Every Thursday, I’ll be posting tips for frugal living, beyond “use Netflix instead of going out to the movies.” Because tips like that imply I’ve seen a movie in the theaters… this year. Sillies.
Over the next few weeks, all the tips will involve food, because to be honest, that’s where a lot of our savings come from. We don’t eat food that we can get using coupons, so we’ve had to get really creative about how we prepare our meals to see any significant savings in our grocery budget. The grocery store is one of the easiest places to start seeing savings, as well as one of the easiest places to spend WAY too much on, so I thought it was important to start here first.
Take the meat department. Have you noticed that even sale prices for things like chicken, beef, and pork are still higher than they ever have been? Watching these prices rise has made me hesitant to put huge slabs of meat on a plate next to a vegetable and call it a meal. However, if I only served my RBS (see Tip #1), even my easy going husband would be a little miffed. No, we have to eat meat in this house.
So here are my tips for reducing the amount of meat you serve at each meal, and keeping everyone happy at the same time. Some of these might not work for your family, but hopefully you’ll be able to walk away with one takeaway tip.
- Use meat as the side dish, not the main course. I do this all the time on accident. Between serving our RBS at almost every meal, steaming broccoli or roasting squash, and one other component of our meal, everyone ends up with less meat on their plate because A) they run out of room and B) they get full! Beans, rice, veggies are all really good for you, and filling up on those instead of a grilled chicken breast or slow-roasted pork is a good thing. When I put the food out, I set it up on the kitchen counter in a line, with the meat at the very end of the counter, so that you naturally fill your plate up with more of the healthier, inexpensive foods up front. Voila! Less meat per plate= more meat left behind to use in another meal.
- Repurpose leftover meat. This is grilling season right now, and I *love* it. My favorite thing to do is get the grill hot and then throw food at it until the coals die down (and then we roast marshmallows, but that’s a different story). Some sausages, the steaks, a package of chicken… the cuts that were on sale this week. Oh, and veggies. SO MANY VEGGIES. (Are you seeing a pattern here? I feel like your mom right now. Eat your veggies kids. They keep your bank account strong and healthy.) The first night we might have the sausages along side some roasted corn, salad, squash and broccoli, and some beans. No one starves in this house! Most of the cooked meat gets cut and cools off in the fridge before being transferred to the freezer where it will hang out for a little while… I always need help making dinner prep go a little faster, and having pre-grilled food means I get that yummy grilled flavor without having to spend the two hours getting the grill hot enough to cook two pieces of chicken. The rest of the meat goes towards meals we’re making throughout the week. Steak fried rice, tacos/nachos. Our RBS with some grilled chicken on top makes a mighty fine lunch. Burritos, chicken spaghetti, … the possibilities are endless. And those roasted veggies make awesome sides as the week goes on. I cut the corn OFF the cob after it’s cooled so it is easily sprinkled on top of nachos or anything else (Also? That corn freezes beautifully for when I want to use it in a taco soup or in shepherd’s pie. I love summer produce in fall foods!).
- When ground beef isn’t just ground beef. When I bring ground beef/turkey/pork home from the store, I divide it into half pound packages. We used to go through at least a pound of ground meat per recipe, but at almost six dollars a pound. For ground beef? We had to find a way to cut it back. Enter once again, my favorite money savers: vegetables. When making something like spaghetti and meat sauce, we add in: a whole onion, a finely cubed carrot, a diced bell pepper (or two!), some zucchini, possibly some mushrooms, and a small handful of oatmeal. This makes that half a pound of ground meat expand and expand. What used to feed us for only one meal and use a whole pound now gets us two or three meals, and uses half the meat. That’s not an insignificant amount of savings. And for tacos? Instead of zucchini and mushrooms, I peel and grate a sweet potato and add a can of rinsed and drained beans… whatever kind we happen to have (usually black or pinto beans). Doing this alone has really helped shave costs out of our grocery budget. Plus, it insures my family is getting tons of good stuff in their diet. Everyone wins.
- Go meatless, sometimes. Eggs and beans. I’m not saying to do this all the time (like I said before, that wouldn’t fly at our house), but serving a quiche for dinner along with some homemade pancakes and fruit is a fun way to mix things up and keep costs down. Bean burritos, nachos, and even black bean burgers on occasion soften the blow of a meatless meal. Plus, it’s better for you. Eating healthy doesn’t have to be expensive. In fact, the healthier our meals have become, the more our grocery bill has gone down. We love Budget Bytes Curried Chickpeas with Spinach, and have it all the time (it makes a great freezer meal, too, which makes me love it even more). We don’t even miss the meat!
Hopefully some of these ideas help you as you attempt to lower your grocery budget and live a little more thrifty. Have any ideas for stretching that grocery budget even more? Share them in the comments! Let’s help each other save up for the things that really matter.
I promise next week I won’t talk about vegetables.
…I maybe will still talk about vegetables. 🙂
I’m kidding. They’re just so good!
Have a good morning!