Updated on 06.17.09

The Simple Dollar Podcast #4: Food

Trent Hamm

The fourth episode of The Simple Dollar Podcast focuses on food. I talk about ten tactics for reducing your food bills without reducing health and taste and include a lot of recipes and food suggestions along the way. I also tried a different approach – instead of reading from detailed notes, I tried a more conversational tack. Total time – 21:46.

Listen In!

Other options for enjoying The Simple Dollar Podcast include:
Listen to this episode on a separate page
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Download this episode (right click and save)
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Though I hope you do subscribe using one of the above methods, don’t worry – each episode will be featured in its own post, much like this one, on Tuesday afternoons. The podcast itself may appear earlier than that, however, if you subscribe using one of the above forms, but the notes won’t appear until I post about it here on The Simple Dollar.

Episode Notes
Here are some additional notes that go alongside the comments in the podcast. Approximate times for the corresponding links and notes are listed.

0:00 – The theme song is a public domain recording of a Camper van Beethoven concert on October 25, 1986. Listen to the concert in its entirety.
0:29 – Some background reading – tactics for making healthy, simple, and cheap meals for you and your family.
1:57 – You’re not “frugal” if you don’t buy the cheapest thing, right?
3:11 – Read my review of Michael Pollan’s In Defense of Food for more on finding real value in food.
5:58 – and that’s the way … we be-came … The Brady Bunch!
7:20 – Here are six examples of simple main dishes based on such staple ingredients.
7:52 – A detailed guide to the art of the marinade.
8:06 – The basics of kitchen spices
9:03 – Is a deep freezer worth it? Yes!
10:11 – This is a great strategy for saving time and money – we do it with more than just chicken breasts.
10:23 – Slow cookers rule! Here are five great recipes for itand five more.
13:30 Bulk buying can save a ton of money – more than you might think – if you do it right.
13:55 – Here are nine great ways to re-use leftovers in the same vein.
14:12 – … and how to make straight-up leftovers more tasty.
15:54 – Additional details on the “flexible casserole” including a version similar to what I talk about here.
17:11 – Just make your own cream sauce – as healthy as you want it.
19:11 – The neighborhood cooperative concept – or even just cooperating with a neighbor or two – can save you tons of money.
20:01 – Here’s a great way to start planning your meals.
21:40 – A preview of next week’s topic.

One thing I’d like to do in a future episode is have an audio reader’s mailbag. If you have a microphone on your computer and can record an MP3 of a simple, short question you might have on personal finance, careers, pop culture, or anything else you’d like me to answer, record it as an MP3 and send it to me. Keep the total recording under 15 seconds, please. Also, if you use Skype, feel free to ask your question that way – my username is trenttsd.

Comments and suggestions welcome.

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  1. BonzoGal says:

    I loooooooove Camper Van Beethoven! Good choice for music. Love the podcast!

  2. Charles says:

    Any chance you could post transcripts of the podcasts? I find audio / video content on the web very challenging because it cannot be skimmed, you can only get the content at the speed of the speech/video. I don’t have time to listen to your podcasts, but would very much like to have access to the information. Just a thought/request….

  3. Johanna says:

    Trent, if you’re paying extra for “hormone-free chicken breasts,” you’re getting ripped off. All chickens raised in the United States (or at least, raised in compliance with US law) are hormone free. Google “chicken hormones” for more information.

  4. kat says:

    Iwas surprised by your comments on frozen fruit. I am always able to fine sugar free fruit in the frozen section of my local Super Target-they carry it in their house brand. I love it for yogurt and fruit smoothies, and in the winter when I am tired of oranges and apples.

  5. Kate says:

    It’s great that you’re able to eat fresh veggies from your garden. Nothing’s better – tasty, frugal, and green. I’m weary of microwaving plastic (steaming bags of veggies) – seems like plastic could leach into the food. Oh course Glad will tell you they’re safe, but who knows. I like to just use glass in the microwave.

  6. Jayne says:

    I loved this podcast! The food aspect of your blog is by far my favorite.

    I was also surprised by your comment on frozen fruit. I have no trouble finding just plain, frozen fruit in my grocery store. I don’t know what I would do without it! Frozen fruit and spinach or kale have been lifesavers for me – I start every morning with a smoothie made of bananas, spinach/kale, whatever frozen fruit I choose, and vanilla soymilk. It’s a hugely easy and tasty way to get a good serving of greens in, and you don’t even taste them!

    I’ve read that your kids are usually pretty good about getting vegetables in, but if you haven’t before, I highly suggest serving a smoothie like this to them along with maybe a small bowl of oatmeal for breakfast. Super easy, and you can really never get enough greens in a child’s diet! It’s the only way I can get my younger brother to eat them.

    I have a hard time drinking water plain or with lemon with dinner, but I have found one way that I really enjoy. Fill a pitcher with water, and add some lemon, lime, cucumber, and mint. Let it chill and the next day you barely know you’re drinking water! It’s one of the most refreshing drinks I know of.

  7. Michelle says:

    I enjoyed the tone/cadence of this podcast more than prior episodes – I think moving away from a script is more natural, shows your personality. My 2cents! Good suggestions!

  8. Liane says:

    Thank you for such a straightforward and meaningful discussion! This is why I enjoy The Simple Dollar so much. I love the dinner exchange idea! I look forward to future podcasts!

  9. Dan says:


    Something I was thinking about, and don’t know if you ever touched on….

    The relationship of saving money and losing weight.

    I’m overweight. And after assessing my budget and using some of the many great tips you offer on your site, I’ve realized one main thing:

    I spend wayyyyy too much on food…..

    By cutting back my ‘over’ spending on food (eating out, wasting money on snacks, etc) I’ve found that I can also lose weight very easily. I’m eating more home cooked meals, taking them with me to work, not stopping off at fast food places on the way home….I’m feeling satisfied (not hungry) and have actually found that I’m eating less calories, thus LOSING WEIGHT!!!!

    I’d even really like to see a “cost per calorie” topic. Something like, Following a 2000 calorie diet should cost $x.xx per calorie……

  10. a conscience life says:

    This was a fun podcast. Some good ideas for sure.

    Here is another tip for reducing costs while eating ‘real’ food (if you eat chicken) — buy whole chickens (or poultry in general). This is an excellent way to obtain your meat at a better price for pound *and* a great way to stretch out your purchases and reduce the waste that is associated with purchasing parts of birds. With a whole bird, you can roast it, then use the leftovers in a ragout, use the leftover ragout for a topping on another dish, and then turn the carcass in to a stock for making soups and braises later on. In addition, you can turn the innards and the drippings form the roast into a gravy that will work great as a base for further dishes. It is actually quite easy to eat off of a single chicken for over a week.

    Another way to reduce costs is, of course, to reduce meat consumption, but that is pretty obvious.

    One last comment. It is interesting that you mention eating fresh fruit like bananas. I feel like bananas are pretty symbolic of most things that are wrong with the American supermarket (and approach to food). Did you know that bananas are the most eaten fruit in the country? Well, if you live in America, here is something fun to try: next time you are outside, look around you and count the number of banana trees you see. Then think about the number of bananas you eat. Then think about how those bananas got to you. Then think about the fuel cost that was necessary to get this fruit (that wasn’t even ripe when picked!) to your mouth. Then, just think about if it is worth it to you to support such practices. The answer may be ‘yes’, but at least you will have considered it.

  11. EF says:

    My problem with chest freezers is the chance that the power could go off and you could be left with a freezer full of spoiled food. There is also an incredible amount of organiziation that must happen if one is going to go through all the stockpiled food that sits in the freezer for who knows how long.

  12. Salvatore says:

    I definitely prefer the tone of this podcast to your previous efforts. Keep them coming.

    I was interested in your outlook on a meal when you described a meat (ex. chicken, fish, etc.) as the main part of the meal. I tend to think of things such as rice or pasta as the main component of the meal, which can then be combined with a meat or veggies to complete it. The way I see it, if I look at it as rice with chicken, I tend to use more rice and less chicken, if I look at it as chicken and rice I fill my plate with more chicken.

  13. Jim Lippard says:

    Re: “public domain recording of a Camper van Beethoven concert on October 25, 1986” — looks like it’s a bootleg, not public domain. I’m not entirely clear on the legal status of bootlegs–selling them is illegal under a 1994 law (struck down in 2004 but reversed in 2007, so it’s back in effect). Some bands explicitly authorize bootleg recordings (e.g., the Grateful Dead), but most don’t.


  14. Georgia says:

    I second the idea of printing the podcasts. I have no idea how to get them.

  15. Georgia says:

    Oops – I just pushed the link and it came in loud and clear. Can you tell that technology bumfoozles me?

  16. D.B. says:

    I really enjoyed your food podcast. One note: I subscribed via iTunes and your first podcast on credit card debt is not working on the iTunes store.

  17. mark says:

    Levels on the voice seemed a bit high. But otherwise the delivery was quite a bit better.

    Re: food
    Roasted chickens are generally a bargain. Also, chicken with skin and bones still on it is about half the price of boneless skinless flavorless.

    Many leftover vegetables, meats and cheeses work great in scrambled eggs on a Saturday morning… not to mention being cheap and delicious.

    Some other tricks that help me stretch…
    divide up the leftovers before you start eating the original meal. Cut meat portions in half… esp oversized chicken breasts and steaks. If its on my plate i tend to go for the clean plate… often long after I’m satiated.

  18. Nicole says:

    Just so you know, the USDA does not allow hormones or antibiotics to be used in the feeding of any broiler chickens. So for companies to indicate that they have a safer, more healthful, etc. product by prominently displaying wording such as, Hormone Free or Antibiotic Free on their label, they really are misleading the consumer

  19. Jason says:

    “We’ll be talking about your mom”.


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