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Old 12-15-2005, 06:47 PM   #1
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Cooking "real food" at home vs. Eating out?

Hey everyone...

I was just thinking... I don't eat at home very often (I don't know how to cook much, and I don't have a very well setup kitchen) ... When I DO eat at home, its usually TV dinner type crap or frozen pizzas.

When it comes to eating/cooking REAL food... Chicken.. Fresh veggies... etc... Typicially, how expensive is it? (for one person)

I'm finally going to break down and buy the equipment I need to outfit my kitchen properly, however, I'm a little concerned about the price of fresh ingedients. Once I stock up on all the stuff that you can keep for long periods (flour, sugar, oils, etc etc...) ... Is it expensive to cook your own meals with fresh ingredients?

Sorry for the not-so specific question... I'm on Disability so money is really tight... I just want to make sure I'm not going to blow all this money on cookwear and stuff, then find out I can't afford to buy the fresh ingredients on a regular basis.

As long as it turns out close to the price of eating pre-prepared/fast food I think I'll be OK budget wise.

Any information/thoughts you could share would be appreciated!

Thanks!
--ElmoTheDestroyer

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Old 12-15-2005, 06:50 PM   #2
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I guess I should also mention, I don't plan on cooking steak every night or anything... Mostly chicken... Some ground beef... Some thin sliced rump roast (stirfry)... Nothing extravagant. :)
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Old 12-15-2005, 06:58 PM   #3
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If you have a Walmart nearby, you can pick up cookware very inexpensive. All you really need is a pot, and three or four fry pans, spatula, spoons, tongs. Your best bet for fresh veggies is to buy them in season, or get fresh frozen if they are not in season. As far as chicken, it's cheapest to buy a whole young chicken and cut it up yourself. As for ground beef, you want it to be healthy, so buy 90% lean, a pound package would be about $5. Pork tenderloin is quite inexpensive too, and very lean, I've bought a small one for $4. Stock up on canned veggies and dry foods too. I'm sure others will be along to add input.

If you buy a whole chicken, dont forget to save the bones and parts you dont use to make a stock. You can add celery, carrotts, onions, etc. to make your stock, skim the fat, and then make your soup adding noodles or pasta and whatever you like really. Soup and grilled cheese is really nice together.
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Old 12-15-2005, 07:13 PM   #4
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It all depends on what you are going to cook. Some things can get quite expensive and other things can be very low cost. My dinner tonight was very inexpensive. I made pasta in garlic, oil and red pepper flakes with dried cranberrys served with roasted squash. The entire meal cost about $5 and it fed two with leftovers for at least one or two more servings. I already had the olive oil and red pepper flakes so that was not included in the amount I spent. Now if I had gotten the recipe out of a cookbook then there probably would have been additional things like parsley or something like that. While that would have added nicely to the dish, I did not want to spend the $ on it so I did not. I also think pine nuts would have been a great addition to this meal, but again that would have been more $ so I decided to not use them either.

If you are cooking chicken then it depends on what type of chicken you are cooking. Are you cooking whole chickens and cutting them up yourself or are you buying chicken pieces? If pieces then what kind? Boneless skinless breasts will be the most expensive then bone in with skin will be less expensive. Thighs will be even less expensive than that. The most economical thing to do is buy whole birds and cut them up yourself. I have to admit that I usually buy the boneless skinless breast because they are so easy to use. For a package of three breasts I usually pay between $6 and $8 so that can add up fast is you are buying a bunch of other ingredients.

Basically if try then you can cook great tasting, healthy, filling food that is not expensive.
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Old 12-15-2005, 07:40 PM   #5
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Amber - I do plan on raiding Walmart in the near future... No doubt about it. Gotta be careful though.. I tried that when I first moved out of my parents house like 8 years ago... The knife set I got was absolute junk, as was the cookwear. This time I'm gunna splurge and get their stainless cookwear set (think its like $120, including some thongs and stuff) ...

Also I'm gunna pick up a few other things... George forman style grill (I live in a small apartment with no way to grill outdoors)... A good electric wok (75% of the food I plan on cooking can be made in a Wok) ... and of course a deep fryer. Not the healthiest way to prepare food, but, there are soooo many things I like that can be made with one.

Long story short... I need to spend a few bucks... Thank god for Christmas money/gift certificates! :)

GB - I think the most expensive thing for me is going to be the Chicken... I LOVE boneless skinless chicken breasts/strips ... I don't like dark meat, or dealing with bones... Also, most of the stuff I make will be stirfry type foods, so having easy to chop up breasts/strips is ideal.

I sure wish grocery stores would put price lists online. It would make budgeting/planning meals SOOO much easier. :)

All this food talk has made me hungry.... Gotta run! :)

Thanks again..
--ElmoTheDestroyer
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Old 12-15-2005, 07:47 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ElmoTheDestroyer
I sure wish grocery stores would put price lists online. It would make budgeting/planning meals SOOO much easier. :)
Some of them actually do, well sort of. My local grocery store is Stop and Shop. They have a very cool website feature which I use. The have one of those cards that every store seems to have now. They scan your card and you get sale prices that way. Well on their website if you plug in your card number then each week they will email you your own personal weekly flier. It looks back to what you have bought over the past 6 (or maybe it is 8) weeks and anything that is on sale that week will show with the sale price as well as the regular price. I find if very handy. Things like baby food seems to go on sale every few weeks so when i get the email I can see if I should stock up that week or not.
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Old 12-15-2005, 11:36 PM   #7
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Cooking at home is actually cheaper than eating out. You can cook a little larger amount and freeze some of it. Buying in bulk, like at SAM's Costco's etc can help you save money. Buy large packs of meat and it devide it up into smaller servings (meal) and freeze them. Learning to cut up meat as in a whole chicken, etc will also help save money.
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Old 12-15-2005, 11:53 PM   #8
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Years ago, I was in the same boat. Single, living alone, and on a budget. Luckily for me, I had already gone to college for Culinary Arts, and had started working at restaurants. I got one meal free, which was usually my biggest meal of the day. On average, I would spend about $25 a week on groceries, including snacks and junk.

I used to buy whole chickens and cut them myself, but stopped doing that when I started cooking a lot of stir-fry. Boneless thighs worked for me. You mentioned you don't like dark meat, so I would go with the Boneless, skinless, IQF (Individiually Quick Frozen) bags of chicken breasts, usually a 4# bag. The breasts are kind of big, but you can stretch them by cutting each breast in half, flat, lengthways.

If you really want to buy some quality cookware at a low cost, get some cast iron skillets, season them, and treat them right; they'll last forever. CI skillets are probably the most flexible piece of cooking equipment I have, as they can do lots of different things. I saute, braise, roast, and bake all the time in CI skillets.
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Old 12-16-2005, 03:35 AM   #9
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I'd spend more money on food than cooking supplies. I'd get a nice large skillet (for sauteeing and cooking in pan etc.) a baking pan (for baking) a roasting pan (for roasting). A spatula, meat tongs, sharp meat knife, mincing type knife, bread knife, cutting board (could double as "rolling type" board). I'd get a large and a small pot and a strainer that could double as a steamer.
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Old 12-16-2005, 05:37 AM   #10
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I'm also on a Disability Allowance, which is really a pittance, and I can tell you straight that there is NO WAY I can afford to eat out, or even to buy ready-prepared meals. I have only one meal a day, but I try to make sure it's a healthy, properly-prepared meal. I buy bulk beef mince and make up batches of meatballs, or spag.bol. sauce, and freeze them. I make a lot of stirfries. I find tinned fruit is often cheaper than fresh fruit - and it doesn't go off. It's far cheaper to buy a frozen or fresh uncooked chicken, and cut it up into meal-sized servings, to freeze for later, or to cook up and then freeze. I buy a large bag of potatoes, and I cut them up for baking, or for mashing, or into chips and partially fry them, then freeze them. I tend to eat a fair bit of pasta - it's cheap, and it fills you up, there's plenty of different sauces you can make for it, and it's always nice with a home-grown salad on the side.

There's a lot to be said for the humble sandwich! With a plethora of filling ideas, it can be the simple, time-saving solution to those on a strict budget! Egg/lettuce, leftover cold meat or chicken, salad, cheese......toasted or plain.....Great for the impecunious person living alone who isn't always inspired or able to cook a banquet!

And although I have a tiny garden, not much bigger than your average dining table, I grow quite a few veges - tomatoes, lettuce, rhubarb, capsicum, zucchini, spinach, carrots etc. Some are in pots. Many of these I freeze. Most of the plants in my garden are herbs, so I not only have a living herb/spice cabinet at my back door, I have a built-in pharmacy as well! It sure helps out the budget, I can tell you!
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