Food Stamp Challenge Day 20: Why Scratch Cooking is Worth the Hassle

| September 20, 2013 | 0 Comments

One of the good things so far about the challenge has been that it’s removed a whole section from our near-vegetarian household’s shopping list: the packaged meat substitutes we use to keep enough protein in our diet without too much effort.

Before starting this, it seemed the path of least resistance to just grab a box of some sort of veggie burger from the freezer section, a package of sandwich slices from the deli aisle, maybe even some of that newfangled imitation chicken that’s really not at all bad.

This isn’t a cardinal sin – I mean, we’re two busy people and that’s what packaged foods are FOR.  But in an ideal world we wouldn’t depend on such things.  We’ve been getting more than enough protein from the nuts, seeds, beans, and modest amounts of dairy we’ve been consuming, and neither of us is feeling frail — in fact, we both feel great.

Putting a little more emphasis on preparing meals from scratch during this month has had several great side effects:

Saving money, duh:  Pound for pound, those kinds of things are dreadfully expensive for what you get. Some of them, if you do the math, can be upwards of $16.00/pound – the unit price of a superb piece of wild-caught salmon freshly flown in from Alaska, for those of you keeping track.

Saving Trash:  We’ve both noticed that we’re hardly making any trash, and there’s even been a reduction in recyclable waste. The plastic wrappers and bags, the cardboard sleeves and cartons – these things add up.

Feeling Better:  A lot of that stuff gets its taste from additives and from a lot of sodium.  We both feel better after, say, a big bowl of Smoky Tomato Lentil Soup than we do after some of those meals.

In General: Looking at the lists of chemical additives and ingredients that go into some of those entrees, Michael Pollan’s grandmother would have a fit.  At least when I’m cooking Gallo Pinto or a Leftovers Frittata, I know exactly — more or less — everything that’s in there.

And oh, the leftovers:  Here’s an example of how this works out financially, as I calculated the other day:

Typical workday lunch main item: “Mock meat” sandwich on good bread:
“Meat” $0.99  (1/3 of a package at $2.99/pkg)
Bread  $0.50 (1/10 of a loaf of organic bread @ 4.99)
Cheese  $0.50  (1 oz, sliced at $0.498/oz)
Condiments  ~$0.05
= $2.05/sandwich

Scratch cooking workday lunch main item: Leftover gallo pinto:
Cost of entire batch of gallo pinto: ~$2.00 for 8 servings
= $0.25 for a lunch main dish

Saving $1.80/day, times 5 days, times 50-odd weeks of lunches per year….for two people, and this simple shift alone can save $900.00.   That’s nine hundred – as in just under a thousand – just for switching up how we eat lunch during the week.

Worth it to me.  I have a lot of things I’d like to do with $900.00. Do you?


Category: Cooking, Food, Money Saving, Recipes, Whole Foods Challenge

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