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Cooking on a budget - recipe ideas please
Posted: Tuesday, December 16, 2008 7:07 PM
Joined: 27/11/2008
Posts: 3

Five days per week, I cook for a crew of eight for lunch, and usually for four or five for dinner. I also provide a mid-morning snack of fruit and muffins/danish/sweetbread, etc.

I have a budget $500 for the week. Any chefs reading this have good meal planning ideas how to make my money stretch? I want to provide them with good food, not junk (no hot dogs, Ramen, etc.). I'm new to cooking for this many with financial limitations.

Thank you in advance.

Posted: Wednesday, December 17, 2008 10:15 PM
This is not as bad as it looks at first glance if you do the math. $500 to cover 40 lunches and 25 dinners. For simplicity lets consider the cost of lunches and dinners as equal, and it may be, sometimes people eat more at lunch. That's $7.69 per person, per meal. If you shop at Costco or someplace like it, you can really stretch your dollar, and if you have large freezers you can make life easier by often making double batches and putting one in the freezer. It's just as much work making one big lasagna as it is to make two. Cooking a big turkey shouldn't be just for the holidays. They are easy and inexpensive and are great for dinners and sandwiches. Whole turkey breasts are great too and though more expensive than a whole turkey much less waste and cook faster. A big stir fry is always a hit. Make sure you get the local paper on Sunday and check out the coupons. Stock up! Go online and check out the nearby grocery stores for specials. Find out when and where the sportfish boats come in and try buying fresh fish from them, you can often get great deals and the fish will be awesome. Some cuts of meat are less expensive than you'd think and a real treat. Buy a whole rib eye and roast it for dinner, prime rib! When you are buying the whole roast the price is usually way cheaper than individual steaks, I've seen it for less than $5 a pound. For that matter you can buy a whole boneless one and cut it yourself and grill individual steaks if your crew would rather have them like that. If possible see if you can have your funds two weeks at a time. There are lots of things you can save money on if you buy in bulk but you may have some large upfront expenses to shop this way, i.e olive oil by the gallon. Just a few ideas to start out. As you go you'll realize that you can cook a good variety of well balanced, healthy meals with that budget. Good luck!
Posted: Wednesday, December 17, 2008 10:19 PM
We recently cut back ops to sell the yacht hence the budget as well. The crew decided to go on the South Beach Diet. At this point our daily budget for lunch only is $20 for four crew or $5 a head per day on a 5 day work week. We as a crew decided lets take that budget and pool our own money and rotate cooking responsibilities with the watch schedule based on the South Beach Diet menu. We don't have a fulltime chef. Our results for 5 people(1 spouse) participating: Phase 1 lasted two weeks 14 days Total weight lost 42 pounds all crew combined Total cost $753 or roughly $11 a day per crew Phase 2 was 15 days Weight loss less as thanksgiving and christmas cheer are slowing progress. But in between we follow and have maintained and even lost a little weight. Total cost $733 roughly $10/day per crew Even if you don't want to lose weight this is an excellent diet. It is very healthy eating and cost effective if done properly. We are amazed how much energy we have throughout the day without the help of coffee or energy drinks ie SUGARS. We were really surprised how cheap it was especially if you pool resources. It was also a great team building tool and very educational. I would also say that we did not feel like we had to sacrifice anything as far as food tastes. Most of the meals were very good and I would go out on a limb and say about 80% of the meals could be served to charter guests with out a complaint. It is a paradigm shift from your normal eating habits but not at all difficult to accomplish. You just need to be committed.
Posted: Wednesday, December 17, 2008 11:03 PM
"Dovetailing" a key word in the catering biz, which means to use most or all of a particular product !  Meaning if you cook a whole roast for dinner , use the leftovers for sandwiches and then add more of something else to fit the crew size ...  If you have leftovers,as long as they're tasty, the crew usually don't mind at all !!  Also as the above mentioned buy whole pieces of meat ( porkloin, sirloin, ribeye, groundbeef and even chickens).  But as always pay attention to your storage capabilities.......or you'll be buying ice and a cooler !!!
Posted: Thursday, December 18, 2008 3:12 AM

Cooking on a Budget...ah!  First thing to do is make a grid...separate the three meals, the amount of people at those meals and then the amounts you have at your disposal.  Then gain access to a Costco card and you can easily fulfill this budget. Chicken goes a long way, I do so many different things with chicken it is unreal. Also, find out exactly what each person wants and food cost everything out. Cross utilizing ingredients is a key factor in keeping your costs down. Good Luck.

Chef Peter Ziegelmeier

Posted: Wednesday, February 25, 2009 7:03 PM
if u are on a budget,why not start making your own ,breads ,pizzas etc u will save alot and learn as u go along as well