Cut back on convenience items: Sometimes convenience items are real time savers and are worth the money, but some simple tradeoffs can make a big difference in your budget.
- Cook a whole bag of brown rice, or barley, take what you need for today’s meal and freeze the rest. Freeze the grain into portions that you use frequently (1 cup, 2 cups etc.). Then use it in chili or soup, in stir fries or any other way you might use grains. They will keep 3-6 months in the freezer.
|Cost comparison:||Plain brown rice:||$0.07 per serving|
| ||Quick cooking:||$0.20 per serving|
| ||Frozen brown rice:||$ 1.00 per serving|
- Beans (okay, I do have to include them) freeze very well. Here again, cook a whole bag and freeze the portion you do not need immediately. One bag of beans will yield 6 cups. This will cost about $1.00 compared to $3.00 for the same amount of canned beans.
- Regular oats are half the cost of instant. And don’t be fooled--you can microwave regular oats easily.
- Marinate meat yourself. Meat that already has marinade is definitely tempting, but it can be over $2.00 more per pound. If you marinate meat yourself, you can decrease spending and the amount of salt you consume.
- Store bought broth. How many times do you use store bought broth? Well, I tend to use it a lot, and it is less expensive in the large containers, so I end up with about 1 or so cups left over. The good news is that it also freezes very well. A great way to save it is to freeze it in ice cube trays and then pop out the cubes and store them in a freezer bag. Each one is about 2 ounces. If I am stir-frying or cooking veggies in minimal oil and the pan gets dry I just pop in a frozen broth cube and am good to go. Or if I need a cup of broth and don’t want to open a big container, I just use 4 of my ice cubes.
- Red, green, or yellow peppers are expensive, and sometimes you are left with ½ a pepper and no immediate way to use it up. At $2 to $4 a pepper, tossing it out does not seem like a good idea. Chop it up and place in a freezer bag; then you have one ready to go, saving you time and money. In addition, check the freezer section. Many times onions and peppers come cut up and frozen and can be a great money and time saver when they go on sale.
Rely on lower cost foods from each group. For example, in the middle of winter, apples and bananas tend to be the least expensive fruits, so plan them for your diet instead of higher priced berries.