By Russ and Tiña De Maris
I confess: I’m just about as “thrifty” as the next guy. After all, with the way things have been breaking down for us lately, between tires, brakes, RV toilets, and electrical issues, all my “spare” cash is tied up. So when I get the chance to save a buck or two, hey, I’m all for it.
Saving money is good thing, right? It appears that much depends on how and where you save it.
Take for instance, my last two forays into the field of saving money in the food budget. One time, the wife dared to turn me loose in Winco – one of our favorite places to save money. And I’ll tell you, by and large, Winco is a great place to save money when shopping for groceries. Equipped with a list, a hot shopping cart, and visions of being able to prove myself the savvy shopper, I zoomed the aisles, practically heady with idealism.
Since the medicos have been reminding us that eating fish is good for you, I rolled on into the seafood market. There behind that glass case, propped up on a bed of ice like some gorgeous model on a feather bed, lay their latest piscine offerings. Cod – ah, great in fish and chips, but who wants to deep fry in an RV kitchen. Trout? Ugh. Reminds me of having to clean the darn things when I was a kid. Salmon! Whoa! Salmon’s good, right? Tastes great. Lots of ways to prepare it. Let’s see … the price per pound is … out of my line.
Ah, but just down the aisle is a cold case of frozen fish, including some nice salmon fillets, fresh caught and frozen by brave fishermen. And at less than $5.00 per pound, and individually frozen, those fillets could be easily tucked away in those tiny cracks and crevices that your typically overloaded RV freezer has available.
And the same was true for my next big fiscal food frolic. Individually wrapped, dollar each, three and a half ounce, rib-eye steaks from the dollar store that I happened across when shopping for second-hand shirts. Well, the shirts weren’t at the dollar store, they were next door at the big thrift store that supports needy charities. A buck a steak? Wow! Visions of the grill smoking away next to the RV puffed through my head like some kind of insane pipe dream.
Indeed it was.
We first tried the salmon fillets under the RV broiler. They did have flavor – mild enough, but texture? I wondered if maybe this was one of those “genetically modified” experiments where they crossed a fish with beef jerky genes. And a fair portion of that fish fillet was that distinctly dark portion of the skin. We came away from that meal desirous of “filling the hole” with a couple of bowls of breakfast cereal.
Another confession in order: The wife badgered me into rethinking the salmon-as-a-main-course. “Next time,” says she, “you cook the fish on the grill, and I’ll see to a steak.” This seemed to be the height of conspicuous consumption – a steak and a fish fillet? But memories of the empty feeling after eating just a fish fillet won over. I was soon holding up a floor mat to keep the incessant winds from blowing all the heat off my outdoor grill, while tucked away in the breeze-free comfort of the rig, the wife tended to the steaks.
Well, actually, I found she hadn’t even dropped the steaks until I reappeared bearing the fish. “Hey!” I protested. “This fish is going to be colder than your mother’s kiss by the time you get that cow done!” She just smiled knowingly, dropped the steaks over the heat, and before I could barely get sat down, she dropped a medium-well steak on my plate. Into the pan, a quick flip, and back out – these “steaks” were so thin, that if their original cows ate an M&M, they’d look eight months pregnant.
My feelings about the toughness of the fish last time I laid on overcooking: Is it possible to have rock-hard sushi? The steaks, “fortified with up to a 30% solution of water and salt,” were chewy enough, but the fish, well, how do your jaws yearn for salmon jerky?
Next time I take a hankering to save a buck at the store I think I’ll sit in the truck while she does the shopping.