts and think I should just buy one already! My aching arms will thank me.)

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Anne in Oxfordshire said...

I think our food prices are in line with yours, give and take here and there...

I really understand what you are saying about the "convenience chicken burger" processed food does not equal good value for money...I cooked tonight, a chicken chassaur...chicken legs, mushrooms, red pepper, onion..slow cooked ..served with rice , it was delightful..I think it cost me about £3.50 altogether..another serving left for tommorrow.

I think people need to learn to get back to cooking..use veg, use beans, lentils !!

Nadege said...

Organic (bio) is always preferable except for fruit or vegetables that you can peel and it only adds $1 more per pound. Loulou check out bittersweetblog.wordpress.com/ Hannah Kaminsky is vegetarian and is trying veganism; she takes the most beautiful pictures. Her blog was mentioned on MSN (I think). Don't worry about what people think or say about your blog. It is great to have an opinion as long as you know what you are talking about, and you do.

Allie said...

This looks beautiful. I always save beet stems and use them in recipes too. One of my favourites is sauteeing them in butter, lemon and olive oil, then adding it and potatoes to quiche.

Susan May said...

Thank you for this recipe. I'm going to try making it tonight. As for a "granny wagon" - I broke down and bought one last summer, and use it a lot - more than I imagined I would - here in Zurich. If you check around, you can find some that are fairly attractive, too!

Angela said...

I love the sound of the recipe - just my kind of meal. I`ll try it in the next few days. You must treat yourself to a shopping trolley! I`ve had one for the last 12 years, since we`ve been in Spain, and it`s still going strong. I guess food prices are similar to yours - I spend about E15-20 in the weekly market and the trolley is full. It`s practically impossible to find organic produce here on the Costa Blanca. I find it galling, when in London, that the supermarkets are full of organic produce from Spain!

Loulou said...

Thanks for letting me know about the prices. I'm going to the States in 10 days and plan on checking to see if food prices are lower or higher than here.
The meal that you made is exactly my point! Not expensive and so much better for you.

Thank you for the link to Bittersweetblog. It looks great!
There are a few people at our market who grow locally and aren't certified as Bio but follow l'agriculture raisonnée principles. I love knowing that my produce is being grown just a few miles away.

That sounds fantastic! I love beet greens. Thanks for the recipe.

Susan May
I used to have a bright red, wheeled shopping trolley in New Orleans as we lived in the middle of the French Quarter. I loved walking down to the Central Grocery to stock up on Italian groceries. I wish I had brought it here when we moved! Found a cute one online yesterday for €20.

Oh, that does sound frustrating! Why do they send all of it out of the country! It seems that organic food is becoming more popular here. I was surprised by all of the Bio (organic) stores in Paris.

martha said...

Thank you for that recipe - another great way to use pulses. I made your red beans and rice, using organic black beans that I bought in Italy in October last week and it was super.
Then I found organic red beans from a local farm so will make that again soon too. I am a member of the local Saare Mahe (Organic Farmers Union) No, I'm not a farmer. I help with translating project writing and cooking in the Mahe Köök (Organic Kitchen Restaurant). When you also factor in the subsidies for that kind of farming, the real cost of those
processed crap burgers is in fact much more than the package price.
For anyone interested in what is really going on with our food today, I recommend Michael Pollen's book 'The Omnivores Dilemma' I will never be able to eat feed lot beef again after reading that.

Anonymous said...

I think our prices are more expensive in Nashville, TN! But oh my, that recipe looks incredible and I can't wait to try it. Your blog is wonderful, I will be back!

Loulou said...

The Omnivores Dilemma is a book that I have wanted to read. I'll have to pick up a copy when I'm in the States.
You do some great work!
Glad you liked the red beans and rice recipe. :)

You'll have to let me know how you like the stew. Thank you for the nice comment. Looking forward to hearing from you again!

Betty C. said...

There are definitely some cool rolling shopping carts out there.

Oh, I love Swiss chard and don't buy it enough because it's so bulky. I've found some mini versions around here, though.

Susan May said...

Good Morning; I just had to report back that the Swiss Chard/Potato Stew turned out great - we loved it! My husband is recovering from a cold and I wanted to make him something nutritious and warm - this was perfect. Thanks for sharing your recipes.

Valerie, En Bonne Compagnie said...

How about this shopping trolley - http://www.springfair.com/page.cfm/Action=ExhibitorLibrary/LibraryID=1/ProductID=9586/viewHiRes=_self/

My Irish friend with house North of Beziers has also succumbed and has one with shamrocks on hers. Somehow I don't think the locals in Herepian know what they are!

Valerie, En Bonne Compagnie said...

Sorry here's the link again in full:-

Loulou said...

I know what you mean about the bulky nature of Swiss chard. Those giant bundles are enormous!
I think I finally found the cart I'm going to buy. It has a really cool pattern and is only €20.

Susan May
Thanks for letting me know. My husband and I both thought it was a great dish! So glad that you liked it too.

I saw that one! There are a whole line of them that say different things. Very cute!

Donna said...

I used to have one of those rolling carts, it was a lifesaver when living in the American Ghetto Apartments!
Food prices have gotten so out of hand here that I find it impossible to cook anything that cheaply, but I do try!

Loulou said...

The prices have gone up a lot? I noticed milk, eggs and butter prices had risen some when I was there last year.
Do you shop at Dorignacs?