Thursday, March 13, 2008

The big shopping trip

Edit: For those of you coming from Frugal Friday, my husband and I are embarking on an experiment. We are planning to only eat Korean food for the next 4 weeks. My husband is Korean, which is why we chose that particular cuisine. What follows is a discussion of the food I bought for that month-long experiment, as well as an analysis of the cost.

There is a saying in Korean that there is so much food that the table legs are going to break. That is how I felt putting all this food on our tiny little table! I spent too much time at the Korean market today, and I bought just about everything that I believe we will need for the next four weeks, except those foods which can be bought at American grocery stores or food which might go bad before the end of the month. In the picture below, you can see: dish gloves that actually fit my hands (you can't see it in the picture, but it says "미니손" on the gloves, which means "mini hands"); wooden chopsticks, since they are easier to use than metal chopsticks; 다시마 (kelp for making broth); black sesame seeds; garlic; 고추장 (fermented hot red pepper paste); 어묵, formerly known by the Japanese name 오뎅, but really just fish cake; pine nuts; green onion; ginger; Korean radish; jalapenos; potatoes; and green squash. Not visible in the picture is a bag of mung bean sprouts.

On the other side of the table, we have: "삼계탕 stuff" (that's really how it was labeled in the store!), which is dried chestnuts, jujubes, ginseng, and sweet rice, all of which is used in a chicken dish called "sam gye tang"; dried cod fillet; hot pepper flakes; dried anchovies; brown sweet rice; garlic powder; 2 small packages and 2 large ones of tofu; 2 small packages of mung bean jelly; 오징어무침 (sweet and spicy dried squid); "marinara mix", which is really just several different types of frozen seafood (shrimp, octopus, squid, etc); strange looking 떡볶이 떡 - rice cake for a very spicy stir fry dish (usually it's long and cylindrical, but they didn't have any of that kind there today... this looks like it's marketed to kids because of the fun shapes); red cod fillets; and fresh kimchi.

Wow. Now if only we had ample room in our kitchen to store all of this....

For those who are curious, the bill for all this food came to $76.16. That's not bad, considering how long it is supposed to last us. Estimating the cost of other food items I will need to buy later on in the month (chicken, beef, peppers, onions, etc - food items whose prices I am familiar with), the estimated cost of eating Korean food for 4 weeks comes to $135, or $33.75 a week. Considering our weekly food budget is $50 (I typically spend between $40 and $60 a week), I would say that Korean food is slightly cheaper than American food, although possibly not significantly cheaper once you add in snacks and non-food grocery. Of course, if I knew we were going to be eating Korean food for the next three months, I would have bought larger quantities of the non-perishables (hot pepper paste, rice, kimchi, etc), thus reducing the cost per week even further - and probably making the difference significant. What's more, as my husband can tell you, a menu that is supposed to last a month in our house might last for a month and a half. If that is the case, the cost per week for eating Korean food is an astonishing $22.50 - less than half the cost of eating American food.

Of course, nothing can be determined until all the food is eaten and the final grocery bill is tabulated. So I guess you'll just have to keep coming back to read all the juicy details. ;-)

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8 have poured out their souls in electronic text:

  • Alan

    Looks a little scary to me. I'd have to have some comfort food somewhere along the way! Good luck!

  • Harmony

    Some of the foods I have planned this month actually are comfort foods for me. Samgyetang is essentially chicken and rice soup, tonight we're having what amounts to roast beef, and we're having chicken stew and fried fish fillets in coming weeks. All of those dishes are very American-palate friendly. Certainly not everything on the menu is that way, but I am confident that there's enough of that kind of food that I will be able to make it through the month!

  • Andrea

    We LOVE, LOVE, LOVE Korean food! My BFF is Korean-American and her mom (which is Harmony to my kids) makes all those traditional foods for special occasions. I've been friends with her since we were little bitties and now my kids (8, 4) love it too!

    Here's what I'll add to your menu (for me..in spirit and I'm not sure if I'll spell it right): Dak Bokee, Gim Bop, Tae Jugogi, Bulgogi, Kimchee, and some korean rice (because it's so much better than the chinese kind!). Yum!!

  • Ron and Ginny

    This looks very interesting. Thanks for sharing. I am looking forward to lots of recipes. :-D

  • JunkMale


    Hooray for Korean food! Kimchi is definitely there, in the bottom left corner of the second picture. Also, the radish in the first picture was used to make a different kind of kimchi.

    Duk-boki (if I may correct your spelling of "dak bokee") will be had, considering the bottom right corner of the second picture.

    We had kimbap (your "gim bop", which is definitely a more accurate romanization) on the way down and up from our recent trip to my parents' house.

    Most, if not all, of the beans that Harmony got will be going into our rice.

    Looks like we got a bunch of your favorites covered, except for maybe the pork and the beef. Although, with the warmer weather, we might break out some of the long-frozen bulgogi that has been in our chest freezer for a looong time. Technically though, what we have in our freezer is galbi, which I think uses the same or very similar marinade, but the meat is short ribs.

  • Harmony

    Andrea - I assume you mean 'Harmony' in the Korean meaning (for those who don't know, 할머니 or "har meo ny" is Korean for grandmother or a woman old enough to be a grandmother)? I have a very unfortunate screen name for someone who does a lot of Korean-themed posts, huh?

    Beef short rib bulgogi is definitely on the menu if it ever gets warm enough to grill out, and I seriously considered making a spicy pork stir fry, which I assume is your taejigogi? If pork loin goes on sale anytime during the month, it might still make its way there!

  • CC

    Looks great! Hope it goes really well. My kids are Korean and my husband Chinese and we try to incorporate some of these dishes into our menus. But not a whole month's worth! Good for you!

  • Michele

    Ooh- that looks really yummy! :) We cook a lot of Chinese & Thai foods.. maybe I need to try Korean!
    Michele :)