How To Cook on a Budget

Feeding a growing family can really put a squeeze on your budget, but by cutting corners and watching what you spend, you can eat well without breaking the bank. Here are a few tips:

  1. Decide on a grocery budget and vow to stick to it.

  • Become a planner. Scour the weekly grocery ads and plan your weekly menus based on sales.
  • Stock up. When you find a good price on nonperishable items, fill your cabinets. Soups and other canned goods will last for quite a while (some products are good for a few years!) so you can be comfortable to buy several months worth. Even breakfast cereals and other dry goods last for a few months, so watch for a great price and buy a bunch!
  • Fill your freezer. Frozen foods, although they won't last as long as canned goods, can be purchased and kept for weeks, if not months. Bags of frozen fruits and vegetables are often a better buy, ounce for ounce, than their canned counterparts. Also consider purchasing meats on sale and freezing them. You can buy large packages if the price per pound is better that way, and separate into meal-sized portions. If you double wrap the meats with aluminum foil or store them in freezer bags, they will freeze well for a few months.
  • Buy what's in season. The price on fresh fruits and veggies varies quite a bit, depending on the season. Choose produce based on cost per serving.
  • Use coupons -- carefully. If you have a coupon for a product that you would have purchased anyway, great! Watch out, though. Many items are still more expensive after the coupon discount than a competitor's comparable product.
  • Consider store brands. They are often considerably less expensive than their name brand counterparts without forfeiting quality. When buying an unfamiliar brand, purchase just one of each item to be sure that your family likes it. For very basic items such as sugar, flour, butter, eggs and milk, the store brands are virtually identical to the name brands.
  • Avoid convenience foods. If you'd like to have frozen dinners on hand for busy evenings, simply purchase a supply of reusable plastic containers with lids, then fill and freeze them. Whenever you make a meal that would freeze well, make a little extra and prepare some freezer-meals for a later date. Discount stores sell a nice variety of freezer containers, many with sections much like those used in commercially prepared frozen dinners.
  • Eliminate waste. Utilize leftover meat to make a casserole or serve leftovers for lunch the next day.
  • Healthy eating is often the biggest bargain of all. Grains, legumes, fruits and vegetables are considerably less costly per serving than meat. Use meat sparingly and fill your family's plates with the good-for-you stuff. Better for your budget and better for your health!
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