Ideas To Help Make The Best of Your Family's Food Budget
You can trim your food budget without boring your family's taste buds or skimping on their nutritional needs. I have always tried to live by the old adage "Avoid shopping on an empty stomach." Although some days, especially when I'm pressed for time, that is not always possible. I always comparison shop for quality and price when I'm buying other things, but when it comes to the food budget this is not always possible to do when shopping for groceries. I usually try to buy house brands. In most cases they are just as good, sometimes better, as the name-brand products. This is a good way to start saving a few cents, allowing more foods to be purchased on the family's food budget.
Here are a few tips we have collected from various sources to help you get more for your dollar, especially if trying to deal with a tight food budget. Read through these...you never know which one you might find useful to help you save on your food budget.
BUY WISELY TO SAVE ON YOUR FOOD BUDGET:
Buy tomatoes in bulk when they're in season or take advantage of an oversupply from your garden. Wash and thoroughly dry the tomatoes, place the whole tomatoes in plastic bags, then freeze them for use in sauces. When the tomatoes are thawed the skins will slip off easily. And if you find you don't have time to wait for them to thaw, just run them under hot water and this will help to peel off the skins.
Buy a canned ham; slice and freeze for use as breakfast meat. Ham is cheaper than bacon and shrinks less when fried.
Buy cheese according to the way in which you will use it. A chunk of cheese rather than slices is better for shredding or when serving as hors d'oeuvres. However, individually wrapped slices last longer but are more expensive. If on a tight food budget, to get around this buy a large chunk of your favorite cheese, cut into slices and wrap each one individually yourself.
If buying tuna for use in casseroles, instead of buying a solid-pack white tuna, purchase the canned chunk tuna. It has the same flavor and has the same nutritional value but is lower in price.
Buying meats is tough when on a tight food budget. Substitute round or chuck roast for sirloin or rib roast. Sprinkle the roast with meat tenderizer, following package directions. Roast at 475 degrees for 25 minutes to sear; reduce heat to 350 degrees and roast 45 minutes to an hour longer, or until meat thermometer registers rare or medium-rare. Slice thinly on the diagonal.
AVOID WASTE: USE EVERYTHING YOU BUY WHEN ON A TIGHT FOOD BUDGET
If your celery is wilting, don't feel like you have to throw it out; same goes for your cabbage, carrots, zucchini and lettuce. You can sautee these in some butter along with some onion and garlic for a great tasting mixed-vegetable dish. You can also make good use of these vegetables by making an excellent chicken-vegetable soup! Cook the vegetables in a chicken stock until tender.
Try to limit the amount of trimming of stalks and leaves on fresh vegetables. Don't throw out the outer leaves of leafy vegetables, as they are full of vitamins and minerals.
Before your fresh chives and parsley begin to wither, chop them up and freeze any unused portions.
Extend the life of fresh herbs, lettuce, celery, and salad greens by placing them in plastic bags with a small amount of water, seal the bag and shake, then refrigerate.
Freeze chopped onion, green pepper or olives on a cookie sheet or pizza pan. Once frozen you can package them in plastic bags or containers so that you can take out small amounts as needed.
Freeze extra mushrooms when you have bought more than you need to use right away. Sautee the extra mushrooms with 1 cup water. Cool the mushroom mixture, then freeze in ice-cube trays. Place frozen cubes in a plastic bag and return to freezer. Add to sauces or soups as desired.
Use peels and any old fruits or vegetables for composting to make potting soil
MAKE IT YOURSELF TO SAVE ON YOUR FOOD BUDGET:
Make your own bread crumbs--it's easy! Place stale bread in the oven to dry at a low temperature for several minutes; turn off oven and let bread remain until it is dry throughout. Grind and use in place of commercial bread crumbs. For seasoned bread crumbs the inexpensive way just mix 1 cup of plain bread crumbs (store bought or homemade) 1/8 teaspoon garlic salt, 1/4 teaspoon oregano, and 1/4 teaspoon basil.
Make croutons from stale bread (2-1/2 slices of bread makes 1/2 cup of croutons). Spread 1/2 tablespoon of vegetable oil on each slice of bread. Remove the crusts and cut the bread into cubed pieces. Place them on a rimmed baking sheet and bake at 400 degrees for 5-7 minutes, tossing occasionally. These can be seasoned with herbs, garlic salt, Parmesan cheese, or sesame seeds, and are excellent in soups, casseroles, and on salads.
Instead of buying a quart of buttermilk just because a recipe calls for it, use this as a substitution for one cup of buttermilk. Put 1 tablespoon of lemon juice or 1 tablespoon of vinegar in a measuring cup and pour just enough milk to make 1 cup.
Make powdered sugar rather than buying a whole box when you need only a few tablespoons. Use your blender to turn granulated sugar into powdered sugar. A half cup of blended granulated sugar make a cup of powdered sugar, so measure accordingly.
Buy frozen concentrated orange juice; it is usually less expensive than canned or bottled orange juice. It is even cheaper than squeezing fresh oranges. To rev up the taste, reconstitute the frozen concentrated orange juice in your blender, using refrigerated water rather than tap water. The combination of the chilled water and the added air improves the taste enormously.
MAKE YOUR FOOD BUDGET STRETCH EVEN MORE:
To get the last of the ketchup from the bottle add a little water and shake pour contents into plastic bag and freeze. Its perfect for soups and spaghetti sauce.
Cook your vegetables just until tender, not only to decrease the amount of shrinkage that occurs but also to ensure the best color, texture, flavor, and nutritional value. Steamers are great when cooking more than one vegetable. Spinach and other greens can be cooked just in the water still clinging to their leaves after washing. Use a tight-fitting lid and cook over low heat.
Stretch shrimp by cutting each one lengthwise. Split shrimp must be cooked very quickly and are great stir-fried with vegetables.
Stretch a pie recipe that serves 6 to 8 and make a dessert for 10 to 12 by making "mini pies" in muffin tins or baking cups. To use a no-bake cream pie recipe, spoon some cookie crumbs into the baking cups, fill with the no-bake cream filling and chill. As an added treat, top with your favorite fruit.
MAKING THE MOST OF YOUR FOOD BUDGET BY USING ALL YOUR LEFT-OVERS:
Freeze small amounts of cooked left-over vegetables in a plastic bag for later use in salads or soups.
Refrigerate left-over cooked vegetables for use in a salad the next day. If the vegetable are buttered, rinse them in warm water and drain before refrigerating. Or, toss the rinsed vegetables in an oil-and-vinegar dressing and marinate overnight.
Add frozen or refrigerated leftover rice to soup or stir-fry rice with onion and thyme and serve as a side dish. Thaw frozen left over rice by placing it in a colander and pouring boiling water over it; drain well.
Serve left-over eggnog over vanilla ice cream to spice up an otherwise ordinary dessert.
Slice left-over baked potatoes while they are still warm and toss with your favorite salad dressing. Let cool and refrigerate overnight for a quick and delicious potato salad for lunch the next day.
Freeze any unused cooked spaghetti. When ready to use for your next dish, thaw it by placing in a colander and pouring boiling water over it; drain. For quick lo mein, toss with some sauteed vegetables and soy sauce.
Use plastic bags to store and freeze any left-over cooked pasta. When you have accumlated enough for your favorite dish, thaw by pouring boiled water over it in a colander. Add this to some sauteed Italian sausage, peppers and onion. Heat, and serve with sprinkles of Parmesan cheese.
Freeze small amounts of extra uncooked fish and shellfish in plastic bags. When you have a variety, thaw and use in seafood sauce for spaghetti or fold into cream sauce and bake in baking shells for seafood Thermidor.
EVEN MORE SAVINGS - KITCHEN CONSERVATION:
Save on your energy bill by heating bread or rolls on the lid of a simmering saucepan or skillet instead of using your oven.
Extend the life of many foods by refrigerating them, even if they don't require it to make the most of your food budget. Some examples of this include spices, raisins, breads, dried fruits, coffee, nuts, flour and oatmeal.
Get more nutrition for your money by serving fruit juices instead of soda or serve fruit juices mixed with plain seltzer. During the hot summer months, iced coffee or iced tea is a low-cost alternative to serving soda or fruit juices.
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