Friday, September 30, 2011

The Nitty-Gritty of Frugal Food | Buy herbs + spices in bulk.

The tiniest bottles of herbs and spices generally cost so much at the grocery store.  Sometimes it really is ridiculous.  The herbs and spices I use most often I buy in bulk about once per year or so--and boy do I save a lot of money!  I primarily order my herbs and spices from Mountain Rose Herbs.  For the odd spice that I am trying out or that we use only but rarely, I will just buy a small jar at the grocery store because I know it will take me a year or two (or three) just to go through a tiny jar.  Buying it in bulk would be a waste.
My spices are organized with the small ones and the most commonly used in front, and less used and multiples behind in the back.

For a price comparison, I just picked the first two spices that popped into my head--cinnamon sticks and chili powder.  The common brand McCormick cinnamon sticks at my local grocery store costs $8.19 for .75 oz.  At Mountain Rose Herb I can buy 8 oz of organic fair trade cinnamon sticks for $10.25.  Did you catch that?!  For almost the same price, at the grocery store I can buy less than 1 ounce of conventional cinnamon sticks, or online I can buy a half-pound of organic fair trade cinnamon sticks! That's $10.92 per ounce vs. $1.28 per ounce, and the $1.28 is far better quality to boot. 

How about McCormick chili powder?  $3.99 for 2.5oz. vs $12.00 for 1 pound (16oz) at MRH...which is $1.60 per ounce vs. $.75 per ounce, less than half the cost.  The amount of savings between those two spices vary greatly, but save you will, even with the additional cost of shipping. (To save even more, consider making a joint order with a friend/family member so that you can split the cost of shipping.)

If 8oz or 1 lb sizes seem daunting to you, MRH does sell 1 oz and 4 oz sizes--you just will not save as much money.  Consider splitting the 8oz or 1 lb packages with friends.  Depending on how much you utilize herbs and spices in your cooking, splitting might be a better option for you size-wise, but you can still reap the benefit of significant savings.

Generally most herbs or spices possess a shelf-life of 1-3 years before they start losing flavor and potency (they don't go 'bad'), so keep that in mind as you choose your sizes.  Herbs tend to lose their flavor quicker than spices.  Store herbs and spices in airtight containers, glass being best.  Resist the urge to shake them over steaming pots, as moisture ruins them.  Instead pinch some out with your fingers or pour a little in your palm and then shake over the pot.  If your spices or herbs have lost some of their potency, you don't need to throw them out, just use more than you ordinarily would. 

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

The Nitty-Gritty of Frugal Food | Skip the mixes (or make your own).

I know I referenced this just several days ago, but I can't help but say it again.  Skip the mixes. Boxed mixes cost so much more than baking from scratch, and it really does not cost you but a few more minutes of time to bake from scratch.  Boxed mixes are not all they are cracked up to be.  Just the time it takes to measure a few simple ingredients into a bowl.

My daughter's 4th birthday cake.
Last year while visiting with family, I was given the task of making a boxed cake. I'd never made one before.  And do you know it took me at least TWICE AS LONG to make that silly boxed cake than it would have if I could have made the cake from scratch?!  I'm no genius (obviously)!  But here's my point: what you are used to you can do quickly, something new takes longer.  If you're used to boxed cakes or bread mixes, baking from scratch will initially take longer...until you learn it and it becomes the new normal for you. 


However, like I mentioned before, if you just really like (or need) to have mixes around, there are plenty of recipes available for making your own mixes.  Preparing mixes yourself instead of buying them will save you money for sure!  Here are a few recipes, and if you have any of your own, please share.
Self-rising flour
Bisquick (at the end of this post)
Pancake mix
Chocolate cake mix
Taco seasoning
Soup mix

Monday, September 26, 2011

The Nitty-Gritty of Frugal Food | Skip the individual servings.


All of the products that come in individually sized servings are simply a small quantity of product with a lot of unnecessary packaging.  You pay for that convenience...and I really question how much of a convenience it truly is.  Is life really so busy that I can't find the 1 or 2 minutes required to serve up two scoops of yogurt into two separate containers and pop those into two lunch boxes?  Or grab a handful of crackers or chips to put in a baggy?  Slice an apple? I think food marketers want to make me think so! 

I remember a friend telling me about her friend who was a single mom, and at the beginning of each week she bought the fruit, crackers and desserts for her son's lunches.  She would sit down in the evening and fill baggies with one serving.  Then she put them in baskets...one basket for crackers/chips, one for desserts, one for fresh fruit.  She would still make a sandwich or something like that for his lunch, but he was able to choose one bag of his choice from each basket and therefore pack the brunt of his lunch himself.  A great example of saving money and saving time on busy school mornings.

For a price comparison example, I checked out Stonyfield organic yogurt at my local grocery store.  The 32oz tub costs $4.39, whereas buying five 6oz cups (30oz) costs you $5.45.  That means you pay over $1 more for 2oz less of yogurt.  

One dollar might not sound like much, but let's say you buy this amount of yogurt each week.  You're spending over $4 extra each month just to buy the small cups...and that's pretty much the cost of one 32oz tub of yogurt.  So, still spending the same amount of money, you could be buying a whole extra 32oz tub of yogurt instead.  And we're just talking about yogurt.  What other individually packaged items do you buy? 

If you're trying to cut your spending, think twice before grabbing the individual servings next time you're at the grocery store. 


Friday, September 23, 2011

The Nitty-Gritty of Frugal Food | Go easy on the meat.

If skipping meat at a meal ain't your thing (or you're married to a meat and potatoes guy), consider going easy on the meat.  What do I mean by that?  Well, try to focus on making dinners where meat is incorporated throughout the meal, rather than the focus of the meal. 
Or how about chicken and dumplings, with chunks of chicken meat?

For instance, consider four servings of chicken breasts served over creamy pasta with a side of green beans, in which you'll need four chicken breasts.  Four pastured chicken breasts will likely cost you--gasp--$10-12.  Now let's say you instead change up the meal a bit: slice the chicken breasts and toss them into the pasta with some diced tomato and a little cream, and still serve green beans on the side.  Chances are you can get away with just half the amount of meat and you won't even know it's missing...and you've just cut your meat costs in half!

By incorporating the meat into the meal, you can get away with serving less meat without feeling like you've lost out or "something's missing."

PS:  This is also a great way to extend a meal and show hospitality while still keeping to your budget! 





Wednesday, September 21, 2011

The Nitty-Gritty of Frugal Food | Meatless Meals

I'm not advocating vegetarianism.  From all I've read I think that (quality) meat is an important part of our diet because it offers particular nutrients that our bodies need.  However, grass-fed or pastured meat can be expensive.  In an effort to save some money years ago I implemented meatless meals into my weekly menu plans.  We've come to enjoy these meals, and so I've kept it up.

A mound of freshly cut homemade pasta waiting to be laid out to dry.
Every week we have 1-2 meatless dinners.  In place of meat, we might eat beans, grains, pasta, cheese or eggs.  Beans and grains in particular are very filling yet quite inexpensive (I'm referring to dried beans not canned beans). 

An example of the savings would be making a quiche instead of meatballs.  The half-dozen pastured eggs from the farm required to make a quiche cost me $1.75.  The 1.5 lbs of grass-fed ground beef required to make meatballs costs me $5.50.  That's a savings of $3.75. If you do this every week, you'll save $15 in a month. 

Now, let's compare those meatballs to dried beans.  Organic black beans cost me $1.20 per pound, and I need 1lb to make black beans and rice.  That's an even greater savings than the quiche: $4.30.  Replace one ground beef meal every week with beans, and you'll save over $17 in a month.

Now let's just say you choose to replace 2 ground beef dinners with 1 bean dinner and 1 egg dinner each week for a month. You will save just over $32 in one month.  Not bad! 

Monday, September 19, 2011

Ask 5 for 5

I am pausing today from my series on frugal food to post on something far more important: providing food for people who are literally starving today. You may remember this post from a few weeks ago.  Well, today I am pleased to have Sarah herself (the lady spearheading this fundraising) share with you. Please take a few minutes to read her story below.

Guest Blogger: Sarah Lenssen from #Ask5for5
Family photos by Mike Fiechtner Photography

Thank you Whole Foods on a Budget and nearly 150 other bloggers from around the world for allowing me to share a story with you today, during Social Media Week.

A hungry child in East Africa can't wait. Her hunger consumes her while we decide if we'll respond and save her life. In Somalia, children are stumbling along for days, even weeks, on dangerous roads and with empty stomachs in search of food and water. Their crops failed for the third year in a row. All their animals died. They lost everything. Thousands are dying along the road before they find help in refugee camps. 

At my house, when my three children are hungry, they wait minutes for food, maybe an hour if dinner is approaching. Children affected by the food crisis in Ethiopia, Kenya, and Somalia aren't so lucky. Did you know that the worst drought in 60 years is ravaging whole countries right now, as you read this? Famine, a term not used lightly, has been declared in Somalia. This is the world's first famine in 20 years.12.4 million people are in need of emergency assistance and over 29,000 children have died in the last three months alone. A child is dying every 5 minutes. It it estimated that 750,000 people could die before this famine is over. Take a moment and let that settle in.

The media plays a major role in disasters. They have the power to draw the attention of society to respond--or not. Unfortunately, this horrific disaster has become merely a footnote in most national media outlets. News of the U.S. national debt squabble and the latest celebrity's baby bump dominate headlines. That is why I am thrilled that nearly 150 bloggers from all over the world are joining together today to use the power of social media to make their own headlines; to share the urgent need of the almost forgotten with their blog readers. Humans have the capacity to care deeply for those who are suffering, but in a situation like this when the numbers are too huge to grasp and the people so far away, we often feel like the little we can do will be a drop in the ocean, and don't do anything at all.

When news of the famine first hit the news in late July, I selfishly avoided it. I didn't want to read about it or hear about it because I knew I would feel overwhelmed and uncomfortable. I wanted to protect myself. I knew I would need to do something if I knew what was really happening. You see, this food crisis is personal. I have a 4-year-old son and a 1 yr-old daughter who were adopted from Ethiopia and born in regions now affected by the drought. If my children still lived in their home villages, they would be two of the 12.4 million. My children: extremely hungry and malnourished? Gulp. I think any one of us would do anything we could for our hungry child. But would you do something for another mother's hungry child?


My friend and World Vision staffer, Jon Warren, was recently in Dadaab Refugee Camp in Kenya--the largest refugee camp in the world with over 400,000 people. He told me the story of Isnino Siyat, 22, a mother who walked for 10 days and nights with her husband, 1 yr-old-baby, Suleiman, and 4 yr.-old son Adan Hussein, fleeing the drought in Somalia. When she arrived at Dadaab, she built the family a shelter with borrowed materials while carrying her baby on her back. Even her dress is borrowed. As she sat in the shelter on her second night in camp she told Jon, "I left because of hunger. It is a very horrible drought which finished both our livestock and our farm." The family lost their 5 cows and 10 goats one by one over 3 months, as grazing lands dried up. "We don't have enough food now...our food is finished. I am really worried about the future of my children and myself if the situation continues."



Will you help a child like Baby Suleiman? Ask5for5 is a dream built upon the belief that you will.

That something I knew I would need to do became a campaign called #Ask5for5 to raise awareness and funds for famine and drought victims. The concept is simple, give $5 and ask five of your friends to give $5, and then they each ask five of their friends to give $5 and so on--in nine generations of 5x5x5...we could raise $2.4 Million! In one month, over 750 people have donated over $25,000! I set up a fundraiser at See Your Impact and 100% of the funds will go to World Vision, an organization that has been fighting hunger in the Horn of Africa for decades and will continue long after this famine has ended. Donations can multiply up to 5 times in impact by government grants to help provide emergency food, clean water, agricultural support, healthcare, and other vital assistance to children and families suffering in the Horn.

I need you to help me save lives. It's so so simple; here's what you need to do:

  1. Donate $5 or more on this page (http://seeyourimpact.org/members/ask5for5)
  2. Send an email to your friends and ask them to join us.
  3. Share #Ask5for5 on Facebook and Twitter!
I'm looking for another 100 bloggers to share this post on their blogs throughout Social Media Week. Email me at ask5for5@gmail.com if you're interested in participating this week.

A hungry child doesn't wait. She doesn't wait for us to finish the other things on our to-do list, or get to it next month when we might have a little more money to give. She doesn't wait for us to decide if she's important enough to deserve a response. She will only wait as long as her weakened little body will hold on...please respond now and help save her life. Ask 5 for 5.

Thank you on behalf of all of those who will be helped--you are saving lives and changing history.


p.s. Please don't move on to the next website before you donate and email your friends right now. It only takes 5 minutes and just $5, and if you're life is busy like mine, you probably won't get back to it later. Let's not be a generation that ignores hundreds of thousands of starving people, instead let's leave a legacy of compassion. You have the opportunity to save a life today!
 

Friday, September 16, 2011

The Nitty-Gritty of Frugal Food | Shop On Sale + In Season

Buying produce that is on sale and in season (which are often one in the same) will quickly save you money.  I've mentioned this before, but it is well worth repeating.  When produce is in season, the price typically drops.  There is also a better chance that the produce is local, which means it hasn't traveled far...which means it is "greener" and fresher!

Don't buy strawberries all through the winter when you will pay a fortune.  Wait until spring and summer and then enjoy them in season.  Better yet, pick your own, and it will almost always be even cheaper (not to mention fresher and tastier). 

The steak + strawberry salad we ate during strawberry season.
For a few years now we have follow the seasons by eating what is in season.  We have learned contentment and self-control through this, and I have learned to be a far more creative cook!  In the beginning it felt a little odd, but now I love it.  There is a natural flow and rhythm that has developed in my menu planning and cooking. 

What we've also noticed is that what is in season often corresponds to what we crave.  When summer comes, we eat lots of salads--it's hot, we're hot, and we're often not that hungry. But when fall comes around and the rain starts and the temperature drops, all we want is a steaming bowl of beef stew or buttery roasted chicken with potatoes and carrots.




Wednesday, September 14, 2011

The Nitty-Gritty of Frugal Food | Double Check Your Dairy

The standard American diet contains A LOT of dairy.  While dairy is important--particularly raw or cultured dairy--monitor your dairy intake over the next few days.  You might be surprised at just how much you eat.  Most sources recommend 2-3 servings of dairy per day for a child or adult, and 4 per day for teens.  A full serving of milk or yogurt is considered to be:
4 oz -- toddler
6 oz -- child
8 oz -- teen/adult,
and just 1 oz of cheese is a serving for a child, 1.5 oz for an adult.  That's not much cheese--just one slice or a cube. 

If your child is drinking milk at breakfast, eating yogurt for lunch or snack and drinking milk at dinner, chances are s/he is already getting plenty of dairy...and we haven't even talked about cheese yet.  

Fresh figs with stilton + blue cheese.
One simple way to cut back on your food costs is to double check your family's dairy intake.  Quality grass-fed dairy tends to be expensive, but chances are your family doesn't need to consume as much as you think. 

PS-- There are other sources of calcium besides dairy, too: most greens, broccoli, okra, beans, canned salmon and homemade bone broths, just to name a few.

Monday, September 12, 2011

The Nitty-Gritty of Frugal Food | Eating the Whole Food

It's about that time of the year when--if you've got tomatoes growing--you're left with an awful lot of green tomatoes on your vines.  I just harvested my green tomatoes and tore out the vines, preparing the way for lettuces, spinach, fennel and escarole.  Since I'm talking about being frugal, I'm reposting this post about using your green tomatoes...

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Who doesn't love fresh tomatoes right off the vine?! I love love love growing summer tomatoes! The pests and animals can attack my beans or my escarole and it will be okay, but touch my tomatoes and I go to war. :)
Last year's end of the season green tomatoes + herbs.

Well, I'm wrapping up my 'eat the whole food' series with tomatoes. At the end of the season, I always find it a bit disheartening to see all those hard green tomatoes that never made it to colorful, juicy ripe ones. But don't throw them out! There are tons of things you can do with green tomatoes. Each year I have made something with them, but I haven't yet found anything we truly love. My hope is that this year I will find a recipe (or two) that is so good we will look forward to our green tomatoes next year.

I jump-started what is normally my early autumn search for a good recipe for green tomatoes, and I am going to show you what I've found so far. And please, if you have a tasty, green tomato recipe favorite, by all means share!!

First, you can always try ripening a few, though from my experience, they never taste quite as good.

Here is an interesting-looking cilantro and jalapeno flavored green tomato relish.

Or I bet you could substitute green tomatoes for the roasted red tomatoes in this simple lacto-fermented salsa. It would taste totally different as it would be a green tomato salsa, but I just might try a small jar of it at the end of the growing season just to see if it works.

Or if you are not into experimenting, here's a simple combo green and red tomato salsa recipe, perfect for the end of the season when you likely still have some ripe tomatoes plus the green ones.

You could try your hand at making green tomato pickles.

This fried green tomato BLT sandwich sounds particularly yummy!

Or perhaps just make some hot fried green tomatoes and serve with a buttermilk-lime sauce.

And lastly for the bold experimenting types out there...I couldn't resist linking to this ginger-vanilla green tomato jam. It sounds so unique, it's got me curious to try it!

I don't know, but I'm thinking the fried green tomato BLT might be the winner...though that jam sure sounds interesting. What do you think?

Friday, September 9, 2011

The Nitty-Gritty of Frugal Food | Pancake Recipe

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Nothing beats a yummy, hot pancake breakfast!  My kids love to help me mix the batter and whip the cream.  Below I am sharing with you my nutritious recipe for everyday pancakes.  First I am going to walk you through my process--which may be new to some of you--explaining some things as I go along.  But at the end is a very brief, summarized recipe for you to follow. It really is quite simple.

A Christmas Star pancake. We make them in December with apple slices.
The afternoon/evening before:
In a glass bowl place 3.75 cups of white whole wheat flour. 

I have also used many mixtures and varieties of flours with good success.  One of our favorites is kamut pancakes.  Kamut flour gives the pancakes a delicious nutty flavor and a soft texture.  If you are new to using whole grain flour, white whole wheat is a great place to start. Despite the word 'white', it is a whole grain--a golden wheat.  It is a softer wheat than traditional red whole wheat, and it creates lighter, less dense baked goods.  If your family is new to whole grains, you can always start w/ half white flour and half whole-wheat with the goal of eventually transitioning to pure whole wheat.

To the flour add one of the following:

3.5 cups cultured buttermilk
OR
3.5 cups of plain yogurt
OR
3 cups raw milk plus 4T raw apple cider vinegar
OR
2.5 cups water plus 4T raw apple cider vinegar

Yes oh yes, that's 4 choices for you!  Why I've listed all 4 is to show you the available options--use what you have.  The reason for combining the flour with an acidic liquid is to pre-digest the grain by breaking down the phytic acid.  You can read a more thorough explanation here.  But basically by breaking down the phytic acid, you will enable your body to easily absorb more nutrients from the grains. Moreover, many people who are sensitive to wheat are no longer sensitive once the grains have been soaked.  Alternatively, you can also add a tablespoon of sourdough starter to this mixture or sub in any amount of starter for the flour & dairy. 

I don't recommend using pasturized milk because the flour and milk are going to sit on the counter all night.  If you use pasturized milk, it may spoil.  Raw milk will not spoil at room temperature, neither will a cultured buttermilk or yogurt.  (Make sure they have LIVE cultures in them.)  If you use water, the pancakes will be a bit thinner and not so fluffy or flavorful.  But water will work in a pinch or if you are dairy-intolerant. 

Stir together the flour and liquid until a batter forms.  Cover with plastic wrap and leave on your kitchen counter in a warm spot until morning. 

In the morning when you are ready to make the pancakes, preheat your griddle or pans to medium-high heat.  To the bowl of batter add:

3 T sucanat (or honey)
3 eggs
9 T olive oil (other oils work fine)
2 tsp salt

Using a hand mixer, mix until the ingredients are incorporated into the batter. Sprinkle 2 tsp of baking soda over the batter.  Using the hand mixer, mix quickly and well.  Grease your griddle/pans with coconut oil or butter. 

I use coconut oil or butter because of their higher smoking points.  (Here is a list of oils and their smoking points.)

Use a 1/4 cup measuring cup to pour batter onto the griddle/pans.  When bubbles form on the pancake and the edges start to get cooked, flip to cook on the other side.

Pancakes topped with blueberries, whipped cream + maple syrup.
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SOAKED, WHOLE GRAIN PANCAKES

3.75 cups white whole wheat flour (or flours of choice)
3.5 cups cultured buttermilk (or one of the other options)

3T sucanat (or honey)
3 eggs
9T olive oil (or oil of choice)
2 tsp salt

2 tsp baking soda

butter for greasing

12-24 hours prior to making pancakes, mix together the flour and buttermilk until a batter forms. Cover with plastic wrap and set in a warm place.

When ready to make pancakes, preheat griddle/pans to medium-high heat.  Add the sucanat, eggs, olive oil and salt. Mix with a hand mixer until combined.  Sprinkle baking soda on top and mix thoroughly but quickly. 

Grease the griddle/pan with butter.  Use a 1/4 cup measuring cup to pour batter onto hot griddle/pans.  When the pancakes begin to cook on the edges and bubbles are forming on top, flip to cook the other side.  Yields: about 30 (4-inch) pancakes.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

The Nitty Gritty of Frugal Food | Inexpensive + Quick Prep Breakfasts.

As I promised in the last post, here are the breakfasts we commonly eat.

OATMEAL:
Oatmeal is SO ridiculously cheap if you cook it from scratch! We generally eat it 2 or 3 times each week. To make it more nutritious, I soak the rolled oats overnight in an equal part of water and 1T whey per cup of oats. In the morning I add the same amount of water, as the night before, and it cooks on the stove in 5 minutes flat.
A bowl of Chunky Monkey Oatmeal...a birthday boy's breakfast request.

To keep from getting too bored with oatmeal, we vary what we put in it...frozen blueberries or blackberries, sliced peaches, cinnamon + raisins, apples + walnuts. We even have fun names for some of our favorite combos...blueberry tooberry I love you-berry (blueberries), oatmeal cookie oatmeal (cinnamon, chocolate chips--just a few!--raisins, coconut, walnuts) and the special chunky monkey oatmeal (banana, coconut, walnut, chocolate chips).
Prep time: 10 minutes.

TOAST: We will eat whole grain sourdough toast with pb & honey or jam on busy mornings. Sometimes we'll add a fruity shake...simply plain yogurt and frozen fruit blended together.
Prep time: 10 minutes, 15 min with a fruity shake.

EGGS: We also enjoy buttered toast with eggs. And sometimes we throw in a little sausage or bacon for variety and extra protein.

My kids like what my mom always called "man in the hat"--use a biscuit cutter to cut a circle out of a slice of bread, crack the egg into the pan, lay the bread over top with the hole surrounding the yolk, toast the circle "hat" in the pan while the egg cooks, and place it on top of the toast-surrounded egg to serve.
Prep time: 10 minutes, 15-20 min with sausage/bacon.


PANCAKES: You might be envisioning fluffy, white flour cakes covered with butter and syrup. Well, not exactly. Ours are soaked whole grain or sourdough--but still light and fluffy and very tasty. When you soak the flour, you get fluffier (and more nutritious) pancakes. White whole wheat (which is just a golden wheat as opposed to traditional red wheat) makes softer, lighter baked goods than traditional whole wheat. If you've never tried it, you should. (I'll be sharing my pancake recipe in my next post!)

Since we keep our regulay day-to-day sugar intake minimal, my kids love to top their pancakes with freshly whipped cream, which, even when the whipped cream is quite sweet, cuts waaaay back on the sugar compared to syrup. Sometimes while the pancakes are cooking, I will make a berry sauce to use as a topping. Other times we do pour a little maple syrup or honey over our pancakes. I will often throw pureed pumpkin into the pancakes, sprinkle in blueberries or peaches (or top our pancakes with fresh fruit)...whatever is in season that we have around.

Since I'm spending 30 minutes making pancakes, I always double the recipe to have enough for the next day too. I also tend to make pancakes on the weekend or on a not-too-busy day. Prep time: 30-40 minutes, but the next day's breakfast is made, bonus!

SPECIAL BREAKFASTS: Occasionally I will make our favorite breakfast cake or blueberry muffins or something else a little more time intensive. But that's definitely not the norm. Most mornings I stick to 15 minutes or less.

What do you eat for breakfast that is healthy and economical?

Monday, September 5, 2011

The Nitty-Gritty of Frugal Food | Get rid of boxed cereal.

Oh yeah, you heard me.  Personally from what I have read, I think most boxed cereals, especially the ones targeted to children, are generally pretty unhealthy.  A pretty strong statement, but it stems from the high heat processing that cereal undergoes, which ruins nutrients, among other things.  (You can read a bit more of an explanation here...just read it with a grain of salt and do your own further research).  That said, I do always keep a box of Trader Joe's O's in the pantry for 'emergencies'...which, as any mom with little ones knows, life is full of little emergencies.  :)

Boxed cereals are expensive, and coupled with the amounts of milk you consume with them, the cost can be quite high, especially the larger your family is.  When I set out to eliminate boxed cereals from our diet, I started with making breakfast just 2-3 times per week, and gradually picked up from there.  I gathered a few simple ideas and just rotated through them. In the next post, I will share what have become our staple breakfasts, both inexpensive and (all but one) quick for busy mornings.

Friday, September 2, 2011

The Nitty-Gritty of Frugal Food | Cook from scratch.

One sure way to save money and be more frugal in the kitchen is to simply cook from scratch.  Now when I say 'simply' I don't mean that cooking from scratch is necessarily simple!  For some of course it is.  Growing up, my mom made everything from scratch, so I grew up in that environment and learned many of the basics of everyday cooking and baking.  But maybe you grew up in the opposite environment of packaged meals and microwaves, so learning to cook from scratch may be (or already have been) a lengthy process for you.  And that's okay.  Take it one step at a time.

Homemade whole wheat sourdough bread.

The benefit to cooking/baking from scratch is that pretty much anything (everything?) you make will not only be cheaper but HEALTHIER.  It's pretty much a win-win situation!  Since most of us cannot make everything from scratch, utilize its advantage in your favor.  Look at what you buy.  Think beyond just frozen/packaged meals: think about sauces, salad dressings, soup mixes, boxed/canned soup, canned beans, bread, instant oatmeal, bisquick/bread mixes, crackers, cookies, pre-mixed frozen vegetables, jam...the list goes on. 

Where does your money go?  What are the things that would be most cost advantageous for you to make from scratch?  Even if you just make something (bread, for instance) from scratch half of the time, you will still save money.

PS: If you are one of those "I need a mix" people, did you know that there are tons of recipes out there for creating your own mixes for all sorts of things?  It only takes a few minutes and it will save you money.  Here's one to get you started--homemade 'bisquick'! (A healthy 'all vegetable shortening' is palm oil. And you don't have to use white flour--try whole wheat.)