Jan 3: Ham Hock and Lentil Soup, Pot Roast Meal


One of the great things about cooking your own food is leftovers! There were two serves left of Friday’s Ham hock and lentil soup, and that’s what we had for lunch. $2.50 per serve.

We had an afternoon snack of half a meatloaf sandwich each. Only half a serve, split two ways, so $0.85 for the meatloaf, and two slices of multigrain bread, say 40c, split two ways so $1.05 for the half sandwich.


We’re in what passes for Winter in California, so a pot roast is a wonderful dish for the season. The slow cook also fills the room with wonderful smells across a lazy Sunday afternoon. The recipe Greg chose is Pot Roast with Mushrooms from Serious Eats.

We went a little overboard on the beef. We’ve been getting a monthly delivery direct from farm, and haven’t been keeping up. The quality of the meat is very high – grass fed and organic – but so is the price. We used a 12 oz (350 g) chuck steak, which will give us a 6 oz serve each. Six ounces is the size of a typical protein serve in a restaurant.

Our steak cost us $7, but conventionally grown would run around $3.75-4.00 for 12 oz. Two 8 oz (250 g) boxes of mushroom were $6. The vegetable components ran to around $1.

A quart of beef stock is around $3 (depending on the quality) and half that was used in the recipe, so $1.50. I’ll allow 50c to cover the flour, salt and pepper.

Our organic meat extravaganza cost us  $16.00 or $4.00 per serve. With more conventionally grown beef, the meal would have cost $12, or $3 a serve.

We served with left over cauliflower mash and frozen peas. The mash was 40c serve, and the peas around 50c serve.

The pot roast was amazing for such simple ingredients.

Jan 2: Sushi; Meatloaf dinner

Lunch: Sushi

One of the things I love about living in Southern California is the abundance of decent sushi. Sushi is not something that Australia didn’t do particularly well when I lived there, nor even on recent trips. It’s a regular thing for us when grocery shopping and lunch co-incide. If the weather is good we like to continue on to a park and eat there, just to be outside the office/apartment for a while.

Lunch was a mix of spicy tuna and cucumber avocado rolls and totaled $17 or $8.50 a serve. Compare that with dinner at $3.80 a serve!

Dinner: Classic American Meatloaf with cauliflower and parsnip mash

During the time my mother and niece were visiting from Australia, Greg wanted to expose my niece to American classics, and some modern interpretations. Tonight he cooked it again for Cirina Catania.

Greg chose Barefoot Contessa’s classic recipe but used 1 lb (250 g) each beef and pork. This is a great recipe and with the mix of meats has more flavor than you’d expect from something this simple. We also cook a mushroom and red wine meatloaf, and a turkey, bacon and chipotle meatloaf with a recipe we created. All are great.

Because we get a direct-from-farmer meat delivery, the ground pork and beef were about $8 each. Grass fed, organic ground beef or pork usually runs about $6 lb. The other ingredients are inexpensive. It makes five generous serves so we still come out at around $3.40 a serve or with regular organic ground meats around $2.60.

For the mash, take a head of cauliflower and break it into florets. Cut up two large parsnips into cubes about 1″ on each side. Greg uses the pressure cooker to cook the vegetables (only three minutes!), but you could steam, or even boil them. (Boiling tends to lose flavor into the water.)

Let the vegetables steam until the steaming stops, otherwise the mash ends up too sloppy.

Mash the cauliflower and parsnip or use a Cuisinart like we do, with some butter, lemon, garlic and sea salt to taste.  (But a quick search will find many interesting variations on the basic recipe.)

Greg found this alternate mash a year ago when my mom was on an elimination diet and nightshades (including potato) were temporarily off the table. We rarely go back to potato mash now. Cirina brought some yellow beets with her that had been previously roasted.

Cauliflower and parsnip are cheap and this works out under 40c per serve, for a total meal cost of $2.80 or $3.80 per serve depending on where you get your ground meat.


Jan 1: ‘Frenchish’ lunch; Pork hock and Lentil Soup


Today we went for a walk in the local Burbank area and picked up a baguette from Jons supermarket, along with some liverwurst, irish cheddar and a tomato. Fortunately the baguette is one of best we’ve found in the US. You probably really have to go to France to get a great one.

The trip to Munich last September rekindled our love of liverwurst and it’s also available at Jons. So lunch was little rounds of baguette, with either liverwurst spread, or a cheddar/tomato combination. Eat until full.

Dinner: Pork hock and lentil soup

Having lentil soup for the New Year is traditional among many South American countries like Brazil and Ecuador. Beans are symbolic of money, and the pork, of progress, so pork and lentil dishes are common. In fact some combination of pork and beans is common in even more countries.

Greg found tonight’s recipe in a book he found at his mother’s home in Australia during his last trip there. He took a photo of the recipe so I can’t appropriately credit it.

It serves four and keeps well in the refrigerator for several days. In the image above you can just see the pork shoulder poking through.

Ingredients cost us about $10 excluding the parmesan for the pesto, which we didn’t make. That’s about $2.50 a serve. Don’t wait for the next New Year to try it. It was very, very good.


  • 2 medium carrots, finely diced (20c)
  • 1 leek, washed and finely cut  (50c)
  • 1 celeriac, peeled and finely diced, or 1 cup of chopped celery. We opted for celery for the faster cooking time. ($1 for a bunch so 3 sticks is about 25c)
  • 4 or 5 cloves of garlic, crushed. You should smell this cooking! (20c)
  • 2.5 tablespoons of oil. The recipe suggest Olive oil, but we prefer to use Coconut oil because it’s more stable at higher temperatures. (20c)
  • 200g (8 oz) red lentils, well washed and drained (Half a 1 lb pack for $2.50 or $1.25)
  • 1/2 tsp of (freshly) grated nutmeg. There really is no substitute for fresh with nutmeg  (5c)
  • 1/2 tsp of fennel seeds.  (5c)
  • 6 Tbsp of chopped parsley (15c)
  • 3 Tbsp of chopped mint (10c or less if you grow it yourself)
  • 1 bacon hock, fat trimmed or removed. We substituted pork neck. ($4.51 or $2.99 lb)
  • 1 liter (2 pints) chicken, veal or vegetable stock. In other words, a flavorsome liquid. ($2.50)
  • 60 g (a generous 2 oz) grated parmesan cheese
  • Pepper to taste


  • In a stock pot or large saucepan gently cook the carrots, leak, celeriac (or celery) and garlic in 1 Tbsp oil for 3-4 minutes.
  • Add drained lentils and store, while continuing to cook for about 30 seconds. Grate and stir in nutmeg and fennel.
  • Stir in about 2 Tbsp of the parsley and 1 Tbsp of the mint. Keep the rest for the pesto sauce.
  • Add the bacon hock (or pork neck) and stock. Put on the lid and simmer soup slowly for 1.5 hours.
  • Make up a pesto sauce by pounding in a mortar (or blender which is a heck of a lot easier, but more washing up) the remaining parsley and mint, with the parmesan cheese and 1/5 Tbsp oil, until a smooth past is achieved. Season with pepper.
  • When the hock or neck is cooked, remove and cut meat into bite-sized pieces.

To serve

Put bacon pieces into individual soup bowls, and then pour the soup over the meat and top with a spoonful of the pesto sauce. Although truth be told we skipped the pesto sauce.

Accompany with crusty bread.

Hello, and welcome.

You can read about our background in our About page.
Our goal is to encourage you to cook more of your own food. Each day we’ll be posting details about what we eat. There will also be video episodes where we cook the food we eat in a restaurant, particularly when we travel.
Greg and I eat most of our meals at home, prepared (mostly) from fresh ingredients. We’ll share the recipes and techniques we use to eat “healthyish“.
Since what is ‘healthy’ seems to be as variable as the weather, we’ll share what we’ve found during Philip’s journey back to robust good health over the last five years, and why we don’t necessarily believe a lot of conventional food wisdom.
Our focus is on easy to prepare meals that will be cheaper than eating out.
So welcome. Each day we’ll be blogging our meals from the day before, with recipe and approximate cost of ingredients. We hope you’ll realize how easy it is to eat better, for less.
The image above is of pan seared scallop with butter ponzu sauce, served with arugula mango and avocado salad with passionfruit vinaigrette. Easier to make than say!