Apr 9: Quesadilla; Lemon Chicken Orzo Soup


For lunch we resisted a favorite: our take on a quesadilla now that we have access to the flatbread again. Today we tried Trader Joe’s Refried Black Beans with Jalappeno Peppers and it was very good. It made up for the lack of Fontera salsa

  • One flatbread (half of two) costs 50c a serve
  • Half a can of refried beans, shared across two halves: 26c
  • Fontera salsa is expensive (and tasty) at $4.69 a jar, but sadly it was almost empty so 5c per serve
  • 2 oz of cheddar split between two is 50c per serve

Lunch today cost $1.30 per serve and came together in about 10 minutes. Frying in bacon fat is recommended.


The Lemon Chicken Orzo soup is close to being our most-cooked dinner. It’s a great dish as it take little time to prepare because it uses pre-cooked chicken. The meyer lemon is again perfect for this dish because it lacks the extreme sourness of most lemon. The recipe made four serves.

For the observant, this is basically just a grown up version of chicken noodle soup!

We served with a par-baked Roast Garlic Bread. And, since it was National Gin and Tonic Day, a G&T with meyer lemon was the perfect pairing. Even when it’s not national G&T day!

  • Carrots cost 25c or 8c per serve
  • Celery, thyme, oil and garlic adds 20c per serve
  • Chicken broth cost 40c per serve
  • The store-bought rotisserie chicken breast is $2.25 each leg and thigh, or $1.13 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
  • Add in 15 c for the other seasonings, etc.
  • Served with Simple Truth Ready to bake garlic bread – $3.99 for the loaf (expensive for bread but delicious) or $1.33 per serve

Dinner tonight cost $3.53 per serve!

Apr 8: Chicken Balti; Beef Massaman


In what passes for a cold and wet day in Southern California, we decided a nice warming Chicken Balti.

  • The Trader Joe’s Chicken Balti come two to a $5.99 pack, or $3 each
  • We paired with a little Wildbrine Fermented Madras Curry & Cauliflower Sauerkraut at 23c per serve.

Lunch today cost $3.23 per serve and was exactly what we needed on a foggy and rainy day.


Going for an easy eating day today, we finished the other two serves of the  Beef Massaman curry from last night.

As it did last night, dinner cost us $4.94 per serve.

Apr 7: Chicken wraps; Beef Massaman Curry


Back to our chicken wraps.

  • Split four ways, the $9.99 chicken is $2.50 per serve, or $1.25 today.
  • One quarter of the $2.74 salad is 69c
  • The flatbread is 50c
  • Hummus is $3.99 per container and we used about 1/6 or 33c per serve

Lunch today: $2.77 per serve


Tonight we decided on a beef massaman curry based on the eggplant version of a few days ago. Like the eggplant version, this makes four serves.

Again our beef comes from out Prather Ranch monthly meat delivery. While this means we certainly pay more than minimum for our meat, we know we are supporting small farmers, and that the animals have a decent life instead of the concentrated farming operations that allow for the extremely cheap meat in the US.

  • One pound of ‘Beef for Stew’ cost us $9.79 or $2.45 per serve
  • Red potatoes – 38c or 9c per serve
  • A can if coconut milk is $1.59 or 40c per serve
  • The organic broccoli was $3.49 or 87c per serve
  • The pack of peanuts was $3.29 but we only used 1/4 of the pack, or 41c per serve
  • Add 15c for fish sauce and other seasonings
  • The sprouted brown rice was 66c per serve

Dinner tonight cost us $4.94 per serve.

The Calorie is broken!

An article from the BBC – Why the Calorie is broken – summed up a lot of my own thinking. Since foodie Philip started down the path to rebuilding health and fitness his average food intake has been about 300 calories short of energy expended.

If “a calorie was a calorie” then by now I should have lost 153 lbs (69 KG), which is patently ridiculous as I currently weigh 165 lbs! Over that time I’ve gone from 176 – fat and unfit with body fat percentage about 30% – down to 146 lbs and slowly built back to 165 by adding muscle (from exercise) and continuing to lose fat.

I am convinced that exercise is key, but also eating ‘real’ food – minimally processed – is also key.

Whether you agree or not, the article is worth a read.

Apr 6: Lunch out; Watermelon Salad redux


An attempt at recording a new Lunch with Philip and Greg was defeated by my cameras overheating, but we had an enjoyable lunch at Gordon Biersch anyway.

  • With tax and tip, the average was $19.02.


Late home after a community meeting we were thankful for the leftover Watermelon Salad from last night.

Dinner tonight, as last night, cost $3.21 per serve.

Apr 5: Chicken wraps; Watermelon Salad


Finally we’ve found a local source for wraps for our lunch! Back to our routine of supermarket chicken and salad in a wrap.

  • We chose a more expensive chicken, largely because all the $6.99 chickens were overcooked. Split four ways, the $9.99 chicken is $2.50 per serve, or $1.25 today.
  • One quarter of the $2.74 salad is 69c
  • The flatbread is 50c
  • Hummus is $3.99 per container and we used about 1/6 or 33c per serve

Lunch today: $2.77 per serve


Nigel Lawson’s watermelon, feta and black olive salad is absolutely amazing. It’s a summer regular and very, very good.

  • At $4.99 the mini watermelon is more than enough for four serves, or $1.25 per serve
  • Feta comes in a $6.99 tub and we used the balance, or about $1.00 per serve
  • Pitted olives come in $2.99 jars and one quarter was used, or 38c per serve
  • The red onion is 52c or 13c per serve
  • About $1 of the $1.29 pack of mint was used, or 25c per serve
  • Olive oil and seasonings add another 20c per serve.

Dinner tonight (and tomorrow night) cost $3.21 per serve. It’s an excellent dish and every time we serve it for someone, they want the recipe.

Apr 4: In and Out Double Double; Roasted Cauliflower with Creamy Brie Mushroom Sauce


Being Burbank Monday, foodie Philip had an In and Out Burger Double Double.

  • Double Double $4.03 including tax.


Roast Cauliflower with Creamy Brie Mushroom Sauce seems like it should be a winner, but it was strangely disappointing. Pairing the sauce with the roast cauliflower was probably a bad choice: it would pair better with a fairly plain pasta.

We amped up the amount and type of mushroom, and dropped the cream because it was forgotten. There are four serves of the sauce, but only two of the cauliflower.

  • The cauliflower was $1.61 or 80c per serve
  • The brie was $5.84 but only half was used, or  73c per serve
  • Sliced crimini mushrooms $2.29 or 58c per serve
  • Shitake mushrooms (don’t use the stems) $2.99 or 75c per serve
  • Add 20c for onion, garlic and herbs
  • We only used a small amount of parmesan; about 15c per serve
Roast cauliflower.
Roast cauliflower.

Dinner tonight cost $3.21 per serve, but wasn’t our best dish to date. The cauliflower, which is delicious baked, conflicted with the cheesy mushroom sauce rather than complement it.

Apr 3: Fast red beans and fried chicken; Vinegar-braised pork shoulder chops with long cooked broccoli


Greg put together a quick red beans dish to go with the left over Popeye’s chicken. The quick beans are much more vegetable focused and, because they’re a quick dish, there isn’t time for the beans to break down, so it’s not as thick.

  • The chicken is $4.00 per serve
  • The quick beans are around 98c per serve.


We took a pork shoulder chop from our Prather Ranch shipment and braised it in a cider vinegar based sauce, which reduces for a serving sauce (and loses the hard vinegar edge) during the 45 minute braise. After the braise the meat was very tender.

Long cooked broccoli takes the basic vegetable to a whole other level. We generally do a light cook on broccoli – either steam or microwave – so to think of a long slow cook is odd. Add some thinly sliced onion, and a sprinkling of feta cheese and an hour in the oven, and broccoli is transformed into something different.

  • The pork shoulder chop was 1.2 lbs for $11.06, which makes two very generous 9oz serves for $5.03 per serve
  • We used a cup – 8oz – of a 32 oz unfiltered cider vinegar which costs $4.47, or 56c per serve, although not all the sauce was served.
  • We used about the same amount of feta as last night, or 22c per serve
  • The broccoli was 63c or 32c per serve
  • Add 20c for the onion, garlic and seasoning per serve.

Dinner tonight cost $6.33 per serve. There were no leftovers.

Apr 2: Popeye’s chicken; Rissoles and Potato Salad


It’s been a while but it was time to try out our nearest Popeye’s chicken. Unfortunately the order was wrong and we got a mix of dark and white meat, not all dark as ordered! With that in mind and an inconvenient location, we probably won’t go back.

  • Red Beans and Rice is $3.99 or $2 a serve
  • The chicken is $4.00 per serve due to a combination of the wrong order, and higher prices at this location.

Lunch today was $6.00 per serve. We’ve heard of a more local “southern” food place, so we’ll most likely check that out as an alternative.


And interesting mix of a Greek-focused potato salad with feta and olives, and a quintessential Australian dish: rissoles. For the uninitiated these are small, individual portioned meatloaves.

Rissoles are a simple recipe and very Australian. The recipe makes eight rissoles, or in our house, two serves! Rissoles are fried, not baked and the dusting of flour helps form a crust, which we all know is the best part of a meatloaf!

The Red Potato, olive, feta and mint salad is a great accompaniment.

The ground beef came direct from the farm in our Prather Ranch meat delivery. The potatoes came direct from farm via our friend’s CSA box. We sometime inherit vegetables when she has to leave town on various business trips.

  • Dry aged 85/15 ground beef $8.57 or $4.29 per serve
  • 8 oz Panko breadcrumbs are $2.99 and we used half, or 75c per serve
  • A pastured egg is 50c or 25c per serve
  • The onion is 6c per serve.
  • The potatoes came free, but would normally add 30c per serve
  • Feta comes in a $6.99 tub, but we used so little, it comes to 22c a serve
  • Pitted olives come in $2.99 jars and one quarter was used, or 38c per serve.

The perfect sauce is my brother’s home-made tomato relish, another Australian tradition.

Although the photo shows a serving of three, foodie Philip managed to finish the others before the end of the night! Dinner tonight was $6.25 and very nostalgic.



March Summary and Observations

March was our consolidation month into our new home.

The averages for this month:

  • Lunch prepared at home $2.95 ($1.98 in February)
  • Lunch eaten or purchased outside the home: $6.02 ($8.16)
  • Dinner eaten at home: $5.29 ($4.83)
  • Dinner eaten out: $17.34 ($18.70)

Our most expensive meal was a working dinner with another software developer at Gordon Biersch at $24.02 a head (with tax and tip).

Had we purchased every lunch and prepared none it would have cost us $186,62 per person in March. We actually spent $50.12 for lunches at home plus $72.20 for lunches purchased or eaten out: $122.32.

Had we purchased every dinner out at the same average it would be $537.64 each, compared with $111.07 for meals prepared at home and $104.06 for meals out, or the $215.13 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.