Over the years, my grocery shopping habits have drastically changed. When we first moved to Athens, we were childless, and my husband was a full-time PhD student. I was attempting to start my own freelance business, and my paychecks were trickling in at a slow, heart-stopping pace. Trying to be as frugal as possible, I did virtually all of my grocery shopping at Super Walmart. At the time, it supplied most of my needs, at the cheapest available price, and even though I left angry each and every time I went, I considered it a small sacrifice for my family’s financial stability.
Then I had my first child, and at the same time Tim was learning more about sustainable agriculture. I made a decision that, since I was going to be making all of my daughter’s baby food, we could afford to buy all organic foods for her. Simultaneously, we were becoming more convinced that big, commercial agriculture was doing way more harm than good in this world, and that we wanted to try our best to support local and/or organic farmers. This is a big challenge, and impossible for us to do across-the-board — i.e., we did it when we could. I started to shop at our local whole foods store in addition to Walmart, buying more bulk foods, planning my meals more efficiently, and trying to use every last bit of what I bought.
Now, we have two children, one who is severely allergic and sensitive to a sometimes incomprehensible list of foods. I have to buy my son expensive food things — not because I think he’s cute and deserves it, but because if I don’t he breaks out in full-body eczema. I finally decided that the weekly increase in blood-pressure from my experiences at Walmart was likely to shorten my life, so I now spend about half our weekly budget at Earth Fare, and half at Kroger (I still go to Walmart about once a month, and buy out their entire stock of Rice Dream). Long story short (ahem, I know it’s way too late for that) — I am finding it nearly impossible to stay within our relatively generous grocery budget. And it’s about to drive me batty.
One way I’ve always tried to offset our expensive food items (i.e., free-range chicken and beef) is by serving two or three meatless (or almost meatless) entrées each week. I try to utilize something in my kitchen that has been sitting around a while, or is a staple that I always keep handy. These can be very simple dishes, and are a good balance for the palette as well as the wallet. I thought I’d start sharing some of them, and call them Recession Meals, because we are there now (depending on which economist you hear), and we are all gonna be feeling it at the grocery store. Some much more than others. Last night, we enjoyed a modified version of Skillet Potato Frittata, from The Yellow Farmhouse Cookbook. It was really good, and used only things I had sitting around: bacon from the freezer, eggs, potatoes, onion. I made biscuits as a side, because it was fairly brunch-y.
Some friends visited last weekend, and we had a discussion about the elusive grocery budget. They have a new rule that, on weekends, they have to eat what’s in their house. I.e., no quick-trip to the store to get that one little something for dinner (which inevitably ends up being a $40 trip). One Sunday night, they ate pasta with butter. That was it. Seems like something you would’ve done in college, right? But they ate within their means, and went to bed full. What more can we ask for?
Skillet Potato Frittata (adapted from The Yellow Farmhouse Cookbook, by Christopher Kimball)
- about 4 fist-sized potatoes, any kind (including sweet), washed well and chopped into 1-inch cubes
- one medium-sized onion, rough-chopped
- 2 eggs, beaten
- about 2 Tbsp cheese, preferably parmesan
- 3-4 slices bacon, chopped into 1-inch pieces (sausage would work here, too)
- anything else you have that sounds good to you!
Cook bacon in a 10-inch skillet (non-stick or seasoned cast-iron would work best here) over med-high heat, until crisp. Remove to a paper-towel-lined plate, and pour off all but 2 Tbsp of the fat from the skillet. Add 1 Tbsp olive oil to the skillet, and when hot, add the potatoes. Cook for about 10 minutes, tossing frequently, until starting to brown. Add the onions, and continue cooking another 10-15 minutes, until everything is nicely browned and the potatoes are tender. Add salt and pepper to taste, and remove to a mixing bowl.
Pour the eggs over the potatoes in the bowl, and add the grated cheese and bacon. Stir to coat.
Add another tsp of olive oil to the pan, and pour in the potato mixture. Add a little more salt, and pepper to taste. After a couple minutes, flip the frittata (in sections, if need be) in the pan, and allow to brown on the other side. When nicely browned and the eggs cooked through, remove to a plate and serve.Print This Post