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Posted on Fri, Jun 17, 2011 : 9 a.m.

A simple, frugal meal from the Ypsilanti Food Co-op

By Mary Bilyeu

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It's Restaurant Week in Ann Arbor, with many places offering special meals for the set price of $12 for lunch and $25 for dinner. But that $12 — admittedly a great value! — is still more than some people can afford these days.

So let me introduce you to a place where you can actually find a wholesome, nutritious meal — including dessert! — for a whopping $4.87 including tax.

Today's edition of Frugal Floozie Friday, where the budget is a very firm $5 or less per person, takes us to the Ypsilanti Food Co-op.


Mary Bilyeu | Contributor

When I go on my long evening walks, I often stop by the co-op just to see what goodies might be available that day. In addition to the standard groceries, you can find a variety of sandwiches and prepared foods. There are also luscious baked goods (breads, scones, cupcakes and such) prepared by the River Street Bakery, which is owned by the co-op and strategically located right next door.

I sometimes challenge myself to see if I can find anything there for less than $1. Health food stores have a reputation for being expensive, after all, with organic and fair trade and specialty products, so this project amuses me.

Once I found a basket with free samples of granola bars, and another time I bought a cucumber and limes on sale. The primo specimen, though, was a day-old baguette that had been sprinkled with assorted seeds (poppy, sesame) and was exquisite sliced and spread with butter!

But, as per usual, I digress. Back to the task at hand!

I doubt that it's possible to buy a supper for less than $1, but finding a good meal to bring home for less than $5 was quite a stellar accomplishment!

An eight-ounce cup of soup at the co-op costs just $2.97. I passed over the vegetarian chili in favor of a rich and creamy Potato Leek Pea Soup, intrigued by the addition of peas when I normally make my own version with just the first two ingredients. Soups, which vary each day, come with a slice of whole grain bread, a lovely complement and supplement.

And then I was seduced (as always) by the freshly baked treats. Mocha cupcakes, lemon-ginger scones, brownies... but each of these was out of the price range, and would have pushed me over the Frugal Floozie Friday limit.

The Oat Raisin Cookie, however, was waiting patiently for me, its fragrant cinnamon slowly luring me in. It's made with organic ingredients, including whole wheat pastry flour, and is even vegan.

A treat that's good for you! And it cost only $1.72.

The soup was very flavorful and perfectly seasoned, with hints of the peas shining through. And the cookie was sweet and spicy, with a tendency to fall apart without any eggs to bind it. But since I tend to break my food into pieces anyway, this was simply a cookie that someone must have baked just for me!

My light supper was ideal sustenance on a wretchedly summer-like day — hot soup to combat excessive air conditioning, which I loathe but don't get to control, though it was still light enough to be perfect for the season. The cookie was the essential sweet treat to finish the meal.

It's surprising just how far that $5 bill can go, isn't it? And how well you can eat for such a small amount.

Ypsilanti Food Co-Op
312 N. River St.
Ypsilanti, Michigan 48198

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Mary Bilyeu has won or placed in more than 60 cooking contests and writes about her adventures in the kitchen. She was thrilled to have her post about Scottish Oatmeal Shortbread named as one of the daily "Best of the Blogs" by the prestigious Food News Journal.

Go visit Mary's blog — Food Floozie — on which she enthuses and effuses over all things food-related. Her newest feature is Frugal Floozie Friday, seeking fun and food for $5 or less ... really! Feel free to email her with questions or comments or suggestions:

The phrase "You Should Only Be Happy" (written in Hebrew on the stone pictured at the top of this post) comes from Deuteronomy 16:15 and is a wish for all her readers as they cook along with her ... may you always be happy here.


Mary Bilyeu

Mon, Jun 20, 2011 : 4:22 p.m.

The bakery's treats are exceptional! Try the chocolate frosted loaf cake with just a hint of spice to it ... oh, it is rich and decadent beyond belief!

Lisa Bashert

Mon, Jun 20, 2011 : 1:58 p.m.

I used to think the prices for the sweets from River Street Bakery were too high. Until I tried them. OMG. The most incredible ginger snaps, scones, granola, pumpkin bread, muffins -- and the PIES. Well, why even bake? They are so delicious, they are as good as my own -- and it hurts to admit that. And the River Street Bakery bread is exceptional. I'd say, for many varieties, River Street's breads are the best that you can get from any bakery in SE Michigan, including Zing's & Avalon.


Sun, Jun 19, 2011 : 1:51 a.m.

Must've been a Loooooong long time since you've been to YFC, Sallyxyz. The produce section at the Coop is outstanding! A high proportion of local produce, much that is organic, and some conventional. Did you know that the "fresh" produce at chain grocery stores is an average of 9 days old? (Meaning, some is even older.) Produce sold at chain stores may look good b/c these crops are chosen for appearance & shipping traits, rather than flavor or nutrition. At the Coop, you can almost always find veggies that are local, meaning they were likely picked within a day or at most two of their arrival on the shelf. And the reason cookies are cheap elsewhere is because they have inferior ingredients. HFCS instead of honey or sugar, cheap commodity grains or GMOs, etc. US consumers balk at prices for good food that other developed countries take for granted -- especially with food, you get what you pay for. Lastly, there are sales on bulk items each month -- check it out. Visit the Coop again!

Mary Bilyeu

Sat, Jun 18, 2011 : 2:23 a.m.

The cookie was made of exceptional ingredients and was a good size -- maybe 4" in diameter. The Co-op is small, but I've always found quality items there from cheeses to pastas to coffee and some fabulous peanut butter granola. And the baked goods may be a bit more expensive than at other stores, but they're right in line for bakeries; and every item I've had from the River Street Bakery has been stellar!


Fri, Jun 17, 2011 : 10:30 p.m.

I LOVE the Ypsi Co-op! I shop there frequently and have never seen wilted/old produce. In fact, I bought some beautiful snap peas, cucumbers, and Goetz Farm organic salad mix on Wednesday. I don't know about prices on bulk items except coffee...I don't buy them. But other prices are on par with similar items in similar stores....and by that I don't mean Kroger or Meijer. The baked goods are somewhat expensive when compared to Kroger/Meijer store bakery items, but there is no comaprison at all in ingredients and quality. And I'm willing to bet that cookie is pretty darned dense and could be split between 2 people. In the end, I guess you get what you pay for.


Fri, Jun 17, 2011 : 9:21 p.m.

Maybe the Ypsi Coop has improved, but on a visit over there a while back, I was not at all impressed, either with prices or quality. The produce was old and wilted and prices were high on bulk items, which are supposed to be cheaper, due to the bulk pricing. Anyway, the soup in this article sounds ok, but $1.72 for one cookie? I don't think so. Waaaay too high.