Money-Saving Menu Ideas

October 14, 2009 by Kenmore

There are a lot of ways to save money on groceries. And you might think you have to give up taste for a lower grocery bill. But that’s not exactly true.

If you plan ahead, you can still serve up great tasting meals without busting your grocery budget.

All in the planning

When it’s time to do my grocery shopping, I spend a quick moment doing some planning before I head out to the store. That helps me focus on the items I need so that I’m not buying anything unnecessary.

And trust me, when I don’t have a plan, I usually end up raising the bill (and my budget worries) at checkout time.

I know I feel better when I’ve stayed on track, so here are guidelines to help you stay within your budget and while you’re at it, make the most of your leftovers.

Know your budget

When budgeting for groceries, plan to spend $75 – $100 per week for the first family member (assuming you plan to eat all meals at home). For a second person, add $50. For the third and fourth, add $25 more.

Take a lap

Before you make your way down the aisles, walk around the perimeter of the grocery store. You’ll find fresh produce, meat and dairy items that are cheaper than processed goods in the aisles. Once you’ve stocked up on fresh items, buy only what you need from the prepared foods sections. You’ll save money and eat healthier too. For example, try my simple and cost-conscious spicy sautéed broccolini with garlic.

Turn your back on brands

The difference in price between brand names and generics is the marketing cost. No-name brands are cheaper than their highly advertised opposites, and they don’t sacrifice flavor.

Buy only what you need

Buy your spices, lentils and nuts in bulk as you need them to keep larger amounts from going rancid. If you can’t avoid buying small quantities, freeze what you don’t use. Even milk, cream and some hard cheeses can be frozen for up to a few months without losing quality.

Stock up on frozen assets

Buy frozen fruits instead of the fresh variety, especially out-of-season items. They’re frozen at the height of freshness and very flavorful when thawed. Frozen shrimp and other seafood can be just as tasty as fresh, especially if you live far from the coast, as seafood has likely been frozen before reaching you. Give my maple-soy glazed salmon a try!

Spice up your life

Search for variety packs of herbs and spices. Often you’ll find several types bundled together, which can save money when a recipe calls for a variety of herbs.

Loving leftovers

Got leftovers? Here are ideas for using up the tasty odds and ends.

  • Use leftover herbs and bits of cheese to make omelets. A sprinkle of strong cheese and some fresh herbs cooks up the classic Provençal omelet. Or, dip stale bread in beaten eggs for easy French toast.
  • Incorporate leftover veggies and herbs (like cilantro) into a homemade vegetable cocktail. The mix is perfect for breakfast or as a base for Bloody Marys. If you have more substantial amounts, cook them together to make a vegetable stock.
  • Drop shavings from leftover cheese rinds into soup to add extra flavor. If you have hunks of a few varieties of cheese, mix them together for a customized mac ‘n cheese. You’ll be surprised at the flavors that emerge by departing from the traditional cheddar.
  • Grind leftover bread in a food processor to make homemade breadcrumbs and freeze until you’re ready to use them. For a flavorful main course, mix breadcrumbs with herbs and olive oil and sprinkle over fish or chicken before baking.

What’s your secret to staying on budget and still serving healthy meals?


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