This is the second post in a series on meals on a budget. In this post, I will share tips to help you stretch your food, and your budget, further. You can read the first post on planning meals here, or the final post containing meal ideas that are easy to prepare here.
One of the easiest ways to add bulk to almost any meal is to serve it with a salad. All my kids love salad so lettuce is a staple purchase item. I purchase the head lettuce and wash/prepare it myself, which is a cost-cutter. You can add whatever toppings you prefer, but one of our favorites is simply homemade croutons.
If you have an extra freezer, another budget-booster is to purchase meat (beef, chicken, ham, etc) when it’s on sale. Many times my favorite grocery store will offer their meats buy one, get one free. However, as a caution, I recommend you purchase only what you think you will consume within a month or two. This is to help prevent freezer burn because the meat was “forgotten” in the freezer.
Don’t be afraid to try different cuts of meat than what you are normally accustomed. For instance, if whole chickens are on sale, go ahead and buy it! The chicken can easily be roasted in a crock pot or oven. Depending on the size of your family, you can easily get two meals from one whole chicken. Freeze the leftover meat to be used in a recipe at a later date. Another example is split chicken breasts. I love to buy them on the bone because I boil them with carrots, onion, and celery to make a homemade stock. Along with the meat, I strain the broth in cheesecloth and save it to use in soups and stews. It is a lot cheaper than buying it in a can, and I know exactly what is in it!
I was raised in a home where my mom cooked almost every night, but not a lot was “from scratch”. As my family size has grown, so has my knowledge of foods and cooking. An example of this is with beans: dry beans are equivalent in price to canned, but a 1-pound package of dry beans cooks to double or triple that amount. I soak them overnight and cook according to the recipe (or package directions, depending on what I’m making). Instead of using 2 cans of beans in a recipe, I can use half a bag of dry beans for half the cost.
In the last post I discussed planning a menu. This is to help reduce the “What’s for dinner?” frenzy that most of us moms are familiar with, but also to help you get an idea of what foods your family is eating. We usually only eat red meat one meal per week due to cost. We eat chicken at least twice per week and I prepare it in different ways. We eat an Italian dish at least once per week, and those are typically meatless. We also have “breakfast” for dinner, soups, and a designated leftover night. (You can see a sample menu here.)
In the third post of this series, I will share some of my family’s favorite recipes. Check back soon!