(Be sure to check the end for a special for LAF readers!)
The kitchen is one of the most flexible areas of finance to a stay at home mom. As we consider our many duties at home, we need to understand the importance of balancing resourcefulness with variety and nutrition–a task that calls for serious study and practice!
In this post I have two lists of money-saving tips and then two cost-efficient menus.
Please add any advice you may have in this area as it will benefit us to learn from each other!
- Buy discount. Explore your area for a “bent and dent” grocery store. There are great bargains to be found at such stores if you are fortunate enough to have one in your area. I buy organic salad dressings for $1, Gain laundry detergent for $5/gallon (concentrated), almond butter for .79, just to name a few.
- Stock pile on great sales. I’m not so good at this, as I’m always thinking “how little can I spend on this grocery trip”, but when you come across a great buy, it’s much better to stock up!
- Eat first. Never go grocery shopping hungry. It really will increase your spending!
- Shop less often. Stretch your grocery trips out as far as you can. It is better to buy monthly than weekly, because you usually buy more than what’s on the list (impulse purchases) and you spend more gas and time as well.
- Garden. If it is possible, keep a garden. There are lots of things to learn in this area, as some people have managed to grow a garden almost year round. It will greatly reduce your grocery bill and even more importantly, it will benefit your family’s health. (Note: there are some produce items that are basically just as cheap to buy at a farmer’s market than to grow. Consider that when planting.) Think ahead too. Freezing and canning for the winter is an important part of resourcefulness.
- Free food. We have an abundance of blackberries around our house. No, picking isn’t easy. But it’s free! (My kids actually love to pick.) We bake pies, make blackberry jam and syrup, and freeze berries to make jams and butters later for Christmas presents. Not free but cheap, we also take advantage of the u-pick farms around. Blueberries are $4/gallon and we love stocking up!
- Coupons. I am not good with coupons. I know there are great savings to be had, but I seem to lack the skills of finding the right coupons. This is the part where I say “HELP” to all you coupon experts out there 🙂 I will offer this link I found (and there are many on the Internet) that seemed to have some good coupon resources, including free printable coupons. I know MoneySavingMom is a great resource too.
Menu planning is crucial to saving on the grocery budget. Some very organized people (my not being one of them), have all their menus written out for the month and plan their grocery list around those. Amy Dacyczyn of The Tightwad Gazette suggests that you first buy your groceries, based on what’s on sale, and THEN plan your menu around your food. That makes more sense to me.
Regardless of your menu-planning style, it is important to regularly plan frugal, inexpensive meals, that are still fairly nutritious (this definition will vary from family to family), and that your family enjoys. I am going to list a few of our favorite frugal meals, and then I hope to hear some of yours!
- Meatless Mexican Casserole
A very flexible, delicious meal…you can add or substitute easily according to your family’s tastes, or the ingredients you have on hand. Don’t be afraid to experiment! Adjust amounts to your family’s size.
Pinto Beans, cooked and drained–season with cumin, garlic and desired spices
Shredded Cheddar Cheese–any cheese can be substituted
Diced Tomatoes, fresh or canned
Any other desired spices
Taco sauce or salsa (optional)
Chopped onions (optional)
Layer everything in a casserole dish. I layer in this order: Rice, sour cream, beans, taco sauce, onions, cheese–then heat to melt cheese. Add tomatoes and lettuce after heating. Serve with taco chips or corn bread. Fantastic! Of course, ground beef can be added to this dish.
Creamy Chicken Pasta
1/3 diced chicken from whole, boiled chicken (save broth)
1/2 to 1 onion, chopped
1 stick butter
Approx. 4 heaping Tbls. flour
Pasta–shells, penne, noodles, etc.
Put water on to boil and cook pasta.
After chicken is cooked and de-boned, divide into thirds, freeze two portions and set aside the other. White sauce: Place a stick of butter in skillet, melt and then add flour. Stir until bubbly and sticky. Pour chicken broth in while stirring, one cup at a time until sauce is thick. Pour about a cup of milk until creamy. Add garlic powder and parmesan cheese, salt and pepper to taste. Remove from heat.
In another skillet, on med heat, add 2 Tbls. olive oil or butter. Add chopped onions and chicken. Saute until onions are slightly tender. Add any additional desired vegetables (I use frozen mixed vegetables.)
Drain pasta, and pour all three together, tossing and sprinkling with parsley or desired seasonings. You may also serve creamy sauce on the side.
Note about pasta: The options are endless for pasta recipes and it would take me all day to list the different versions we use. This is where a homemaker needs to learn what spices/combinations go well together and begin experimenting. Different meats, meatless versions, different sauces and spices–pasta dishes are the frugal family’s best friend!
I have several frugal recipes listed HERE as well, on our website (including a delightful milk shake recipe made without ice cream!)
A Note About Bread
Homemade bread is a wonderful addition to every meal. It is a great filler, it is inexpensive and it is healthy. I personally use a bread machine, but many large families have graduated to a mixer to make multiple batches of bread. Either way, these machines make homemade bread-making a cinch. Just dump the ingredients for your recipe in, and the machine does the rest. (See below for a free e-book on making bread!)
The other great thing is that I usually mix on the “dough” setting, take it out and make rolls, a loaf, cinnamon rolls, stuffed bread, pizza crust, etc. There are so many options!
Some of you may have never baked homemade bread in your life. That’s OK…you can learn! We buy wheat berries, grind them in a grinder, and then use the wheat. It’s a small investment well-worth the nutritional value (in my opinion!)
Ashley, from Healthy Food For Less has offered a 20% discount on her ebook, “Healthy Food Choices That Won’t Break the Bank” BUT, it expires at midnight tonight (Saturday the 19th). So hurry and click HERE to get some great information about saving and eating healthy!
I have a few more ideas and recipes in our ebook “Back to Scratch: Saving Money in the Kitchen“, especially a good read for those who are just beginning to cook from scratch.