YOU CAN CUT FOOD COSTS NOW!
How to put your family (and your wallet) first, with food costs rising.
It might seem to most of us (with the cost of food steadily climbing) that we can no longer manage to put a nutritious, balanced meal on the table. Not so! It just takes planning.
Most of us are impulse buyers and impulse eaters. Something catches our eye and we buy it. I know, I’m a good example of this syndrome. But I know from experience that planning meals and grocery lists can help break this costly habit. And here’s how.
- Prepare weekly menus. By sticking to a weekly menu, you know which meals you will be preparing on a given day; you’re not cruising aimlessly through the grocery store grabbing the first thing that looks good/easy. You’re also not feeding your family a bunch of preservatives by selecting pre-packaged foods.
- With your menu as a guide, prepare a grocery list which utilizes each item to the fullest. For example, leftovers can be used to prepare another meal. For this plan to work, one thing is most important – STICK TO YOUR LIST!
- Overlap menu items. This is important for stretching your dollar as far as it can go. Use ingredients for one meal to help prepare another, i.e. set aside extra ground beef when you prepare meatloaf to be used in preparing a homemade spaghetti sauce, a taco filling or chili.
- Try to hit as many food groups as possible without breaking the bank. This is a struggle parents face daily, making sure their families get proper nutrition at a reasonable cost. It’s a challenge, but it can be achieved.
- Get your family onboard. Planning menus is futile if your family doesn’t like bulgar wheat with stir-fried kale and tofu. Take suggestions and try to work them into your menus.
Okay, now that we have a plan, let’s get to work. First, consult your local ads and clip your coupons (to maximize your savings). Then choose the main ingredients (meat, poultry, fish) accordingly. Let’s say your local grocery has chuck roast on sale. This will make a great pot roast with potatoes and other side vegetables. Buy a large piece of meat and save portions of the cooked pot roast for use in stir fry and/or for sandwiches (beef, pepper, onion and cheese subs). This helps s-t-r-e-t-c-h your budget to make one purchase perform triple duty as three separate meals.
Selecting whole roasts, chickens, hams, pork roasts will make your purchases more cost effective. It’s generally a lot cheaper than specific cuts (i.e. chicken breasts, thighs; ham steaks; pork loin, etc.) and will go a lot farther for your money. Buying a whole chicken is always a good idea, as several meals can be made from one chicken. A roast chicken with plenty of sides will generally also yield leftovers for chicken salad sandwiches and a carcass to use for preparing a great chicken soup. Ham really goes a long way. Buy a half or whole bone-in ham and you can use it for a main meal, sandwiches, ham and potato casserole; and after it’s pretty much picked over, use the bone to make a great bean soup. Leftovers from a pork roast can be cooked down with a good barbeque sauce for pork sandwiches. Your family will love you for your inventiveness (and you’ll feel really smug about your ability to deliver quality meals while saving money).
You can even stretch some of the leftovers to cover your breakfast menu. Use leftover ham with your eggs and toast. If you are planning to use your leftover pot roast for beef fajitas, plan on using some of the extra soft tortillas to make breakfast burritos (scrambled eggs, cheese and your choice of salsa, mushrooms or ham – wrap in foil and bake – and voila – yummy breakfast).
Now that you have some ideas, get creative and find inventive ways to stretch that dollar. I’ve included a one-week sample menu and grocery list to get you started (see attached). You should be able to feed a family of 4-6 people on approximately $100-125 within these guidelines. It does not, of course, include staples such as salt, pepper, spices or other items which, depending on your recipe choice, can fluctuate. You should also try to insert more green vegetables with dinner and fruit (maybe as an accompaniment to lunch or breakfast). But use your own imagination (and some suggestions from the kids) and try your hand at creating a sumptuous menu both you and your family will love. Good luck and good savings!
Breakfast burritos, French toast, Oatmeal with sliced apples and brown sugar, Ham slices in crescent rolls, Egg and bacon sandwiches, Eggs with ham and toast, Ham with corn muffins.
Turkey sandwiches, Beef/onion/pepper subs, Beef fajitas, Ham sandwiches with chicken soup, Chicken Salad sandwiches, Ham and bean soup, Shrimp Salad.
Pot roast with potatoes/onions/carrots, Shrimp Alfredo with Broccoli, Roast chicken/noodles/salad, Baked ham/rice/buttered corn, Beef Stroganoff, Ham and scalloped potato casserole, Oven barbecued chicken with macaroni and cheese and buttered green beans.
Large beef roast
Large soft tortillas
Whole or half ham
2 large chickens
Monterey Jack cheese
Half and half
Corn muffin mix