Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Cost of a Dinner

We rarely eat out and the main reason is expense. Eating out is expensive and generally I find the quality lacking. As I make and serve dinner I often think about the costs of the meal and how expensive the same meal would be at a restaurant. Last night was one of those dinners. It was a great meal, mostly local and it cost less than twelve dollars to feed the four of us:

Top Sirloin Steak seasoned with garlic, sea salt and black pepper
meat from beef box from Tanana Valley meats $2.50 1b
1 1/2 lb. steak = 3.75

Potatoes fried in duck fat
potatoes from the garden
duck fat leftover from our last duck meal

Sweet and sour red cabbage with bacon
cabbages from the garden
one yellow onion (.50) organic sliced bacon $6.00

Direct cost 10.25

I am not sure about how to put a price on our own potatoes, duck fat or cabbage, but I could tack on a few more dollars for the labor, fertilizer and garden space it took to grow these items and still have a reasonably priced meal. Not to mention that we have enough leftovers for a second meal. Dustin and I enjoyed an eleven dollar bottle of wine so if we add that on, we spent about twenty dollars on food and drink for the night. That is less than a family of four spends for dinner at McDonalds (at least here in Fairbanks). This meal had both high (bacon) and low (cabbage and potatoes) dollar items. The steak was quite a deal as it came in a large box with an assortment of steaks, roasts, ribs and burger and we just divided the pounds by the cost and ended up paying $2.50 a pound.

Currently we have about a quarter of a pig in our freezer (we bought a half a pig last spring from Delta Meats), a hundred pounds of beef (combination of our beef box and meat from a cow my folks bought), several whole chickens, (from our cornish cross this summer) some Copper River Red Salmon fillets (from my brother), and a few packages of moose meat (from friends). When friends stop by we often send them away with eggs, extra produce (in the summer), and other farm products, ahem. In return we are often given food gifts in return, usually moose or fish. We had a friend stop the other day asking how we were doing on meat, he said he'd bring some wild sheep meat the next time he stops by.

We don't buy much meat at the store. We do buy hot dogs on a regular basis and they are the spendy kind, organic, nitrate free etc. We occasionally buy sliced lunch meat and I've been craving some quality salame. We usually buy our bacon from Tanana meats, along with getting some when we buy half a pig, but when we run out we buy it at the store. I don't know of any nitrate, dye free ham available. So while the Prairie Farm bacon is expensive and not local, it is organic and nitrate free (We generally try to consume as few cancer causing ingredients as possible). This next year I would like to raise more ducks, turkeys and maybe some geese. We hope to fill the freezer with salmon next summer.

When it comes to meat, I don't want cheap. I would rather eat a small amount of quality meat than a large amount of crappy meat. How animals are raised, slaughtered and processed is important to us. We recently watched the documentary Food Inc. We didn't learn anything new. I was already aware of the conditions of factory farms in this country. I'm not sure if any other industrialized nation has such low standards for how our food is raised and slaughtered. So once again, I'm voting with my dollar. Putting our money towards local and self grown meat as much as possible. It doesn't have to be more expensive but it does take some forethought.

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