The NYTimes article highlighting the recent upswing in Spam sales is old news.
But, it got me thinking.
Do economic downturns necessarily mean that everyone has to eat Spam because it’s the cheapest option?
Here’s the short answer: no!
First, let’s point out that Spam is not cheap. It’s $3.49 per 12oz. can, or $4.67 per pound!
I get my chicken whole for $2.50/lb from a local farmer.
I buy a side of beef every spring for $2.69/lb from a local rancher. After it’s processed, it comes to around $3.15/lb. This is a full side of beef, so ground beef, roasts, hefty ribs, and even juicy 16 oz. rib-eye steaks all cost a measly $3.15/lb. And, I get organ meats, soup bones, and all sorts of nutrient dense extras for absolutely no extra cost!
Plus, these are pastured animals, raised without antibiotics or hormones.
So, Spam is not cheap.
People have long argued that eating Real Food costs more money, so how are you supposed to eat well when budgets are tight?
Thinking about it, I realize it’s not all that hard. In fact, if you rely a lot on packaged foods or convenience foods like salsas and salad dressings, eating Real Food can actually save you money!
For $80/week, I feed a family of three adults (assuming the combined diets of my two sons equals an average adult’s) Real Food without growing or raising any of it at home. (I hope to change this in the near future, but let’s work with what I’ve got.)
Here’s how I do it.
1) I prepare our own meals. Eating out is a luxury. And contrary to what KFC claimed in their infamous $10 Challenge commercial, it really is cheaper to cook your own food at home.
2) I buy in bulk, and directly from local farmers when possible. I pick up bulk grains and beans and natural sweeteners from my local grocery store, and I also plan large once-a-year purchases of pastured beef and poultry.
3) I eat fewer animal products. While I believe they’re far healthier for me than the diet dictocrats would have us believe, I’m also a vegan for about 40% of the year thanks to my religious principles (Orthodox Christian). And, even when I’m not keeping a vegan fast due to pregnancy or breastfeeding, we still only average about 2.67 lbs of meat per week over the course of the year. The trick here is to make meat only a part of the meal, rather than the centerpiece. Instead of serving one chicken breast per person with some sides, we’ll cut up the chicken and put it in a casserole or soup.
4) I don’t waste food. We save up unused vegetable parts and uneaten leftovers to make hearty broths and soups each week, use chicken guts to make gravy, use the carcass for a gelatin-rich broth that’s oh-so-good for your joints. This way, I gen generally get four meals out of each chicken!
5) I make my own convenience foods. Breads, salsas, salad dressings, condiments. It’s all healthier and cheaper when you make it at home.
6) I try not to double up on expensive animal proteins in any given meal. This means I rarely pair meat with cheese, eggs with cheese, meat with eggs, and the like unless I’m cooking up something special. I save lasagna and quiche for when I have company.