Frugal Food – Who likes eating money?
Not me. It’s so dry. I usually have to put some kind of sauce on it, and then the flavor is just ruined.
Ok, just kidding :) But really, just like buying something frivolous or going to Vegas with a $20 in your pocket (that you don’t win anything with, like me) is like throwing money “out the window”, buying food is kind of like eating money. Obviously we can’t all stop eating, BUT….we can all do better with not letting food get wasted, and if you’re like me, spending our food dollars a little wiser.
So I’m just going to run through a few of the little tips/tricks I know of with respect to groceries and food. Some of them will be no-brainers, but maybe some will be new to you? I’d love to hear what anyone else has to add. FYI we have a grocery budget of $300 per month for two of us. It’s totally easy to stay under it, and we rarely go over unless we stock up on meat. But then the next month or two will come in lower, so it all averages out. When we were saving really hard for our house down payment, I cut our monthly food budget to $100 a month. It was pretty tricky, but not impossible.
In no particular order (other than my rambling thought process):
1. If you deal with rock-hard brown sugar (like me), put a piece of bread in with it. Let it sit a few days. The bread will then be rock hard, and your sugar will be nice and soft :) If you can’t wait a few days, have fun getting after it with a butter knife.
2. Every time you’re at the store, check the packages of muffin mixes. The smaller packages generally only make 6 muffins, so only buy these if they are $1.00 or less (stock UP when they are at that price!). The boxes of muffin mixes make 12 muffins, so these are a deal if they are $2 or less. (And yes, I realize grocery prices vary across the country, but keep your eye on them and you’ll soon see what the low price is.) Making your own muffin mix is probably cheaper if you don’t include the yummy little freeze dried strawberries or the cranberries and orange zest etc (I suspect adding those to homemade mixes would increase the cost above the store’s sale prices – but I haven’t done the research.)
3. Buy huge packages of meat (they’re usually cheaper per pound.) Get home and immediately bust out your plastic wrap and freezer bags. Freeze in whatever increments you use the most. Reuse the freezer bags, since they should be clean if you wrap your meat in plastic wrap before putting them in the bags. This picture is actually of many small bags of two pork chops each, and the small bags are in one big freezer bag.
4. Buy huge packages of shredded cheese. Freeze it in smaller increments. Cheese freezes really well, except it crumbles easier after it’s thawed, which makes it less awesome to freeze slices or blocks than if it’s already shredded. Melissa D’Arabian (Food Network gal I like to watch on Sunday mornings) says that shredding your own cheese is not actually cheaper than buying it pre-shredded, as long as you buy the really big bags.
5. If your family isn’t wild about the heels on bread loaves, toss them into an old bread bag in the cupboard. By the time you accumulate a few, they’ll be dried out (I live in a very dry climate, so mold isn’t an issue for my stale bread, but maybe make sure it’s not green before eating? Just a thought!). Toss them into the food processor and use for breading recipes. Again, only if they’re not green…or blue…. or purple obbbbbviously :)
6. Buy dried beans. Throw them in a pot of water overnight. Boil the heck out of them the next day and freeze them in 1 Cup sizes in baggies. Wayyyyyy cheaper than canned beans (and yes I know canned beans are pretty cheap, but if you cook all your beans at once, it’s really not that big of a hassle.)
The bags in front are full of frozen navy beans. In the back is our pile of frozen breakfast burritos. Hubby makes a big batch of these about once a month so he can take them to work for breakfast. They come out to about 50 cents apiece and are YUMMY.
7. Leave your bacon frozen (not that it would probably go bad anyway with all the fat and salt in it). Melissa D’Arabian (again, Food Network gal) showed the world how you can cut a bacon-sized strip off the end of a frozen package, and it equates to about one piece of bacon. Works great because then you don’t have to worry about unsticking all the individual slices. Works not so great if you want individual slices for your breakfast or your BLT! She has great tips for frugal cooking and grocery shopping.
8. When you use canned or boxed chicken/beef stock or broth (not the bouillon kind), don’t let the rest sit in the fridge and go bad! Pick up some ice cube trays at Goodwill and pour your leftover broth/stock into them and freeze. 8-9 frozen cubes of broth/stock is approximately 1 Cup.
9. Refrigerate or freeze your bread products. (My family always froze them, Hubby’s family always kept them on the counter, so we compromise and keep them in the fridge.) Keeps them fresher, longer. In our area, refrigerated bread will actually go completely stale before it molds. Includes bread and tortillas.
10. Got fruit that’s going bad? (ie brown bananas, spotty lemons, mushy apples) Chop/dice/mush it up into baggies. Throw in the freezer for summer smoothies, apple muffins, banana bread, citrus zest etc. Mushy brown bananas are the absolute best for banana bread, IMO :)
11. Another use for old citrus– cut up and run through your disposal to freshen it up.
12. Buy the huge containers of plain oatmeal (especially if you eat breakfast at work.) Pour a little in a coffee mug, just cover it with water, microwave for a minute. Add Splenda from the coffee cupboard. (Ok, or bring your own) Adding crushed walnuts or other nuts is also great as it will keep you full longer.
13. Anyone like the Vietnamese noodle soup called Pho? (I LOVE IT!) Easy DIY Pho is a package of ramen noodles, add a squirt of lime juice and sriracha chili sauce. If you want to go fancy, add slices of roast beef lunchmeat and bean sprouts (but note that bean sprouts only last about a day in the fridge.) My favorite ramen is the Maruchan brand, and I only use half the seasoning packet so I only get 1 serving of the sodium instead of two. I do eat all the noodles though :) Another tip with ramen is to put it in your bowl (dry), fill bowl with water, microwave 3 minutes. Done. Then mix in your goodies. SUPER CHEAP LUNCH! I eat this for lunch probably 2-3 times a week.
That’s all I have for now. But here are some for you……
1. My potatoes are stored in the basement. They look like freaky monsters from outer space and I don’t really want to eat freaky monsters from outer space.
How do you store potatoes without this happening? I don’t remember our potatoes ever looking this nasty when I was growing up! It must be me…..
2. I bought my very first garlic bulb the other day (I used to exclusively use garlic powder.) It’s now sprouting like a tulip in May. What to do?
Disclaimer: If you see brand names, it means nothing. I’m not being paid or anything by any of these brands. In fact, they don’t even know I exist :)
Feel free to leave some comment love, ‘cause I am excited to hear how to banish freaky-potato-monsters from my basement ;)
I was going to show you my paint samples on the wall of my kitchen….but I want to pick up two more first. :) I guess it’ll have to be tomorrow that you get to help me pick.