Recipes and Cooking

I am, as they say, “gravitationally enhanced”.  I’m about 40 lbs overweight, and trying to get rid of that extra weight and keep it off is always a challenge. 

But it seems like it’s even more of a challenge on a super-low food budget.  I have an excellent diet book, one that really took off the pounds back when I was able to follow it.  (The Rotation Diet, by Martin Katahn)  It worked very well, and there were some days in his second week where I felt I was eating too much food–but I still lost weight!  The problem?  It was an expensive diet to follow, at least if you’re living on less than $6000 a year!  It called for some form of meat or fish every day, lots of fresh vegetables, lots of fruits–in short, it was a very healthy diet.  Very yummy, too.  But expensive. 

Let’s face it: it’s hard to lose weight if you’re poor.  The cheapest food is stuff like pasta and bread…highly refined, starchy carbohydrates.  Or, stuff like potato chips and soft drinks. 

With that said, it isn’t hopeless.  A little attention to detail makes a big difference.  Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve been refining my own diet system, one that works for people on a low budget.  Over the next few days, I plan to blog about the basic building blocks of my system, which I’ve jokingly named “the ice-cream diet”.  It’s cheap, it’s healthy, and it works.  What more can you ask for?  😉 


Our egg production is down a bit at the moment, because Victoria is setting and it’s summer, so things are a bit slower (even chickens like a bit of a break!) but we’re still getting four or five eggs a day, which is quite a lot, for a family of three, if you don’t eat two eggs apiece for breakfast every single day.  🙂 

 Eggs are wonderful because they’re an excellent source of protein–and because they’re so inexpensive!  (With egg production down, but the chickens still eating, the cost of our eggs has risen to probably $0.75 or so per dozen (from 2/$1), maybe a bit less than that–but that’s still remarkably low, for a good source of protein. 

Even more than that, though, I love eggs because they’re so versatile.  Fry them, scramble them, hard boil them, soft boil them, add them to a salad, devil them, make an omlette out of them…the possibilities are nearly endless.  You could eat eggs every day, and never get bored of them. 

It finally rained today, a nice steady gentle rain.  It was exactly what we needed–exactly what I needed. 

I promised a few days ago that I’d write another post on the specifics of keeping chickens.  Chickens are wonderful for anyone who is looking at keeping animals for food, because 1) they eat so little, 2) they take up so little room, and 3) you don’t have to kill them to get food out of them. 

First of all, where can you keep chickens?  The answer is almost anywhere.  Even tiny pockets of yard can be fenced in and given a little roof to protect the birds from rain and hot sun.  A fence is necessary to keep neighborhood cats and dogs out and chickens from getting run over or leaving little presents all over your yard.  It’s important for chickens to have a little room to scratch. 

What kind of chickens should you get?  If you have the choice, Buff Orpingtons are a large, docile chicken with soft golden feathers.  Their gentle nature makes them an excellent choice for families.  Plus, they’re excellent layers. 

 What should you feed your chickens?  Chickens will eat almost anything–table scraps, grain, even dog food.  But if you want the best egg production, consider going down to your local co-op and picking up a bag of laying pellets.  (Be sure you get the pellets; laying crumbles tend to get lost and wasted.)  Give each chicken a handful of laying pellets and a couple of handfuls of kitchen scraps per day, and reap the rewards in eggs and black gold for your garden. 

 How many chickens can you keep?  An eight-by-ten enclosure will hold three to five hens, or even a couple more, depending on their size.  And the average Buff Orpington hen will give you five to six eggs a week during all but the hottest summer months. 

Do you need a rooster?  That depends.  If you have room, and you want to produce fertile eggs and raise chicks, you’ll need a rooster.   But hens will lay just as well–and sometimes even better–without a rooster.  And if space is limited, or you don’t want to keep a chicken that isn’t going to produce food for you, a rooster will be a liability. 

Similarly, you don’t want to keep a rooster if you live in a crowded suburb.  Their cock-a-doodle-do is the epitome of the farm and country living, but neighbors tend to frown on a rooster crowing from 4:00 or so until daybreak or later. 

Chickens are worth their weight in gold.  I have eight hens and two roosters in different coops.  I get an average of six eggs a day, or a dozen eggs every two days, which is plenty for our family to eat and give to friends and family.  And that’s to say nothing of the fertilizer for our garden.  When your clean out your chicken coop, put the manure in a pile to the side of your garden, cover it with leaves, and let it sit for a couple of months.  The result will be a fabulous rich soil that you can spread over your garden for the best vegetables you’ve ever tasted. 

One of the ladies at church gave us a bag of zucchini this morning.  Never having cooked zucchini before, a new adventure lies before me: how to prepare zucchini? 

I’m thinking that I will, perhaps, cut it up and cook it in a stir-fry this evening.  It’s hard to go wrong with ginger teriyake soy sauce.  🙂  (1/4 teaspoon ginger, 1/4 cup brown sugar, and soy sauce to taste makes the best stir-fry topping you’ll ever eat!) 

Breakfast this morning cost just pennies to make, and it was both delicious and satisfying.  Lunch will be, too. 

Breakfast was French Toast, slices of bread dipped in egg and skillet-toasted over low heat.  We bought the bread at a thrift store; three loaves of white bread for $2.25, or about 75 cents per loaf.  Each loaf has between 20 and 25 slices of bread in it, for just over 3 cents per slice, and we each had two slices.  Call it about 7 cents per person. 

The eggs are harder to figure, because we get them “free”–but we have to feed the chickens.  We give them both cracked corn and laying pellets; the extra cost for the laying pellets is more than made up for in the consistency of their laying.  It costs $6-$8 dollars per month to feed our flock (which currently has 8 hens and 2 roosters), and we get, on average, a dozen eggs every two days (15 doz. per month).  That’s about two dozen eggs for $1, or a little over 4 cents per egg.  We use two eggs, lightly beaten, for two people.  Add in about 2 cents worth of margarine to cook them in, and you reach a figure that’s approximately 25 cents for breakfast for two.  Not bad for something so utterly delicious!  Of course, if you’re naughty and add sugar, the cost goes up a little, but only by a penny or two at the most. 

 Lunch will be very similar, only we’ll be having scrambled egg sandwiches.  Again, two slices of bread per person, or about 14 cents for two, four eggs (two apiece), for about 18 cents, and perhaps 5-10 cents worth of mayonnaise in place of butter.  We’ll also add a couple of lettuce leaves, but those are from our own lettuce, so there’s absolutely no cost except the seed. 

Even rounding up, you still come to 42 cents for a meal for two people–and that’s 42 cents for the meal, not per person! 

Eggs are a wonderful source of protein, and the chickens who produce the eggs also produce wonderful fertilizer for the garden.  And they hardly take any room; a 10×15 area will house a small coop and a large yard for as many as five or six chickens without being crowded.  (A crowded chicken is an unhealthy chicken.)  If you want to raise your own chicks and keep your flock young, you’ll need a rooster; otherwise, hens lay just fine on their own, and you don’t have to feed an extra beak. 

Later, I may post on the fine points of keeping chickens; how to keep the coop from smelling, for example, and the one thing chickens need more than anything else to stay healthy.  For now, though, just remember: it’s something to think about.  A few good laying hens are worth their weight in gold.