Saturday, October 6, 2012




My mother pointed this out to me:  We all know some ways we can eat more cheaply, but that doesn't always leave us eating the healthiest of foods. She is trying (and succeeding) to lose weight while on a budget. Why is it that it is so much easier to eat junk food when you are on a budget?  The fact is, that if you don't mind preparing more of your meals yourself (yes, using raw ingredients) and staying away from prepackaged foods, you can easily eat healthy on a budget.

1.  Eat Less Meat

Cutting back on meat is very popular right now?  Some do it because "so and so did", but here's why it is actually a good idea.  Not only is meat an inefficient way of getting our calories and protein, but it is also expensive.  There are many other, more efficient (both in terms of nutrition and budget) ways of getting your daily protein.  
  • Whole grains (especially quinoa) One cup of quinoa has 18g of protein and 9g of fiber!
  • Beans, lentils, and other legumes
  • Peanut butter, nuts, and seeds
  • Eggs

Emphasize grains and legumes.  
They add a heaviness to a meal that most people rely on meat for.

Dried beans and other legumes are nutritional superstars (and are super cheap.  They don't always have to be the side dish either.  They are great in a variety of dishes as either stretchers (more on that later)  or as the main ingredient because they provide plant based protein and fiver.  Even though it takes longer to prepare dried beans (what with the soaking and all), the results are well worth it because you get less sodium and 5x more beans for your money than with canned.

Grains such as pasta and rice can definitely stretch your food dollar.  Meatless meals where pasta or rice are served make you feel more full, and if you use whole grain pasta or rice, you will have the added bonus of fiber and protein.

2.  Buy Locally 

Go to local farmers markets to buy local seasonal foods.  Often at these places, you are buying directly from the farmer, so you get fresher and cheaper food.  If you just want run of the mill veggies, most towns and cities have some pop up produce stands when crops are abundant.  Some local farms will even allow visitors and let you buy directly from them on site.  Some of these farms even have "u pick" veggies at a much cheaper rate.  

Where I used to live before I moved to Florida, (the Tennessee side of the Kentucky/Tennessee state line right by I-65) we were lucky to live near a community of Amish and Minonites.  It is called Perrrytown and is in Kentucky.   They had several stores that were open year round with dry goods (bulk grocery items, canned goods, etc.), but in the summer the produce markets opened up!  There were several in the community, so the prices were competitive.  They had a shipping center where the minonites would sell many of their crops to be shipped to local grocery stores.  


3. Eat Seasonally

Seasonal foods are not only at their peak of flavor and nutrition, they often cost less since they don't need to be shipped in from other places (like other continents).  What fruits and veggies are in season where I live???  When your favorite fruits and veggies are in season, preserve them with freezing, canning or drying!

4.  Grow your own.

Being able to go outside and pick your own tomato for your sandwich is certainly the freshest way to get one.  It can also be the cheapest. . . if you plan correctly.  If you grown too big of a garden, you could end up with more money invested in the veggies you do use.  Also, if you buy all expensive starts from Lowe's or Home Depot, you may not end up getting the best deal.  It is more economical to start your veggies from seed.  If you make the one time investment of buying heirloom seeds, then they can be collected from your crop and used for the next year.  

Growing your own garden does not mean you have to have a quarter acre designated to your veggies.  Some of us just don't have the space or the time.  A small kitchen garden can be grown on your back patio in containers.  One squash plant in a hanging basket, for instance, may provide enough squash for your family throughout it's growing season.  Two bean plants may provide enough for dinner and it will continue to produce as long as you keep it picked and the weather cooperates.  One tomato plant in a pot will definitely provide plenty of b.l.t.s, but may even give you enough for a batch or two of sauce that can be frozen for future use.  Herbs are always a good addition to a patio garden, or even a window sill garden!  Have fun and try different things.

One really neat gardening trick, is the everlasting green onions!  You take one bunch of store bought green onions.  When you cut off the bottom inch of the onion bulb, don't throw it away!!!  Plant them for the next time you need green onions.  In just a few weeks, you will have a whole other batch of onions, ready for your recipes!

5.  Preserve it When it's Cheap


I've already mentioned canning, drying and freezing your local produce when you can find it cheap. Many foods will freeze well.  If boneless chicken breast is on sale, buy a bunch, divide it into smaller portions to be used in cooking, and freeze.  Same thing with other meats such as hamburger, steaks, turkey, etc.  

Another way to preserve meals is to go ahead and assemble the meals in ready to cook packs.  Slow cooker meals are especially good for this.  For instance, freeze 2 pork chops in the water and barbecue sauce with onion to make slow cooker pulled pork.  

Similarly, you can also cook the meals to be reheated later.  Make sure if you do this, you use containers that can be used to cook in.  Foil pans are great for anything that will need to be put in the oven to reheat.

6.  Skip the Processed Foods!


Some processed or prepackaged meals may seem cheaper (more convenient, anyway).  The real steal in these ready to use meals is in the nourishment they provide.   Their empty calories will leave us still hungry for the nourishment our bodies require.

Many processed foods can be duplicated for less at home.


Frozen waffles, tv dinners, baked goods, prepackaged kids lunches, etc. can be easily assembled in your kitchen for less.  Some can even be assembled and frozen for convenient use later.  Many other processed foods (candy, chips, soda) are foods that we are better off without and serve us best as a special (and rare) treat.

7. Buy the Whole Chicken


Instead of buying chicken piece by piece, plan meals that use breast and thighs on different nights.  Chicken legs and wings can be frozen until you have enough to make a separate meal of just legs or wings.  You can also roast a whole chicken and use your leftovers in recipes calling for chopped or shredded cooked chicken.  Whole chickens can be found for around $0.90 per lb, compared to $3.00 per lb (or higher) for individual parts.

8. Stretchers


Adding  cheap healthy foods (that don't have an overbearing flavor that could change the flavor of your dishes too drastically) to your favorite recipes will help 'stretch' your food dollar and can even help conceal veggies from those who wouldn't normally eat them (maybe even yourself? ).  For instance, cauliflower can replace half of the potatoes in your mashed potatoes.  It doesn't change the flavor, and when well cooked and mashed, doesn't change the texture either.  

Stretchers don't have to stay hidden.  Add veggies or legumes to many recipes to 'stretch' it AND make it healthier.



The best way to eat cheaper and healthier is to make a plan specifically for your family.  Start by writing down everything you eat for a week, and save your receipts from the grocery store.  From there, tweak the foods you eat to make them healthier, see what prepackaged foods can be made yourself, and how else you can use your grocery money more effectively.  Also, limit the amount of meals you eat out.

Until next time. . . 

  



8:39 AM Christine D



My mother pointed this out to me:  We all know some ways we can eat more cheaply, but that doesn't always leave us eating the healthiest of foods. She is trying (and succeeding) to lose weight while on a budget. Why is it that it is so much easier to eat junk food when you are on a budget?  The fact is, that if you don't mind preparing more of your meals yourself (yes, using raw ingredients) and staying away from prepackaged foods, you can easily eat healthy on a budget.

1.  Eat Less Meat

Cutting back on meat is very popular right now?  Some do it because "so and so did", but here's why it is actually a good idea.  Not only is meat an inefficient way of getting our calories and protein, but it is also expensive.  There are many other, more efficient (both in terms of nutrition and budget) ways of getting your daily protein.  
  • Whole grains (especially quinoa) One cup of quinoa has 18g of protein and 9g of fiber!
  • Beans, lentils, and other legumes
  • Peanut butter, nuts, and seeds
  • Eggs

Emphasize grains and legumes.  
They add a heaviness to a meal that most people rely on meat for.

Dried beans and other legumes are nutritional superstars (and are super cheap.  They don't always have to be the side dish either.  They are great in a variety of dishes as either stretchers (more on that later)  or as the main ingredient because they provide plant based protein and fiver.  Even though it takes longer to prepare dried beans (what with the soaking and all), the results are well worth it because you get less sodium and 5x more beans for your money than with canned.

Grains such as pasta and rice can definitely stretch your food dollar.  Meatless meals where pasta or rice are served make you feel more full, and if you use whole grain pasta or rice, you will have the added bonus of fiber and protein.

2.  Buy Locally 

Go to local farmers markets to buy local seasonal foods.  Often at these places, you are buying directly from the farmer, so you get fresher and cheaper food.  If you just want run of the mill veggies, most towns and cities have some pop up produce stands when crops are abundant.  Some local farms will even allow visitors and let you buy directly from them on site.  Some of these farms even have "u pick" veggies at a much cheaper rate.  

Where I used to live before I moved to Florida, (the Tennessee side of the Kentucky/Tennessee state line right by I-65) we were lucky to live near a community of Amish and Minonites.  It is called Perrrytown and is in Kentucky.   They had several stores that were open year round with dry goods (bulk grocery items, canned goods, etc.), but in the summer the produce markets opened up!  There were several in the community, so the prices were competitive.  They had a shipping center where the minonites would sell many of their crops to be shipped to local grocery stores.  


3. Eat Seasonally

Seasonal foods are not only at their peak of flavor and nutrition, they often cost less since they don't need to be shipped in from other places (like other continents).  What fruits and veggies are in season where I live???  When your favorite fruits and veggies are in season, preserve them with freezing, canning or drying!

4.  Grow your own.

Being able to go outside and pick your own tomato for your sandwich is certainly the freshest way to get one.  It can also be the cheapest. . . if you plan correctly.  If you grown too big of a garden, you could end up with more money invested in the veggies you do use.  Also, if you buy all expensive starts from Lowe's or Home Depot, you may not end up getting the best deal.  It is more economical to start your veggies from seed.  If you make the one time investment of buying heirloom seeds, then they can be collected from your crop and used for the next year.  

Growing your own garden does not mean you have to have a quarter acre designated to your veggies.  Some of us just don't have the space or the time.  A small kitchen garden can be grown on your back patio in containers.  One squash plant in a hanging basket, for instance, may provide enough squash for your family throughout it's growing season.  Two bean plants may provide enough for dinner and it will continue to produce as long as you keep it picked and the weather cooperates.  One tomato plant in a pot will definitely provide plenty of b.l.t.s, but may even give you enough for a batch or two of sauce that can be frozen for future use.  Herbs are always a good addition to a patio garden, or even a window sill garden!  Have fun and try different things.

One really neat gardening trick, is the everlasting green onions!  You take one bunch of store bought green onions.  When you cut off the bottom inch of the onion bulb, don't throw it away!!!  Plant them for the next time you need green onions.  In just a few weeks, you will have a whole other batch of onions, ready for your recipes!

5.  Preserve it When it's Cheap


I've already mentioned canning, drying and freezing your local produce when you can find it cheap. Many foods will freeze well.  If boneless chicken breast is on sale, buy a bunch, divide it into smaller portions to be used in cooking, and freeze.  Same thing with other meats such as hamburger, steaks, turkey, etc.  

Another way to preserve meals is to go ahead and assemble the meals in ready to cook packs.  Slow cooker meals are especially good for this.  For instance, freeze 2 pork chops in the water and barbecue sauce with onion to make slow cooker pulled pork.  

Similarly, you can also cook the meals to be reheated later.  Make sure if you do this, you use containers that can be used to cook in.  Foil pans are great for anything that will need to be put in the oven to reheat.

6.  Skip the Processed Foods!


Some processed or prepackaged meals may seem cheaper (more convenient, anyway).  The real steal in these ready to use meals is in the nourishment they provide.   Their empty calories will leave us still hungry for the nourishment our bodies require.

Many processed foods can be duplicated for less at home.


Frozen waffles, tv dinners, baked goods, prepackaged kids lunches, etc. can be easily assembled in your kitchen for less.  Some can even be assembled and frozen for convenient use later.  Many other processed foods (candy, chips, soda) are foods that we are better off without and serve us best as a special (and rare) treat.

7. Buy the Whole Chicken


Instead of buying chicken piece by piece, plan meals that use breast and thighs on different nights.  Chicken legs and wings can be frozen until you have enough to make a separate meal of just legs or wings.  You can also roast a whole chicken and use your leftovers in recipes calling for chopped or shredded cooked chicken.  Whole chickens can be found for around $0.90 per lb, compared to $3.00 per lb (or higher) for individual parts.

8. Stretchers


Adding  cheap healthy foods (that don't have an overbearing flavor that could change the flavor of your dishes too drastically) to your favorite recipes will help 'stretch' your food dollar and can even help conceal veggies from those who wouldn't normally eat them (maybe even yourself? ).  For instance, cauliflower can replace half of the potatoes in your mashed potatoes.  It doesn't change the flavor, and when well cooked and mashed, doesn't change the texture either.  

Stretchers don't have to stay hidden.  Add veggies or legumes to many recipes to 'stretch' it AND make it healthier.



The best way to eat cheaper and healthier is to make a plan specifically for your family.  Start by writing down everything you eat for a week, and save your receipts from the grocery store.  From there, tweak the foods you eat to make them healthier, see what prepackaged foods can be made yourself, and how else you can use your grocery money more effectively.  Also, limit the amount of meals you eat out.

Until next time. . . 

  



Friday, October 5, 2012

So far, I have only posted recipes that are cheap to make and kept it at that.  From now on, we are going to, of course have more recipes, but we are going to talk about how you can make some of your favorite recipes more cheaply.  This way, you don't feel like you are missing out on things you already or used to make for the sake of frugality.

One of the very best ways to save on everyday recipes, is to make some of your kitchen staples homemade. For instance, I am making chicken cakes (like crab cakes only with less expensive chicken in place of the crab).  For this recipe, I need chicken, bread crumbs, veggies, and eggs.  Rather than buying canned chicken, I took one chicken breast, seasoned it up, poured some Italian dressing on it, and baked it in the oven to chop to size or shred myself.  Instead of buying bread crumbs, I toasted 5 pieces of wheat bread in the oven VERY well, and then pulsed them in my food processor until they were the right consistency.  Since the chicken breast cost about $.95 and the 5 pieces of bread cost approximately  $.18 (rather than $2.50 for a can of chicken, and 2.39 for a can of bread crumbs), I have saved about $3.76 just by making some of the ingredients myself.  If you were to save this much on your recipes twice per week, then you save $30 per month and $391 per year.  That is amazing!  Not budget saving, but every little bit helps.

There are tons of kitchen staples you can easily make yourself!  Below, I am sharing a few such recipes, along with a breakdown of how much you will save.


Homemade Chocolate Syrup


1/2 cup cocoa powder
1 cup water
2 cups sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon vanilla

Mix the cocoa powder and the water in a saucepan.  Heat and stir to dissolve the cocoa.  Add the sugar; stir to dissolve.  Boil for about three minutes on medium heat.  Be careful not to let it boil over!  Add the salt and vanilla.  Let cool.  Pour into a clean glass jar and store in the refrigerator.  Keeps for several months.  
Yield: 2 cups

Directions:  use one teaspoon per glass of chocolate milk

Savings Information:
Okay, a 48 oz bottle of hershey syrup is $3.88 at walmart.com.  It has 35 servings per container, so it's $0.11 per serving.
I bought 4 cups of natural cocoa powder from the Amish near my old house for $3.80, so the cocoa in this recipe cost $0.48.  A 5lb bag of sugar has 11 1/4 cups in it (1lb=2 1/4 cups) and costs $2.88.  So, the sugar in this recipe cost $0.51.  2 floz of vanilla is $3.48 and has 12 teaspoons in it, so it's $0.07 for the vanilla.  The salt and water cost are so slight, we'll say $0.02 as an estimate.  That means, my recipe costs a total of $1.08 to make, and has 96 servings in it (48 teaspoons in a cup), so it cost $0.01 per serving!

That's a savings of $0.10 per serving.  If you have a child that drinks 2 glasses of chocolate milk per day, then you will save $6.00 per month and $73 per year. . . just on chocolate milk!!!!


Homemade Croutons


This could not be any simpler!


2-5 of bread the thickness you want your croutons (depending on how many croutons you need)
2-4 Tablespoons of butter (again, depending on croutons needed)
Sprinkle of  Italian seasoning, garlic powder, and/or other desired seasonings

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Remove the crust from your bread slices.  Melt the butter in the microwave and stir in seasonings.  Cut your slices of bread into cubes.  Toss bread crumbs in seasoned butter and place on cookie sheet in single layer.  Cook until it crisps (about 5-10 minutes.

Now then, one of my loaves of bread costs about $0.85 to make, and I only used about 1/5 of a loaf, so lets says this recipe costs about  $0.30 to make ( got to count the butter and sprinkling of spices)
A bag of croutons costs about $2.25, so that's a savings of $1.95 for every salad with croutons!  If you have one salad with croutons a week (and we all KNOW we should eat salad more often than that), you save $7.80 a month and $101.40 per year.  

Do we get the idea yet?  I know we must be getting it.  Surely we are.  I mean, I just saved us nearly a weeks worth of groceries on bread crumbs, croutons, canned chicken and chocolate syrup. I even saved us money while cutting out things like preservatives and high fructose corn syrup!!!!   I will add more recipes for homemade kitchen staples as I find them.  



My next challenge was given to me by my Mom.  She is currently trying (and doing a damned fine job, I might add) to lose weight.  My mission is to find ways to eat healthy, low fat foods on a budget.  As if this isn't hard enough, she is super picky about health foods, especially veggies.  The ideas I suggested on the phone (frozen/canned veggies, etc) were all met with "I don't like that".  She doesn't like veggies really.  She can eat raw carrots, celery, and tomatoes.  She loves onions.  Hates peppers, broccoli, green beans, and a host of other healthy things.  My answers to her will be in the next post.  Be sure that homemade kitchen staples will play a large roll again.

Everyone else should feel free to give me "challenges" and I will do my best to meet them in a coming post.

Until next time. . . 



1:14 PM Christine D
So far, I have only posted recipes that are cheap to make and kept it at that.  From now on, we are going to, of course have more recipes, but we are going to talk about how you can make some of your favorite recipes more cheaply.  This way, you don't feel like you are missing out on things you already or used to make for the sake of frugality.

One of the very best ways to save on everyday recipes, is to make some of your kitchen staples homemade. For instance, I am making chicken cakes (like crab cakes only with less expensive chicken in place of the crab).  For this recipe, I need chicken, bread crumbs, veggies, and eggs.  Rather than buying canned chicken, I took one chicken breast, seasoned it up, poured some Italian dressing on it, and baked it in the oven to chop to size or shred myself.  Instead of buying bread crumbs, I toasted 5 pieces of wheat bread in the oven VERY well, and then pulsed them in my food processor until they were the right consistency.  Since the chicken breast cost about $.95 and the 5 pieces of bread cost approximately  $.18 (rather than $2.50 for a can of chicken, and 2.39 for a can of bread crumbs), I have saved about $3.76 just by making some of the ingredients myself.  If you were to save this much on your recipes twice per week, then you save $30 per month and $391 per year.  That is amazing!  Not budget saving, but every little bit helps.

There are tons of kitchen staples you can easily make yourself!  Below, I am sharing a few such recipes, along with a breakdown of how much you will save.


Homemade Chocolate Syrup


1/2 cup cocoa powder
1 cup water
2 cups sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon vanilla

Mix the cocoa powder and the water in a saucepan.  Heat and stir to dissolve the cocoa.  Add the sugar; stir to dissolve.  Boil for about three minutes on medium heat.  Be careful not to let it boil over!  Add the salt and vanilla.  Let cool.  Pour into a clean glass jar and store in the refrigerator.  Keeps for several months.  
Yield: 2 cups

Directions:  use one teaspoon per glass of chocolate milk

Savings Information:
Okay, a 48 oz bottle of hershey syrup is $3.88 at walmart.com.  It has 35 servings per container, so it's $0.11 per serving.
I bought 4 cups of natural cocoa powder from the Amish near my old house for $3.80, so the cocoa in this recipe cost $0.48.  A 5lb bag of sugar has 11 1/4 cups in it (1lb=2 1/4 cups) and costs $2.88.  So, the sugar in this recipe cost $0.51.  2 floz of vanilla is $3.48 and has 12 teaspoons in it, so it's $0.07 for the vanilla.  The salt and water cost are so slight, we'll say $0.02 as an estimate.  That means, my recipe costs a total of $1.08 to make, and has 96 servings in it (48 teaspoons in a cup), so it cost $0.01 per serving!

That's a savings of $0.10 per serving.  If you have a child that drinks 2 glasses of chocolate milk per day, then you will save $6.00 per month and $73 per year. . . just on chocolate milk!!!!


Homemade Croutons


This could not be any simpler!


2-5 of bread the thickness you want your croutons (depending on how many croutons you need)
2-4 Tablespoons of butter (again, depending on croutons needed)
Sprinkle of  Italian seasoning, garlic powder, and/or other desired seasonings

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Remove the crust from your bread slices.  Melt the butter in the microwave and stir in seasonings.  Cut your slices of bread into cubes.  Toss bread crumbs in seasoned butter and place on cookie sheet in single layer.  Cook until it crisps (about 5-10 minutes.

Now then, one of my loaves of bread costs about $0.85 to make, and I only used about 1/5 of a loaf, so lets says this recipe costs about  $0.30 to make ( got to count the butter and sprinkling of spices)
A bag of croutons costs about $2.25, so that's a savings of $1.95 for every salad with croutons!  If you have one salad with croutons a week (and we all KNOW we should eat salad more often than that), you save $7.80 a month and $101.40 per year.  

Do we get the idea yet?  I know we must be getting it.  Surely we are.  I mean, I just saved us nearly a weeks worth of groceries on bread crumbs, croutons, canned chicken and chocolate syrup. I even saved us money while cutting out things like preservatives and high fructose corn syrup!!!!   I will add more recipes for homemade kitchen staples as I find them.  



My next challenge was given to me by my Mom.  She is currently trying (and doing a damned fine job, I might add) to lose weight.  My mission is to find ways to eat healthy, low fat foods on a budget.  As if this isn't hard enough, she is super picky about health foods, especially veggies.  The ideas I suggested on the phone (frozen/canned veggies, etc) were all met with "I don't like that".  She doesn't like veggies really.  She can eat raw carrots, celery, and tomatoes.  She loves onions.  Hates peppers, broccoli, green beans, and a host of other healthy things.  My answers to her will be in the next post.  Be sure that homemade kitchen staples will play a large roll again.

Everyone else should feel free to give me "challenges" and I will do my best to meet them in a coming post.

Until next time. . .