Food blogger Chef Brian has recently posted about eating locally on a budget, and his $3-$5 local meal challenge is an interesting quest. On his wonderful blog (be sure to check it out), he once posted that he could make a local hamburger that's cheaper than a McD burger. More power to him - I know I can't, the dollar menu McD double cheeseburger has me beat easily. My cheapest local burger I could make is $2.45 - see my math in the comment to his post here. Eating locally is a priority for me, because I want to support Michigan farmers and I think that local food in season tastes better, but it can be a challenge to do so on a budget. Here's this weekend's attempt....
It's the season for greens - I thought about making some kale because my friend Diana is such a kale inspiration, but it was some collards that caught my eye yesterday at the Ann Arbor Farmer's Market. (I am sure Diana would rule collards "close enough" in nutritional benefits). Here's the recipe I made - crockpot collards and cornbread.
Crock Pot Collards
2 lbs. washed collard greens, stems removed, and cut in 2 inch pieces
1/2 c. cider vinegar
3 c. water
2 smoked ham hocks
Put greens in crock pot, add water and vinegar, and put hocks on top. Cook for 10 hours on low. Remove hocks and cut up meat and sprinkle on top, if the idea of eating ham hocks doesn't turn you off. Serve with Franks Hot Sauce and a side of cornbread. Serves 4.
3 pieces bacon
1 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 cup cornmeal
2 to 3 tablespoons sugar
2-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
2 eggs, beaten
1 cup milk
reserved baon grease and enough cooking oil to make 1/4 cup
Preheat oven to 400F. Fry bacon in a 10 inch cast iron frying pan, reserve grease. Save bacon for another use - a great use is a treat for the cook! In a medium bowl stir together flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder, and salt; set aside. Pour whatever grease you have from the bacon in measuring cup, add enough cooking oil to make 1/4 cup. Place frying pan the preheated oven while you mix together eggs, milk, and fat in a small bowl. Add egg mixture all at once to flour mixture. Stir just until moistened. Pour batter into hot skillet. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes or until a wooden toothpick inserted near center comes out clean. Cut into wedges. Makes 8 pieces - 4 servings
So how did I do? First the good news....I could make a meal of local ingredients in the $3-$5 per serving range. This one, made with local ingredients, would have cost me $3.52 per serving. The bad news is that's almost double what it would have cost me if I just used grocery store ingredients. I'm pretty thrifty - it's a rare meal that I make that costs $3.52 per serving, especially for this one, which is almost vegetarian. For my grocery store, I used Busch's because they have a neat online pricing feature called "Busch's My Way" that made it easy for me to look up prices. That being said, Busch's isn't the cheapest grocery store around - I could have probably done better, price wise, at other stored if I really tried. I could have shopped sales all over town or used items I bought on sale for future use in the past. Many of the items for this recipe aren't on sale at Busch's this week. Also, some of the super discount grocery stores like Aldi or the dollar store would provide even cheaper deals. I'm blessed in that I have enough money to buy food for my family, but I recognize many in our state are really struggling now and buying locally is probably out of reach for most, unless they are able to grow their own. Here's my math, for readers, such as myself, that are the "show me the numbers", anal retentive engineering types, such as myself. I am blessed to be able to afford to buy local - and I wish more people could.
Which reminds me....my church, St. Joseph in Dexter, is starting a congregational garden to raise food for the hungry. I really think this is a terrific idea - last growing season, we sponsored a "Plant A Row for the Hungry" effort that resulted in over 400 lb of food for the hungry in Washtenaw County. I encourage all locavores to remember the hungry in our midst because eating locally is out of reach for most, if not all, of them. To find out more about starting a conmmunity garden or planting a row in your own garden for the hungry, check out the Growing Hope website. Meanwhile, do tell....what are you making that's local and budget friendly?