For years I haven’t watched the news at night. While I think it’s important to be informed (and I am), it’s easy to become enraptured with the frightening amount of bad things that happen every day everywhere. I like to believe in the inherent goodness of people, but also realize that for whatever reason some people do very bad things. But it’s my choice not to focus on those things. So, I change the channel when the news comes on.
All of this is a wind up to explain why it was so unusual for me to watch the news last night. I’d heard a preview about rising food prices, and I had to tune in. I handle the budgeting for our family — for everything from food and utilities to vacations — so I really feel the impact when prices rise. I wanted to know what I am in for.
The news isn’t good. We all know that the price of gas and food has risen over the last year. Fuel, which has risen nearly 30 percent in the last year, is largely to blame … and the rising prices aren’t done climbing yet. Gas is expected to topple the $5 a gallon mark soon — something that was unthinkable a decade ago. With this, the cost of meat has and will continue to rise, as will pantry staples. How much? Beef alone is expected to rise by 7% this year. Good thing we don’t eat a lot of beef anymore, right? But the rise in prices is largely across the board, so not eating beef won’t let us escape the costs.
The cost of putting food on the table — any food at all — is rising. Whether you eat all organic or whole foods or cleanly or low-carb, it doesn’t matter. If you aren’t feeling the pinch yet, you will. That is scary.
This all made me start thinking about ways to cut costs, naturally. There’s only so much my family — and especially me — can comfortably cut back. As a food writer who makes a living developing recipes, I have to buy certain ingredients no matter what the cost. But what I can do is cut back in other ways like cutting back on my coffee habit, getting less takeout and driving less. And I can plan our meals in advance, allowing me to save on gas for the many trips to the grocery store I make each week.
Really, no matter whether food is an intrinsic part of your work or just what you need to nourish your family, planning is absolutely key to frugal eating. This dish — Lemony Pasta Salad — is a perfect example of a well-planned meal. It’s a side dish with 12 portions, so you can make it for dinner one night and have plenty of leftovers for lunches and quick sides all week. Easy.
Regarding the frugal part, I totally paid attention to how much it cost me to get this on the table. Here’s the breakdown:
- Pasta – $0.88
- Broccoli – $1.88
- Lemon - $0.67
- Garlic – $0.02
- Olive oil – $0.90
- Spices – $0.50
- Olives – $1.50
- TOTAL – $8.33 (About $0.70 per serving)
Do the rising prices of groceries and fuel worry you?
Frugal Lemony Pasta Salad
1 lb rotelle pasta
1 bunch broccoli, florets only (reserve the stems for another use)
1 lemon, zested and juiced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 tsp sweet Hungarian paprika
1/4 tsp dry ground mustard
salt and pepper, to taste
1 6 oz can black olives, drained and halved
Heat a large pot of water on the stove. Add the pasta and cook according to package directions. When two minutes are left on the timer, add the broccoli to the pan as well and stir well. Cook for remaining two minutes. Drain well.
In a small mixing bowl, whisk together the lemon zest, juice, garlic, olive oil, paprika, mustard, salt and pepper.
Combine the pasta, broccoli, lemon vinaigrette and olives in the large pot and stir well to combine. Let sit for 20 minutes and stir again. Then transfer to a serving dish and chill until ready to serve.