The Supper Game

Then she made a game of getting an interesting supper out of the odds and ends she had in her little tin box out the window, which she called her refrigerator. A stalk of celery, too tough to enjoy raw, nearly a cup of stewed tomatoes left over from yesterday, a lump of baked beans, the last of a can she had opened a week ago, a scrap of hamburg.
She put them all in her little tin saucepan, and watched over them carefully, till there came out a very tasty dish of soup- was it bean or beef? At any rate, it had a delicious flavor.
There was also a lettuce leaf, two leaves of spinach, one radish, and a half a tiny onion, besides the little white leaf top of the celery stalk. Minced fine they made a very attractive salad with the last cracker from the box and a tiny wedge of cheese. It was a good dinner and she really enjoyed it. And then as she nibbled at a single chocolate peppermint left over from some that had been passed around in the office that day, and now serving as desert, she got to thinking that she really ought to go out somewhere and get a brighter outlook on life.

Partners, by Grace Livingston Hill- by the by- there is more of this sort of thing over at Neat and Dainty as a Flower.

I’ve made a game of the grocery shopping sometimes when funds and spirits are low. I imagine the grocery store as one giant board game, and the object of the game on my part is to keep as much oney as I can, or make the most of the funds I have, while the object of my opponents is to get me to spend more of my money with less to show for it.

But by ‘the most to show for it’ I mean best nutritional value, not simply the most food for the least money. That’s why ramen noodles alone have never been a big staple in our diet, even at our poorest. White rice might be cheaper than brown, but it’s not a better buy. Pasta may look inexpensive, but there’s not much difference between white pasta and white bread. There’s almost no nutritional value in iceburg lettuce, so if it’s nutrition rather than bulk you’re after, romaine or another leafy green is a better buy. But if what you need most is something bulky, filling and cheap and the nutritional value isn’t as important- then iceburg lettuce and white pasta may be just what you want. I just don’t like to see somebody mistakenly thinking they’ve chosen something nutritious if that’s what matters to them.

A can of beans may seem inexpensive at .39 a pound when dried beans are .77 a pound (prices are what I can pay- different areas have different prices, so you need to check this locally). But with the canned beans you’re paying for the water in the beans. A can of beans contains about 2 cups of cooked beans. That pound of dried beans makes from 7-9 cups of cooked beans. That means that there might be about ten cents worth of beans in that .39 cent can. Typically you’re paying around four times as much for the canned beans, which is fine if don’t mind and your budget is flexible. But sometimes the budget isn’t at all flexible, and it’s always good to know where your food dollars are going, especially when the budget is tight.

Beans freeze well, and I’ve read that if you freeze cooked beans and then defrost them they have less gas producing tendencies. So it’s easy to cook up a one pound bag of beans and then freeze the cooked beans in bags or containers of two cups each for your own convenience food at about 1/4 the price of your canned beans.

Of course, if you live at a high altitude, have to pay big bucks for your stove’s fuel source, or find a fantastic scratch and dent sale on canned beans, the canned are the better buy. My grocery game is a game of strategy, not just luck.

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6 Comments

  1. Mama Squirrel
    Posted March 1, 2007 at 7:14 pm | Permalink

    I love the dinner description! (Except for the “get a life” remark at the end.)

    I think I’ve made something pretty close to that bean-hamburger thing too…it always helps if your leftovers basically match each other, you know? Leftover chow mein or curry doesn’t meld with spaghetti sauce as easily as plain chicken does…

  2. Headmistress, zookeeper
    Posted March 1, 2007 at 7:24 pm | Permalink

    Does it alter the tone of the remark if you know that the reason she needs a brighter outlook is because she needs a job, and the place she decides to go to get a brighter outlook on life is church?=)

  3. Queen of Carrots
    Posted March 1, 2007 at 9:07 pm | Permalink

    I like coming up with new designs on the food. I made some roast leftovers into quite a passable soup a week or so ago.

    One thing I’ve decided about canned beans is that although they’re not a good deal for everyday use, it’s a good idea to have them on hand for dinner emergencies when the sole cook is unexpectedly out of commission and everyone is crying for supper, because they’re still a lot cheaper than ordering pizza.

  4. Mama Squirrel
    Posted March 1, 2007 at 10:08 pm | Permalink

    Ah, okay. I thought maybe it was because she was just frustrated by the idea of getting excited by mincing radishes. ;-)

  5. Carltonh
    Posted March 1, 2007 at 11:23 pm | Permalink

    I find the cheapest health food is my homemade Westernized Kimchi. Cabbage at $.33/lb. Broccoli .77/lb., carrots .50/lb., jalapenos, shredded ginger and garlic, + almost any other cheap vegetable in season. Get the family together to chop everything up till a 5 gallon pot is over 3 gallons full, then mix in lots of salt. Pound it all down into a one gallon container that can be used for fermenting sauerkraut. Let it ferment for three days. Vegetables stay green and healthy much longer this way.

  6. Headmistress, zookeeper
    Posted March 1, 2007 at 11:36 pm | Permalink

    Maybe, but it’s still kimchee.

    I mean, I take my hat off to you and all, because that’s very impressive. But it’s kimchee.

    And how much salt is ‘lots’ of salt?

    Is this from Nourishing Traditions?

    I sadly fear my husband is the only one who would eat it, and we’d ask him to eat it outside.

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