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Chicken Stew (and Vegetarianism)

Bought ingredients today for a chicken stew I'm making and was horrified at the cost of meat. Do people really buy this stuff every day without howling in pain? My eyes bugged out when I saw the price tag. No wonder I always used to cook vegetarian! That's difficult now, with all of Shannon's food constraints (no beans and no dairy, in particular, make vegetarian cooking difficult), so meat it is.

(I was vegetarian when I met Shannon and for the first year or so that we were together. I don't remember how I managed to eat vegetarian back then. Maybe he didn't have the food sensitivities at the time. I still have the same ethical objections to eating meat, so I've often wished that I could go back to being a vegetarian and see if I still had the meat cravings I had last time -- which was why I stopped -- but being vegetarian would be difficult with Shannon, unless I cooked just for myself and let him eat frozen dinners, which wouldn't seem right.)

The recipe I'm making should provide enough for 6-8 servings, but it'll probably still be more expensive than frozen dinners. Healthier, though. A lot healthier. Fresher, low sodium, etc.

Chicken Stew


* 2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut in 1-inch cubes (I bought 1.71 lbs, because that was the largest package they had and it cost a mint anyway)
* 2 large onions, quartered and cut into 1/2-inch slices
* 1 cup baby carrots, or 2 large carrots cut into 1-inch slices
* 3 medium potatoes, cut into 1-inch cubes
* 3 1/2 cups chicken broth
* 1 teaspoon celery seed
* 1 teaspoon dried thyme
* 1/2 teaspoon black pepper or seasoned pepper mix
* salt to taste
* 8 ounces sliced mushrooms
* 1 cup frozen corn, thawed
* 1 cup frozen peas, thawed

Combine all ingredients, except peas, in the slow cooker/Crock Pot; stir well. Cover and cook on low 6 to 8 hours, until chicken is done and vegetables are tender; stir in peas the last 30 minutes.
Serves 6 to 8.

I'm going to do all the prep work tonight, so that I can just toss it all into the Crock-Pot in the morning before I leave for the city.


( 10 comments — Leave a comment )
Jan. 21st, 2007 12:19 am (UTC)
Ooh, that sounds good. Yum!
Jan. 21st, 2007 12:35 am (UTC)
You watch for sales, and buy your meat when it's on for a good price. Then you freeze it until you're ready to cook it. That's the only affordable way to do it.

Around here (Houston TX), every few months some store will offer boneless chicken breasts for $1.67/lb, boneless chuck roast for $1.69, ground beef for $.99/pound, or whole fryers for $.49.lb. I stock my freezer with what's on sale, and always have meat available. I read the sale ads religiously every week; they determine which store I shop at that week.
Jan. 21st, 2007 12:38 am (UTC)
There was just a post on foodporn a day or two ago, about just this kind of subject - specifically, how expensive chicken breasts were. The general advice was to wait for sales, to buy cheaper thighs and legs, or to buy whole chickens and cut them into necessary parts. Funny how synchronous LJ can be sometimes!

And the stew sounds delicious!

Jan. 21st, 2007 01:46 am (UTC)
ooh, i have to try that recipe.

Trader Joe's has cheaper chicken, I think. So does CostCo. Maybe we can do a run together sometime. I need to be more disciplined about shopping at those places, since our grocery store is so pricey!
Jan. 21st, 2007 04:02 am (UTC)
I'd love to do some bargain shopping. Just let me know when I can tag along.
Jan. 21st, 2007 03:50 am (UTC)
I was thinking about the price of meat. And I was talking with someone last weekend.

She's an organic farmer. She sells poultry and beef.

An organically raised steer, slaughtered humanely and kosher, would cost about $750. Slightly less for a humane, but NOT kosher slaughter, say, $725. It would give about 500 pounds of meat. You'd have to cut it up yourself (and, for us, since we keep kosher, we'd have to prepare and salt the meat, too).

Obviously, $750 is too much for one person, or even one family. But then, 500 pounds of meat is too much for one person or family.

I think that the best way to buy meat would be to get groups of families together to buy a steer, butcher it, and carve up the meat. You would end up buying sustainable, organic, humanely raised meat for a lower price than supermarket meat.

Chickens, bought from an organic farmer, are also vastly cheaper than if you buy them from a supermarket. Of course, you need to dress and pluck them yourself.

The thing is, this sounds like a terribly difficult thing to do. I don't know if it is or not -- I'll let you know in a couple months. But, from what I hear, it's actually not all that bad to do.

So, I think that, if it's actually not THAT difficult, people should buy meat from local organic small farms, and get better tasting, more humane, more sustainable, cheaper food.

I'm hoping that this is actually easy to do.
Jan. 22nd, 2007 01:25 pm (UTC)
But that assumes that your time is worthless or that cutting up and freezing meat qualifies as a leisure activity.
Jan. 22nd, 2007 01:54 pm (UTC)
Well, at least that the value your actions are adding are greater than the amount of money you'd be likely to make in a similar amount of time doing paid work.

It doesn't need to be that your time is WORTHLESS -- just that this action would be a worthwhile use of your time.

My paid time is worth about $12 an hour. For me, I suspect this will be worth it, if I get a little skill under my belt -- especially since pay for meat-cutters at the local supermarket starts at around $16/hour. Which means that 1) if I do this, I'll teach myself an employable skill, and 2) if the supermarket pays $16/hour for this action, then they MUST be passing that cost on to me, and obviously at a premium (if the employee is getting $16/hour, the employer must be paying out something like nearly $30/hour what with payroll taxes and benefits, and they need to have at LEAST 10%/10% overhead and profit above that, as a MINUMUM).

Now, if I'm in a job that pays significantly above that amount, then, yes, it's not cost-effective to do it myself -- but it does become worthwhile to look at what it would cost to hire someone else to do it for you on a piecework basis -- could you pay someone $16/hour to do it for you on a job basis, and not have to deal with the cost of payroll taxes and benefits?

We're used to a situation where economies of scale make it much cheaper to get a mass-produced product. I'm not convinced that meat production is that way any longer. And certainly if you place a financial premium on "organic", "sustainable" and so forth, I think the numbers shift, and I'm starting to think that, for these products, buying locally starts to be cheaper than buying mass-produced.
Jan. 22nd, 2007 02:10 pm (UTC)

You're absolutely right. Your time wouldn't have to be worthless, just worth less than the amount you save by doing this work yourself. If you've already worked 40 hours that week for wages, now you're sucking up your leisure time, so the calculation becomes, "Is an hour of meat cutting to save $x worth more to me than an hour of leisure time?" unless you consider meat cutting to be a leisure activity (I certainly don't).

I don't think someone who earns $16/hour in wages costs her/his employer anywhere near $30/hour in wages, benefits and payroll taxes. I think $20 would be more realistic. Social Security and Medicare taxes (7.65%) on $16/hour come to about $1.22/hour. On the other hand, your 10% markup seems very low, so perhaps $30/hour is realistic.

Jan. 22nd, 2007 01:25 pm (UTC)
I second the Costco thing. You can buy boneless, skinless chicken breasts every day of the week for about $2/pounds, and they're the best quality I've ever had. They have two kinds, one in a six pound box and one in a 10-pound box. The six-pound box has less water and more chicken per pound, and I think the price per pound is comparable, so that's what I've bought. If you don't have a vacuum sealer, you should get one - chicken lasts literally a year or more with zero freezer burn.
( 10 comments — Leave a comment )

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