A Butcher's Take on the Economy

by John Smith

I don't know about you, but I'm getting the feeling that our US economy could use a little help. Washington tells us that everything is fine and then turns around and goes even further into debt to give us some extra spending cash so we can all go out and have a nice time, which is supposed to stimulate the economy so we will pay more taxes. The government then can pay China some of the money that it owes but instead will just spend it on another fine program that further drains the coffers, which are already less than empty. Is it just me or is there something wrong with this picture? I'm sure it's just me. I haven't been trained for such things or had years and years of higher learning. After all, I'm just a butcher. All I do know is, and as my mom used to tell me, if you haven't got it, don't spend it.

Of course, we can't expect our huge complex government to understand simple spending practices, which makes it all the more expedient that we begin to. I don't begin to claim that I understand the economy or what drives it or what it is that is going to save it. All I know is that eggs and milk and gasoline, to name but a few, are going up and they are not taking me with them.

Whenever I think about how fragile our whole economy is and how there are so many huge companies that are running on deficits and how the whole mortgage system is close to failing and banks are in trouble and people are talking about the government bailing them out and our leaders can't say no whenever someone waves a new shiny object in front of their eyes, I get a little concerned. In fact, I get more than concerned. I'm starting to get scared.

I don't know what we as individuals can do about our government spending itself to death other than try to elect the right people into office. But we can help ourselves somewhat. We need to live within our means. We need to make the most of our dollars and fill our pantries and freezers with good wholesome food that we grow ourselves or purchase at the right price.

This is where I can help. When it comes to saving money on food, especially meat, I'm on it. For example, pork butts are currently on sale for $1 a pound in one of our local supermarkets. It's possible that they may never be this cheap again. And since they are rarely much cheaper than that, it is a good time to stock up. Also because of their versatility, they are always a great value. You can cut them up into chops, country style ribs and steaks or you can grind them for hamburger as a cheap replacement for beef and so on. You can even make your own sausage from ground pork by adding sausage seasonings, usually available in regular or Italian flavors from your meat department. Also look for boneless chuck roasts or steaks when they get down around $2 a pound or less. That is as cheap as beef gets anymore and we may not see those prices again for a while if ever, so stock up. They make great stew meat or grind into real good hamburger and save. Chicken is still an outstanding value, but like everything else, it will probably go up as well.

Another thing that we can all do is use less meat in our diets. Instead of taking home a big piece of expensive beef to have with some potatoes and a salad, we can look to our mothers and grandmothers and learn to make them stretch by incorporating the meat into casseroles and such. I was raised on post depression casseroles and I love them.

I know that tightening our belts and looking to make things stretch and only purchasing items when they are on sale and then stocking up is foreign thinking for many of us that have had it so good our whole lives. But I think that the times are a changing. We could be in for a rough ride one of these days and it wouldn't hurt if we prepared for the winter snows while it is still late summer or early fall.

There are still bargains out there, but if gas keeps going higher, then everything else will eventually follow. I don't know about you, but I'm getting mine now while I still can.

Sausage and Rice Casserole

2 lbs. pork sausage
onion flakes
medium bunch of celery
2 boxes chicken noodle soup
8 cups water
6 cups rice (3 minute rice)
slivered almonds (optional)
salt and pepper

Cook up sausage. Saute the celery and onions. Cook rice according to box directions. Cook soup in water for 7 minutes. Blend everything and add almonds. Bake uncovered at 350 for 30-35 minutes. Freezes well.

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John Smith has been a butcher/meat cutter for 30+ years. He's written the book Confessions of a Butcher - eat steak on a hamburger budget and save$$$. You can check out his book and some of his archived articles at www.all-about-meat.com or post any meat related question and get it answered usually within 24 hours. John, his wife Vickie and their 8 kids live in eastern Idaho in the shadow of the Tetons.

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