Have you seen the obscene prices in the grocery stores lately? If you are the primary grocery shopper in your household, it’s impossible to ignore the rampant inflation. At the end of 2021, US households were spending more than 12% of their disposable income on food purchases, up from 10.8% the year before. This marked the highest share of food spending in more than two decades! Inflation continues to soar this year as well, especially for proteins. As of January 2022, the cost of beef and veal was 16% higher than it was in the same month one year earlier. Eggs are up 13%, fish and seafood 12.7% and chicken up 10.3%. Even chicken wings, a traditionally low cost food, have spiked up in price over 40% of their 2020 costs. Get a load of this fresh hell at Costco:
During times like this, I have turned to my Arab ancestors for guidance on how to feed my family on a budget. The people of the middle east have endured centuries of wars, droughts, and famines, and somehow learned how to survive even in the harshest of conditions.
They managed to feed large families with a Mediterranean approach of incorporating more vegetarian dishes, or adding grains and legumes to meat based dishes. Filling meals like “mujadarra,” with lentils, rice, and caramelized onions, can feed a family of 5 for under $10. Hummus was not only a dip, but also laid the foundation for a variety of main entrees. For instance, in the dish called “hummus b lahme,” a small portion of sauteed lamb tops a layer of hummus, which stretches the animal protein to feed more people. With dishes like baked kibbeh, bulgur wheat is combined with ground meat to make a heftier casserole that can feed more people for less.
You can use similar techniques of incorporating more legumes and grains to stretch out your proteins for dishes from pretty much any culture. For the following recipe of Middle Eastern Style Meatloaf, bulgur wheat is used instead of bread crumbs to add filling fiber to the ground lamb:
At the moment, ground beef and lamb are less inexpensive than traditional cuts of meat so they are a great budget choice. Herbs and spices like parsley, mint, cumin and allspice add that middle eastern flair. A layer of ketchup stays true to traditional meatloaf, though this is optional and you can brush the top of the loaf with pomegranate molasses for a middle eastern alternative.
You can serve this meatloaf with a side of vegetables and potatoes, or you can even use leftover slices in hearty sandwiches with condiments of choice. Check out my new video for the techniques on how to make this recipe here:
Middle Eastern Meatloaf
- ½ cup bulgur wheat
- ¾ cup boiling water
- Handful parsley, finely chopped
- Handful fresh mint, finely chopped
- 1 egg, whisked
- 3 cloves minced garlic
- 1 pound ground lamb
- 1 tsp cumin
- 1 tsp allspice
- 1 tbsp pomegranate molasses
- 2 tbsp worchestire sauce
- Salt to taste ( ½- 1 tsp)
- Dash lemon pepper or regular pepper
- 1 small onion, finely chopped
Add the bulgur to the boiling water and set aside. Add the chopped onions to a cheese cloth or paper towel, and squeeze out any excess moisture. Combine all ingredients except the ketchup, and place in a bread pan with ketchup on the bottom. Cover with foil and bake for 30 minutes at 350, then remove the cover and bake 15 more minutes at 375. You can serve with more ketchup on top if you wish.