Cooking On A Budget: Think Before You Shop

Monday, February 27, 2012

Think Before You Shop

After my usual checking the grocery flier for weekly specials, I checked what I had on hand in the refrigerator and in our freezer. It looked like Old Mother Hubbard's cupboard - pretty empty! The freezer contained some spaghetti sauce and sausage and some other frozen items - mainly stock and gravy.  From there I made a menu plan and a grocery list and headed to the store with $91.00 in cash and the "equalizer" (what I call our checkbook) for backup.
The only non-edible item in my cart was toilet paper. My total grocery bill came to $90.28 - talk about close! Needless to say I purchased a lot of fresh vegetables and three main proteins: shank ham, a frozen turkey breast and boneless skinless chicken. Some on sale treats for my husband went into the cart along with some healthy dairy products and other dairy essentials. My family will eat well for the next week and beyond.
  • The ham will give us two meals and a soup.
  • The package of chicken breasts will yield two different dinners.
  • The turkey will yield two dinners, maybe some sandwiches and a soup.
So far we have had:
  • A dinner of spaghetti, sausage and garlic bread and salad.
  • Potato leek soup.
Next up for dinner:
  • The next dinner is a baked breaded chicken with broccoli and cheese sauce and a baked potato. Tucked away in the freezer is the other four pieces of chicken breast meat.
  • We'll enjoy a nice baked ham dinner with baked sweet potato (and a white one for my husband) alongside will be a fresh cauliflower gratin that I will make with the left over cheese sauce.
  • Lentil with ham or split pea soup with ham.
  • Ham sandwiches for lunch or sliced ham with eggs for a breakfast supper.
  • The turkey dinner - I have gravy frozen and we'll have some mashed potato and carrots to go along side the turkey.
  • A turkey fricassee dinner with luscious porcini mushrooms and finished off with some cream; possibly turkey tetrazzini.
  • Turkey salad possibly or turkey soup.
  • With the sauce and sausage that is left over (still) we could make another pasta night with garlic bread and salad.  Or, I will take the sausage, sauce and some ravioli filling that's in the freezer and make some stuffed shells or manicotti.
  • With the chicken I put in the freezer along with puff pastry in my freezer I will make chicken wellington.
So there actually is eleven meals I can make. Not bad for using what I have on hand and what I purchased! In the pantry are some other items and I could make a cake, or cake box cookies for dessert. All of the ingredients are available and most of them I already purchased on sale.
Cooking great recipes on a budget is easy, as long as you are willing to be creative with on hand product. My current family consists of 3 adults.  Something like what I have planned out would easily fit a larger family of 4-6 people.
Point is - don't think you need to rely on boxed or frozen or canned products to feed your family well. Sometimes they prove to be costly and you are not getting great healthy food - what you get are products that are loaded with sodium, sugars and fat. This way, you control the sodium, how much fat you want to use and how much sugar your family consumes.
I added chips and Klondike bars on sale- mainly for my husbands consumption (cost = $11.00).  If you replaced those snack items which were included in my grocery bill with extra bread or milk or some other healthy fruits, your family eats very healthy and nutritious.
My pantry, refrigerator and freezer items are not what you have on hand; however you too can get the most bang for your buck. Let go of the idea that you can't. Embrace the fact than you can. And, as I have said before if you really are strapped and struggling to keep your head above water (as many of us are nowadays), take some relief from your local food bank.
BAKED HAM DINNER - The First Night of Ham

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