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#1 of 31 Old 01-12-2013, 11:55 AM - Thread Starter
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We'd like to pull together some ideas for a Frugal Meal Planning 101 article and thought who best to get the best tips from but the Mothering Nutrition and Good Eating community! 

 

If I were a mom suddenly faced with a big household budget cut I'd likely look closely at my food bill, what I'm buying and what I could do better meals-wise and in shopping. What ideas do you have to help such a mom? What works best for your family? What favorites are always on your menu that are easy to make and inexpensive but also whole, healthy meals? 

 

Please share your ideas and tips. We'll pull together the article to feature on Mothering.com and credit everyone.  love.gif


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#2 of 31 Old 01-12-2013, 02:07 PM
 
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#3 of 31 Old 01-13-2013, 08:49 AM
 
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I am pretty bad at not spending much at the grocery store, so take what I say with a grain of salt. I would still try to buy more fresh fruits and vegetables than canned to keep us healthy, and I would make meatloaf, a whole chicken with vegetables (onion inside the chicken, carrots and potatoes outside), chicken soup with the leftovers, shepherd's pie, and a store bought pizza every now and then.


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#4 of 31 Old 01-13-2013, 10:05 AM - Thread Starter
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For me, buying in bulk cuts costs. But you really need to have the storage space to make that work well and for fresh foods you have to be really prepared with menus planned so that the bulk food is utilized before it goes bad. redface.gif


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#5 of 31 Old 01-13-2013, 10:13 AM
 
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For me, buying in bulk cuts costs. But you really need to have the storage space to make that work well and for fresh foods you have to be really prepared with menus planned so that the bulk food is utilized before it goes bad. redface.gif

We have two fridges (one came with our rented house and we bought the other one used) so that helps with storing the fresh food. Also I usually plan meals for a week or two weeks in advance so that helps with using up what I buy as long as I don't forget what I bought something for, which does occasionally happen.


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#6 of 31 Old 01-13-2013, 10:16 AM
 
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As a kid, we didn't have much money, so I have a whole host of cheap meals that I pull out. Quick tips:

-Make a menu and stick to it! don't go grocery shopping when hungry
-The Kraft Canada website has some great, cheap meals. I find I usually have to double the spices though

-Buy bulk meat if possible

-buy cheaper cuts of meats (flank steak, chicken thighs instead of breasts, cottage roll)

-or don't buy meat at all. Meat is the big expense on most grocery bills. Try to make two nights/days vegetarian. 

-slow cookers are great for the cheaper cuts of meat that take a little longer to cook

-make as much as you can from scratch. While it's not as convienent, it can be a great family activity. This will also have more "up front" cost, but over the long run it will be cheaper

-but whatever fruits/veggies are in season at the time, they are always cheaper

-Go comparison shopping and see if you can find a cheaper grocery store. IE-No Frills instead of Superstore of Loblaws (Canadian)

budgetbytes.com is a GREAT Website!

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#7 of 31 Old 01-13-2013, 10:34 AM
 
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I buy in bulk and also belong to a produce coop. CSA or buying coops are both great ways to save on fresh produce. I pick up my produce once a week and then plan all of our meals around what we have. We are plant based so we have no meat expense. I buy most of our grains in bulk. I don't go to the grocery store often. We go to Costco once a month and Sprouts every few weeks to fill in if I need something for a recipe but mostly we make do with what we have. I make a lot of stuff from scratch which is relaxing for me and my kids like to help. We use lots of dried beans and lentils with our fresh vegetables.
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#8 of 31 Old 01-13-2013, 11:23 AM
 
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Keep a price book. You'll make surprising discoveries. A grocery store you considered more expensive will sell certain products for a lower price. The unit price of brown sugar at one store might actually be more expensive in bulk than pre-packaged. Certain patterns will show up in your records that tell you when different items are likely to go on sale.

Here's one template: http://organizedhome.com/printable/household-notebook/price-book

Also, one caveat for menu planning is that you get to the store and find that an ingredient that you need is expensive. That's why I sometimes go grocery shopping and menu plan on the fly. This only works if you're used to cooking and not too recipe-dependent. So if beans are marked down, I get a bunch and jot down that we're having black bean soup Thursday night.

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#9 of 31 Old 01-13-2013, 12:23 PM
 
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Originally Posted by jgallagher66 View Post

I buy in bulk and also belong to a produce coop. CSA or buying coops are both great ways to save on fresh produce. I pick up my produce once a week and then plan all of our meals around what we have. We are plant based so we have no meat expense. I buy most of our grains in bulk. I don't go to the grocery store often. We go to Costco once a month and Sprouts every few weeks to fill in if I need something for a recipe but mostly we make do with what we have. I make a lot of stuff from scratch which is relaxing for me and my kids like to help. We use lots of dried beans and lentils with our fresh vegetables.

What does CSA stand for? Do you know if there are any Sprouts in Florida? Is that expensive?


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#10 of 31 Old 01-13-2013, 02:52 PM
 
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Bone in cuts of meat/chicken are almost always cheaper than boneless. Plus you can save the bones to make rich broths. Also I found adding beans to most meat helps to stretch the meat and meal overall. I add a handful lentils to pretty much every casserole or soup I make.

Casseroles, soups and stews really make the $$$ stretch since you can fill them with extra veggies (especially things like the stalks of broccoli) and rice or pasta.
 

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#11 of 31 Old 01-13-2013, 04:19 PM
 
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What does CSA stand for? Do you know if there are any Sprouts in Florida? Is that expensive?

Hi Catholic Mama

The quote feature may not work on my tablet. CSA stands for community supported agriculture. You can find put what's available close to you by going to www.localharvest.org/CSA

Sprouts may be more of a west coast thing. It's a natural food store with good prices on fresh produce and carries lots of items that are more natural food oriented that may be difficult to find in a regular grocery. I find them reasonable if I shop the specials only. I don't go there too often but they carry stuff like non-dairy yogurt that we eat but that not all grocery stores carry.

I try to stay out of the grocery as much as possible and just come up with recipes to use what I already have bought in bulk.
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#12 of 31 Old 01-13-2013, 08:17 PM
 
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Ways we have cut down on our grocery bill:

 

*Survey our pantry and fridge/freezer and then meal plan for the week before writing out a grocery list. Then we buy only the ingredients we need for our meal plan.

*When making things like pasta sauce, we make a bunch and freeze some. This has cut down on spending on convenience foods or take out on those inevitable days that we are too tired after work to cook.

*Plan quick and easy meals into our meal plan to also accomodate those inevitable days that we do not feel like cooking much

*make muffins, quick breads, etc to save on snack foods such as granola bars

*make french toast and/or pancakes ahead of time and freeze them for quick cheap breakfasts

 

Some of the cheaper meals we love:

 

Veggie Tortilla Night. Basically mixed stir-fried veg, some baked beans, avocado, cheese, salsa and torillas

 

Lentil and Sausage with Spinach. A thick lentil stew with sausage cut up in it.

 

Bangers and Mash. Which is just fried sausages and mashed veg. We love mashed sweet potato or mashed squash

 

Spagetti

 

Black Bean Soup. Really good vegetarian. But if you love meat, it is great with a smoked turkey leg. Cook the leg in it for a couple hours (slow cookers are great) and then shread the meat into the soup. VERY hearty and tasty.

 

Add beans or lentils to almost anything.

 

Bean salads are great for lunches. A bean salad with a piece of crusty bread can be a satisfying meal.

 

Poach an egg in tomato sauce and put on toast open face. A few slices of avocado on the side, or sliced apples or pear. Very yummy and inexpensive meal.

 

I find it is almost always cheaper to make extra dinner and take left overs for lunch rather than buy lunch, or even cheaper than most other packed lunches.

 

ALWAYS take some snacks in your bag when you go out. Less tempted to buy a snack at a coffee shop or somewhere when your afternoon gets the better of you or errands take longer than you thought.


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#13 of 31 Old 01-13-2013, 09:23 PM
 
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My most effective methods for eating frugally were to make everything from scratch.  You can easily make bread (Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day is my favorite book about bread baking if I (a kitchen dunce) can make bread following this method anyone can), granola (this is super cheap to make if you buy bulk ingredients, my favorite recipe is chai spice), oatmeal, muffins, energy bars, pancakes, crepes, waffles, hummus, even salad dressings.  This makes breakfast and snacking much cheaper and saves a ton of money. 

 

Eggs are a super cheap source of protein so have lots on hand.  You can easily make an omlette or fritatta out of a dozen eggs that will feed several people for 3 or 4 dollars total, depending on what kind of ingredients you use.  I try to always have a dozen hard boiled eggs on hand as a cheap, protein-y snack.

 

When buying produce focus on veggies rather than fruits they are much cheaper.  Good healthy snacks for kids are celery and peanut butter (you can add raisins for ants on a log), cucumbers and homemade ranch dressing, carrots and hummus, kale chips.  Bananas are a good cheap fruit to have on hand if you do want to have fruit.

 

Amazon has some decent deals if you watch and wait for things to go on sale, especially if you do subscribe and save.

 

Those are some thoughts off the top of my head.


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-buy cheaper cuts of meats (flank steak, chicken thighs instead of breasts, cottage roll)

-or don't buy meat at all. Meat is the big expense on most grocery bills. Try to make two nights/days vegetarian. 

-slow cookers are great for the cheaper cuts of meat that take a little longer to cook

 

YES YES YES! I've been trying to only buy cheaper cuts and sale meats, and we are eating vegetarian once every few nights. We did pesto with vegetables the other night and the whole family loved it despite being vegetarian. We also do vegetarian currys they are very flavorful and can be as spicy as you want. 

We do stew meat and pork sholders in the crock pot and they come out amazing, and stretches across several meals for our small family. 


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- Egg dishes. Omelets, farmers omelets,  fritters, casseroles, egg salad sandwiches, fried egg sands, poached eggs...You can make a lot of meals from a 5 dozen crate of eggs and almost always that is under $10 at the store.

Good source of protein, traditional food.

 

- Soup dishes A head of broccoli or cauliflower, a few carrots, a stick of celery, some parsley, and some bouillon (if no stock is on hand) can turn into Broccoli or Cauliflower soup. Simple, nutritious and pretty quick. Make a white sauce out of 1/2 cup milk and a few tablespoons of flour in a separate pan, whisking over medium heat until it thickens. Pour in to soup mix and you have a creamy, decadent tasting cream of _____ soup. Simple, and very cheap. I can make this recipe for my family for less than $3.50 and it feeds all of us well.

 

A quick, and cheaper restaurant style soup I make is chicken tortilla soup. Simple recipe is 2-3 cans of beans that are on sale that you like, taco seasoning, onion, (optional) ground turkey or chicken, cumin powder, and chicken stock/bouillon. 1 can of diced tomatoes, and last but not least strips of corn tortillas added.

If I am broke and this is all I have it is delicious and can be made with enough for left overs. Of course, I like to add a squirt of lime juice, fresh cilantro, cheese, grape tomatoes and sour cream on top. Rarely are avocados on sale, but those are yummy also.

Even with all the 'fixings' on top I can make enough for two meals for us for around $12. This can be made even cheaper if done vegetarian and if you plan meals around the left over tortillas, etc. - this is definitely a staple.

 

The above soups converted me to loving soup. Before eating these delicious soups, I hated soup. Now we eat soup at least 2 times a week, some times more.

 

-Carb Dishes

 

Simple dishes like biscuits and gravy, fried potatoes, pancakes, oatmeal --- all of these are heavy in carbs but are very cheap and can be made more nutritious with the addition of flax seed, or frying in olive oil. With the exception of oatmeal -We eat these with extreme moderation (1x a week). They are inexpensive and very filling.

 

 

-Snacks

It is very much worth it to get your hands on an air popper. Buy fresh popcorn kernels and then get busy experimenting! Our favorite topping for popcorn is coconut oil (melted), and then Cinnamon, sugar, and salt sprinkled on the popcorn. Wonderful and satisfies both sweet / salty cravings. Very inexpensive.

 

 

 

I have a lot more ideas but the real world chores are calling :)

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#16 of 31 Old 01-15-2013, 05:57 AM
 
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Soups are my answer. The problem is the boring factor... day after day the same soup. Complaints galore from my boys and my little girl just stops eating them. I've taking to freezing the soups after just one meal and making other soups over the course of a week... this allows me to then rotate soups over a period of a few weeks. The other day I experimented with a base soup of my own inventing that I then tweaked in a few directions over the following days. I sauteed garlic, onion, a tiny bit of jalapeno, carrots, and celery. I then added veggie broth, a can of garbanzo beans and a can of chopped tomatoes. Then the fun began. For a few nights, this morphed into mexican soup. I added lime, cilantro and avacadoes (my favorite version!). Another night I used the base and added tofu that had been sauteed in tamari and scallions for an asian-ish dish. My next plan is to go Thai with this. I'd love more thoughts on ways to tweak! Best, Mary Esther
 

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#17 of 31 Old 01-15-2013, 07:17 AM - Thread Starter
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Soups are great this time of year too! Thanks Mary Esther! thumb.gif


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#18 of 31 Old 01-15-2013, 07:24 AM - Thread Starter
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Does anyone dehydrate foods? That's something else I'm thinking to do as part of my frugal food budget.

 

Love the popcorn snack suggestion.lurk.gif


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#19 of 31 Old 01-15-2013, 11:35 AM
 
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I think the bottom line on living frugally is to

1. not deprive yourself on stuff you enjoy, but cut out other things that are not essential or even good for you.

2. make food at home, from scratch when you can.  The internet is a vast and amazing resource for recipes.

 

But for more details :)  ...

 

My family gets weird about eating the same thing more than once in a week, so by having a Basic Meal (like a hot cereal, salad or pasta) we can change it up or personalize it with veggies, dressings, or sauces.  I like making beans from scratch and freezing in small batches (its so much cheaper), but lately we've been buying canned beans.  We used to have a CSA, but cancelled it because it was too expensive ($50 per month versus about $25 per month at the store - I'm just talking veggies here, our CSA did not include fruit).  We found that our local grocery (Sprouts) carried the same exact items from our CSA farm, and even tough there was a "big" mark-up (or so we're told) we still spend about half picking what we want each week.  And we could buy organic cilantro whenever we want, not just when the CSA puts in in our box (which I did not understand why they sold it to the store and not include it in our boxes).  We had to go to the store anyway to buy fruit and stuff, so this just made more sense for us.  We buy organic baby greens from Trader Joe's.  It doesn't last nearly as long as heads of lettuce from the CSA (because its not as freshly picked), so I buy just one bag each time we go to the store, so it doesn't go bad.  We visit our nearby Trader Joe's once per week, since we only have a regular side by side fridge and not a lot of pantry space, for things like milk, cheese, eggs, lettuce, and some fruit.

 

Our biggest food expenses are eating out and alcohol.  We aren't big meat eaters (after spending a year as pescatarians we are much more aware of a reasonable amount of meat to eat).  But I would rather spend a just little more on food (good food & treats like scallops & artichokes, not processed packaged stuff) and not pay for things like cable, gym memberships (we walk/play outside), and haircuts - I cut my family's hair...it took some practice, but I'm a pro now ;).  These are recurring expenses that I just do not think is worth the money.

 

As far as how we eat...I grew up in and live in San Diego, so a family favorite is Mexican food.  We find it easy to make meals with staples like oatmeal, rice, beans, potatoes, eggs, tomatoes, onions, cilantro, and salsa.  Other items include milk, cheese, tortillas & bread (cheaper to make your own), and fresh & frozen veggies.  For me its often cheaper to buy frozen organic veggies.

 

Breakfast: Oatmeal (bulk from Costco) - we make it with water, then add whole flax seeds, frozen blueberries (the little wild ones, from Trader Joe's), milk, cinnamon and a bit of brown sugar to serve.

 

Or, egg in a nest with a chai latte.

 

Lunch: A hearty salad of organic baby greens & veggies & homemade dressing.  I started using my food processor to shred veggies quickly and make it easier to eat in a salad - carrots, jicama, persian cucumbers, mushrooms, whatever is on sale or in season.  I also hand chop things like a hard boiled egg, tomato.  Then I might make a homemade dressing in the food processor (no need to wash it before this step).  More often I just use some olive oil and balsamic vinegar.  Then I add raisins or cranberries, and hummus, beans, or edamame. 

 

I usually make a pasta for my kids for lunch (or rice & beans).  I serve with veggies I'm having in my salad.  And pasta sauce, or olive oil and parmesian cheese.

 

Dinners: 

Huevos Rancheros - Over easy eggs served with enchilada sauce, tortillas, and pico (diced onion, tomato, and cilantro), and refried black beans.

 

Pasta - Sauce or Olive oil and veggies like broccoli or cauliflower, or edamame. Grilled Chicken.

 

Wild caught salmon once per week (from Costco in the freezer section) - served with potatoes (roasted, mashed, etc) & veggies.

 

Enchilada Casarole - Layer corn tortillas and enchilada sauce (or homemade mole), then refried beans, corn, sauted onions & bell peppers & mushrooms, black olives.  I just put whatever veggies we have in the fridge & freezer that would be good.  You can add shredded chicken if you like.  Top with cheese (shredded, or spaced out slices) and another layer of corn tortillas, and enchilada sauce.  Bake at 375 for 20 mins or until heated through.  Serve with rice.  I like making cilantro lime rice (like at Chipotle) by adding lime juice and fresh chopped cilantro at the end of cooking.

 

Shepard's Pie with whatever filling of meat and veggies we have (or in the mood for) and topping of mashed potatoes, or mashed yams with potatoes.

 

Special Treat is Homemade biscuits & sausage gravy.  There are good recipes online for southern sausage gravy and how to make your own biscuits.

 

 

My husband doesn't like heavy meals, so often we will have a dinner version of the lunch salad.  We add grilled chicken, some fresh baked bread, and maybe a cup of soup or stew.

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I have been struggling a bit with this... my SO and I have three kids between the two of us, and my ten year old is quite possibly the pickiest eater ever, which makes healthy eating on a budget extremely difficult at times!

 

A great thing to keep on hand is dried black beans - cheap and plentiful.  I soak them overnight, then I saute peppers and onions while the beans are cooking (pressure cookers are GREAT!) and always keep things like wraps and big containers of salsa around.  If you, unlike me, can manage to follow the sales in your area, you can find relatively cheap but quality produce if you are willing to travel. Bags of onions are relatively cheap and green peppers are, as well.  I also keep bags of brown and jasmine rice on hand.

 

My S.O. makes wonderful whole wheat/grain bread, and one loaf usually lasts at least two or three days.  A nice hot slab of bread with butter or vegan spread and honey or jam can serve as breakfast, a snack, a treat, or a side to any dinner.  Even my picky one loves this bread. Seriously, it's nutritious, cheap to make, and fills our bellies quite nicely!

 

Stocking up on frozen veggies when they are on sale can always save the day.  I throw them into the burritos, or I make a stir fry and blend in whatever fresh veggies we have left before they spoil.  I've recently concocted a really delicious stir fry with ingredients at hand... I toss them in a wok with olive oil, sprinkle on a garlic/chili powder blend, spritz with soy sauce or Bragg's liquid aminos, and top it off with a drizzle of maple syrup.  I then add separately-saute'd tempeh or tofu, depending what's on sale that week, and make a batch of rice along with it.  I even add leftover black beans at times... it's amazing what you can come up with when you don't want to - or can't - go to the store!

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#21 of 31 Old 01-15-2013, 11:53 AM
 
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Also... sorry, I don't mean to hog the thread, I'm just excited about this since it's been a huge focus for us lately!... buying pastas and sauces that are on sale are also easy and cheap to "spice up" and make more healthy.  It's another place to add in veggies, and I'll chop and saute onions, fresh garlic, peppers, mushrooms, etc. and throw them in the sauce.  We also eat a lot of salads and I usually add in leftover beans, tempeh, tofu, etc., and sometimes I'll chop in hard boiled eggs for protein.  For my ten year old, who's super picky, I'll buy boneless breasts when they are on sale and keep them frozen, which makes for a relatively healthy and simple meal for him.  I'll usually provide carrots and broccoli with dip to round out the meal. 

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#22 of 31 Old 01-15-2013, 12:36 PM
 
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*make french toast and/or pancakes ahead of time and freeze them for quick cheap breakfasts

 

Nice! How do you freeze the pancakes?

 

Here we love burritos! Chicken, beef, beans or eggs with a little cheese and salsa in a flour tortilla and we're good to go! With cornbread or soup or salad or cut-up veggies (love my mom's dip : container of plain yogourt, teaspoon of mayo and teaspoon of salted herbs), it makes a great, quick and cheap lunch!


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#23 of 31 Old 01-15-2013, 12:42 PM - Thread Starter
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Love the ideas! 

 

I have the same question about freezing pancakes. Do they really freeze well? I generally don;t find the frozen grocery store offerings to taste that good. So s homemade frozen close to the freshly made thing?


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#24 of 31 Old 01-15-2013, 12:48 PM
 
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Don't mean to hijack but here's my 2 cents about it: we freeze them, pancakes/waffles/french toast in a single layer on a baking sheet lined with wax/parchment paper. Then throw those into a ziploc freezer bag and toss them in the toaster to reheat. Only a few times, and this is a personal freezer issue I think, did I notice a 'freezer' taste to them. 

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#25 of 31 Old 01-15-2013, 05:59 PM
 
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Oh hijack as much as you want! thx for the tip!


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#26 of 31 Old 01-16-2013, 11:31 AM
 
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Great idea for a thread!

 

My best trick is to make your own pasta sauce from cans. I use one part diced tomatoes, and one part tomato sauce. Simmer onions and garlic until soft (use as much or as little as you like), add diced tomatoes and simmer until tomatoes are soft, add tomato sauce, season to taste with Italian spices (my DH likes to add additional oregano to the Italian spice mix), cayenne powder, salt, pepper, a touch of sweetener (we use agave syrup), and red wine if you have some handy (not necessary). Sometimes I start seasoning when the diced tomatoes are simmering. 

 

Simmer the whole concoction until the consistency and spices are to your liking! It works with fresh diced tomatoes, too, but you'll next extra time to simmer some of the water away. 

 

You can make as much or as little as you want, and freeze the excess. Add a variety of color of veggies for more nutrition! 


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#27 of 31 Old 01-16-2013, 12:54 PM - Thread Starter
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These are great ideas! Very motivational and making me feel like doing this is totally possible for just about any family. smile.gif I guess the biggest hurdle is planning and preparing. 

 

Okay, so what about family favorite meals? pohaha - I love the suggestions you offered. thumb.gif

 

Some of our family favorites:

 

A hearty vegetable stew with beans and garlic bread

Burritos made with an assortment of chopped vegetables and a nice salsa topping

Quick stir-fry whatever we have on hand and throw in some rice noodles or chinese noodles with a spicy peanut butter soy sauce

Squash or pumpkin soup and home-baked tortilla chips with a hummus dip 


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#28 of 31 Old 01-19-2013, 11:54 AM
 
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My latest trick is to shop at the Asian foods warehouse store. The prices are incredible on meat, many vegetables, and Asian ingredients. They also carry other ethnic foods like Mexican crumbling cheese at a fraction of the price for my normal big grocery store. I buy in small quantities, NOT bulk (except for some dry goods staples like our 40 lb. bag of rice from the Asian food store and bulk rice flour, tapioca flour, etc), because I know that if I buy bulk I will end up wasting food. I plan menus week by week and don't let myself get sucked into buying something on sale just because it is on sale. I also use cash at the grocery store because it forces me to be more disciplined about spontaneous purchases. We eat vegetarian at least 2 nights per week and on the other nights the meat is not the star. I make the vegetables the star of the meal. Cooking beans from dry versus canned saves. My DH is gluten free so I buy the individual ingredients for baking gluten-free and make everything from scratch. We do not buy prepackaged foods except in rare circumstances. We rarely have dessert.

 

In terms of specific meals...well I love variety so I save the cooking magazine from work and plan my menus out of those. Cooking Light and Real Simple are my favorites. We never get bored, I stick to the recipes with fewer ingredients and substitute if they have an ingredient that is too pricey. Some favorites last week included a crockpot meal Asian Pork with Noodles and Broccoli. I got a 2.5 lb pork shoulder at the Asian food store for $5 and it made a huge amount of food. It fed us for 2 dinners and 2 lunches (we bring our lunch to work). Also LOVED a recipe for Swiss Chard and Chickpea Fritters with yogurt. Oh my so, so tasty (even my picky, picky son ate it), easy, and cheap. I'm going to experiment with the recipe next time to add more flour (gluten-free mix I make), roll them out thinner and try to make them like a tortilla chip. Lastly, we enjoyed a big pot of Lentil Stew (with mustard greens, sweet potatoes, and a little bit of Italian sausage). Again, it made enough to feed us for 4 meals and only needed 1 lb of meat.

 

Whenever I feel like leftover greens and vegies are building up in the fridge, I make stir fry using tofu for the protein. Or make fried rice from the leftover rice of another meal.

 

The biggest budget killers:

cheese

prepackaged meals

junk food and drinks (we only drink water and milk and every couple weeks buy a big jug of fresh mango juice...a definite luxury)

meat
 


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#29 of 31 Old 01-20-2013, 07:43 PM
 
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I have always been a careful shopper, but recently my husband has taken a pay cut, so now I am really trying to cut down our food budget by 20%.  With 9 people to feed, this is not easy!  Some of my favorite ways to stretch the dollars are:

Costco rotisserie chickens.  I buy 2 and we get one dinner, plus homemade soup for 2 lunches...that's 27 servings for only $10.00, or 37 cents each.

Oatmeal or cream of wheat for breakfast...much cheaper than boxed cereal.

Hot lunches...we homeschool, and my husband's office is next to our house, so I don't need to pack lunches for anyone.  We love scrambled eggs or pancakes for lunch, or grilled cheese on whatever bread was on sale that week.

Bulk meat, also from Costco, especially when they are having a good coupon deal.  Last week I bought pork chops for $10.00, and we had breaded pork chops one night, and pork fried rice tonight.  That's 18 servings for only $10.00, or 55 cents per serving.

Many stores will have big sales at certain times a year when you can stock up on the things you use often, like canned beans and tomato sauce.  If you have the space, this is a great way to save.

I also save money (i know it's not food, but it is still money spent at the grocery store) by using cloth diapers and cloth baby wipes.  With 7 kids, and only 4 months out of 15 years with no one in diapers, I have literally saved thousands this way.

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#30 of 31 Old 01-21-2013, 12:06 PM
 
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I've found that buying in bulk and buying local are the best ways to save $ and still feel good about what we eat. Sometimes it takes more time, but I would rather bake bread or go blackberry picking as a fun family project than watch TV or whatever.  Planning ahead is key (weekly with menus and seasonally with what foods we store). We don't have very much room for a garden, so I help with a family members garden in exchange for veggies, then go to Farmer's market for the veggies that we don't grow. I go berry and apple picking in the summer, some at pick-your-own places and also just at some berry patches I know about. We spend about $60 on pick your own a summer and have a ton of fresh fruit all summer and enough saved up to eat a lot of fruit all winter. Also freeze  tomatoes, chopped green and red peppers, corn, and green beans, zucchini, and other veggies too. When we plan well we can spend about $45 a week on food, with a $100ish shopping trip every 5 or so weeks for all the bulk foods like beans, lentils, various kinds of grain , flour, spices and so on. We only eat animal products that are local and organic so that is probably what we spend the most on each week. I often get a whole chicken (costs around $20 for one here), and then have baked chicken, chicken fajitas, and chicken pot pie or chicken soup. We only get one meat product each week. I highly recommend the book Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver. It has really helped me save a ton of money while eating much more high quality and environmentally friendly food. 

http://www.animalvegetablemiracle.com/book.htm

We also just got a Costco membership for things that we want that we can't buy local for or that are too expensive, but I'm not sure how I feel about it yet. We did just get 24 boxes of Annie's mac & cheese for $24, I'm pretty psyched about that.  

 

Some meals we eat a lot are:

Homemade pancakes with blueberry sauce (so quick and easy, and so cheap!)

Pizza (I make 20 or so crusts at a time and freeze them, I get cheese when it is on sale and freeze it)

Quesadillas or burritos with beans and veggies

Soup or stew (veggie, chicken, black bean, or whatever else, it's a great way to clean out the fridge). 

Pasta

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