Frugal Tip #3: Rethink the Way You Cook
If you’re vegan or vegetarian than this post certainly won’t apply to you, but if you eat meat and poultry you should read on. I’ve found the best way to stretch my food dollars is to rethink the way I cook.
I grew up with three food groups on the plate: meat, (in my case either beef or chicken), a starchy product (usually rice or potatoes) and a vegetable (often a small salad, peas, or broccoli). When I started preparing meals for my husband I cooked much the same way. If I brought chicken breasts home from the store I grilled or sauteed them and placed one on each of our plates.
That was the old way. Now I know to get the biggest bang for my buck I should focus on recipes that include meat as a component of the meal rather than as the main dish. I can bring a pound of ground beef home from the store and make four burgers or I can make chili with that same pound of meat that will last for days.
Similarly I can eat a chicken breast for dinner or I can slice it up and cook it alongside peppers and onions in a fajita, combine it with carrots, celery and leeks for some good, old fashioned chicken soup, or make chicken stir fry. In the summer time I can grill chicken kabobs with a whole host of vegetables like tomatoes, eggplant and squash.
The goal is to make the meat or poultry product part of the meal, but not make it the star. If you serve a chicken breast to each member of the family you’ll eat through the pack all in one night. If you mix it alongside other ingredients, particularly vegetables, your body will be nourished by lots of additional vitamins and minerals and you’ll stretch that same purchase over multiple nights.
This year I loaded up on poultry whenever my closest grocery store held a buy-one-get-one free sale. Most of the grocery stores around my neighborhood run this deal every four to five weeks, but I picked my closest store for convenience. Every time that sale came around I filled my cart with enough chicken breasts to last us an entire month. (If you like thighs and legs you’ll stretch your dollar even farther.)
I don’t know if I’ll continue to take advantage of these sales this year. I’m trying to incorporate more natural and organic foods into my diet and most of the chicken I buy at buy-one-get-one sales is not organic or natural. But if you buy name brand, non-organic chicken this deal can’t be beat. I saved over $300 this year just by waiting for these sales and stocking up.
Of course, you can also save money by making meals without meat or poultry at least once or twice a week. We often make pasta with veggies and cheese on those nights. They are quick to prepare and really, really cheap.
Overall I think we saved $600 this year by using creative recipes, stocking up during sales and going meatless at least a few times a week. While saving money is the main goal we also compiled a scrumptious list of new, go-to recipes by using these techniques.