Thursday, January 6, 2011

How to feed your family on very little money

I had a reader ask me for ways to feed her family when she is out of a job and has a very limited food budget. When we first started our family I wanted to stay home and had to really find ways to stretch our budget. I had $35 a week to feed three people. Then, when we moved to Alabama from Florida four years ago our home in Florida did not sell for 15 months and I again had to really stretch our food budget. That time I was feeding seven people, two being teenagers, for $300 a month.

One of the first things I would say is that cutting coupons and looking for the loss leader and marked down items is key. I get many items for free when combining coupons and sale items each week. You can provide more meat when you search for marked down meat and prepare or freeze it before the expiration date. Make it your job to economize and find deals. The payoff of what you save if you break it down in an hourly rate is really high. It can even become addicting!

Where to find coupons

Organizing your coupons

Get more food for less money

Next, I buy as much as I can of a sale item. If I see a large package of pork chops or chicken for a low price I go ahead and buy it and cook ahead for future meals. Chicken can be grilled, baked, or boiled for meat to add to casseroles. If I grill or bake it I then flash freeze individual pieces and then place them in a ziploc or use my food saver to freeze them in. Flash freezing them keeps them seperated so you can take out one or the whole bag of pieces to cook. I brown extra ground beef and freeze portions in 1 lb quantities. I grill porkchops and freeze them. I dice ham to add to dishes. If I chop onions for a meal I go ahead and chop and extra one and freeze the extra. It saves me time later when I need diced onion in a dish.

Cooking Ahead

I have been slowly learning to garden. We built 4- 8'X4' garden beds and I have been trying to reduce our budget by growing as much as I can. The food is so much better that I almost cannot eat a store tomato. You know what is sprayed on (or NOT!) and can really save a lot of money.

Now, the main ways I saved money cooking
  1. I save all the little bits of green beans, carrots, corn, broccoli, rice, noodles, tomato or beef sauces, meat that are left at the end of a meal. Not the ones off our plates, but the little bit that was left in the pot. Most people think it is not enough for anyone so they throw it out. Get a jar or plastic container and put this, plus all the cooking liquid in the jar and freeze it. Keep adding to it. When you have enough thaw it and make a soup out of it. You may need to add some chicken broth or tomato sauce to have enough liquid.
  2. Save all the bread heels or any bread that is getting dry in a bag in the freezer. You can either make croutons, bread crumbs, or a breakfast casserole with it.
  3. I reduce the amount of hamburger meat in dishes. Instead of 1 lb. reduce it to 3/4 lb. or even 1/2 lb. When we were really tight I started doing this and adding beans. I add a cup of black beans to tacos; pinto or kidney beans to chili, burritos, Mexican dishes.
  4. Serve casseroles, stirfries, and noodle dishes instead of seperate meat, vegetable, and starch dishes. You can stretch two chicken breasts to feed seven people if it is served over spaghetti noodles in Chicken Tetrizinni or in a stir fry dish. Some great chicken recipes are chicken pot pie, pasta salad, chicken roll ups in flour tortillas, chicken quesadillas, fajitas, chicken and rice soup, chicken enchiladas, chicken noodle casserole, chicken and rice casserole, chicken noodle soup, chicken and dumplings (use the cheap biscuit dough to roll out for dumplings), grilled chicken over salad greens, chicken salad sandwich.
  5. Baked potatoes, pasta, rice, and beans are great fillers. You can bake a bunch of potatoes and freeze extras. They are a great base to add leftover chili, taco, broccoli and cheese, chicken fajita mixes. We stretch chili by serving it over a bed of rice. Add rice to bean burritos, serve red beans and rice, serve fajita mixes and stir fries over rice. Cook up a pot of beans and freeze 1 cup portions. Add to soups, beef mixtures, make black bean soup, burritos, chicken and white bean soup, black and white bean chili with corn, taco soup, ham bean soup. Just look on the internet for ideas of how to serve beans, there are many recipes.
  6. Eggs are a great stretcher. We often had eggs and bacon or sausage for supper. Make a quiche and add in some ham,sausage, or meat pieces and any leftover vegetables. Use your leftover spaghetti noodles and make a frittata adding eggs and leftover pieces of meat and vegetables. Eggs mixed with a biscuit mix and some cooked sausage make a great breakfast casserole.
  7. Don't throw away leftovers. I have already mentioned using them to make a soup and adding to quiche, but you can add to casseroles, stirfries, quesadilla, use as a pizza topper, make a flour tortilla roll up, to top a salad.

I will try to work on a post that has some more specific recipes, but hopefully this will be a start

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