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?