Friday, September 16, 2011

Frugal Gourmet?

With apologies to the memory of Jeff Smith.

I'm about to enter a brave new world of thrift in the kitchen. My oldest child is a high school senior with a desire to attend college next fall. Assuming he manages to submit his applications on time, and is admitted somewhere, this time next year we will be thrown into stark poverty following the payment of the first tuition bill. Money must be found, and following a thorough perusal of family expenses, I'm forced to acknowledge that all of the fat is in the kitchen.

When it comes to clothing, transportation, entertainment and other flexible expenses, I've been quite thrifty, as has the rest of the family. We have no expensive hobbies or tastes. We share one 12-year-old economy car among three drivers and we infrequently use it.

We've been so frugal in all other areas that I've felt justified in totally disregarding cost at the grocery. I buy organic everything. I cook what I think will taste best and use the finest ingredients available, rarely noticing the prices. If I lived in Ann Arbor, I would no doubt be at Zingerman's three times a week.

But that must change. My challenge for the next year -- really, the next 8 years, for little sister will also want a college education -- will be to reduce our food bill, perhaps by half, without sacrificing taste. Can it be done?

Farmer's Market impulse buy. Cute, but not frugal
My first re-evaluation of my kitchen habits will be to determine what should and shouldn't be made from scratch. I've already put homemade mayonnaise on the "not worth it" list after discovering I could buy my favorite Spectrum Canola mayonnaise for less than the cost of the safflower oil I was using for homemade. Cheese is also probably not worth it to make, mostly because I'm not very good at it, but homemade yogurt remains a win.

Stay tuned for further develpments.

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