Monday, October 18, 2010
The true cost of eating cheap.
With the beehive of activity that represents most of our daily lives, juggling family, friends and careers, all these things along with the constant urge to multitask…the most common phrase you tend to hear these days is “Who has the time to do that?” Which is usually in response to the question of “How often do you prepare a home cooked meal?”
Sure, eating out at fast food restaurants is, well… fast, cheap and convenient but at what cost? Almost 30% of the U.S. population is considered obese and more than 20% of all Americans eat fast food at least twice a week. Fast food chains whose popular combo meals contain more calories than what the average person should consume in an entire day (2000 calories), let alone just for one meal, which begs the question …Just how much cheaper is it to eat out than it is to prepare a healthy meal at home?
The catalyst for such a question came after having my dear friend Melissa and her 2 kids over for dinner not too long ago. I agreed to cook the main course, along with a couple of sides and a dessert while she brought over a salad that she prepared herself. I cooked a grainy mustard baked chicken dish with asparagus and roasted potatoes. All 4 of us enjoyed our dinner and ate heartily. And since I was the host, I was lucky enough to keep all the leftovers, which fed me for several days after. It wasn’t until I was cleaning up and loading the dishwasher that I came across the Trader Joes receipt and realized that I just fed 4 adults, with plenty of leftovers for under 30 bucks. In all likelihood we probably would've spent the same amount of money had the 4 of us decided to go to a McDonald's Drive Thru for dinner. All it took was an hour of prep, a little creativity, some good friends and good conversation to transform a bag of groceries into a healthy, delicious dinner and a good time had by all.
I know that meals like this cannot be prepared day in and day out and the idea of eating “from a drive thru” rather than “from scratch” is something that we all have to do from time to time, but thinking ahead along with a little preparation can be the difference between regularly eating at home and occasionally eating fast food vs. doing just the opposite. When it comes to food, not even the most “hoity toity” of restaurants can compete with knowing where your food came from and just as important, who prepared it.
***Below is a meatloaf recipe, that I am sure some of my loyal readers have tried and liked …I hope. Even though I have come a long way since my days of making an absolute disaster out of trying to heat up a frozen lasagna in the oven, I now consider myself to be a decent cook at best and even I was able to make this simple recipe work on my first try. It’s easy, healthy, very tasty and will keep meatloaf sammies coming for days!***
Meatloaf for Dummies:
Serves 6 or 1 for a whole week!
Total Cost for Ingredients: Around $20
• 1 tablespoon olive oil
• 1/2 medium yellow onion , diced (about 3/4 cup)
• 1 clove garlic , minced
• 1 medium red pepper , finely diced (about 1 cup)
• 1 bay leaf
• 2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
• 2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme
• 2 pounds lean ground turkey
• 2 large eggs , lightly beaten
• 3/4 cup dry breadcrumbs
• 1 cup ketchup
• 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
• 2 teaspoons kosher salt
• 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Preheat the oven to 350°. Line Pyrex dish with foil and spray lightly with oil.
Heat the olive oil in a medium skillet over medium heat. Sauté the onions, garlic and bay leaf until the onions are tender, about 3 minutes. Add the red pepper and cook until the red pepper is tender, about 5 minutes. Stir in the parsley and thyme and cook for another 2 minutes. Remove pan from the heat and let the onion mixture cool. Discard the bay leaf.
In a large bowl, combine the ground turkey, eggs, bread crumbs, 1/2 cup of ketchup, the Worcestershire sauce, salt, pepper and the cooled vegetables. Use your hands to mix everything together.
Transfer the mixture to the center of the baking sheet and form into a loaf. Coat the meat loaf with the remaining 1/2 cup ketchup.
Bake for 1 to 1 1/2 hours (depending on the shape of your loaf), until the meat loaf is firm. Let set for about 5 minutes before slicing.