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Poor Girl Gourmet – Eating Sustainably is for Everyone

The concept of Amy McCoy’s Poor Girl Gourmet – Eat In Style on a Bare-Bones Budget is simple: eating sustainable, ethically-raised, family farm food is financially feasible for everyone.

Through her recipes, Amy shows that, for close to the price of a “family meal” bucket of fast food, a family of four can sit down to a wholesome, nourishing, lovingly-grown meal. Delicious meals like Kale Lasagne with Walnut Pesto, and Braised Pork Shoulder with Honey Mustard Cole Slaw!

Amy was generous enough to share a favorite recipe for Chicken in Cider Gravy – a recurring dish in our meal plans! NOTE: We’ve adjusted the numbers to reflect the current higher price of packaged chicken at finer grocery stores ($2.29/lb). Even at $3/lb., this meal for four still rings in under $5 per person. This, of course, is irrelevant for those of you keeping your own meat birds!


Chicken in Cider Gravy

This is a variation of a chicken in white wine gravy recipe that I make when I have half a bottle of white wine hanging around. I developed this version to use the cider that was about to ferment in my refrigerator in place of the white wine, and added mustard. I think this is an improvement on the white wine version of the recipe, and the gravy would also be fantastic with pork shanks or pork shoulder.
If you want to increase the amount of chicken in this dish, you can add a couple additional drumsticks and thighs using the same amount of liquid. That would allow you to create a potpie worth of company with the Savory Pie Crust (page 134) a night or two later with very little effort.

1 (3- to 4-pound) whole chicken, pieced into thighs, drumsticks, wings, and breasts (see Note)
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
About ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, finely chopped
1 medium carrot, finely chopped, plus 6 medium carrots (approximately 1 pound), peeled, sliced on the diagonal
1 celery stalk, finely chopped
1 teaspoon dried thyme, or 1 tablespoon fresh
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
3 tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour
1½ cups apple cider
2 cups chicken broth

1 Season the chicken pieces with salt and pepper.
2 You’ll need enough oil to coat the bottom of a Dutch oven. Use a smidge more than ¼ cup if necessary. Heat the oil in a Dutch oven or other large, heavy pot with a tight-fitting lid over medium-high heat until the oil becomes shiny. Working in small batches, 3 to 4 chicken pieces each, add the chicken, skin side down, and brown until the skin is crisp. Remove the chicken from the pan and place it on a plate. There should still be enough oil to coat the bottom of the pan. If not, add enough to do so.
3 Reduce the heat to medium-low and add the onion, carrot, and celery. Cook over medium-low heat until the onion is translucent and the carrots and celery are softened, 10 to 15 minutes. Stir in the thyme and mustard. Cook for 1 to 2 minutes, then sprinkle the flour evenly over the vegetables in the pan and cook until no raw flour is evident, 2 to 3 minutes. Pour in the cider, scraping up any browned bits from the bottom of the pan, then add the broth and simmer, uncovered, for 1 to 2 minutes.
4 Place the sliced carrots and the chicken, skin side up, into the pot.  The chicken should be in one layer with only the skin above the liquid. Bring the liquid back to a gentle simmer, cover, and cook until the chicken meat falls off the bone—meaning no knife, peeps—approximately 1 hour 15 minutes, being careful throughout not to let the liquid come to a boil. Add salt and pepper to taste, and serve it forth.
NOTE: Ask your butcher to cut the chicken for you if you aren’t comfortable doing it yourself.

Estimated cost for four: $10.92 $13.32. That’s for you big eaters who can polish this off between four of you. If we’re talking six servings, we’re looking at $1.82 per serving. The chicken should cost no more than $1.69 around $2.29 per pound. At 4 pounds, that’s $6.76 $9.16, though I am expecting you to be on the lookout for 99¢-per-pound chicken, okay? The olive oil is 48¢. The onion costs 33¢. The carrots cost 94¢ at $3.99 for 5 pounds of carrots, figuring that our soffritto carrot is at most 1/6 of a pound. The celery costs 20¢ at 10 stalks in a bunch costing $1.99. The cider was 56¢ using 1½ cups from 8 cups at $2.99. The broth was 2 cups of the 4-cup box that costs $2.19, so that’s  $1.10. The flour is 24¢ per cup, so that’s 5¢.  The mustard is 2 tablespoons from a bottle that costs $2.99 for 19 tablespoons, so that’s 32¢. We’ll throw in 18¢ for the thyme. If you serve this with the Buttery Mashed Potatoes (page 121) those will cost you around $2.50, keeping you well under the $15.00 $16.00 dinner budget, and leaving a person or two in your family happy to have some Chicken in Cider Gravy leftovers.
—From Poor Girl Gourmet: Eat in Style on a Bare-Bones Budget by Amy McCoy/Andrews McMeel Publishing

Amy’s recipes are simple, the dishes are beautifully photographed, and the most valuable part of the book comes in the form of “Poor Girl Pointers”: simple, seemingly-common-sense (but then why don’t we do it) practices that can be a life line for those who may be wondering where to start. Tips like meal planning, buying meat on the bone and “do not forsake your freezer” provide the guidance and discipline that many of us with busy lives need.

So, HOMEGROWNers, how do you save money while eating family farm food? Leave your comment here and you’ll get a chance to win a copy of Poor Girl Gourmet – Eat In Style on a Bare-Bones Budget!


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50 Responses to “Poor Girl Gourmet – Eating Sustainably is for Everyone”

  1. I saved money this year by collecting squash through the month of September. An organic farm up the street from my house charges 50c/lb for all their winter squash (not including pumpkins) so I stocked up an entire shelf. Squash over the winter and into the spring at the grocery store gets quite expensive and is usually from south america. boo.

    The other thing we do to save money is to just eliminate things that cost money over the winter from our diet. We eat less fruit and eat more carrots, and also dont eat lettuce, but grow our own sprouts!

    I’m putting this book on my holiday wishlist. XO

  2. Ohsweetie, we stock up on squash, too – it’s wonderful to have it stashed away and always at the ready. This year, we grew a few heirloom varieties (among them Boston Marrow, an endangered squash that’s on the Slow Food USA/Chefs Collaborative Renewing America’s Food Traditions grow-out list – they grow to around 20 pounds each – that’s a LOT of squash!), and our neighbors sell butternut for 75-cents per pound, so we supplemented with those to have enough squash to get through the winter. Squash lasagne is on the menu this week (just as soon as we get through the turkey soup, that is!), and squash will probably show up in bread and soup on the menu next week. Thank you for sharing!

  3. I just recently put your book on my wishlist! What an awesome sight to see it here! Fabulous!

    We purchase in bulk and locally. We’re fortunate that we live in the middle of several small farms so what we can’t grow -this year just about everything didn’t make it- we get from them. Sometimes we do pay a bit more, but we’re eating food from common dirt and I like it like that. We’ve got a few kids running around here and they all love to eat, so putting together meals frugally and ones that are good for them are top priority for us. peace, thanks!

  4. Although I don’t have a full blown garden, I do work some herbs and seasonal vegetables into my landscaping. There’s always fresh rosemary and lemongrass, and intermittently basil, thyme, sage, oregano, chives, arugula, peppers, tomatoes, and eggplant. The deer and insects make it a challenge, but I persevere!

  5. Margi Hansen Says:

    I am lucky to be able to shop my farmers market until 24 December. I’ll be stocking up on root veggies and squash for the long winter ahead!

  6. Anna Monaghan Says:

    we let a 4-H family keep chickens and pigs on our family land in exchange for a symbolic low rent and free meat!

  7. Poor Girl Gourmet is the best cookbook I ever had, need another
    copy for my friend!!

  8. I grow everything I possibly can-in and out of season. In addition to a full freezer and shelves full of green beans, peaches, jams, pickles and relishes, I also have a window garden that supplies some great food.
    I have a Malabar spinach plant growing on a small trellis, two big pots of sweet potato plants that will probably provide me some decent sweet potatoes by spring or early summer just about the time I’m planting next year’s crop in the garden. All my favorite herbs are thriving on windowsills and I have some medium-sized celery plants growing inside.
    Celery was my best crop this year. I ate it homegrown from early July and am still eating it. Haven’t had to buy any at all. And I live in an area where the oldtimers will tell you that you cain’t grow celery.
    I buy meat the most directly I can-usually from local growers and stretch each purchase into as many meals as I can. I make stock from all my bones mixed with veggie scraps. I could go on…….

  9. Janis Freeman Says:

    I definitely am of the “cook once, eat twice” mentality– I make a lot of dishes whose leftovers can be transformed into new meals (2nd meal examples are pot pie/shepard’s pie, soup/stew, etc). Beans, veggies, and grains are all great things to have on hand for cooking and freezing for later use, and I love the crockpot as well!

  10. We save money eating farm family food by taking advantage of our wild foods, aka weeds to some folks. Purslane, dandelion, chickweed, nettles- all grow wild here and some are available year round (here in northeastern NC). We also save money by planning meals not by “what do we feel like eating” but by “what’s in the garden or refrigerator that needs to be eaten now”. Not letting food go to waste, either food that you’ve grown yourself or bought from other farmers or the store, is a big money-saver.

  11. Vicki Roberts Says:

    We have just put our first lot of Japanese quail in the freezer, our meat chooks will be next and the sheep are fattening up nicely in the paddock. Our rabbits are breeding like, well, rabbits. Leftovers always end up as another meal, (we have to, we have 6 in the house), the vegie garden is beginning to burst with the summer crop (I live in Australia), my chooks are laying eggs flat out and I’m loving it. Bottled, frozen or vaccum sealed. I need to buy another freezer and build another pantry.

  12. Oh where do I start. I have 2 gardens that grow our veggies and herbs. I can our extra garden produce and dry the herbs. We visit local orchards for apples. Strawberries come from a farm a few miles from us. Next year, we will be adding a hoop house garden and hope to sell some of our extras and have fresh veggies early in the spring and late into the fall. Living in MN makes our growing season a bit short.
    We also raise lamb, goat, pork, chicken, turkey and rabbit. We butcher in the fall and freeze most of it. Then all winter long, my pressure canner is busy canning meat, broth and stock. Oh it’s the best! Our favorites are chicken and rabbit. We have a small laying flock for our eggs which we also sell.
    Our beef herd is just getting established so for now we buy our beef from a local organic farmer who has raw cow milk too. We milk our goats to make cheese and soap.
    This year, we saved about 100 bushels of wheat from the crops to grind our own wheat as I bake all our bread products from scratch.
    We feed our animals with the crops we raise which include oats, alfalfa and grass pasture.

  13. library lady Says:

    we cut costs by sharing food and swapping- i trade artwork for local eggs, trade veggies and preserves with like-minded friends, participate in a local organic vegan food cooking co-op. this book looks awesome!

  14. This year we had an unusual Inland Northwest growing season which caused unusual yield and yield timing in everyone’s gardens. This odd weather summer brought some great benefits in terms of sharing food between the many gardens that our friends and family have. In February, my husband and I thought that it might just be warm enough to seed an entire raised bed (about 8′ x 4′ with no cover) with salad greens of all kinds. We ate salad starting in March and kept going through June! We gave it away like mad and still ate salad.
    Through these greens we made some new gardener connections that paid off later in the season when we got eggs, honey, herbs, rhubarb, carrots, potatoes, tomatoes, beans, and more. We also planted some of those same vegetables but because of the odd weather, many veggies in different gardens were coming on at different times and so it felt like we were sharing and accepting more produce all year.
    We also have the luxury of being located in Spokane, WA which is surrounded by some rich farming land where you can visit local farms to get apples, pears, pumpkins, veggies, berries, goat cheese, and eggs! Our farmer’s market is great too and is close to us.

  15. I grow most of my fruit and produce and since I manage the local Farmers Market I take home quite a bit of the *leftovers* free or at a very reduced price. I can, dry and freeze EVERYTHING. I’m lucky enough to live in Northern CA and have rice, wheat and dry beans at my finger-tips. A very large mushroom farm is only minutes away. I have chickens for eggs and meat. My close neighbors’ raise grass-fed beef, lamb and pork and I purchase whole animals on the hoof at a VERY reasonable price…better than regular retail! I have bees and nuts. I bake and cook from scratch. I too cook once and eat twice…sometimes 3-4 times…it’s fun.

  16. I’ve become an expert in all things beans. I can flavor them in a hundred different ways, and by pre-making large batches of sauces, and freezing in small portions, I can cook beans and rice for the week and make meals every day that taste different by adding different sauces. It’s fun, environmental, and cheap!

  17. We save money buy stocking up on veggies at the end of the farmers’ market when it tends to be cheaper and then cut/chop/mash/etc and freeze … I love being able to pull a bag of local strawberries out of my freezer in January … in the Midwest! So much cheaper than buying frozen berries at the supermarket at that time of the year!

  18. This was our first successful year of gardening and I am hooked! Everything that we couldn’t eat fresh, I canned or froze. I started stopping at other local farm gardeners that had tables set up at their driveways, and I stocked up on their veggies so that I could stockpile them too! Not only is the produce better quality, but my local neighbors charged me much less than the grocery store. I have turned into a canning diva, I want to can everything!

  19. I have only one plant – Black Kale – that is growing now. It has actually lasted over two years, starting from a give-away seed package from Slow Food Nation in ’08. I haven’t bought any Black Kale whilst my happy little plant in one terra cota pot spreads its rich green leaves. A little garlic. A little olive oil. An easy side dish. Just need a kick in the butt to plant some more in my raised beds. I like starting from plants.


    Ellen Lutwak

  20. Living in the city, we take advantage of canning the produce from our small garden and take even greater advantage of the in-laws’ garden. Every autumn around homecoming football time is the family canning fest. We work it Little Red Hen-style. If you are willing to help plant, weed, harvest or can the veggies, you get a share. We also keep a planter with basil growing year-round. No substitute for fresh basil.

  21. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by LDGourmet, Brian Samuels. Brian Samuels said: RT @LDGourmet » Blog Archive » Poor Girl Gourmet – Eating Sustainably is for Everyone #Giveaway! […]

  22. Michelle Maury Says:

    We have converted our entire front yard into a veggie garden. In the center is a big herb spiral that I made interspersing old beer bottles with landscaping bricks. (These add heat to the spiral and are a heck of a lot more free than the bricks were!) In between the bricks and bottles I added strawberry plants which are flourishing. I sneak plants into every spare corner of our property in this way. I have also discovered the free section of Craigs list. Any time I see someone giving away something like bricks or old window panes, I pick them up for the garden. I have even raised and lined one bed with a set of dishes I found on the street corner. It adds interest to the garden, and nothing beats free! Our garden has been named the “Pirate Garden” by our neighbors because there is so many random things used to either trellis or raise beds with. I have been rewarded for my efforts with a pantry overflowing with salsas, sauces, jams, picked everything, and chutneys. I think next year I will be combing the thrift stores for a pressure canner.

    Also, I learned that to start seeds, you don’t need a grow light, a simple flourescent will do the trick ($15 verses $200!), so rather than spend gobs of money on plant starts in April, I start all of my own seeds in February. This means that I can start some really random and fascinating varieties of tomatoes that no one else has! I barter the extras for eggs!

    And I will begin with bee hives in the spring. Wish me luck!!

  23. We have a local poultry farm the next town over and buy a bird (turkey or chicken) large enough to have a nice Sunday meal and for lunch meat during the week. It is way cheaper than buying from the deli and much healthier for you.

  24. What we do is neighbor/community involved, nothing terribly clever. Developing long-lasting relationships with fellow growers and gardeners takes a little while, but when that trust is set then the sharing begins. I say sharing more so than bartering, as we give freely when things are abundant, and set aside for when things are not. For example, when my next-door neighbor has more cucumbers than she knows what to do with, she lets me take what’s on the vine…then some pints of pickles show up on her door. When I get a good crop, I set aside seed packets, enough for my group to try next year. My beekeeper neighbor gave me his cappings, which I turned into lip balms. When they received five tubes of balm, that lead to a DIY night at their house. We share news, about red stele strawberry fungus in the area, about deals at the grocer, about any ol thing that helps us all along. We catch-as-catch-can, waste not, and we realize we’re all in it together. I think yes, one family can learn more, do more to tighten up their own household, yet to truly prosper we cooperate.

  25. What a great book! We save money buying farmer food by buying less premade foods, or none at all.

  26. We raise and grow most of our own food. We raise rabbits for meat and chickens for eggs and meat. We will be adding goats for milk and meat; as well as a cow or two for milk and meat.

    We also garden year-round with large garden beds; and grow many items in our greenhouse in the cold winter months (as well as the crops that grow in the beds during this time).

    What we don’t consume we store mostly by dehydration and then vac sealing them in canning jars and mylar / buckets for food storage.

    We try to rely very little on the “grocery store” and try to live very self sufficient. We eat out very rarely with 99% of our meals home-cooked. Hubby packs a lunch and snacks each day for work.

    I also enjoy trying recipes that other people publish and I will definately be giving this one a try as chicken is one of our favorite dishes! Thanks so much for sharing!!

    Deb (debfroggie)

  27. i try to preserve as much during the spring summer and fall as possible so that i can eat locally and seasonally during the winter. this summer for the first time, i put up tomatoes and its been a joy to cook with them so far.

  28. This year we saved a bunch of money by joining a CSA. The cost up front is a good amount, but we were able to get through the entire Summer and Fall by making minimal grocery trips.

    We also managed to can a bunch of fruits and veggies, making jars and jars full of tomato sauce, grape jam, pickles, and sauerkraut. Enough to last us through the winter!

  29. We have learned to turn leftovers from one meal into a new creation. For example, last week we made turkey, veggie, and dumpling soup from leftover T-day turkey, broth from the carcass, leftover roasted root vegetables, and turned the leftover stuffing into yummy dumplings.

    We learned to can last summer, which benefits us all winter. You can’t beat a bowl of “fresh” peaches in December. We also leverage our freezer alot, and buy half a local hog and a quarter of a bison yearly. I refuse to buy grocery store meat any longer.

    This cookbook sounds like a wonderful resource for how we eat.

  30. We were members of the Park Slope Food Coop, where we got excellent deals on local/sustainable meats. Now, since we’ve just moved back to Austin, Texas we’re looking to join/start a buying group with friends who are interested in buying meats directly from farmers in large quantities to get better prices.

    Thanks for the giveaway!

  31. jamie lyerla Says:

    We have found that by going to the farm ourselves for things like milk and beef, we are able to save more than if we get the same product at a local whole foods store. The store price for the milk we buy is 4.99, whereas our local farmer sells it to us at 3 gallons for $10. That way we also get to know our farmer and the kids get to experience a taste of ‘farm life’.

  32. I save money by preserving the harvest. I can, I freeze, I dehydrate, I pickle, and I jam. Ultimately it yields a much higher quality product than what you can buy in any grocery store. It saves me money by reuqiring fewer trips to the grocery.

  33. I had frozen turnip greens, left over turkey and ham, brown field peas, homemade tomato juice and I made a great stew. I freeze leftovers and use them to make soups or share with our extended family. We were raised to use everything and not waste. My grandmother froze leftover bread all year long to use for dressing at the holidays. I can or freeze our food and visit the farmers market weekly in our small town. Live Green and Prosper @ is a great site for information.

  34. I’ve not looked at buying from local farmers as saving economically in the past, however, it does seem to have it’s merits. I live in a small Southern Worcester County town in Massachusetts that use to abound in small local farms, as did the surrounding communities, and it has been these farms that I’ve visited for the fruits of the earth for most of my life. Sadly, there numbers have dwindled. But I digress. The reason I shop at these farm stands is because they are my neighbors, and they grow the finest produce you will find anywhere. Visit your local farmstand; it will save you money while providing you with much healthier food, which will … save you money (medical bills).

  35. I raise a few chickens for the eggs, entertainment and fertilizer. I’m still getting my garden up and running and the girls really do their part!

    Also I try to buy fruit at the end of season in bulk at the farmers market and put it up. Then when I have an excess of vanilla peach bourbon jam I have lots of takers/traders.

    I’ve requested my library purchase this book in the hopes that many people will be able to enjoy it. Thanks for bringing it to my attention!

  36. We are lucky to have year round farmer’s markets here in So Cal, so we are able to eat fresh off the farm all year long. I get better deals on items because I buy stuff from the farmer’s and go home and make something yummy (We are always cooking, baking, or canning!) and bring it back the following week for them. In exchange I get a nice discount on what I buy, or sometimes they just throw in extra items for free. This week I got $9 off on the berries I buy to make syrup! I know he loves blueberry syrup, so I’m going to make some Blueberry-Lemon to take back to him next Saturday. Maybe he’ll like it so much I’ll get an even bigger discount next week!?!

    We also have a small container garden on our upper deck. The climate here allows us to always be growing something! We have an herb tower that saves us a bundle because we use herbs like crazy around here, both for cooking and for medicinal purposes. Our favorites would probably be the sugar snap peas and the radishes!

  37. We have 2 gardens and can what we grow. We also pick wild berries, wild fruit, greens and nuts. We also purchase organic fresh veggies and meat from our local farmers market. We also share our produce and canned goods with family and friends.

  38. Merry Bauman Says:

    As a farm girl growing up and a great-grandmother now, I still buy from the local farmers and trade for things like fresh eggs and things that people raise or butcher. My Mom’s ranch is prime hunting ground for wild game, and the man who leases it trades us meat for the freezer as part of the deal for hunting there. Our family winery has a local truck farmer on staff – when he is not at his own place. He brings us LOTS of wonderful produce, and we make sure none of it goes to waste! We cook, freeze, and use all of it. From the first corn and strawberries to the last pumpkin and squash of the year. My older sister makes an amazing pumpkin cheesecake from the pumpkins and keeps us all supplied for the holidays.
    Mom is 83, I am 63, and we both raised large families on a small budget. Our children and grandchildren learned from us how to cook, how to shop, and how to feed a family.
    With so many people out of work this year, I am suggesting a special gift this holiday season – from those of us who have food. Give a large bag of rice or beans to a needy family, or a shelter – in honor of a family member you were going to buy a gift for. In most cases, they don’t need anything really, and there are so many hungry people who do need food. My young grandchildren I am giving a gift to, but the children and older family members I am giving food to the needy in their name. I will still give them a small gift card to a favorite restaurant and a coupon for Grammy to babysit their kids while they go out – but we can all help a little too by thinking of others.
    My gift from the kids and grandkids is always pictures. That is what I really want and need. Passing along family recipes is good too, maybe with an item used by the grandmother or greatgrandmother who used to make it. Costs almost nothing, and is treasured.
    Sorry, got off the how to save money thing to try and win the cookbook, but maybe this was more important – to someone out there.

  39. Thank you, everyone for contributing your tips and ideas. I’ll compile these into a discussion for the community site so others can benefit from them. You are all awesome!!
    For the drawing, Ohsweetie wins a copy of the book – congratulations!

  40. woop! thanks!

  41. I raised, butchered, and froze 20 chickens. I also was given ample carrots from my parents garden that I used a mandolin to slice up and froze and to top that off, my husband thought it would be wonderful to plant 5 row 100 feet long of corn. I had to shuck, boil and cut off the corn from the cob and freeze all of that because it was not going to fit in my freezer with all that chicken and other stuff any other way! Oh, I also cook down my own pumpkin for pumpkin pie and whatever else we’ll use it for. I found some recipes for pumpkin donuts I have yet to try.

  42. I also have canned a lot of pickles and tomatoes and have tried for the first time this year salsa.

  43. Living in the city, its hard to grow most of the food we eat, being two artist household on a budget, we shop at our local co-op and farmer’s market and buy meats in bulk when they are on sale and freeze for future use. Also buy grains and beans in bulk.


  45. growing herbs and tomatoes and a few other staple veggies help us save time and money.

  46. Living in a city, I only have room for herbs. There’s nothing as good as fresh herbs and it’s so much cheaper to grow your own!

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