Stretching your Food Budget

In today’s economy, many are making cutbacks in all areas of the household budget.  Anything that can be eliminated is considered.  For many, the days of eating out everyday are gone and are being replaced with brown bag lunches.  It’s hard on a lot of families who were used to living in one lifestyle and suddenly, they need to change the way they live their lives.9017_150093804438_579144438_3443213_6130643_n

Often, the food that is cheap (and highly over-processed) is not good for you as it is often contains unhealthy fillers, high fructose corn syrups, nitrates, MSG, and/or other unhealthy ingredients which can increase behavioral issues with children and adults alike.

In an earlier blog (http://alicethecook.com/?p=128), I touted the benefits of buying  locally.  It is idea and helps the environment and the community, but can also hurt the pocketbook.  Below are some suggestions at buying good food, which can lead to healthy and tasty meals which help with the budget.

A couple of suggestions.  Consider finding a meat slicer (used or new), chest or upright freezer, food dehydrator, and a “food saver.”   Each of these items as well as some good food storage containers can help keep your food fresh for a longer time period.  Buying in bulk and cutting the items down to family-friendly servings are ideal.

  • A 14 lb. shoulder beef roast at Sam’s Club can cost around $22-$25, but can be cut into 30-40 steaks or 5 smaller roasts.  Roasts can be sliced up for sandwich meat.
  • Buying a whole chicken and cutting it up is significantly cheaper than buying processed chicken.  Remember, some scraps can be used for other things. Chicken backs which are usually disposed of can be used to make broth or stock.
  • Check out the local ethnic food markets for fresh fish and rice at cheaper prices
  • Consider adding more vegetables and fruit to your diet.  It’s not only healthier, but easier on the budget that processed meat.
  • Left over vegetables that may not be enough for a serving, can be used with other vegetables and made into soup, stir fry, etc.
  • By drying fruits, you can have a healthy snack at less cost that can be kept for a longer time.
  • Review the packaging and read the ingredients.  Are you buying a name brand and/or a lot of chemicals?
  • Dried beans are better for you and less expensive than canned beans.  They do require some planning by soaking overnight (24 hours) prior to use, but the higher magnesium, protein, and fibers levels will be much more beneficial.
  • Pay attention to your local store’s coupons.  Two-for-ones are great for saving money especially on items that can be used to offset eating out prices.  Pick up things you go through quickly and that are versatile so you always have items for an easy meal:  rice, pasta, pasta sauce, etc…
  • Get creative with recipes.  Some times, when money is really tight, you can take an inventory of what you have and visit some websites that specialize in recipes with four or five ingredients.  I like http://busycooks.about.com/od/fouringredient/a/fouringredient.htm.  You can do a search based on some of the ingredients you have.
  • Selecting a day where lunches can be made in advance.  For example:  A family size lasagna can be cut up into 12 different servings
  • Be eco-friendly and buy a water container and avoid buying bottled water.  Water is good for you, but the disposable plastic bottles are not good for the environment.
  • Date the items you put into the freezer with a permanent marker on the packaging so you don’t lose it to freezer burn and your money won’t go to waste.

I hope you found these suggestions useful.  There are other locations and resources in other states that can help families that are really struggling to feed their families.  If you are one of these families or people, visit Second Harvest Heartland or your ear food shelf.

If you are one of the fortunate ones, consider donating to an area food shelf and help others who may be struggling.

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About anj68

Alice uses cast iron pots and wooden utensils and keeps the recipes as close to the traditional recipe as possible. She even utilizes a fire pit located outside her home to test authentic recipes. For more information about Alice the Cook, visit her website at http://www.alicethecook.com In future blogs, I will offer recipes, kitchen hints, and historical cooking lessons.
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