Given the struggling economy in recent years, chances are you’ve been watching your wallet more closely, possibly preparing more meals at home and eating out less. Most food magazines have at least a section devoted to budget cooking, where the featured dishes include the cost per serving.
But if you’re wondering how these prices are derived, you’ll find some magazines are more forthcoming in their methods than others. I scoured Better Homes and Gardens and Taste of Home for any insight into their pricing, but my search came up empty.
Every Day With Rachael Ray proved a little more helpful. The convenient grocery list that’s part of the pull-out “Menu Planner” section gives an estimated total for all the ingredients to make a week’s worth of meals. But are these average prices? Actual prices? What supermarket? Where?
Another Every Day With Rachael Ray feature, “Dinners for 10 Bucks (or Less)” assigns prices to each meal’s ingredients, but again, how does the magazine arrive at them? The only methodology shared is that staples, such as salt, pepper and olive oil, are considered freebies and aren’t factored into the per-serving price.
Cooking Light and Eating Well are two magazines that most clearly state the methods behind the mathematics of their cost-conscious meals. Cooking Light bases its pricing on midsized-city supermarkets and accounts for the amounts of staples and other ingredients used–except for specialty ingredients and fresh herbs–where the total cost is factored into the per serving price. Like Every Day With Rachael Ray, items such as salt, pepper and cooking spray are written off as freebies.
Eating Well magazine‘s approach is even more thorough, and it is clearly stated in its Recipe Index in every issue. For starters, ingredients are priced through grocers safeway.com and peapod.com, and are estimates as of winter 2010. The cost of every ingredient is factored into the per-serving price–including staples–but only the required amount of each. Prices do not include garnishes or optional ingredients.
I haven’t put these published prices to the test to see how they compare at the checkout, but understanding the fundamentals behind them gives me some idea of what to expect when I do. Stay tuned for the results in a future post!