Friday, June 19, 2009

Marilyn's Money Saving Meals

That Sandra Lee is one culinary genius.* Why, on this past Sunday's new episode of Money Saving Meals, Sandy proudly proclaimed that "the whole deal with Money Saving Meals is saving money." Wow, whoda thunk?

*Not really. See, that is sarcasm at its finest. For the record, I think that Sandra Lee is a charlatan who has managed to pass off odd food and seasoning packet combinations as being "super simple" and "smart" while cashing her big, fat checks at the bank.

Still, her misguided foray into nachos and salsa inspired me to try my hand at this "Money Saving" business. And I have to admit that I have learned a lot. But more on that later.

I have to admit that I didn't even pretend to adhere to Sandy's arrussippee for the Grilled Corn and Bean Salsa with Baked Corn Chips.

My family doesn't like beans, so that part of the recipe was out.

If presented with both fresh tomatoes and canned tomatoes for a salsa, fresh tomatoes are going to win every time with me. In fact, there is absolutely no comparison with the two.

I had no limes on hand, but I did follow Aunt Sandy's advice that I could use whatever I had on hand, so I used a lemon.

We absolutely hate cilantro with the passion of a thousand burning suns, so I opted to use flat leaf parsley (not flat parsley as Sandy likes to call it. Every time Sandy calls it 'flat parsley' it makes me think that fat Aunt Flo sat on the parsley and 'ironed' it.)

I had some dried Serrano chile from last year's garden on hand, so I used that instead of buying a fresh chile at my regular grocery store.

So let's continue with the program, shall we?

My ingredients for the salsa are:

1 oz. frozen corn (tossed with olive oil and chili powder and roasted in the oven for several minutes)

6 oz. grape tomatoes, diced

1/2 oz. red onion, diced

1/2 oz. green onion, sliced

1 tablespoon fresh flat leaf parsley, chopped

1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice (about 1/4 lemon)

1/2 teaspoon dried Serrano chile, minced

pinch Kosher salt

pinch black pepper

In direct opposition to what Sandy told us in her *cough* informative program, I found that white corn tortillas were only $0.88 for a package of 10, while the same company offered the same size and same number of flour tortillas for $1.88 at my local grocery store. And regardless of what Aunt Sandy tries to tell us, these two products are very different, and are not interchangeable.

Now, if you watched this particular episode, you would have seen that Sandy would have you cut a tortilla into eighths. Like this... Um, no.

Let's do this the smart way, shall we? Cut in half, and then in half again.

Then, after cutting each quarter into half, we have eighths. Simple, yes?

I absolutely refused to drag out the Pam(tm) to spray on the tortilla wedges. Instead, I used a mixture of olive oil and canola oil. I then sprinkled sea salt over the first batch. I mixed a bit of chile powder in the oil for the second batch before also adding salt.

And the best part? According to Simple Sandy's Shady Mad Math Methods, I don't have to count the cost of these extra ingredients because they were already in my pantry (and presumably free - I wish).

As usual, Sandy misses the mark. The prescribed cooking time was not nearly long enough. I solved the problem by placing the 'cooked' chips on a rack on the baking sheet, popping them back into the 400 degree oven for another five minutes before turning off the oven and opening the door. I let the chips sit in the oven for another ten minutes before pulling them out. The result? Crisp, tasty chips.

My salsa looks and tastes great.

Let's see what our Money Saving Meals gig has saved us: According to Aunt Sandy, store-bought salsa and chips (counting the entire bag of chips) is $1.00 per person. Silly Sandy claims that she was able to give us the 'same' thing for only 43 cents per serving. Please note that Aunt Sandy would also only be giving her guests eight to ten chips per serving. Generous, no? No, I didn't think so.
Now, my version breaks down like this:
Corn = $0.14
Tomato = $2.39
Red onion = $0.06
Green onion = $0.10
Flat leaf parsley = $0.02 (per a previous MSM episode)
Lemon juice = $0.13
Dried Serrano chile = free**
Salt = free**
Black pepper = free**
Total = $2.84 or $ 0. 71 per person.
**According to Aunt Sandy, food in my pantry is free. Funny, I seem to recall paying for that stuff at some point....
At any rate, I am a woman on a mission, so I am continuing on with my vision for this meal.

I wanted this to be a real meal, so I decided to include meat in the recipe.
Here I have 8 oz. of ground beef @ $1.02 and 1 tablespoon of homemade taco seasoning (free!)
I cooked the ground beef and then drained off the grease before adding the taco seasoning. Simple. Don't make me say 'super simple'. It's just not going to happen.

And now you know the secret of how I am able to figure out just what the costs of all of these ingredients are. I weighed everything and then used my mad math skills to find the exact cost of the ingredients. And isn't this a royal pain? Really, who does this? ...Er, besides the dedicated food blogger who only wishes to educate and amuse her readers? (yeah, that works...)

Now, as I meant for this to be a meal, I had also prepared the taco-flavored meat as well as the grated sharp cheddar cheese in addition to the tortilla chips and salsa.

My daughter and I are in disagreement at this point. She claims that I must count the dollop of sour cream in the final figures, but I say that since I had it in my refrigerator already that it counts as free (and we'll just ignore the fact that it is technically past due date, but still good).
The final verdict is that this was good, especially since I didn't even remotely follow Sandra Lee's recipe.
Now, for the price "savings":
According to Sandra Lee, store-bought salsa and chips would cost you $1.00 per person, while her Sloppy recipe would only put you back $0.43 per person. I guess that doesn't count the cost of the emergency room visit or the stomach pump.
My version (the salsa and tortilla chips) will set you back a mere $0.93 cents. Wow, I've saved you a whopping $0.07. Aren't you impressed?
Adding the cost of the taco beef and cheese, we come up with a total cost of (drum roll please...) of $1.34 per person.
What I have learned from this little experiment:
Sandra Lee is an idiot (funny, I already knew that)
Regardless of what you may have heard, fresh tomatoes and canned tomatoes do taste different. Who knew?
Sometimes it's about more than just the money.
Taste does matter.
It is a lot of hard work to figure out how much all of this actually costs!
If I am this worried about food costs, I'm not going to be inviting anyone over for food.
I really need to get a life (but then where would my dear readers be?).


Rosie Hawthorne said...

Your mad math skilz left me with a headache.

Kathy said...

Well, you educated & amused me! ;-)