Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Butcher? I hardly stew 'er! (sorry.)

(photo: one of the many fantastically curious things available at our local butcher.)

Grocery shopping and cooking for a family of two is a pain in the ass when you consider the following.

We, as a unit, in regards to food, are fickle and craving-driven - I could make a stew on Monday night and, while it sounds good in theory to eat it over the course of the week, I know from experience that it will either end up frozen and forgotten until unearthed the next time the power goes out and I'm forced to throw it away, or it will sit in the fridge making us guilty every time I open the door until one of us sneaks off and trashes it while the other is distracted.

That becomes a problem, though, because most recipes are designed around a family of 3 or 4 with leftovers - meatloaf, though tasty, is at the bottom of the list of things I cook because it's an awful lot of work to go through to make a meal that we'll be guilted about not eating, and the more of it is left after dinner, the longer it will be until it gets thrown out. The idea that it's easier to reduce a recipe rather than expand it doesn't take the size of traditional cookware into account. I've been looking for a 2-person meatloaf pan. We'll see what happens with that, but in the meantime I'm stuck.

Even shopping for groceries is a pain - mixes and boxes and semi-readymades serve 3+.

It isn't even a problem that only hits the Rice-a-Ronis of the world - it's impossible to easily get a pound of, say, ground beef, without jumping through hoops. I would routinely end up with 1.5 pounds of the stuff; that's 4ish burgers with a bit left over to turn into an unidentifiable round ball of who-knows-what in the freezer.

But then I realized something sort of fundamental: we're homebodies. We don't spend a lot of money outside the house, and if we do, we work hard enough during the week that the idea of going out on a Wednesday night is laughably optimistic. We live in a reasonably priced area, we make enough to support ourselves, and no matter what we would spend on the necessities to cook at home it's way, way cheaper than eating out. Cooking for 2 and never having to worry about leftovers takes more time out of my day, but it's time I'm happy to spend because me and food and cooking, we're buddies.

So (and this is the whole point to the thing) we started going to a butcher. It was the logical next step after realizing that the time spent cooking wasn't wasted, that it was recreational, and that I might as well know where my groceries were coming from, more or less.

It was also a relationship gesture - when you go grocery shopping for the week, you can't split the bill without it being awkward. This way, I got to take on some of the financial responsibility.

I was expecting to take a financial hit from this tentative arrangement, but in actuality the quality of our meat went up while our outlay decreased. It ends up cheaper because I can ask for a pound of stew beef and get (and pay for) exactly that. I can get a one pound, 50/50 split of ground round and chuck and not have to pay for leftovers I probably won't use.

This Sunday I picked up 2 huge (HUGE!) store-made linguica, a chicken breast on the bone and, as mentioned above, a pound of hand-trimmed stew beef and a pound of excellent ground beef for $17. The exact quantities of that at the grocery store would have cost me a bit less, $12 or so and at a lower quality, but those quantities weren't easily available. I would have paid $20, potentially a bit more depending on what was out, used as much as I did from the butcher over the week and eventually discarded the rest.

Moral of the story: support your local businesses.


Christa aka The BabbyMama said...

We have essentially the same issue, since the Babby won't eat most of what we cook. Though Tedd will take the leftovers for lunches, so that works. I am def. a craving-driven eater, though, so meal planning is right out. Butchers, though? Kind of a lost cause round these parts.

Jack said...

True. Our cravings are probably quite different - Angela would eviscerate me if I were between her and a pot of risotto on a bad day, whereas I would have to weigh her wrath against a flatiron steak. I can cut a lot of things out of my diet if necessary, but meat isn't one of them.

What I still can't find around us is a good bakery.

Tiffany said...

So glad this is back.

Also, we have a rather popular local butcher just 10 minutes from us. Italian, Country. Still sells filet mignon at a ridiculously good price. Grandma bakes pies from scratch and sells them at an old glass counter up front. The place is ridiculous.