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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