Thursday, November 18, 2010


The turkey, with its ill-fated call, has dressed many tables through holiday seasons, past and present.  Increasingly it’s becoming a protein for everyday, also.  Though hubby and I both enjoy turkey, there’s only the two of us now, attempting to eat calorie-wise.  While turkey is a lean protein, most are just too large.  Re-freezing any meat is discouraged so, even if we made soup, there was often waste.  For this reason, we rarely cooked whole frozen turkey and standard prices for store-butchered turkey pieces were expensive enough to make them an infrequent meal option.

Fortunately, whole turkey is now being sold fresh or “air-chilled,” not frozen.    Though this option is still infrequent, it allows us to enjoy turkey more frequently by butchering the fresh bird at home and freezing the various portions.  Our cost of butchering is considerably less than store costs.  The simple table below relates the best prices we found, on October 10, 2010, at which time we bought the whole, air chilled turkey* in this comparison:

Approx.              Cut/Form                        Best price per lb.                    Total                       Whole, fresh *                          Total
pounds                                                       store-butchered             store-butchered            home-butchered               home-butchered
    0           Ground:  Breast meat                   $6.89                             $0                               $2.13                                  $0
    1           Ground:  Leg meat                        $3.99                             $ 3.99                         $2.13                                  $2.13
    3           Drumsticks (2): for soups,
                     casseroles & pizzas                   $2.89                             $ 8.67                         $2.13                                  $6.39
    2           Wings                                             $1.99                             $ 3.98                          $2.13                                 $4.26
    5            Breast roasts (2):  
                      Boneless, skinless                   $6.99                            $34.95                          $2.13                                $10.65
   11                  SUB-TOTALS                                                             $51.59                                                                   $23.43

20 cups     Clear Stock:  remaining carcass weighing approx.
                  4.5 lbs., includes bones, wing tips, neck, back, and
                  some breast meat.                                                                  n/a*                        $0.48*                               $ 9.68
                             TOTALS                                                                   $51.59                                                                  $33.11

* For this comparison, all meat-cut/forms are in POUNDS and COST PER POUND.
* Air-Chilled Turkey:  7.06 kg (Approx. 15.5 lbs); $4.69 per kg (Approx. $2.13 per lb); Total cost = $33.11
* Turkey stock is unavailable to us, whether from the butcher, in cans or cartons.
* Turkey-stock cost per cup reflects cost of protein only.

As you can see, our whole turkey cost less than two, comparably sized, store-butchered, boneless, skinless turkey breasts.  The only items which cost us more per pound were the wings.  However the net difference is only $.28 and that was easily subsidized by the savings gained with any of the other cuts/forms.  We prefer not to grind breast meat, but found its store-cost worth noting, particularly odd because it was sold for less than whole breast.  If we had bought all the various cuts, butchered in-store, our $33.11 bird would’ve cost over $50 ...and that’s without stock.

The value of the stock I’ve calculated by subtracting our home-butchered, wrapped meats’ total value ($23.43) from the cost of the whole bird ($33.11), and dividing that result ($9.68) by the 20 cups of gelatinous “liquid gold” we put in the freezer.  Add to that the cost of vegetables, herbs and seasonings, the total cost per cup ranges from $.50 to $.55.  Still an excellent value, particularly as we are unable to buy turkey stock anywhere.

Organic turkey costs more per pound whether store- or home-butchered.  Though higher, organic costs compare similarly to the table above.  If you prefer organic, then the whole bird, dressed at home, still nets the greatest savings.  Its stock is, as always, a flavour-packed bonus.

Now that fresh turkey is occasionally available, it dresses our table much more regularly.  Home-butchery not only saves us money, it provides several meals worth of stock and, ultimately, reduces waste to its least.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Member of the Bored

At this time of year, it's easy to get caught up in the cycles of work, housekeeping, and seasonal preparations. But, all work and no play can make life monotonous. Taking time out to enjoy some fun activity not only revitalizes the spirit, it can help elevate the usual slog. The problem, during fall and winter, is that weather can repel even the most ardent outdoorsmen/women. And, during the holiday season, there are times when budgets squeak at the mere mention of a movie or dinner out. That's when it's time to get creative.

Board games are the usual standby, and for good reason. When families discover their favourite diversion, game night quickly becomes a much anticipated event. It's an excellent opportunity for parents to teach their children in a pleasurable way. Depending on the game, young players can practice reading and counting, or get subtle education in arithmetic, geography, economics, or history. Perhaps the greatest lesson of all is learning good sportsmanship. That's an emotional skill which can carry children (and adults) gracefully through many of life's most challenging moments.

Some electronic games provide the same opportunities for family fun, but here the choices are more limited. Many games are isolating: one player, engrossed in on-screen activity, is not conducive to fellowship. But, there are a few games which engage several players, and some even provide energetic game-play.

Golf-pro hubby
A few years ago, hubby and I were introduced to Wii on a visit to our daughter and her family. What a fantastic invention! It wasn't long after that visit we bought our own console and games. Since then, we've enjoyed year-round golfing. Occasionally, we hit the lanes and go bowling, play ping-pong or tennis, or shoot some pool. And, when life gets frustrating, there's terrific tension relief in pummelling a virtual punching bag. With a wide-ranging variety of multi-player games, there's something for everyone. While I still enjoy our favourite board games, backgammon has never gotten my hibernating buttocks off the couch and engaged in activity.

Though Nintendo blazed the trail with Wii, many gaming platforms now have similar physically-interactive options. The initial cost of these consoles and their software can be expensive, but that cost is relative to how often the unit is used. If hubby and I had paid green fees for the many rounds of golf we've played, the cost of our console and all its games and accessories would pale in comparison. Shooting pool would've involved visiting some very dodgy establishments. Playing tennis would've subjected me to more direct sun than bearable. Wii has enabled us to participate in several activities that, for whatever reason, were previously inaccessible to us. These are values hard to calculate.

So the next time you find yourself a member of the bored, dig out your favourite game – or explore new ones – and enjoy some thrifty fun!