Sunday, August 23, 2009

Food Economy - 3.1 cent per meal

Tri-Tip Roast, slow smoked, heavily salted. Heaven in a mouthful and I'll never pass it up, especially when prepared by my friend Lynn.

I've been on an efficiency adventure for the past few years. I've switched to compact fluorescents, I ride my bike and walk more, I dabble in composting food and yard waste, and I continually seek out new ways to make my life easier and less tied to the labor of earning currency. Please don't misunderstand me, I love the luxury that money provides, I'm just not always willing to pay the price to have it. With these ideas as the backdrop, I turn my thoughts to protein. This spring our family purchased four chickens to serve as productive pets. My kids enjoy the daily treasure hunt of egg gathering and I enjoy having animals that do something other than rack up $400 vet bills and require $35 a bag food. I particularly love the chickens appetite for cold, dried out rice that has been in the refrigerator for days. These little animals turn all of my waste into perfectly packaged bundles of protein!

In addition to feeding the chickens table scraps, I supplement their diet with wheat, barley, and corn. I appreciate the chickens contribution to our recycling effort, but I started thinking today about their role as a middle man. Where wheat, barley, and corn are concerned, I question why I am using the chickens to convert these raw foods into another form of food? My body is plenty capable of transforming wheat, barley, and corn into energy without first converting it into an egg. If I include rice and beans in my diet, then my protein needs are met, on the cheap. Thus, why the chicken?

I won't get rid of the chickens and I'll likely always have chickens, because I perceive the minimal amount of diet supplementing I provide is more than compensated for by egg production. However, this example does raise interesting efficiency dilemas. Vegetarians claim it requires sixteen pounds of grain to produce one pound of beef. Beef advocates balk at these numbers and stand behind one pound of beef requiring 2.6 pounds of grain. I regularly eat wheat for breakfast and enjoy Tri-Tip Roasts (beef) for dinner. If I wake up tomorrow and let efficiency, rather than tradition, dictate my meal plan, then wheat (or other grains) become the choice of reason. Wheat requires zero refrigeration and boasts a shelf life of 15 to 20 years. Before cooking and puffing up the wheat, I consume half a cup of raw wheat at each meal. The current price of a 50 pound bag of wheat is $10. This calculates to 3.1 cents per meal or $11.40 per year for breakfast. The 2.5 pound Tri-Tip Roast I enjoyed last night was 5.99 per pound. I spent more on one roast than one years worth of wheat consumption and supplied 360 less meals. The wheat cost savings alone allows for a huge rice and bean budget to replace the protein loss from my cherished Tri-Tip.

I'm no vegetarian, but I am frugal. The annual cost to fill my stomach on Tri-Tip beef is $1,093. If you're frugal and enjoy beef that costs $0.99 per pound, then your annual cost weighs in around $180. My thoughts on economy dictate a grain based diet supplemented by homegrown eggs and all the beef I can eat on Lynn's dime! Now, lets see if I can walk the talk!

At the very least, no kid in America should go hungry.

A future post will describe how I easily and efficiently cook wheat in an off-grid setting. This is the perfect cooking process for budget and energy conscious off-griders!

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