Friday, February 24, 2012


One of the issues with cooking in the boonies, is getting good quality food that won't kill your budget.  Protein is usually a huge killer to the food bill because let's face it, meat is expensive.  On that note, there are things you can do to decrease your protein bill a bit, while still getting quality meat (and other protein products). Here are some tips:

  • Make friends with a farmer. 
    • This has been the biggest relief to our food budget in the last couple of years since our friend Wade started a small farm.  This year, I bought a whole pig, a giant Thanksgiving turkey, and about 1/3 of a cow. Wade takes his animals to slaughter in the fall and has them processed at a local (inspected) butcher shop.  We paid about $200 for the beef and $280 for the pork (including the cut and wrap) and came out of it with about 100 lbs of  meat (ribs, roasts, ground, steaks, chops, bacon, etc..). That's a little more than $4/lb, which is a pretty good average I think. It may not be the least expensive price you'll pay for meat, but it's made up for in quality - it's delicious! Bonus, our meat isn't trucked from afar to make it to the skillet, decreasing the environmental impact a bit. If you don't know a farmer, try checking out farmer's markets near you.  Many markets have farmers selling meat, and you can find out from them if you can buy in bulk.  Usually, animals go to slaughter in the fall, so you have all summer to find a farmer near you.
  • Buy in bulk. 
    • Go to your local wholesale or Costco and check out the sales.  Even if you don't have a huge family, buy meat in bulk and separate it into smaller packages for freezing when you get home.
  • Hunt and fish.  
    • Hunting is not for everyone either, but if you are a hunter or know a hunter, you could have a great source of cheap protein. In the boonies, many people get more meat from hunting than from the grocery store. There are lots of regulations about gun-ownership, openings, tags and permits, but if you get one moose, you could have as much as 300 lbs of meat to get you through the winter.  Many butcher shops will process your meat for you, right from the hanging to the cut & wrap, or you can learn to do it yourself.  It's a great alternative to factory-farmed meats.  
    • Similarly, fishing can provide you with some great protein, but it can be expensive, especially if you go salt-water fishing (boats, gas, guides, etc..) and you won't get a lot of meat from the trip. If you live near the ocean, try buying direct from the fisherman at the wharf. It's often cheaper and the money goes directly to the guy who caught it, with no middle man.
  • Eat alternative protein. 
    • Learn how to incorporate beans and high-protein grains and tofu into your diet. The vegetarian lifestyle isn't for everyone, but eating at least one vegetarian meal per week will decrease your food bill, expand your horizons, and make you healthier. Beans and grains are also super easy to buy in bulk and store, making them perfect for boonies cooking.  Some high protein grains include quinoa, barley, brown rice, kasha and oatmeal. Be on the lookout for upcoming recipes involving quinoa - it's my new favorite thing.
Today's recipe: Garlic-Rosemary Pork Tenderloin

This recipe comes directly from the ladies at my favorite cooking blog Our Best Bites. You'll need 1 or 2 pork tenderloins, some grainy mustard, garlic, rosemary, and olive oil.

 First, rinse your tenderloin and trim off excess fat. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil, and preheat the oven to  450°F.

In a small bowl, mix together 5 or 6 minced cloves of garlic (lots of garlic!), 2 tbsp of coarse-grain mustard, 2 tbsp rosemary (the recipe calls for fresh, but I've used about 3 tbsp of dried rosemary with success), and 2 tbsp olive oil. Add some salt and pepper to taste.

Put your tenderloins on the baking sheet and slather them with your mustard mix.  Pop in the oven for 20 to 30 minutes (the meat should be juicy, but not pink and the internal temp should be 160°F with a meat thermometer). I've also done this on the BBQ and it works great.

Serve with your favorite side dishes - roasted potatoes are great, but so is rice. Pickled beets are a great, colourful veggie accompaniment.

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