Thursday, May 08, 2008

Stretching the Food Budget Painlessly

Like many people, we are feeling the crunch from higher food prices. Frugal food articles abound on the web right now, and I can hardly offer anything that is truly innovative. Still, I have my little cache of tricks.....

*Nonfat Dry Milk- keep it on hand for cooking and for stretching the last of the milk in the gallon jug. Don't let the kids see you doing this!

*Add complexity to recipes without buying expensive fresh herbs by using already seasoned items such as herbed croutons in a breakfast casserole or V8 juice (instead of tomato juice) in gazpacho or in any recipe requiring a red sauce.

*Roast your own canned tomatoes. This can be done by drizzling them with olive oil, placing them on a cookie sheet, sprinkling with dried basil and baking for 30 minutes at 375 degrees or just until they begin to brown around the edges. Great in soup, pasta sauce, or stew.

*Don't waste anything. My biggest area of waste is with produce, so I have purchased the highly advertised Green Bags and store my fruits and veggies in them. I cannot rave about them, but I have noticed a marked improvement with lettuce and strawberry longevity. The secret seems to be to place items in the bag DRY. They don't seem to work well with bananas but.....

*Slice limp bananas and freeze them. Whir in the blender with yogurt, berries and juice for a great smoothie. If you like your smoothie to have a velvety texture, frozen bananas are the answer.

*Instead of buying expensive vegetable-wash spray, make your own in a spray bottle using a little vinegar and water.

*Buy head lettuce instead of pre-chopped. I wash mine when I get home from the grocery store, put it in a lingerie bag that I keep only for this purpose, and place it in the clothes washer on the "spin" cycle. I know this sounds crazy, but it works great! Just don't walk away from the washer. I repeat, DO NOT WALK AWAY FROM THE WASHER ! You can guess why ;)

*Speaking of lettuce, a great salad makes even a cheap spaghetti dinner satisfying. One of my favorites is dark greens, slivered beets, roasted asparagus, a sprinkle of feta cheese, and balsamic dressing.

*Keep a package of real bacon bits on hand. For some reason, the moist bits sold in those little pouches seem to have a really concentrated bacon flavor, and a little goes a long way. They are good sprinkled on green beans or a salad, but also on a melted cheese sandwich. This is one convenience food that is worth the money for me.

*Include a pancake dinner into the menu for one really cheap meal.

Where I refuse to cut corners......

*I will not buy cheap margarine in place of butter.

*Nor will I buy fake cheese

*Meat. Adults need no more than 4 oz. at a meal, and children even less. We can continue to buy good cuts of meat because we don't eat 6 or 8 oz. portion sizes. Instead of huge hunks of meat, provide 2 vegetables at the dinner table.

What are your tricks?

1 comment:

Joanne said...

I'm new to your blog and clicked on 'domestic arts' ... so, even though this is an older post, it's new to me!
Some of my 'triks' to save money are:
- after we steam veggies, we dump the steam water (aka veggie broth) into a quart mason jar and store in the fridge. Once it is full, we use it in soups.

- Little to no meat (we really do not like it anyway). It's amazing how much 1/3lb of ground beef flavors a large batch of spaghetti sauce or chili. Likewise, if you like chicken in your stir fry, a little goes a long way.

- large garden ... and 'put up' what we grow. Also, it helps to know a few people with fruit trees who cannot use or do not want to use it all.

- buy in bulk. 50 pounds of beans or grains is amazingly cheap! We buy rice, oats, millet, oats, dry beans, lentils and so on all in bulk.

- sprout! Fresh, nutrient packed veggies grown in you own kitchen in a matter of DAYS! Sprouts go great on salads, sandwiches, burritos, tacos, egg or tuna salad, etc. YUM! (I have a 'how to sprout' post on my
home and health blog)

- do not eat out. Have quick food ready for those last minute meals. Get your freezer stocked with meals simply by making extras of each meal that freezes well. Example, the last time I made spaghetti sauce, I made about 10 quarts worth. I freeze in quart mason jars (fill 1" to the top, put the lid on, leave off the ring till it's frozen).

OK, I'm sure there's so much more I could say ... but I must go to bed now!

Great post!

In Christ,