Money (and Health!) Savers for the Kitchen

We all know food prices are going up. It’s very obvious when we shop for milk, that the $1.99 a gallon sales aren’t as frequent as they used to be (in my area, anyway).  And if you’re shopping for organic milk….forget about it. Two dollar milk doesn’t exist in that category (nor does three, four or even five dollar gallons).

Here are a few things I’ve found and do quite often to save a few bucks on food expenses.

1. Always menu plan.

Yesterday could have been a disaster because of a last-minute doctor’s visit at 4PM. I had to take all 4 kids with me to the pediatrician’s office for the visit, get home and get the kids fed and bathed and be ready to go to our church Small Group meeting at 6:30 across town. !!! Thankfully, I had my dinner already planned and the meat defrosted. So, I browned it and boiled the noodles before we left for the doctor. When we got home at 5:30, all I had to do was combine the meat, sauce and noodles and reheat it. What could have been a disaster worked out great – we ate healthy and didn’t cave to going to McDonald’s with our limited time!

2. Make Double of a Meal to Freeze for Another Day.

Making meatloaf isn’t hard, but when you only have 1 hour until dinner and haven’t even started defrosting your beef….meatloaf can be DIFFICULT! Try making double the meatloaf and freezing half of it (uncooked or cooked) for a day you know is going to be too busy to cook. You can pull out the frozen meatloaf the night before and leave it in the fridge to thaw. An hour before dinner, pop it in the oven. Practically effortless with just a bit of planning ahead! You save money by not ordering a pizza last-minute and you eat healthier because it’s homemade!

3. Buy Extra Fruits and Veggies on Sale to Freeze.

I do this often because it’s such a great idea! When organic zucchini is $.99/lb, I get a bunch, chop it or grate it, and freeze it in 1 cup portions. Then, when I need it for bread or soup or just to hide in a dish :), I can pull out a bag of frozen zucchini and throw it into the dish (or thaw it and use it in the bread recipe). Bananas are a good fruit to buy extra of, peel, and freeze for smoothies or breads (or pancakes!).

Other good ones to freeze: celery (chopped or grated), bell peppers(chop), sweet corn (blanch, then cut off ear to freeze), green beans (blanch then freeze), zucchini, bananas, grapes, oranges, pineapple.

4. Hang on to Stale Bread!

If you don’t get through a loaf of bread before it dries out and stales, don’t throw it away! I have 2 favorite uses for dried, stale bread:

– Bread crumbs. Throw the stale bread in your food processor and grind it until it’s fine. It’s so much cheaper than buying a canister of bread crumbs. Plus, there’s no additives or preservatives like there are in store-bought bread crumbs.

– Croutons. Cut the stale bread into 1″ cubes. Toss them with some melted butter and garlic powder or whatever seasonings you like and bake them til crisp. Again, much cheaper (and healthier) than pre-packaged croutons. And tastier!

5. Substitute Beans for Meat.

Just like the rest of the foods, meat is going up in price. Grass-fed, organically raised beef is pretty pricey (ok, REALLY pricey). It’s worth it for the health and environmental aspects, but my wallet doesn’t like it much.  When I can, I like to substitute part or all of the meat in a recipe with beans! Any bean, all beans, a mixture of beans. I buy dry beans in bulk and make them myself (freezing the extras that we won’t use in a few days). For tacos, I use less beef and throw in some black or pinto beans to keep the dish filling but not so expensive. PLUS, beans are full of fiber and my tummy loves fiber! 🙂 I haven’t found a dish yet that tasted awful by putting in beans instead of (or in addition to) meat.

6. Make More from Scratch.

It’s no surprise I’m a huge advocate of homemade foods. There are a few reasons for this:

  • Saves me money – If I save my $10 that I could buy 1 large Papa John’s pizza with and just make my own (with ingredients I have on hand regularly), I can put that $10 towards something else….like gas. Ugh. Gas prices. Don’t get me started!
  • Supports my health – If I make my pizza, I am controlling how much salt, sugar, high-fructose corn syrup, soy products (yes, it’s in everything), preservatives, additives, genetically engineered things, and chemicals I’m taking in. The result? We haven’t had a sick visit to the doctor since we started eating better in November. I’m again saving money because now I’m not paying my co-pay for a bunch of doctor visits for us 6.
  • Homemade things taste sooo much better – Seriously. Don’t you think you’d rather have a homemade pizza instead or a delivery or frozen one? I would so much rather have something someone baked or cooked rather than a boxed item. Maybe it’s because they’re made with love or because they are made with REAL ingredients. Whatever the reason, they just taste so much better when they’re from scratch…to me, anyway.

Even if something takes more time to make than it would opening a box of it already made, I would still much rather make it from scratch. It will usually cost less and it will ALWAYS be healthier.

Obviously everyone’s day-to-day is different. I am able to do these because I’m home 95% of the time. I just encourage you to find a way (or two) that you can save some money and still eat well!

Do you have a money/health saver you’d like to share? Please do! I love hearing ways we can all save money and eat better at the same time!

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