Tuesday, June 2, 2009

More Ideas for living within a grocery budget

This post is a companion post to the previous post abaout budgeting. It contains ideas for wisely budgeting/using food storage that have been submitted by members of our ward and others.

Thank you to everyone who has sent ideas. I will continue to update this post with new ideas as they are submitted.

Store what you use and use what you store
Keep a can or bag of each item in the kitchen for easy access. The #10 cans (from the church's Home Storage Center) are nice because they sit on kitchen shelves/cupboards compactly and come with plastic lids.

Buy baking supplies in bulk
Buy items such as spices, yeast, baking powder, and baking soda in bulk. Warehouse stores such as Sam's Club and Costco are a good place to find good prices on bulk items such as these. Some people purchase a membership to Sam's Club or Costco every other year, but purchase enough for a year's supply to last during the year without the membership. Also, the church's Home Storage Center sells some items used for baking, such as dried onions, in bulk.

Use powdered milk (reconstituted) for baking and for sauces.
You can't tell the difference between store-bought milk when you use powdered milk for baking. If you are interested in recipes that specifically call for powdered milk, please contact me. You can also make powdered milk more palatable for drinking by mixing it half and half with regular store-bought milk. Even a mix of 1 quart powdered milk to 3 quarts store-bought milk will help stretch your grocery budget. (The price of powdered milk varies from brand to brand, but typically it amounts to $1 or $2 a gallon).

Using wheat without a wheat grinder
Wheat can be cooked and added to chili, rice-a-roni and even fruit salad. It can be run (dry) through a blender to crack it, then cook it, then add a little to raw hamburger to stretch the meat. Whole wheat berries are also delicious in rice for any side dish. Cook some wheat, keep it in the fridge, then toss it in with your rice. (Start with 1/4 cup of cooked wheat to 1 cup of cooked rice). This adds variety and nutrition. It also helps to rotate food storage and stretch your grocery budget.

Using other grains in baking
Cooked cereal can be added to muffins, pancakes, etc.

Dried carrots
The church's Home Storage Center sells dried carrots. You don't have to peel or chop them, just toss them in to casseroles, soups, chili and just about anything that calls for carrots. If there is enough liquid in the dish (such as with soups and some casseroles) you don't even need to reconstitute them first. They are easy to reconstitute, though. Soak for 10 minutes, drain off the excess water and use the same as you would use chopped carrots. They can be added to fried rice, rice-a-roni, even cookies. Many store-bought foods (such as Betty Crocker carrot cake mix) use dried carrots as an ingredient, too.

Dried onions
The church's Home Storage Center also sells onions. Toss them into soups and casseroles and ground beef for tacos or chili.

Dried beans
Beans are an excellent way to provide valuable nutrients at very inexpensive cost. They can be easily made in a crockpot. Measure 1-2 cups dried, rinsed beans. Add enough boiling water to cover the beans by about 2 inches. Set crockpot to High and cook for 2-3 hours. They are now ready to add to any recipe. They can even be cooked, then frozen for later use.

Stretch meat by using beans
Many meat dishes can be stretched by using beans. Beans can even be used as a substitute for meat in some dishes. For example, in lentil soup, use half hamburger and half beans. In tacos use half hamburger and half beans (pinto, kidney, or great white northern beans all work well). Store bought chili can also be stretched with home-cooked beans (sometimes you also need to add a small can of plain tomato sauce). The church's Home Storage Center also sells refried beans which can be used in similar ways. Taco seasoning can be added to them and they can substitute or replace taco meat in tacos and taco salad.

Stretch store-bought mixes with cheaper products from food storage
For example, toss in an extra handful of pasta when making macaroni and cheese. The flavor will still be the same, but the amount is greater. For another example, store-bought spaghetti sauce can be stretched by adding 1/2 can spaghetti sauce, 1 can plain tomato sauce and 1 can diced tomatoes. Another examples is stretching Hamburger Helper with some of the "extras" suggested right on the label, such as canned tomatotes, dried or fresh carrots, rice, pasta, beans, etc. In the taco variety of Hamburger Helper it is easy to add black beans, corn and canned tomatoes.

Find the cheapest and tastiest brand
If there are store-bought products that you use a lot of, experiment with different brands until you find the one that you like best. It might end up being the top-of-the-line name-brand product, but it might be a less-expensive product. For example, if you eat a lot of garden salads with store-bought salad dressing, try buying the cheapest brand of dressing. If its taste doesn't suit you, next time by the next brand up. Continue this (from least expensive to most expensive) until you find the brand you like best. Then, continue to use that brand. Watch for sales or coupons and stock-up when that brand is sold at a good price. This system works well for any item in a grocery store: yogurt, jam, peanut butter, spaghetti sauce, milk, cold cereal, etc.

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