February Summary and Observations

Compared to last month we’ve eaten a lot more lunches out of home, largely because we were in the process of moving during the month.

The averages for this month:

  • Lunch prepared at home $1.98 ($3.17 in January)
  • Lunch eaten or purchased outside the home: $8.16 ($10.08)
  • Dinner eaten at home: $4.83 ($5.59)
  • Dinner eaten out: $18.70 ($12.00)

Our most expensive meal was Commonwealth Restaurant at $47.00 a serve, but absolutely worth it for food that we would never cook ourselves. Eight of our home cooked meals this month I would consider ‘restaurant quality’ with most expensive being the NY Strip steak on February 18.

We ate dinner in a restaurant four times in February, but lunch was at home only 11 days in the month, half what it was in January. Again, attributable to moving to a new location 25 miles away.

Had we purchased every lunch and prepared none it would have cost us $236 per person in February. We actually spent $21.79 for lunches at home plus $138.72 for lunches purchased or eaten out: $160.51. So, although we ate more lunches out our overall spend in February was less than January. I suspect because fewer lunches were at the Country Deli!

Had we purchased every dinner out at the same average it would be $542.30 each, compared with $115.81 for meals prepared at home and $74.80 for meals out, or the $190.61 total.

That’s just working on the average. Several of the meals we had would have been well over $30 a serve in a restaurant.

Feb 1: Sushi lunch; Quinoa Chowder


Today was again supermarket sushi: $12.78 for the two choices, or $6.39 per serve.


Tonights Quinoa Chowder with Spinach, Feta, and Scallions recipe comes courtesy of Chowhound. We dropped the cilantro – yep, we’re in the group that doesn’t like it. We used leek instead of the scallions, and soft poached eggs nstead of the hard boiled eggs Chowhound want to use.

Chowhound say 2-4 serves, and it turns out four seems to be right.

The soft poached egg melts into the soup in a way that hard boiled eggs would not.
The soft poached egg melts into the soup in a way that hard boiled eggs would not.
  • Quinoa – $3.49 for the packet, but we’re only using about 1/4 or 22c a serve
  • Olive oil about 15c
  • Garlic clove – 5c a serve
  • Chipotle pepper substituting for the jalapeño – 10c a serve
  • Yukon Gold potatoes (about 1 large potato) – $1.56 of which this recipe uses 1/4 – 10c a serve
  • Seasonings -15c a serve
  • Leek (in place of the scallions) – 35 a serve
  • Spinach leaves from the balcony garden – 0c a serve.
  • We used the whole 8oz of Feta cheese in the $5 pack – $1.25 a serve
  • Organic egg, 50c per serve

Tonight’s soup cost us $2.72 a serve plus 20c for a slice of toast to dip in the egg yolk.

Jan 31: Lunch out; Lemon Chicken Orzo Soup reprise


A friend visiting from Australia took us out to lunch, so technically our lunch was free! My sweet and spicy seafood fried rice was $10.95 on the menu, but with tax and tip would be close to $12 a serve.


A repeat of last night’s Lemon Orzo Soup but accompanied by the ready-to-bake roast garlic bread.

  • Lemon chicken orzo soup – $1.15 a serve
  • Simple Truth Ready to bake garlic bread – $3.99 for the loaf (expensive for bread but delicious) or $2.00 per serve because we ended up eating the whole loaf between us.

Jan 30: Smoked salmon and avocado; Lemon Chicken Orzo soup


Wild caught smoked salmon and avocado on a toasted English Muffin.

  • Smoked salmon was sadly back to normal $7.99 or $4.00 a serve
  • The English muffin is 50c a serve
  • Avocado is on special at 69c each, or 35c per serve.

Lunch today cost $4.85


A return to the lemon chicken orzo soup. By using the precooked chicken this is a very quick dish to put together. We upped the amount of Meyer lemon – if a dish is supposed to taste lemony, let it taste of lemon!

It’s interesting how dishes get interpreted into a local variant based on what ingredients are available. For example, Lemon chicken is one of the ‘standard’ Chinese “dishes” in Australia. Lemons are abundant in Australia but not so much in the USA where oranges are the abundant citrus. Not co-incidentally Orange Chicken is quite common in American Chinese restaurants.

No doubt the original dish, in China, is cooked with sour plum or some other sour fruit. Sour Plum Chicken seems to be common in Taiwan.

  • Celery, thyme, oil and garlic adds 20c per serve
  • Chicken broth cost 40c per serve The store-bought rotisserie chicken breast is $1.74 for a breast, divided into four serves makes 44c per serve.
  • The orzo is $1.42 for a 1 lb box, but only half was used for our three serves, or 24c per serve
  • Carrots cost 25c or 8c per serve
  • Add in 15 c for the other seasonings, etc.

Dinner tonight – on the table 30 minutes after we got home – cost $1.15 per serve. Even better, there’s enough left over for another two meals, so lunch Monday is taken care of.

Jan 29: New York Strip, crash hot potatoes and creamed spinach


Lunch today is really last night’s dinner, as Philip will be out tonight eating for free at Editor’s Lounge.

New York Strip $18.99 for just over 12 oz is on the high side but comes as part of our meat delivery. It was the most tender strip steak that we’ve ever had with great flavor. Expertly grilled by Philip.

This is the third time we’ve done crash hot potatoes this month. on January 7, and they’re a regular side for us because they mix a creamy interior with a crisp exterior. Creamed spinach made to Pioneer Woman’s recipe is – we think – better than we’ve had in a steak house.

  • The $18.99 steak gave us both a good 6 oz serve for $9.00 per serve
  • Potato is 55c a serve with seasonings taken into account
  • All the $2.29 spinach and arugula mix was used, and half the $4.69 whipping cream. (We tend to go premium for dairy so we can be happier about the lives the cows live.) $2.67 a serve.

Today’s main meal (I’ll count it as dinner) was $12.22. I think quality and flavor it was as good as, or better than a steakhouse. When you cook food this good at home, you quickly realize that “going out to dinner” is about the experience, not the food in most cases.


For Philip, dinner was fee, thanks to Alpha Dogs and Editor’s Lounge sponsors. Greg put together a commercial noodle soup ($3.79) with some canned baby corn ($2.29) for a per serve cost of $6.08.

Buying pre-prepared is expensive, and you have no control of what’s in the food.

Jan 28: Eggs Benedict; Red beans and rice with chicken leg


With an early start to open our house half an hour away for flooring work we worked for a while on the yard, then headed down to the Country Deli in Chatsworth for lunch.

Eggs Benedict with home fries, arnold palmer, tax and tip came to $20 each.


We had planned a steak, creamed spinach and crash hot potatoes, but work was still proceeding on the floor late, and we weren’t home until 7pm.

So, the joy of leftovers and commercial chicken! We finished the last of the red beans and rice, and each had a chicken leg from this week’s rotisserie chicken.

  • Red beans and rice $2.09 a serve
  • Chicken thigh and drumstick $1.75

Dinner tonight was on the table within 15 minutes, and cost us $3.84 a serve.

Jan 27: Beef Stew; Pizza


Left over beef stew. Stews are always better the next day. A little less bread, so a little under the $6.10 last night’s serve was.


It’s LACPUG night and there’s a ritual of pizza after the meeting. To get us through to Palermo’s at 10pm we had a beef hot dog from Advantage Catering who set up at the meeting to provide a lot of food choices.

Hot dog $3. At pizza everyone puts in $5, so ‘dinner’ cost us $8.

You know what pizza looks like, so no photo!

Jan 26: Chicken wraps; Beef Stew


This week’s chicken was $6.99 or $1.75 per portion. Part of the gamble of a supermarket roast chicken is that it can become overcooked sitting out, and sadly this one is.

  • Roast chicken:$6.99 split four ways and into two serves today: 87c
  • One quarter of the $2.74 salad is 69c
  • The flatbread is 50c
  • Add some hummus at 30c

Lunch today: $2.36 per serve


Tonight we cooked Serious Eats’ Beef Stew because there was one pound of stewing beef in the monthly meat delivery. You can certainly buy cheaper stewing meat than $9.79 a pound but everything we’ve had in the meat delivery has been worth the extra in flavor.

We did it with one pound of beef, not the three in the recipe, and added more mushroom to balance it. Greg swapped out chicken bone broth for the chicken broth/gelatin combination because bone broth has gelatin and more flavor! He also dropped the pearl onions. Accordingly there are five serves in our version.

It’s a very unusual recipe with a sauce made in a blender; meat, mushrooms and some of the vegetables fried off in the pan; and some vegetables going into a stock. It was obvious that there was stock-in-progress when vegetables went in unpeeled and/or whole.

When vegetables go in unpeeled, you're building a stock.
When vegetables go in unpeeled, you’re building a stock.

Sure enough, they get fished out later. Then the meat,  mushrooms, cooked diced carrots and pearl onions go back in to simmer while cooking the potatoes and meat.

  • The cooked components waiting to be added back to the stew after the stock vegetables are removed.
    The cooked components waiting to be added back to the stew after the stock vegetables are removed.

    The stew beef was $9.79 or $1.96 a serve

  • Garlic about 2c a serve
  • Carrots – $1.99 or 40c a serve
  • Fingerling potatoes – $2.50 or 50c a serve
  • Mushrooms $3.98 or $1 a serve
  • Tomato paste – 20c a serve
  • Chicken bone broth – $5.49 or $1.10 a serve
  • Sourdough bread – 60c a serve
  • Sundry seasonings, anchovies etc 50c a serve

Tonight’s beef stew cost us $6.10 a serve. With a long slow cook it develops great flavor. Although meat light this has amazingly deep umami thanks to the mushrooms.

Jan 25: Smoked salmon; Red Beans and Rice with Egg


Wild caught smoked salmon on an English muffin with cream cheese. Because it’s a 4 oz pack, it’s a generous serve of smoked salmon each.

  • Smoked salmon – normally $6.99 but Greg bought it for $5.99 on special or $3.00 a serve
  • The English muffin is 50c a serve
  • Cream cheese is about 60c a serve.

Lunch today was $4.10 a serve.


Something else was planned, but we ended up spending more time than expected finding a flooring contractor, and went for leftovers instead. Two serves of the red beans and rice, with a fried egg on top.

  • Onion, oil and garlic and seasonings about 15c per serve
  • Each can of organic beans was 99c and we used three, or 50c per serve
  • We used then other pack of andouille sausage from Greg’s double purchase: $4.40 or 73c a serve
  • Chicken broth $2.29 or 38c a serve
  • The rice: 33c a serve
  • One organic egg, 50c a serve.

Tonight’s quick dinner – the slowest part was cooking the rice – cost us $2.59 each serve. I’d have  liked an extra egg, but we only had two to share between us!