10 TIPS FOR BUDGET-FRIENDLY MEALS
Trying to save money and still make great meals for your family?
In today’s economy, we are all trying desperately to save money. Food is just one of those things in the budget that we cannot live without, but the prices keep rising faster than our paychecks do. I know to keep our food budget down, I do all these plus more in order to not spend excessively. We do not splurge on take-out more than once a week, and I attempt to keep a supply of freezer meals on hand for those nights when I know take-out is going to seem like a good option. I also use my CrockPot often in order to save me time in the evening after work when I know I’m not going to have time to cook.
I hope that you find these tips useful and can utilize them in order to cut your food budget!!
Shop your pantry
If you’re like me, you load up on chicken breasts, boxed stock, and other staples when they’re on sale. It’s fun, thrifty and a challenge to see what you can cook up with what you already have.
Fruits and vegetables are flash-frozen at the peak of freshness, so you can buy them out of season for less. They taste great, too!
Each time you enter a grocery store, you’re tempted by impulse buys—a bag of cookies here, a box of crackers there, a pack of gum at the checkout—and suddenly you’ve spent an extra $10. Try grocery shopping on-line. You pay a few dollars more in service charges but save big by sticking to a list.
Shop bulk sections of health food stores for grains, nuts, dried fruit, and cereal.
You can buy as much as you want, and prices tend to be more reasonable because you’re not paying for brand names and flashy packaging. I stock up on these essentials and then vacuum seal into mason jars to keep it fresh and my trips to a minimum.
Make your own 100-calorie packs
I love the idea of calorie control, but not the idea of paying for it. Instead, make your own 100-calorie packs when you get home from the store by separating cookies, chips, etc. into re-sealable plastic bags to toss into lunches.
Eat Your Leftovers
Wednesday night (or any night that you have a lot of leftovers on hand) is smorgasbord night, or whatever you want to call it. Haul what you have out of the fridge, and let the family make their own plates. Or take a staple—like that leftover rice—and turn it into a fried rice dinner.
Know when organic is worth it
Stick to the “dirty dozen”: peaches, apples, sweet bell peppers, celery, nectarines, strawberries, cherries, pears, grapes, spinach, lettuce, and potatoes. These items tend to be the most contaminated, so it’s worth splurging.
Coupon, coupon, coupon
With this recession, couponing has come back with a vengeance. Believe it or not, 80 percent of the coupons used in grocery stores are still found in Sunday circulars. If a week’s paper is particularly good, it can pay off to buy two copies—or ask a non-couponing neighbor for hers. But don’t forget that you can print at home too! There are tons of printable coupons available here!!
For years, I didn’t give the loyalty program at my local supermarket my actual information. I fudged on the address; skipped the e-mail. No more. That’s because now I know my shopping patterns are used to send me offers and coupons I’ll actually use.
Make a list
Planning your week’s meals before you hit the store saves money because you know exactly what you need to get through the week—no more, no less. Writing it down is the key to saving money.
Bonus Tip: GARDEN!!
It never ceases to amaze me the amount of money we spend on organic produce when for absolute pennies, you could be finding some space on your patio or in your yard to grow your own. Especially lettuce. A small planter of cut lettuce grows quickly, and for the cost of seed (I think it’s about $2 a packet this year), you could have at least 4 of that bagged lettuce worth!! Take a few minutes and see if you can find anywhere in your yard that you could maybe plant a small lettuce garden… and Get To It!!