Friday, February 18, 2011

Traditional Food is Cheap #1: Swiss Steak

Over the last few years different people have told me that they eat fast food and highly processed packaged food because it is cheaper.  I feel much compassion for the pain I've seen in the world recently and I don't mean any offense, but I've got just a few things to say about this.

I'm committed to the principle that real food is not expensive.  The adverse argument is a sales job that marketers have done to the young ones of the world.  Traditional food is not expensive.  There is a time commitment; organization is required.  But I ask you to tell me what is more important than what you and your loved ones eat.

So I've decided to price a few traditional dinners as carefully as possible and come up with an approximate cost per serving.  This is based on an Alton Brown recipe.  I've actually got a little bit of a crush on Alton Brown.  Don't tell anybody.

Swiss Steak  (Makes 8 servings)
2 lbs chuck steak, purchased this week at $3.99 / lb ($1.00 per serving)
2 t. salt (Less than $.01 per serving)
1 c. flour -$1.99 for 5 lbs; 1 c. flour = 4.3 oz (Approximately $.01 per serving)
1/4 c. canola or grape seed oil  - $3.19 for 24 ozs ($.03 per serving)
1/2 a yellow onion, thinly sliced ($.05 per serving)
2 stalks of celery - $.06
1/2 of small can of tomato paste - $.59 per can ($.04 per serving)
14.5 oz can diced tomato - $.69/can ($.08 per serving)
14.5 oz can beef broth - $1.29 per can ($.16 per serving)
1T.  Worcestershire sauce - $2.39 for 5 fl ozs or less for larger jars.  1T=1fluid oz = $.48 or ($.08 per serving)
1 t. oregano - $4.59 per .75 oz jar or 4.5 t. or ($.13 per serving)
1 t. paprika  - $2.95 for 1 oz jar; 1 oz = 6 t.($.06 per serving)

Cost per Serving: $1.70 for Swiss Steak plus the cost of the rice and vegetable.

Cut the meat into manageable size pieces.  Dry each piece with a paper towel.  Add oil to a stew pot and get it hot.  If you drop a drop of water into hot oil it should sizzle up. 

Combine the flour and salt and dropped the meat into the flour a bit at a time to coat, then drop pieces into the pan.  Keep the meat moving as it browns.   

Removed browned meat from the pan and add more until all is brown.  Keep the browned meat in another pan on the side.  A pie plate is what my mother used.

Now add the vegetables to the pan.  Add a little more oil if needed and stir until they soften and sweeten.  Return the meat to the pan and add the remaining ingredients.  Continue cooking on low for about 2 to 2 1/2 hours with the lid on.   And yes, babies like it.

When you get close to eating, make a pot of white rice and a vegetable or salad.  By the way, I buy medium grain rice for 5 lbs for $8.29 or $1.66 per pound.  What do you suppose 3 cups of cooked rice costs?  Slice 4 carrots and cook them, drain, add a tablespoon of butter, salt and a pinch of dill.  This isn't that hard. 

And it doesn't last long here.  But if you get some left overs off this, that would be a good thing.
Shared with Kelly the Kitchen Cop's Hearth and Soul Hop and

Miz Helen's Full Plate Thursday

Miz Helen’s Country Cottage

and Prairie Story Recipe Swap


  1. You are absolutely correct. Real, whole, fresh food costs less. Depends on whether you care to spend the time to prepare it. I'm with you on this one--my own health, and that of my family is worth the time investment.

  2. Although some folks think that time is expensive (and the angle of the marketers) NOT taking the time to cook real food is so much more expensive. This is most evident in our current medical epidemics that keep on coming day after day. A little crush on Alton huh, cool!

  3. Really fantastic this post and lovely recipe . very very cute baby and amazing details shared in the post . i loved that and i think very tested its recipe . great idea for food. thanks

  4. Hello I am featuring this great recipe in my Wednesday Wanderings collection. Thanks!

  5. I have a little crush on Alton too! I totally agree - I feed my family of 9 really very reasonably, mostly because of what I don't buy not because of what I do - I don't buy cookies or snacks or pop or many instant meals - it so makes a difference in the budget!

  6. Great recipe! And definitely economical. What an adorable little boy, too. Thanks for sharing.
    Blessings, Beth

  7. We just love Swiss Steak and your recipe looks very good. Thank you so much for bringing it to Full Plate Thursday and please come back!