- January 5, 2009 12:03 PM |
- By Tara Kimura
By Elizabeth Bridge, CBC Digital Archives writer
In the great Roald Dahl book Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, one of the constants of Charlie Bucket's life is the pot of cabbage soup forever bubbling away on the stove. As a child scarcely able to conceive of a more unpleasant supper, I asked my mother why Charlie's family ate it all the time. She explained that cabbage was one of the very cheapest vegetables one could buy, and since Charlie's family was very poor, cabbage soup was all they could afford.
Given recent predictions that belt-tightening and coupon-clipping will be two of the hottest trends of 2009, Charlie's monotonous yet nutritious daily bowl may catch on yet. Indeed, New York magazine recently invoked Charlie's "perpetual plat du jour" in printing a recipe for cabbage soup courtesy of that city's Veselka restaurant.
Surprisingly, cabbage does not figure on a list of 20 cheap and healthy foods under $1 per serving compiled by Divine Caroline, an online lifestyle magazine aimed at women. (The list was also referenced by the Well health blog at the New York Times.) Many of the usual suspects are here – oats, eggs, bananas, broccoli – but so is wild rice. The site says it "won’t cost you much more than white rice, but wild rice is much better for you." At over $20 for a kilogram at my local bulk store, I thought $1 for a serving of wild rice was optimistic at best. But according to Canada's Food Guide, half a cup of cooked wild rice makes one serving. Count on about 24 servings from a kilogram, and you're easily in range of that magic $1 per serving. (Find wild rice recipes from producers in Minnesota and Manitoba and at Canadian Living magazine.)
Saving money by cooking at home is not a new idea, as this vintage recipe pamphlet shows.
There's something eternally catchy about that $1 figure – though a dollar doesn't go as far as it once did. Recently I came across a 1960s or '70s recipe pamphlet from the American Dairy Association called Dollar Dinners: 20 main dishes serving 4 for a dollar. The recipes are mostly for casseroles centered on frozen fish, canned tuna, ground beef, frankfurters or cheese (but, thankfully, never all at once). As with cabbage soup, our more sophisticated modern tastes likely mean our wallets will have get pretty thin indeed before we are compelled to add any of these dishes to our meal rotations.
(Here's a selection of other titles in my pile of vintage recipe pamphlets: How to Have a Luau Indoors, Requested 'Husband Approved' Chicken Recipes, New Ways to Cook with Beef Gravy, Help Yourself to a Prettier Figure and Let's Eat Outdoors.)
Another 1960s pamphlet, Quick Meal Mates, offers a more well-rounded roster of "quickie ways to serve and save" and reminds us that "Your supermarket is your budget's best friend!" In an era when inflation was driving up the prices of almost everything, the cost of food staples like meat, butter, bread and eggs was in relative decline. Today, of course, the supermarket is your budget's best friend because your dollar goes so much farther there than at a restaurant, as CBC.ca reporter (and Food Bytes blogger) Tara Kimura explains in How to shop for your family without breaking the bank.
What are your favourite wallet-friendly, good-for-you foods? Are you adapting old recipes or trying new ones to save a few dollars? Share them with us!
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