Life can be busy and many of us place a high premium on convenience, especially when it comes to dinner. We order pizza, get take-out, or opt for prepackaged meals. Unfortunately, over time this can eat up our food budget.
To stretch your food dollar, if you’ve got the time, you should consider shifting from restaurant fare and prepackaged meals to raw and basic ingredients that you can build up into meals, such as casseroles. Staples like chicken, ground beef, pasta, rice, fresh vegetables, and shredded cheese can be mixed-and-matched to create lots of dinner combinations. You can pre-cook the chicken and ground beef ahead of time and refrigerate or freeze it to use in multiple casseroles. To add some crunch, you can even stretch your food budget further by adding old chips and crumble up stale bread prior to baking.
Use social media to help find recipes for hearty, delicious, keep-for-a-while casseroles – many people who have successfully adapted cheap and tasty ideas are often eager to share.
To avoid the frozen breakfast sandwich expense, you can create and freeze batches of breakfast burritos and make and refrigerate dozens of muffins. Breakfast burritos and muffins tend to keep well, are easily transportable, and are often healthier than those tasty Jimmy Deans. Plus, the structure of the breakfast burrito makes it easy to open and apply condiments later, giving you more variety and keeping the burritos from becoming boring fare. As an added bonus, the dry ingredients for muffins allow for lengthy and convenient storage in cabinet or pantry.
Starting from staples also allows you to tailor your recipes to the correct proportions. You can select the appropriate amounts of beef, chicken, bacon, veggies, and pasta, and the correct number of eggs, for the number of people who will be sharing the food. Prepackaged meals may not come in convenient sizes, especially for families with an odd number of individuals, leading to waste and/or overeating.
Finally, research is key to saving money. Create a schedule and weekly menu to prevent the temptation of ordering out at the last second. Find which staples complement each other in various dishes so you have many options. Also, find some dishes that can be used to get rid of aging stuff in your fridge, such as soups and stews that may be suitable for tomatoes and veggies that are perhaps past their prime.