Using recipes and making deliberate leftovers can save a lot
Food is one of the most important things we spend money on, and it can be one of the most costly. If you use recipes and leftovers, you can really cut your costs significantly.
Having a list of recipes is a great way to start cutting down on food costs. Have you ever gone to the store, bought a bunch of food, any yet had little or nothing that you could put together into a full meal? Recipes keep that from happening. In a notebook, write down all the meals you typically cook. Under each one, write down the ingredients needed for that recipe. On shopping day, think about the meals you’ll want to serve between then and your next shopping trip. Use the recipe lists to get the right ingredients for your meals.
Recipes can also be useful when it comes to leftovers. Microwave meals tend to be one of the most expensive things people buy, second only to meat. If you make leftovers on purpose, and freeze them in single-portion sizes, you’ve just created your own TV dinners! Try to think of you family’s favorite meals that could be frozen. When you buy ingredients, buy enough to make several extra portions. After you cook, set aside single portions in the freezer. These portions can now be a quick meal, and you didn’t have to pay the exorbitant prices of commercial microwave meals.
I use the leftovers trick quite a lot. One of my favorites is taking the leftovers from Thanksgiving or Christmas turkey, adding some extra veggies, and making a huge soup. The soup will feed four people the first night, and usually has 6-8 servings leftover, sometimes more. (If you add pasta or rice, it stretches even further.) When I make meatballs for dinner, I’ll often use 2lbs of meat, which will make enough meatballs for everyone that night, and about a dozen left over for snacks or later meals.
When I was very poor, I used to make TV dinners for my husband’s lunch. I’d make a pot of mashed potatoes or rice, cook several beef patties or fish patties, and cook a can of veggies. I’d then portion the food out into containers, and freeze it. Then he could come home and just microwave lunch quickly. The per-portion cost was less than the cheapest TV dinners at the time. You can use this idea for just about any food, and it will save money.
This is also great for moms, since you can take one day to make a few big meals, freeze off the portions, and the whole family can then fend for themselves the rest of the week, but they’re still getting your nutritious home-cooked food. Not only do you save money, but you always know that your family is getting good food that isn’t full of salt and preservatives. Soups are especially great since they usually freeze well, they’re nutritious, and they can be very versatile.