How to Eat Cheap… Maybe

Since I’m an old broad, I’ve seen the meaning of cheap food change a lot. If you go digging through old cookbooks, you will find a lot of ingredients that aren’t common today. Plus there are a lot of things that are far more pricey.

When I was a kid, a common dish on our table was canned chopped kale. It was inexpensive, it was nutritious, and it wasn’t slimy like a lot of greens. Cooked nice and hot with a dash of vinegar, it was pretty good, and my mother was glad she’d found a vegetable she could get us to eat. But try to find a can of kale now. Go on, I dare you. There are still companies that list it as a product, but I haven’t seen a can on the shelf in years. The problem is it became a ‘superfood’, so all that cheap kale is now in smoothies and trendy salads.

Other blasts from the past – turbot. It’s a fish you rarely see anymore, and thank you God because it tasted awful. But since it was cheap at the time, Mom served it a lot. At least, until I threw up in the kitchen trash can and finally convinced her that when I said I hated it, I wasn’t just being picky.

Let’s see. Canned salmon. It’s not terribly expensive, but costs the same or more than, say, canned chicken. Whether from the cost or just the fashions of food, you hardly see anyone fix salmon patties anymore (or salmon croquettes, for those who want to be fancy).

Some things just disappeared, and I’m not sure why. For example, the cut-up chicken. You can find packages of individual parts, and you can find whole chickens – though even that is becoming harder – but you never see one chicken cut up into parts in a single container.

Right now, because of the issues we are facing, what is cheap not only depends on the normal factors, but the vagaries of shipping and world events. For a while, it was next to impossible to find the low cost brands of pasta. The gourmet kind was on the shelf, but the cheap stuff flew out of the store as soon as it came in. This changes from week to week, heck, day to day.

My advice, which is not original, is to stock up on shelf-stable foods. If there is something your family uses on a regular basis, lay in a supply like you are living in a remote cabin and winter was coming. Since this sort of shopping is not always possible, because we’re all broke, try to at least add some items to each shopping trip. Anything you and your family will eat is useful. Beans, rice, canned meat, anything you can buy in bulk, and that goes for non-food, too.

The news is pretty bleak these days. This is a politics-free zone, so I won’t be discussing the possible causes, which are out of our hands anyway. What I can do is try to deal with the situation as it is, not how I’d like it to be. I’ll be scouring my collection of old cookbooks and seeing what advice in them is useful today and passing it onto you.

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