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I’m Sierra. I live in the Boston area with my family.

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The $1 Family Meal

by Sierra on March 10, 2010 · 16 comments

in food,money

My husband is a great cook, and prepares most of our family meals.

He’s not one of these food show followers who makes a different gourmet recipe every night of the week with the rare vegetables he picked up at the farmer’s market on his way home.

He’s more of an intuitive cook. A guy who can make a delicious family meal appear in our kitchen when it looks to me like the only thing in the fridge is some old condiments, a couple of naked Barbie dolls and a take-out menu (how did that get in there? yours truly asks innocently. See also, illustration. How does any of this stuff get in there?).

Not only is he a good cook, he’s a cheap cook. The other day in the kitchen, he served me a huge bowl of curried chickpeas with a side of vegetables and a charming lecture about how the entire meal cost just $1 in ingredients.

The recipe, roughly, for those playing along at home:

  • Soak chickpeas overnight (this gives them a better texture and saves on gas because you only have to cook them for a few minutes the next day).
  • Do some magic on the stove involving onions, garlic, some spices.
  • Add carrots.
  • When its all sizzly and the rest of your family wanders in and starts picking at the extra bits of carrot left on the cutting board and staring hungrily at the stockpot, pour in a can of tomatoes and some water.
  • Add your pre-soaked chickpeas (Martin says it is important to use organic ones, because he thinks they taste much better).
  • Cook for about 15 minutes.
  • Serve garnished with homemade yogurt and some early chives from the garden.
  • Let your wife make a silly video of you showing off your cheap, tasty curry.

The kids, of course, won’t eat this noise. They don’t know what they’re missing. We save a few not-spicy chickpeas out on the side for them, or give them a bowl of yogurt and some steamed vegetables. I don’t prep special meals for the girls per se; I usually just try to provide enough different foods at a meal that they can find something they like. If they can’t even the little one is capable of heating up a plate of leftover mac-n-cheese for herself.

Ultimately the point of this post isn’t to persuade you all to come over to my house for curry. Though he did make 8 quarts of the stuff the other night. The point is that a certain amount of kitchen savvy is a great path to cheap, delicious meals.

We’d pay $10 for an entree at our local Indian take-out place, and the food wouldn’t be organic or as fresh. Martin can cook that meal for $1 worth of ingredients, and by doing the prep work the night before he does the actual cooking, he can make it pretty fast too.

Martin hasn’t taken a lot of expensive cooking classes, and while we have a bookcase full of cookbooks in the kitchen, its mostly me who uses them. He just likes tinkering in the kitchen, and his hobby pays off big time in lower grocery bills and delicious, nutritious family meals for us.

You might have no interest at all in cooking, but you probably have a skill like this: some hobby or ability that helps you save a lot of money or brings a lot of value into your life. Please tell us about it in the comments!

Here’s Martin’s explanation of the curry magic, in his own words:

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  • http://www.theklarichter.com/ Thekla Richter

    I've been trying to think about some meals to prep for my freezer for after the baby comes, and chickpea curry sounds like a great idea! Yum :)

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  • moominmolly

    I love Martin!

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  • bernadettenoll

    I love this! My husband too can work magic with a bag of dried beans and for that I am completely grateful. Delicious and super cheap!

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  • Jocasta Jones

    Homemade jam baby. My mom made it from rhubarb in the garden or fruit that was on super sale at the store. Better than any jam on the shelf and very easy to make and can. A box of pectin has about a dozen recipies and you can always feel free to tinker. Grab mason jars at garage sales. Get fruit when it's in peak season and go wild. For instance my mom stuck to the standards but I also make kumkuat strawberry marmarlade and mango clove spice jam.

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  • http://childwild.com Sierra

    We did that last summer, and the kids went through 12 jars of fresh strawberry jam in under a month. They may have had help from their dad.

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  • http://childwild.com Sierra

    We had a ton of frozen curries and soups put up before we had our second baby, and it made such a huge difference.

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  • RiceVermicelli

    I loves the homemade jam (you don't even really need pectin), but it is only cheap when you have cheap sources of produce. Canning what you grow in your backyard or the odds and ends from the bin of funny-looking vegetables at the farmstand is a good way to save money. Mango clove spice jam (while delicious, worthwhile, and a huge improvement in the world at breakfast time) is gonna cost you.

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  • http://childwild.com Sierra

    We do the Red Fire Farm CSA, which lets you come out to the farm and – at no extra charge above your CSA membership – pick something like 10 quarts of berries. Totally great.

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  • Sarah

    Because your husband rocks, he sent me his recipe last year, when I bought a 25-pound bag of dried chickpeas from the coop and was figuring out what to do with it :)

    It only takes fifteen minutes in your household because of the magic of your pressure cooker, though, I'm pretty sure :) Cooking chickpeas on the stove in an open pan takes a couple of hours. So when I make this, I usually pre-cook the chickpeas in the oven (using my sneaky dutch-oven technique, which is here: http://aseasontotaste.wordpress.com/2010/01/28/…) and then add them and cook for a few minutes to blend the flavors.

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  • http://childwild.com Sierra

    Good to know! He just recently started pre-soaking the beans, and found that he cut the cooking time from 1 hour to 15 minutes and got more flavor/texture from the beans. But he is using a pressure cooker, so those times would be longer with a regular pot. Nice workaround!

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  • Rich Wilson

    Another great side effect of soaking chick peas is that they make this wonderful 'popping' sound as they absorb water one by one. Rice Krispies got nothin' on a big pot full of popping chick peas!

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  • http://fastforwardacademy.com/index-page-irs-enrolled-agent-exam-course.htm Ricca

    Wow, you really do have a very talented husband! I might try this curried chickpeas this coming weekend.

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  • Natasha

    Yay Martin! I miss you guys so much.

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  • Natasha

    Yay Martin! I miss you guys so much.

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  • http://www.beingshadoan.wordpress.com/ Rachel Shadoan

    This was the much needed inspiration for my dinner tonight! I don't know if I made it under $1 because I used canned chickpeas, but it was still mighty delicious. I can't wait to get back home and try making my own yogurt. Hope you're having fun in Argentina!

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  • http://www.marinegps.net marine gps

    Love it! I get so frustrated when people complain to me that their groceries cost so much…..that's because they buy prepared and semi-prepared meals….I don't even consider those groceries! Not only is that stuff more expensive, it's alot less healthy.

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