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Hillbilly Housewife - Lowcost meals, Lots of Jesus
December 13, 2005 11:58 AM   Subscribe

While googling for the the USDA's Thrifty Food Plan, which estimates how much it will cost to feed a family in the United States, I stumbled upon The Hillbilly Housewife. There is material here relevant to my original search, including the $45/week Emergency Menu and the $70/week Low Cost Menu. There's also some pretty weird stuff, too. Things like the essay on the "pleasure and power of aprons" or her blog entry detailing her troubles trying to buy a house.
posted by Irontom (90 comments total) 24 users marked this as a favorite

 
This woman inhabits a world so different than mine that it's tough to comprehend her.
posted by Irontom at 12:04 PM on December 13, 2005


Hey, she's at the top of the Jesus ladder, unlike us, so it's perfectly acceptable for her to look down at us, but not the other way around.

Good to know.
posted by delmoi at 12:16 PM on December 13, 2005


I eat a lot like here emergency menu.
posted by I Foody at 12:32 PM on December 13, 2005


her
posted by I Foody at 12:32 PM on December 13, 2005


Good to see you were to busy being condescending to miss the point, delmoi. I think it is amazing that she can feed a family nutrient rich food with some variety for so little.

I spend an ungodly amount of money on food and booze. On that point, there is room for everyone at the top of the Jesus ladder. ;)
posted by stormygrey at 12:33 PM on December 13, 2005


I can't be the only man out there who likes to wear an apron when he cooks. It makes me feel all professional and prepared, like girding myself for battle.
posted by Faint of Butt at 12:35 PM on December 13, 2005 [1 favorite]


Well, I am not going to touch her comments on Christianity. I will say, though, that her "emergency menu" is startlingly similar to the meals my grandmother described for us in detail. Meals she and her southern family of eight siblings survived on during the Great Depression. The reliance on cornmeal, beans, rice, and greens is a hallmark of the Depression-era South. I'd like to comment on how far America has come in offering a decent quality of life for the poor since then....too bad I can't.

Another note: It's great that someone has worked out a specific plan for feeding a family of four on $45 a week. But even this plan presumes resources that many poor people don't have - in particular, time. The difficulty for a lot of folks is that this food plan pretty much depends on someone being able to hover over the stove simmering lentil soup, patting homemade tortillas together, and making breads and biscuits. Not easy for a single parent with more than one job.
posted by Miko at 12:37 PM on December 13, 2005


Thanks for these links. I'm always in support of making food from scratch and stretching the food-buying dollar. She basically lays it all out for you, complete with the recipes needed.

That being said, I was surprised to learn that Robert Townsend was spot-on in his marketing of Ho-Cakes.
posted by NationalKato at 12:41 PM on December 13, 2005


Well, if you make $10 an hour, spending 2 hours a day cooking is equal to $140 a week in lost wages. The only reason to do something like this is if you can't find enough work.
posted by delmoi at 12:46 PM on December 13, 2005


(I mean, other then that you enjoy cooking more then work)
posted by delmoi at 12:47 PM on December 13, 2005


The Hillbilly Housewife:

For the recipes that call for dried onion, substitute a small amount of finely chopped fresh onion.

For the recipes calling for fresh garlic, substitute a small amount of garlic powder instead.


I'm confused now.
posted by StickyCarpet at 12:49 PM on December 13, 2005


Well, if you make $10 an hour, spending 2 hours a day cooking is equal to $140 a week in lost wages

Because we all work 24 hours a day, seven days a week, right?

Wait a second...
posted by SweetJesus at 12:51 PM on December 13, 2005


nutrient rich food

It's not the worst menu ever, in that most of the food is unprocessed. But it's also far from nutrient rich.

There are no whole grains in this menu, with the exception of cornmeal. White-flour Ramen, boxed mac'n'cheese, all purpose flour, white rice: these are fairly empty foods, providing calories and carbs to fill you up and create some energy, but not much protein and few vitamins for long-term strength and health. Empty calories, in other words.

Tuna and beans are healthy sources of protein, but hot dogs? Far from it (high fat, high sodium, additives). The reliance on canned foods means high sodium, too.

I entered the first day's meals into FitDay (approximating as needed). Considering that it's generally healthy to aim for a 40-30-30 split amongst carbs, fats, and proteins, you can see that this first day's diet at least is hugely protein-deficient. If I could set up a FitDay page so that you could see the nutrition analysis reports, you'd also be able to tell that there's too much saturated fat, and not enough B vitamins or Vitamin E.
posted by Miko at 12:55 PM on December 13, 2005


Hey I've been a poor single parent trying to feed two on about $70 bucks a week when I was making $8.00/hr. It's pretty farking hard to do. The god stuff isn't my thing but if she can give some folks pointers on how to survive in tough times, she's doing a good thing.
posted by octothorpe at 12:59 PM on December 13, 2005



For the recipes that call for dried onion, substitute a small amount of finely chopped fresh onion.

For the recipes calling for fresh garlic, substitute a small amount of garlic powder instead.

I'm confused now.


For most households, fresh onion is more likely to be on hand than dried, and garlic powder is more likely to be in the spice rack than whole cloves.
posted by sourwookie at 1:00 PM on December 13, 2005


Wow, the $70/week menu isn't too shabby. Bacon and eggs for breakfast and salmon for dinner Tuesday night. No two-hour lentil soups. I probably wouldn't bake tortillas myself though. So call it a $75/week menu.

I suspect many people, including myself, pay too much for food because we don't plan ahead. The Daily Work section of the page gives you a good idea how to plan better. The one week me and my wife planned our week menu on Sunday, we ended up spending less time in the kitchen and on the way to and from the store.
posted by Triplanetary at 1:05 PM on December 13, 2005


Due to crushing debt and low pay while working as a temp, I have had to be very creative in order to meet a budget. After rent, utilities, transportation, MSP, Visa and my personal loan payment, I have roughly $55 Canadian a week remaining to cover food, entertainment, clothing and emergencies.

That's about $45 US, which is barely what is allotted for the most thrifty level of the USDA Thrifty Food Plan -- and that doesn't even give me any leeway if I need to buy (say) Sinutab or (Bob forbid) a pair of shoes.

I've been doing a pretty good job, all in all. I roast a chicken or a pork shoulder or something on Sunday night, and do up a massive feed of mashed potatoes and whatever cheap veggie I can find. I have that for about four meals that week. When I have three chicken carcasses, I make stock. I buy meat ends at the deli for lunches. Cheese isn't cheap, but when I can get deli cheese ends, I make sauce or mac & chee. And I eat a lot of seasonal fruit; it's always good to see apples on for $0.29 a pound.
posted by solid-one-love at 1:10 PM on December 13, 2005 [1 favorite]


The tricky thing is planning ahead while also not letting things spoil. I know I waste money I shouldn't when I buy too much produce and it's all mush by the time I want to use it.
posted by piers at 1:11 PM on December 13, 2005


1. Hoecakes, by MF Doom.

2. This will be the second time I've linked to this book in a couple of days, but Jeffery Steingarten wrote a nice piece about cooking on the USDA Thrifty Plan for Vogue about ten years back. It's in the book The Man Who Ate Everything, a collection of his essays.
posted by kosem at 1:24 PM on December 13, 2005


I started doing something similar, Miko, using other software, but then I realized the futility of it. Her menus are designed to save money. And while they may not be perfectly nutritional, I doubt the menus I come up with would hold up to the same scrutiny. They seem relatively healthy, and they're inexpensive. And I don't think she is recommending everyone stick to the Emergency Menu 52 weeks a year.
posted by crunchland at 1:40 PM on December 13, 2005


The USDA plan is probably scientifically correct, but I need more concrete advice on how to eat right and cheap. "Salmon patties on Tuesday night" is more useful advice than "you should eat 250 grams of fish per week".

Does anyone else know of any other hands-on lists of good and cheap food?
posted by Triplanetary at 1:40 PM on December 13, 2005


Now you, too, can travel all the way to New York for some of Sylvia's Tourist Trap rice, cornmeal, beans, greens and fried chicken! All for only $22 a plate. Or check out one of New York's many other Po Folks gouge centers!

The reliance on cornmeal, beans, rice, and greens is a hallmark of the Depression-era South. I'd like to comment on how far America has come in offering a decent quality of life for the poor since then....too bad I can't.
posted by Captaintripps at 1:50 PM on December 13, 2005


from her blog:

God says I have to obey my husband and submit to his decisions.

No, Paul said that.
posted by Heywood Mogroot at 2:04 PM on December 13, 2005


Funny, my address bar says MetaFilter but his post has Fazed written all over it, hmmm....
posted by MikeMc at 2:16 PM on December 13, 2005


Hey Heywood

I sent hilbilly housewife your link.

Hopefully some 'emancipatin'll go on down there.
posted by lalochezia at 2:23 PM on December 13, 2005


This is a really cool link, and I applaud her use of bacon grease.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 2:29 PM on December 13, 2005


Her menus are designed to save money.

Yep -- but that's why we shouldn't get too excited about the nutritional value. Her meals are about as nutritious a school lunches -- that is, marginally.

I actually do track my nutrients with Fitday and it's worked really well for me. I've had to change my eating habits to hit all the targets, which has really improved my diet. I still have trouble getting enough calcium.

But anyway. I eat for $40/week, and I eat really well. In fact I'm a food snob. I'm single though - let's not forget she's trying to feed a family. Eating for $40/week means: planning all your meals; making smart use of ingredients by using the same foods more than once for different meals; relying on produce, beans, and grains for a lot of the food bulk and leaving fish, chicken, and other meats to play a supporting role (healthier anyway); stocking up when things are on sale; bringing leftovers to work as lunch; making coffee and eating breakfast at home, and avoiding processed foods by cooking from scratch as much as possible. You can keep your food budget really low -- you just have to invest time and forethought. Works out great, if you have the time.
posted by Miko at 2:32 PM on December 13, 2005 [1 favorite]


The Hillbilly Housewife site has been discussed here before.
posted by box at 3:36 PM on December 13, 2005


While I admire this woman for her practical (if not always nutritional best) advice for a certain segment of the population, low-income and/or rural homemakers, her anti-consumerism, anti-modernity attitude scares me in a Ted Kaczynski kind of way. You can be smart, thrifty, and revolve your life on maintaining a good Christian household without being all wacky about it.
posted by lychee at 4:34 PM on December 13, 2005


Both and interesting read, and handy advice about how to feed yourself on the cheap is M. K. F. Fisher's classic How to Cook a Wolf (as in the wolf that's at your door). She even has a recipe for some highly nutritious gruel concoction that needs only hot water and a Thermos to prepare.
posted by dipolemoment at 4:49 PM on December 13, 2005


In the snacks for children, there is jelly and milk offered. Can someone tell me what this is? I can translate jelly into jam OK, but what do you do with it then, spoon it down their throats?
posted by wilful at 4:56 PM on December 13, 2005


I'm not averse to cutting my food bill (the two of us spend about $130.00 a week but that includes beer, wine, grooming products, and cleaning products plus food for two cats and one dog.) However, after taking a gander at her shopping list I have to conclude that she is shopping at a special store because those prices simply don't work for me locally.

100 teabags for a dollar? I just bought 16 teabags on sale for 99 cents-- admittedly they were Lipton, but I know I have never seen tea for less than that.

5 lb bag of carrots for $2.00? Closer to $4.00

5 lb bag of flour 96 cents? I've never seen flour for less than a dollar-- usually a 5 lb bag would be around $2.00 for the in store brand.

12 eggs for 69 cents? Not for many years.

In fact I'm beginning to wonder if this list was written several years ago.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 5:08 PM on December 13, 2005


Surprised to see a homemade tofu burger mix in there. Been looking for a good one. I'll try it out. Thanks for the link. Missed it the first time.
posted by mrgrimm at 5:11 PM on December 13, 2005


Ok I just read the $70.00 a week menu and now I know she is full of it. Is there any place in the United States where you can buy hamburger for $1.38 a pound? Not two for one sale price-- that would be cheating. But just waltz into your store any week and pick up hamburger--even the fattiest, cheapest cut-- for $1.38 a pound?

And the apron shit was pure drival. Yeah... her sons respect and obey her because she put on a lacy bib. The truth is I wear an apron to cook in because I was so tired of trying to get oil stains out of my clothes, plus you can't make bread without getting flour all down your front, but I don't magically change into a "homemaker" garnering instant respect from door to door salesmen.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 5:18 PM on December 13, 2005


In the snacks for children, there is jelly and milk offered. Can someone tell me what this is? I can translate jelly into jam OK, but what do you do with it then, spoon it down their throats?
posted by wilful at 7:56 PM EST on December 13

On the off chance that you are being serious and not just making fun of her punctuation (Biscuits; Jelly & Milk) she means biscuits and jelly or muffins and jelly plus milk to drink.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 5:21 PM on December 13, 2005


She seems a little kooky. But I think more people could do with her "can-do" frugal attitude. You can save a ton of money baking breads and preparing meals in bulk and freezing of canning.

I used to live on $15-$17 per week worth of groceries (not including beer!). A similar Hillbilly menu - with more whole grains.

Bulk black beans, bulk brown rice, 6 tomatoes, 1 onion, 1 squash, bulk whole wheat pasta, doz. eggs, gal. milk, 16oz peanut butter, cream cheese, a loaf of whole wheat bread, 4 apples, 4 bananas, 4 chicken thighs and 1lb ground turkey. occasionally bulk spices, baking supplies and salmon or trout when I caught it and fresh berries (made jam) when I picked them.

Probably never healthier. But damn did I get sick of dry peanut butter sandwiches every damn day for lunch.
posted by tkchrist at 5:31 PM on December 13, 2005 [2 favorites]


"or" canning. sheesh.
posted by tkchrist at 5:31 PM on December 13, 2005


In the snacks for children, there is jelly and milk offered. Can someone tell me what this is? I can translate jelly into jam OK, but what do you do with it then, spoon it down their throats?

Secret Life of Gravy already pointed out the punctuation, but I just wanted to add that in Russia they drink hot water mixed w/ jam.

Some good comments in this thread, but all I want to add is I'm secretly craving an apron for Christmas.
posted by artifarce at 5:34 PM on December 13, 2005


I was being serious, her punctuation did lead to confusion.

In American english, what is a biscuit? Compared to a cookie? Are they the same?
posted by wilful at 5:45 PM on December 13, 2005


A biscuit here is not a cookie. It consists of flour, milk, shortening and baking powder. Kinda bready I guess.
posted by konolia at 6:02 PM on December 13, 2005


wilful writes "In American english, what is a biscuit? Compared to a cookie? Are they the same?"

No. An American biscuit is more like bread. Maybe closer to a scone or a crumpet? Leavened with backing powder rather than yeast, typically not particularly sweet.
posted by mr_roboto at 6:04 PM on December 13, 2005


"her anti-consumerism, anti-modernity attitude scares me in a Ted Kaczynski kind of way."

The isolated, dirt-poor hillbilly act seems a little inconsistent with a blog... a reasonably well laid-out blog with a pretty consistent design theme. If she thinks modern frugality requires dsl and webhosting fees, maybe she's not really such a hick.
posted by klarck at 6:12 PM on December 13, 2005


American biscuits are plain scones made with shortening instead of butter. I believe they are served with meaty things that have sauce or gravy, and can be good enough to be the main event without the meat. (Disclaimer: I learned this from watching Alton Brown. They appear to be scones to me, and I know from scones.)
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 6:12 PM on December 13, 2005


Hi All, this is Maggie from the Hillbilly Housewife. This is the second time Metafilter has had a long discussion about my site. To asnwer a few of the questions here, the prices for my grocery lists are based on actual shopping trips to my local Walmart and Dollar Store. Most of the items purchased are generic or store brands. Different parts of the country will have different price tags for the same list of groceries because prices vary depening on you location.

American Biscuits are similar to scones, but they are almost always round and seldom sweetened.

Saving money on one's food budget does take more time than nuking a frozen dinner, but if one takes the time to plan, then the prep work can actually be accomplished rather quickly, especially with practice.

The $45 menu doesn't include many whole grains, but it does have fiber from the beans and vegetables. It isn't meant to be a long term menu, hence the title "Emergency Menu". Whole grains are about twice the price of their more processed cousins. When every penny counts, processed grains taste good, are relatively nutritious and will fill a hungry belly for only a few cents.

As for my hillbilly culture, the way some folks are bilingual, I am bicultural. I manage pretty well with backwoods cultural mores and can hold my own in modern society as well. After looking over both cultures with close scrutiny, I have chosen the one that is most fulfilling to me. The nice thing about modern society is that we are allowed that choice in the first place.

If anyone has any questions, I'm more than happy to answer what I can.
posted by MissMaggie at 6:48 PM on December 13, 2005 [1 favorite]


Almost forgot, if you'll point out which punctuation specifically lead to confusion, I'll see if I can correct it.
posted by MissMaggie at 6:52 PM on December 13, 2005


Maybe I haven't hit the wacky part yet. All I've seen is one Bible verse. Clearly "Hillbilly" is meant tongue-in-cheek, as this lady is clearly better educated than the Clampetts. Kudos to her for trying to show how someone can feed their family inexpensively. Cheap food and nutritious food are rarely the same thing. Maybe I'm biased because I do stuff like make my own bread without using a machine.

And yes, American biscuits are basically an unsweetened scone, a baking soda leavened bready disk or wad. They are also mighty tasty warm, with butter. The Joy of Cooking has a nice recipe that does not require buttermilk.
posted by ilsa at 6:54 PM on December 13, 2005


Hi MissMaggie! I'm a new fan!
posted by ilsa at 6:56 PM on December 13, 2005


Hey Ilsa, nice to meet you!
posted by MissMaggie at 6:59 PM on December 13, 2005


"This woman inhabits a world so different than mine that it's tough to comprehend her."
posted by Irontom at 12:04 PM PST on December 13

I often feel that way when I read other folk's sites and blogs too. Cultures are a funny thing, their different all over the world.
posted by MissMaggie at 7:04 PM on December 13, 2005



Almost forgot, if you'll point out which punctuation specifically lead to confusion, I'll see if I can correct it.


Biscuits & jelly; milk. Instead of biscuits; jelly and milk.

Good work on your website - no use to me and I think your costings are optimistic but still, good simple info.

FYI traditional scones are always round, only sweetened by extra ingredients eg dates or raisings, not by sugar.
posted by wilful at 7:04 PM on December 13, 2005


As long as we're talking about biscuits and scones - the scones we make in New Zealand were brought here by Scots in the 19th century (they would have been leavened with soda and sour milk then) and I'm sure that biscuits likewise come from Scots settling in the South of the US. Hooray for the Anglo-Celtic diaspora and their baking!

If it comes to that, our scones are round too - only heathens cut the dough into squares or oblongs. The reason is that when punched with a round cutter or a tumbler, the cooked scones will part in the middle along an invisible seam, perfect for spreading butter. Merely slicing the dough means they won't part properly.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 7:04 PM on December 13, 2005


So the fact that you are shopping at the dollar store answers a lot of my questions because obviously they don't sell fresh produce. And WalMart also has limited choices. Still I have to wonder why the choice of frozen orange juice over whole oranges and why hamburger when chicken and pork are so much cheaper? Chicken thighs and drumsticks generally sell for around for 99 cents a pound and as little as 49 cents a pound on sale. Plus it is so much healthier than hamburger. And pork roast can usually be bought for around 99 cents a pound as well.

And for goodness sakes why instant potatoes? Whole potatoes are not just better nutritionally, they are also cheaper.

It just seems like so many of your choices are from the grocery bargains of the 60s and 70s. My parents relied on canned tuna and hamburger to feed us, but these days turkey and chicken prices are so much lower.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 7:07 PM on December 13, 2005


An observation about the American diet (if I can generalise), which I think this illustrates - a lot of processed, packaged and tinned food, not a lot of fresh vegies. Most of my friends and family would have much more full vegetable crisper sections of their fridge, a lot less ingredients in the pantry.
posted by wilful at 7:08 PM on December 13, 2005


OOps, * they are *, not - thier -

I just noticed the spell checker.
posted by MissMaggie at 7:10 PM on December 13, 2005


The prices don't seem too far out of line for Louisville, maybe a few cents cheaper than what I see at the regular grocery store and probably about right for a couple of the discount stores. As I recall, fresh vegetables are harder to get and much more expensive in the hills, though.

The food is the kind of stuff I grew up on/around, and more people probably should be aware of it. It's bewildering the number of people at work who can't or won't eat anything except microwaved crap or fast food, and then complain that they're broke.

Now I feel slightly homesick, and I never even liked that kind of food much.
posted by dilettante at 7:11 PM on December 13, 2005


My roommate and I have been surviving on about $100 a month for food over the last few months. This is actually really helpful. We share a budget since it works out to be a lot more for both of us than if we kept everything seperate.

wilful: when you're poor there isn't much choice. I can get canned veggies for under a dollar, fresh are far more expensive. On sale, I may get a head of iceburg lettuce for that much. Maybe.
In the summer, when farmers markets are common (even in my urban hipster neighborhood) it is easier to get cheap fresh fruit and veggies. But even then I'm still spending more than canned.

The prices seem pretty accurate for Buffalo, if I shop carefully. Honestly, if I had the time I might even do better between my small neighborhood grocery, the two large grocery chains, Aldi, and Save-A-Lot.
posted by Kellydamnit at 7:18 PM on December 13, 2005


Wilful, thanks for the tip on scones, I thought they almost always had added sugar. I learned something new. I think I corrected the punctuation, but you'll let me know if I left anything out.

Secret Life of Gravy (love the handle btw), The $70 dollar menu uses ground beef becasue I can get a 5lb roll of it for right under $7. This is where I get the price of $1.38 a pound. If you'll look on the website under Chicken Recipes you'll see that I do make great use of Chicken leg Quarters which are available to me locally for 49cents a pound. The $70 menu is part of a series of low cost menus I'm working on. I've already done the one that focuses on dried beans (the $45 menu) and the one that focuses on ground beef (the $70 menu). I still intend to do a purely vegan menu, a vegetarian menu with eggs and cheese in addition to legumes, a menu that uses whole grains exclusively, one that focuses on a 10lb bag of Chicken Leg Quarters and another one that uses small amounts of a variety of meats throughout the week. These things take time. So far the 2 menus I've come up with have been extremely popular. I had no idea they would be. While none of the are nutritionally perfect, they are all reasonably healthy, low in cost and helpful to people who are struggling with thier finances.
posted by MissMaggie at 7:24 PM on December 13, 2005


Eating for $40/week means: planning all your meals; making smart use of ingredients by using the same foods more than once for different meals; relying on produce, beans, and grains for a lot of the food bulk and leaving fish, chicken, and other meats to play a supporting role (healthier anyway);

I remember reading a book on Garbage (archeology students studied the trash produced by families living in a city in Arizona) and what stuck with me was the ethnic group which had the least amount of food waste was the Hispanic families. They use the same food items for every meal: onions, peppers, tomatoes, cheese, cilantro, lettuce, and beans that they rarely threw out spoiled or unused
produce.

The prices don't seem too far out of line for Louisville
They seem at least a couple of years out of date for Raleigh. If anything, "Mountain Prices" are generally higher.

And while I can't really fault MissMaggie because her menus are meant to be used year-round, the biggest beef I have with them is no mention of seasonal fresh produce. For example, in summer we eat corn on the cob and fresh tomatoes until we are sick of it. This time of year it is all cabbage, apples and squash, and we certainly won't be buying fresh tomatoes or corn on the cob because that would be foolishly expensive. I look forward to early spring which means asparagus and rhubarb. Yummmm
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 7:27 PM on December 13, 2005


Miss Maggie, I'm a Texan transplant and I applaud your efforts to help some people afford a more healthy diet. It seems to me that a lot of the people that you are trying to reach don't have internet access, but the parties who do will certainly benefit from your posting and I applaud you for it. Keep itup, sister, you are doing good for the world!
posted by kamikazegopher at 7:29 PM on December 13, 2005


On orange juice and instant potatoes. Frozen orange juice is cheap. 88 cents for twelve 1/2 cup servings. I cannot get 12 oranges for 88 cents. Besides, kids will drink orange juice a lot faster and more willingly than they will peel and eat an orange.

About the instant potatoes, first off, they are much cheaper than fresh potatoes. Also, the recipe for Doodle Bugs uses instant potatoes, so since they are already in the house for one recipe, they might as well be used during the rest of the week too. This is a sensible use of resources. Fresh potatoes are much better than instant; better tasting and better for us. Instant potatoes have their place in my pantry though, and I'm pretty sure I'm not the only person who makes use of them.
posted by MissMaggie at 7:32 PM on December 13, 2005


Thanks for the encouragement kamikazegopher. I can use it.

As for the prices, they are based on the lowest prices that I can regularly find. I've heard lots of folks say that my prices are lower than they can find in their area. While that may be true, I also think that if anyone really looks into it, they will be amazed at how cheap basic foods can be. Not everyone has the time to find the cheapest prices, or the transportation to visit more than one store. The $45 menu will still be inexpensive though, because it is based on foods that are almost always low cost, no matter where you live.

For the comment on the lack of fresh veggies. You answered that one yourself. The $45 menu especially is meant to be used year round, which means relying on foods that are inexpensive all the time, not just during their season. That said, I too love late summer produce, and think it's good to eat a lot more of it. Gardening is a wonderful way to reduce the grocery budget and improve one's diet at the same time. Factor in the exercise and wonderful de-stressing involved in gardening and you have a real winner of an activity.

Did you know that food stamps can be used to buy seeds? For anyone on a limited income with access to a small patch of land, this is a fact worth exploiting.
posted by MissMaggie at 7:44 PM on December 13, 2005


We have a failure to communicate with our non-English speaking cousins :).

Jelly (UK) is Jello (US) or gelatin(US). Biscuits (US) are more or less unsweetened scones, and are served like dinner rolls. Jelly (US) is like jam or marmalade without the fruit.

Soup does not require "hovering" - you're tossing in leftovers, not making from scratch. Biscuits and quick breads can be made quickly; Bisquick is just the dry ingredients mixed ahead of time. Bacon grease subs for shortening in anything but dessert.

It'd be interesting to see how someone who learned to cook outside the South would solve the same problem.
posted by swell at 8:01 PM on December 13, 2005


Rock on MissMaggie!
posted by Captaintripps at 8:05 PM on December 13, 2005


The pooring of America.
Get in on it now while you can still profit.
posted by tcy at 8:06 PM on December 13, 2005


On the subject of frugality in general, I've been getting tips from around the internet for a few months on money-saving techniques (combined with energy-efficiency and environmental care, all for the sake of reducing my family's ecological footprint): I also bought The Tightwad's Gazette by Amy Dacyczyn. Some stuff is definitely verging on crackpot, but there are useful tips in all of these. Now I just need to actually use them...

Biscuits are lighter and fluffier than scones, more designed for soaking up gravy and grease than for holding butter, jam and cream. I wonder if that's the shortening/butter distinction.
posted by tracicle at 8:43 PM on December 13, 2005 [1 favorite]


The grad student menu: toast for breakfast. campbell's soup for lunch and dinner. Add olives and hummus with bread for variety. The occasional fozen burrito and spaghetti with red sauce serves as a treat. The temptation to buy fresh OJ must be suppressed in favor of the frozen OJ from concentrate.

It might seem austere, but it was a step up from ramen.

And American-style buscuits are awesome.
posted by deanc at 8:49 PM on December 13, 2005


I think we ought to applaud MissMaggie for jumping in and responding to the post with grace and civility! (which is not often the case round here when a site is posted and criticised/criticized)

Thanks for the post, Irontom!
posted by shoepal at 8:57 PM on December 13, 2005 [1 favorite]


"Rock on MissMaggie!"
Aw shucks Captaintripps, thank-you.

Swell, I didn't know jelly was gelatin. I'll keep that in mind for future menus, so I can avoid confusion.

tracicle, I LOVE the Tightwad Gazette. She really rocks!

I think whenever folks are trying to save money there are choices we have to make. Some choices may be within our personal comfort zones, but they may be outside of other people's comfort zones. How far is one really willing to go to save money? Everyone has to figure that out individually. Something that is normal to one person may seem outlandish to another.
posted by MissMaggie at 9:00 PM on December 13, 2005


Jelly isn't gelatin, it's jello (I think). Well it's gelatin and sugar and flavouring, that's jello isn't it?

Your jelly is jam without fruit?? So it's kinda like runny flavoured sugar syrup? hmmmm.
posted by wilful at 9:12 PM on December 13, 2005


Soup does not require "hovering" - you're tossing in leftovers, not making from scratch.

Hey, I'm just saying this cooking is a little more time-consuming than using convenience foods. I make soup every week. Notice MissMaggie is also using dried beans. You need 1-2 hours soaking time, followed by 30-60 minutes simmering to make a decent soup containing carrots and beans. I point this out just to underline the fact that what seems easy to peopel with resources isn't always easy for the working poor. If you have the time, no problem. If you work, especially if you work two jobs, problem.

I suppose you could use a crock pot.
posted by Miko at 9:38 PM on December 13, 2005


I've made things worse:(. In the US, jello is dessert made from gelatin which is eaten with a spoon. Jelly is pectin and fruit juice which is often served on a sandwich with peanut butter.
posted by swell at 10:02 PM on December 13, 2005


I remember reading a book on Garbage (archeology students studied the trash produced by families living in a city in Arizona) and what stuck with me was the ethnic group which had the least amount of food waste was the Hispanic families. They use the same food items for every meal: onions, peppers, tomatoes, cheese, cilantro, lettuce, and beans that they rarely threw out spoiled or unused
produce.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 7:27 PM PST on December 13


Any chance you remember the name of the book? I often feel huge amounts of guilt when I throw out produce and I'd be interested in making some changes along that line.

As long as I can use bacon grease.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 10:24 PM on December 13, 2005


I said:
Well, if you make $10 an hour, spending 2 hours a day cooking is equal to $140 a week in lost wages
You said:
Because we all work 24 hours a day, seven days a week, right?

Wait a second...
Well, cooking is work. It might be more enjoyable, but it's still work. If you could get an extra two hours of work in a day, that's $20 you can use to feed your kids. Hmm. I guess my perspective is a little warped because I'm going for 1/1.5k food Calories/day which is not hard to get. For $45 a week I could literally feed myself on nothing but delivered pizza and Chinese (and the good stuff, too). But obviously you'd want to give your kids more calories depending on their size.

The other thing is that making more food doesn't increase the amount time it takes to make it, so the economic payoff can be a lot better.
posted by delmoi at 10:31 PM on December 13, 2005


Wilful, jelly is not runny, it's as firm as jam. It's just made from juice as opposed to whole fruit (or is strained before canning).

I can eat really well on $25/week when I'm not working, I'll spend half the day in the kitchen but then I enjoy it. My food budget triples when I spend all day working instead (and I start eating out a few times a week).
posted by cali at 10:40 PM on December 13, 2005


MissMaggie:

I wasn't trying to put you or your site down. I am impressed at how articulate and sharp your writing is. I was just expressing that, from my perspective, your world seems utterly alien to me. The apron essay and the conclusion to your househunting troubles blog entry are two easy examples of well written items that express a worldview that I don't have much commonality with.
posted by Irontom at 5:09 AM on December 14, 2005


Hey Irontom, :-)

Don't give it a second thought. I understand completely what you mean. I agree with you too. It's fun to see how other people live. That's the great thing about the internet, we get a window into other people's lives that we would never have otherwise.

Thank-You for sharing my site here. It's been fun for me to read up on what everyone has to say, and even to join the conversation myself.

Don't worry about the naysayers. My site has been on the internet for 6 years, and over that time I've gotten pretty thick skinned about it. ;-)
posted by MissMaggie at 6:24 AM on December 14, 2005


I also bought The Tightwad's Gazette by Amy Dacyczyn. Some stuff is definitely verging on crackpot

Can you clear something up for me that I've been too lazy to check? Is one of the suggestions in this book to buy multi-ply toilet paper rolls and separate them out into single ply rolls? I have a vague memory of hearing this years ago and I've always wondered if I got it wrong.
posted by PinkStainlessTail at 6:38 AM on December 14, 2005


PinkStainlessTail, On page 248 of the Complete TWG Amy D explains that in her opinion there is such a thing as being "too frugal".

"There are a few common penny-pinching practices that don't wash with me."

Then further down the page,
"The Paper Split. You've got one roll of two-ply toilet paper and two empty tubes. You separate the two plies and roll them each on the empty tubes to make two rolls of paper.

Why not do it? Because you have better things to do with your life! Besides, what's the first thing you do when you use toilet paper? You fold it, thereby making your one-ply a two-ply again.

Instead educate your family touse fewer two-ply squares.

posted by MissMaggie at 6:55 AM on December 14, 2005


Thanks! I always thought it was an odd idea, good to know she thinks so too.
posted by PinkStainlessTail at 7:04 AM on December 14, 2005


Miss Maggie, do you have a garden of your own in the spring and summer? Just curious.

I'm seriously asking for an apron for Christmas....
posted by mdiskin at 7:21 AM on December 14, 2005


Hi Mdiskin, We usually have a garden in the spring and it goes through late fall or early winter. One year we had turnips that weathered over till Christmas. This last year we didn't have a garden because we had travelling to do over the summer. I'm not an expert gardener, but I can put seeds in the dirt and I'm getting better at weeding and watering.

BTW, Aprons are the Best Ever.
posted by MissMaggie at 7:47 AM on December 14, 2005


Optimus Chyme:

The book is called Rubbish!

I once did an analysis of our grocery bill and found our two biggest ares of expenditure were fresh produce and beverages. Since then we have worked on buying fewer beverages (not buying soda, beer, wine, V8, lemonade, orange juice, grape juice, drink mixer, tea, and coffee every week but making some of these things an occasional treat) and fewer items of fresh produce.

I was always over-estimating how much fresh produce we ate in a week-- buying 3 pears for example rather than 1-- and throwing too much away. So now instead of buying lettuce, alfalfa sprouts, cucumber, mushrooms, bell peppers, and tomatoes for my salads, I'll only buy two or three items. One baking potato for the pair of us. A small handful of green beans.

But it is sad how fresh produce-- even the locally grown stuff-- is so much more expensive then canned. Canned vegtables and fruits are not worth eating in my view. I would rather do without. Just as I would rather make do with less butter than eat margarine.

Traditional ethnic cuisines such as Hispanic are a good way to pinch pennies and much more nutritious than so-called Southern cooking which relies on too much processed food. If I had only a few dollars a day to feed myself, I would switch to a Japanese diet-- three bowls of rice, small amounts of fresh produce and even smaller amounts of fish, both fresh and dried.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 8:06 AM on December 14, 2005


Re: cooking taking lots of time, especially where soups are concerned, I just want to say that I've saved a ton of time by making a small investment in a crockpot (slow cooker). I've saved tons and TONS of time by making a larger investment in an electric pressure cooker. In the former, I can toss things in in the morning and have dinner 8 hours later. In the latter, I can toss stuff in and have fully cooked chilis, soups, and roasts in about 20 minutes. Lovin' them.
posted by houseofdanie at 9:09 AM on December 14, 2005


I think whenever folks are trying to save money there are choices we have to make. Some choices may be within our personal comfort zones, but they may be outside of other people's comfort zones. How far is one really willing to go to save money? Everyone has to figure that out individually. Something that is normal to one person may seem outlandish to another.

Learning this concept in economics class kind of blew my mind. I think of a lot of stuff in these terms now.
posted by oaf at 11:08 AM on December 14, 2005


Maybe I'm lucky, maybe I live in a completely different economy, but at most times of the year, fresh fruit and veg are a lot cheaper and healthier around here. Of course, my city is well served by large markets.

My wife and I are mostly veg, and we'd spend $20 - $25 for a full week (4 - 5 cooked meals) of fruit and veg. Then there's the supermarket of course.
posted by wilful at 2:56 PM on December 14, 2005


So after reading Miss Maggie's Apron Manifesto, I went Christmas shopping at the mall and found aprons on sale at Anthropologie for $14.95 -- coincidence?

They were so purty...
posted by mdiskin at 3:22 PM on December 14, 2005


If you want aprons, check out the Christmas AND Holiday Bazaars. Aprons should be available for ± $10.00.
Disclaimer: I do not make or even wear aprons.
posted by Cranberry at 3:32 PM on December 14, 2005


I grew up eating a lot of what's on that $70 menu.
posted by ikkyu2 at 9:07 PM on December 14, 2005


It's good to note that the $45 emergency menu is exactly that, an emergency menu.

If you're responsible for feeding a family of 4 and you hit tough financial times (say the main breadwinner loses their job, or a major new bill comes along) and the family has to go through an emergency dial-back on their expenses for a couple of weeks, it's nice to have a pre-drafted, pre-tested menu that you can just use without having to agonize and create one yourself. To that end, I'm not so concerned about the nutritional aspects being not ideal. It's only meant to get you through a limited time, I think.

As far as that's concerned, there's nothing that says you couldn't add another $5 a week and boost the menu (a little chicken, some fresh veg, maybe some ice cream). :)
posted by darkstar at 4:22 AM on December 15, 2005


And I, too, grew up eating pinto beans, black eyed peas, greens, squash, cornbread, etc.

I just had a red cabbage soup the other day that brought back a flood of memories from my childhood...
posted by darkstar at 4:24 AM on December 15, 2005


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