We're lactose intolerant and on a tight food budget too. Some of the things I try to do to cut costs and get the most bang for our buck -
- Dried beans and lentils instead of canned.
- Bulk rice and pasta/noodles.
- Frozen juice concentrates instead of bottled.
- Stock up on meats during sales - chicken legs, ham and ground meat are cheapest and can stretch pretty far.
- Use coupons whenever possible.
- Bone in meat - save the bones in the freezer until you have enough to make your own stock (save your veggie trimmings for it too).
- Bacon fat - I save the bacon fat in a mason jar in the fridge when we fry bacon - not healthy to slather on everything, but a little goes a long way and you can use occasionally instead of butter or oil.
- Stay away from mixes - it's cheaper to bake up brownies from scratch instead buying a box, for example.
- Bulk bulk olive and/or veggie oil.
- For household goods - cut the paper towels and disposables if you use them, and go with cloth - that savings can be applied to your food budget.
- Try to buy your household goods in bulk (toilet paper, dish soap, etc.) because the savings can be applied to the food budget.
- Can/freeze/dry as much produce as you can from the farmers markets - ask for "seconds" - they're usually about 50% cheaper than the pristine produce sold at retail.
- When you have a little extra money in the budget, stock up on a few things - in my opinion food in the pantry is more valuable than money in the bank.
Meal ideas that stretch pretty far and are tasty -
- Dry bean soups (15 Bean and Pasta e Fagioli are great - delicious without needing any meat, or can be flavored with a little pork rind or ham hock).
- The potato is versatile - scalloped potatoes and potato soup are some of our cheap favorites.
- Crockpot dinners - a pork or beef roast can go a really long way.
- Pasta salads - you can mix anything with pasta and a little salad dressing and it's going to taste good. Since you have a gluten allergy, you could try rice noodles?