Since I couldn't access my blog until late last night, I wasn't able to get my regular Making Do Monday post up. Seeing how this is the last week of the Savvy Spending Challenge, I wanted to make sure that I still posted the money saving post I had been thinking about.
It's a topic so often talked about, but I think that the subject never grows old, because we are always needing to find new ways to cut costs in the kitchen. Aside from major expenses like housing, food can be one of the largest parts of a budget, and I am experiencing the fact that as a family grows, so does the food budget- so how can we keep growing food costs from overtaking us and our budgets?
- Be conservative with your non-food costs- for me this means using less paper towels, washing my ziploc bags (unless they've had raw meat in them), keeping my cleaning costs low (more to come on that soon!), etc.
- Drinking more water- I do not make purchasing drinks a regular part of my budget. I buy the odd box of teas (mostly when I find ones I like on sale), I keep coffee on hand for hospitality, and that's about it. I use fresh lemons to make stevia lemondade for myself, because I need an exciting way to get enough water in me for nursing/pregnancies, etc. At meal times, we drink water only. For a treat, we use our juicer to make fruit/vegetable juice. I purchase milk mostly for cooking and making cheap yogurt, or for my toddlers after they wean.
- Give meat a supporting, rather than a starring, role in your meal. We still eat meat quite often, because I believe it is a valuable source of high quality protein, vitamins, and good fats (I know, an unconventional thought- I highly recommend the book Nourishing Traditions: The Cookbook that Challenges Politically Correct Nutrition and the Diet Dictocrats). I use my meat in soups and stews, stir fry, casseroles (pot pies, shepherd's pie, etc.), fajitas and tacos, and the like, rather than just a chicken breast on the side.
- Cook with more beans and whole grains (using dried beans, rather than canned, for cost efficiency). They are highly nutritious, and allow for hearty vegetarian meals sometimes (for us, 1-2 times per week), and they are a cheap way to bulk up a meal and make it more filling (adding rice to soups is a great example of this).
- Become an expert at using the leftovers and odds and ends in your fridge. I have recently begun to postpone going shopping after the start of a new budget, for as many days as possible. The reason? I am practicing forced frugality, by leaving myself no other choice but to get creative and use everything that I have to come up with meals. As a result of this practice, I am quickly becoming more adept at glancing in the fridge and coming up with meals, even when I am low on ingredients.
- Declare an "eating from the pantry (and freezer) week" (I shamelessly stole this phrase from Crystal, realizing it was something that I already do). Take inventory (I do this literally- I write down everything in my freezer and pantry), and then begin to meal plan using your list as the basis for your meals. It's a wonderful way to use items you forgot you had, and to make sure that food isn't wasted by getting freezer burnt.
- And one last obvious tip, that I just can't leave out because it is so crucial- make it yourself! Most things that we buy at the grocery store we could make cheaper (and healthier!) ourselves. Here are just a few examples: bread, muffins, tortillas (they're actually not that hard), pasta sauce (tomato and white sauce), pancakes and waffles (no need for a mix), pizza sauce, soup broth, macaroni and cheese (I don't even enjoy Kraft Dinner anymore), all soups and stews and chilis, yogurt and kefir, ketchup (if anyone's interested in this recipe, leave a comment and I'll post the recipe) and so many more I can't list them all!
For more great kitchen tips, go visit Tammy's!