The Cost of Convenience

by Maude Stephany

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Oh, how easy it is to purchase pre-packaged, pre-prepared foods in our hurried and harried life! It's so easy to prepare, easy to eat, and easy to dispose of. Sadly, it isn't easy or on our pocketbooks.

Recently, our family saw that a local grocery store was selling whole salmon for a measley $3.99 each. My husband the chef decided that this was a great price, and, having no time (or fishing licence), decided that we needed to think ahead for winter when the prices for our favourite fish would more than triple. He went out and purchased seven salmon. The salmon's heads were removed, their bellies gutted, so there was no messy stuff to deal with, not that that was an issue for the chef. He brought the fish home and we took turns filleting and de-boning them. In just over an hour, we found that we had 56 fillets, enough for our family of four to have fourteen meals.

We decided to do the math on our savings. Our present cost to purchase seven salmon was $28; in winter, we could expect to pay up to $18 for one meal of four salmon fillets for our family. We were stunned! By cutting our own fillets, we saved $252!

Now, having a chef in the family is a great thing, and one thing I have learned is how to reduce food waste. After filleting our fish, we had left over tails, fins and bones covered in a thin layer of salmon meat. Instead of throwing out this potpourri, we added a bunch of celery, four carrots, three onions, some spices and a lot of water, and left it to cook all day in our enormous pot. At the end of the day, we had just over 16 cups of delicious salmon broth cooling in containers and being added to our cache in the deep freezer. This salmon broth is an essential ingredient in our homemade "garbage soup." It also adds richness and flavour in sauces, and makes an incredible fish chowder. If you could purchase something like this in the store, you would likely pay at least $3 per cup size serving. For the trouble of spending an additional $4 on those fresh ingredients, we saved another $44!

In the two hours we spent cooking and cutting and preserving our food, we saved $300 on our essential foods. You can do it too!

Maude Stephany lives the frugal life in the fertile Fraser Valley of BC with her chef husband and their two children. Together, they create delicious gourmet foods on a budget. Look for their cookbook Gourmet From the Ground Up coming soon.

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