Monday, February 1, 2010

Eatin' Po'

The biggest kvetch I get from folks (aside that I eat like a globe-trotting pinko) is that people think I spend a lot on certain things that they can't afford. Yes and no. I fully admit that sometimes it's awesome to grab that brass ring and spring for stuff like truffle oil, jamon iberico, roquefort, and other stuff that most folks don't fit into their grocery lists. But I also (increasingly so) try to go the other way, and eat cheaply. Finances have a way of doing that to you sometimes. Having a mortgage and a car payment sometimes means that when the weather is in the single digits for a month and your power bill rolls yahtzee on your ass, maybe you can't spread it on quite so thick.

Also my unique situation grants me access to seasonal vegetables that are delivered to my doorstep, but for certain things, I still have to schlep on down to the grocery store. Since I'm waaay out in the country, our closest store is still a good 20 minutes from me. Sometimes I just can't make the time, and it's good to save money and make do with what I've got on hand.

In the spirit of both frugality and laziness I put together a dish tonight consisting of four potatoes, a head of broccoli, a cup of yellow split lentils, two tablespoons of canola oil, a quart of water, salt, pepper, and some assorted south indian spices. Spices are becoming easier to buy in bulk, and so you can easily save a lot of money by doing so. Say you spend ten bucks on a bulk load of spices. You dole that out in increments of maybe a few cents per dish. The veggies I put in that dish probably set me back two dollars and the lentils maybe a quarter. The only other input I used is tamarind, which is getting easy to find in the ethnic aisle of most grocers, and a 12 ounce jar of it sets me back three bucks and lasts me nearly half a year. Two tablespoons or so go in the pot.

The result is a stew that feeds six people to the gills and costs maybe three dollars per iteration if that? Divide by six, and you're grubbing at 50 cents, and I guarantee this will fill you up and leave you happier about life than whatever's on a value menu. Thirty minutes is a round trip for me to the nearest fast food joint, or it's the time it takes for me to make this.

The biggest leap you've got to take is overhead at the beginning. If you're willing to put down a few bucks for the spices and stuff that will keep and last, you divvy up that cost big time as you keep making little meals.

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