Cheap Date Dinner

I’m good at cheap.  I grew up with cheap.  Everybody I knew did.  Being able to balance a food budget was written into the commandments of feeding children and if you didn’t follow the commandments it was punishable by public humiliation.  I remember when a slightly upscale grocery store opened a few towns over, we were the last to go.  (As a matter of fact, we never went, and I have no idea what they actually sold there, but I could feel the excitement of choice generated in the neighborhood and I wanted to be a part of it.)  I heard that along with a live cow and a live sheep out front, it was all mood lighting and wooden barrels and vegetables people didn’t know the names of.  Nothing like the President Choice, Last Chance Bananas and Pepperidge Farm Thrift Store places that we went to.
There were always certain things my mother held sacred and wouldn’t budge on.  We had powdered milk, (I would rather have pond water), second hand bread and unidentifiable spaghetti, but we never had canned vegetables–in the winter we had frozen and in the summer they came from a farmer she knew by name.  I am with her on the sacred chow front.
I love the idea for instance, that if I am going to eat beef, the cow ate what it was supposed to eat–like grass–and saw the big outdoors, felt the breeze on it’s cheek and didn’t have a 24 hour hook up like some kind of junkie, to antibiotics.  To me, that’s sensible shopping.  However, organic beef can cost twice as much as the norm, which is a drag, unless you think ahead.  I know I’m going out on a limb here, but here I go–I make a huge pot of sauce with organic beef meatballs.  I know this is delicate, and I’m not talking about when company comes over, I’m talking about when you are serving the people that show up at your table everyday.  Before dinner, they might get a white bean puree with roasted garlic and rosemary (about 89Cents) and slivers of (yesterday’s) toasted baguette.  Then (and this is the tricky bit) everybody gets two meatballs–that’s it.  But with that, the spaghetti, and a nice big salad on the side (fills ’em up and encourages eating more salad.)  The next day, we have enough for meatball sandwiches.  This is nothing new–this is recycling and portion control–but nobody wants to talk about that–it’s a blast from the past that we avoid like the plague.  We feel we have to cook massive amounts, enough for our family, the family next door, and any possible cousins even when it is entirely clear that they will not be showing up.  Who really wants to eat all of that for the next five days?  Who out there can tell me that you don’t end up throwing food away?  Of course, you can always take my advice and kick it to the curb, or if you want to, you can just scream at me from the trunk.

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