Stretching your food budget requires planning, but a deliberate focus on thrifty cooking without sacrificing nutrition can provide some peace of mind while and keeps the focus on seasonal cooking.
Here are some tips that might help…
- Flyers, flyers, flyers! Make sure that you set out to plan your meals for the week with your local supermarket’s weekly flyer in hand (physically, or online)
- The freezer is your friend: buying large packs of meats on sale and freezing what you don’t plan to use immediately not only cuts down on trips to the market, but it can save you a significant amount. One tip: be sure to use freezer bags to store the meat and label each package with a date, noting the recipe, so you will use up the oldest packages first. Remember to portion out each bag so that you aren’t wrestling to split a frozen hunk of meat apart.
- Buy seasonally: not only are fruits and produce better when they are in season, they are usually much less expensive. Many fruits freeze well, as do many vegetables.
- Many supermarkets have bulk purchasing sections that allow you to economize on rice, beans, grains, etc. Just be sure that you store your staples in an airtight container to keep contents clean and avoid attracting critters (mice love attacking bags of rice and grain and can gnaw through plastic bags in seconds flat).
- Avoid convenience foods: not only do they commonly contain lots of salt and fat, but you are paying a premium vs. making your own food.
- Are there warehouse stores like Costco near you? If so, consider the potential savings on food and household staples (paper goods, for example); calculate membership costs vs. savings. If it makes sense to join once you factor in food/non-food savings, then incorporate meal planning based on available specials.
- If you are lucky enough to have ethnic markets accessible, consider buying your spices there; often they are less expensive and you may find more options than you would in your regular market. Spices are key when trying to keep your food tasty, without breaking the bank.
- Consider “Meatless Mondays” — not only is it a healthy step and good for the planet, but the savings can add up!
- Look at some of the recipes on this blog; many reheat exceptionally well for lunches.
- If you have a pressure cooker, an Instant Pot (or similar), consider incorporating more recipes that use tougher–but cheaper–cuts of meat. The pressure cooker allows you to prepare food in minutes, not hours, and enables economy without sacrificing taste.
- Eggs aren’t just for breakfast! Omelettes with leftover veggies and meat make a quick, easy and economical dinner, too. It’s also a great way to use up veggies that are a bit past their prime.
- Experiment with vegetarian-based cuisines: South Indian food is a favorite in our house and offers a wealth of tasty, meatless options.
- Keep an eye on portion size. If you’re like me, keeping a close eye on my diet is important for health reasons and for my waistline. Recommended portion size for meat is 4oz, about the size of a playing card. Americans routinely serve portions twice that big! Better to fill the bulk of your plate with high-fiber, nutritious vegetables than to focus on overdoing the protein.