I have gone through many times in my life where food wasn’t available to me. When I was in college, I took a job doing replacement shifts for the weekend attendant at a local religious museum. This was a better job than the job I gave up to do it… but, I was only able to work a few days a month at minimum wage. After half a year of being keen I cinched the cushy position of summer weekend guide supervisor and secured my place as the only weekend museum attendant for the next two winters! Hanging out in a mostly empty museum reading and listening to opera was awesome for me! Sometimes, interesting people would just walk in like this adorable thin black man who walking in on Mother’s Day with his mom and chatted with me for a few minutes. His name was Barrie and about twenty years later, he became the President of the United States. Back then (in 1991) a no-label box of mac & cheese cost 37 cents which was even less expensive than eating spaghetti or peanut butter sandwiches. It was only the first time in my life that I had to maximize my food budget. I have had food insecurity issues for two decades I am still struggling with this as I try to feed my daughter (who is with me 50% of the time) and my spouse (who eats like three people) only good homemade food on a lean startup budget.
Things are looking good right now with many opportunities for business growth for myself and corporate contracts for my spouse (who is a human mobility genius mainly working as a martial arts instructor). So when I got my first checks of revenue from my big corporate client I set aside as much as possible to buy food. I have found that having a freezer and a fridge full of carefully planned and monitored food makes my life much simpler. First it diminishes my anxiety to know that in the event of a disaster there is 12 days of nutritious and luxuriously tasty food to eat in the fridge. Also, I can prepare lunches and dinners in 15 minutes or less. This means that a home-cooked meal is always quicker than prepared supermarket meals or ordering a pizza.
This weekend I found a wonderful deal on legless chickens. I got six chickens for about 16$. We used the breasts for extended curries (1 dinner for Saturday + 4 bags for later with about 15 portions). When I say extended I mean that I add 25% more chicken than is recommended and at least three cups of onions, peppers and (sweet) potatoes to the sauce. I don’t care for watery curries. All of the ingredients are pan cooked before going into the bag with the curry sauce because sous-vide veggies require higher heat than chicken. What is great though is that the veggies will remain slightly crisp even after the sous-vide process. The most expensive part of the recipes are the curry sauces. I do not yet make my own, I buy prepared sauces from Patak, VH or Exotic Kitchen and stock up when there is a 2 for 1 sale. This weekend I made Rogan Josh, Mango Curry and Korma. All the sealed bags went into the sous-vide to finish cooking the chicken and pasteurize for storage into the fridge or freezer. The cost per portion of this effort is about $1.75. Of course we eat BIG portions so if nobody in your household eats for three then your cost per portion would be much lower. Should we then consider the 3 liters of bouillon that were made with the carcases as free? We usually pay $4 per liter for the good BIO chicken stock to make our soups, risotto and couscous when there is no more homemade stock!
I also got three immense racks of pork ribs (about $28) which were simply seasoned with Korean BBQ, Garlic Spare Ribs and Traditional Rib BBQ Sauce and are now cooking in the sous-vide for 24 hours. Making ribs used to be such a drag. I have ruined a few precious pots kettle cooking ribs for hours! Now I just seasons and vacuum pack! The latter part of the process will be to finish them in our new BBQ with a smoker compartment. I have no idea how many meals we will get out of this but it should technically cover 6 meals à trois so that means about $4.50 per portion for better than any steak house ribs. Also… no cooking smell in the house from sous-vide finished on the BBQ!!
I also decided to try something new. Since the sous-vide process tenderizes cheap cuts of meat, I got us some stewing cubes. I seasoned two packs with Montreal Steak and Korean BBQ marinades. I will cook these for three days and see what comes of it.
I personally want to move towards a less carnivorous diet and sous-vide meats keep so well that I can just do thin roast slices in a sandwich or with veggies. I am currently working on a project to make myself Asian soup kits. Rather than ramen, these frozen kits in zip locks will contain everything needed to dump into a pot of simmering chicken stock, including thin slices of perfectly cooked pink côte-de-boeuf!
Sous-vide is not only to make fancy stuff, it’s very economic! Sous-vide cooked food is essentially pasteurized and will keep for months in the fridge (longer in the freezer). There is no reason to eat badly, even if there is no money sometimes our sous-vide diet contains the best quality foods which taste better than restaurant fare! Even though I am not planning on spending the whole winter coding on my startup this Winter, I still plan to have a squirrel’s dream of a fridge & freezer before Fall because it’s the smart money thing to do!
Here’s a cool post from Andrew Hyde on How To Live (Comfortably) on $36 A Month For Food.