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Sunday, February 22, 2015

Farro and Porcini Risotto on a Budget


Being retired means watching the budget. Then again, for most of us watching the budget is a wise thing to do even when not retired.

As I have mentioned before, years ago The London Free Press did a series on the difficulties encountered when trying to live on a tight budget. In 2013 the Middlesex -London Health Unit conducted a survey calculating it took $6.47 a day for each of us to eat enough to keep body and soul together. This was calculated using a family of four.

With inflation, I'm sure it costs more today. Let's up this amount to $7.50 a day, keeping in mind that food has increased in price faster than the overall inflation rate.

Today, my wife and I spent the entire $7.50 plus maybe another buck and a half. On the plus side, we got a lot for our money. I started the day with oatmeal porridge bought on sale for less than twenty cents a serving. I used 1% milk rather than water to make the porridge and added one banana well mushed for sweetness.

For lunch both my wife and I had Heinz tomato soup from the Dollar Store. It cost less than 70-cents a can. Finding the Heinz soup was a good deal as I like the Heinz product better than the more expensive Campbell's sold in the grocery store. Sometimes we add crackers bought in bulk from Costco.

If we want a snack in the afternoon, we have fresh fruit. We watch the weekly flyers and try to buy our fruit on sale. We have seven different grocery stores just minutes by car from our suburban home. With such a wide selection, there is almost always fruit and other stuff we need available on sale. We buy lots when stuff is available and this keeps our pantry well stocked. We are still working through the pasta bought for 49-cents a package some time ago. The threat of getting snowed-in doesn't frighten us.

Dinner tonight was a treat. My wife and I worked together to crank out farro and porcini risotto served with asparagus topped with a sprinkling of Parmesan. The Italian farro and porcini normally sells in the $22 range. We paid half that. We found a large bottle, enough for six meals, at Winners. I highly advise checking out the specialty foods at Winners. That place is a godsend when it comes to punching up a day's menu while staying within a tight budget. And for Parmesan, check out Costco. A big block of the hard Italian cheese is expensive at about $25 but wrap it tightly in foil and it keeps a long time.

We made this rice-less risotto using Campbell's chicken stock purchased at No Frills for under a buck. We kicked the risotto up a notch by adding a few small pieces of quickly browned boneless, skinless chicken breast. We have a large tray of this meat with each breast individually wrapped to make defrosting easy.

With my heart condition, I'm only allowed a couple of ounces of chicken or fish and then only every other day. Red meats are out except for one day each month. To simplify our food preparation, my wife also follows my food restrictions.

Dinners made from leftovers nudge food budgets back in line.
We don't drink any beer to speak of. The cost of beer is way too high when one considers how much of the cost is tax. I already pay enough tax.

When we have company I buy some Steam Whistle and hope our guests leave me lots. What we do like is a glass of wine with our dinners. Canadian box wines are actually good as one's personal house wine. We especially like the Jackson-Triggs Shiraz. It often goes on sale and each time $3 is chopped off the price we buy a box or two.

For dessert we each had fruit yogurt which was also bought on sale.

The farro and porcini was a special treat. My wife's a good cook and her risotto with chicken and asparagus was like something I'd get at a fine dining restaurant. We may have overspent for the day but all will pull into line by month's end.

As I have said before, there is no reason to eat pet food in retirement despite what The Free Press warned in an editorial some months ago.

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