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spend too much on food...


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Instead of planning the meal based on *meat* I started the plan with veggies. For often the veggies follow the meat, and really I prefer it to be the other way. It actually does come out to be more economical, but my original intent was merely taste, and healthiness.

Chose my favorite fresh veggie. Often the best ones *are* the least expensive, for well. . .seasonality, you know.  :smile: Then went and chose a grain - rice, or lentils, or potatoes, or barley, or pasta. . .whatever came to mind as melding into a dish well with the veggie. Then went on to choose the meat/seafood/poultry to finish the "canvas" so to speak. Then if a can of tomatoes, or a spice, or whatever-to-add was needed, I swooped back through the store on the way to the registers, to collect it.

Ha! I have done that for years, at least during the months when the farmers' markets are running & there are super-fresh seasonal vegs to be had. They by no means are the least expensive - if I wanted those, I'd go to the "Farmer's Market" that imports everything from CA & South America - but the small premium for freshness & flavor is worth it.

We dine out maybe once a month, sometimes twice. Just don't feel the need (and haven't really had the budget since I got laid off) for it. I've rarely found a restaurant that can cook seafood better than I can, so when I feel like splurging, I'll buy a good piece of fish or some sea scallops for much less than the price of a meal out.

We still spend too much on take-out meals for nights when I'm too tired to cook. I don't have the discipline to plan ahead & make freezer meals for nights like that. Something I should work on.

CKatCook, you'd asked about Indian food. This goes back 30 years & I have no idea if it's still in print, but I learned a ton from Dharamjit Singh's "Indian Cookery." It was published by Penguin back then. Not just great recipes, but an excellent 25-page intro on concepts, techniques, & spices. There are many many other books on the market now, there were few back then, this one's still my favorite.

Thank God for tea! What would the world do without tea? How did it exist? I am glad I was not born before tea!

- Sydney Smith, English clergyman & essayist, 1771-1845

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OH...I get it..buy one big thing (like a ham) and figure meals that you could use all week with it...makes sense...thanks! I was buying fresh for each meal. I just never knew how people did that...

thanks a bunch!

Yeah, that's the idea. Sort of. However, like many folks here, I tend to get really bored, really fast. So, I might not buy just one really big thing for the week. I might still use the ham like that, but I would probably freeze a bit of it for later, when I am not so bored with it. Same with the soup I would make from the ham bone: I would have part of it that week for maybe a supper, then my lunches, then freeze the rest to again be taken out in a few months when I am not getting sick of it.

On that same note, I might also have roast chicken one night that week, say with mashed potatoes on the side. Maybe half the chicken would be gone at the end of the meal. Now I could do several things with the rest of it: I could make sandwiches with the rest of the meat, or chop it up into chicken salad, or make a hash, or make a myriad of dishes that called for fresh cooked chicken. Or even make chicken soup for another meal and your lunches. With leftover mashed potatoes, I might go back to one of the dishes of my childhood and have mashed potato pancakes the next morning for breakfast, or for dinner that next night.

These are just ideas. I am sure others have much more inventive ways of extending your meals.

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I find that when I am not really "paying attention", incredible amounts of money are spent on food. When one is dashing around, trying to fit doing things into the time available, the time becomes the focus and the $$ focus goes right out the door.

Instead of planning the meal based on *meat* I started the plan with veggies. For often the veggies follow the meat, and really I prefer it to be the other way. It actually does come out to be more economical, but my original intent was merely taste, and healthiness.

Chose my favorite fresh veggie. Often the best ones *are* the least expensive, for well. . .seasonality, you know.  :smile: Then went and chose a grain - rice, or lentils, or potatoes, or barley, or pasta. . .whatever came to mind as melding into a dish well with the veggie. Then went on to choose the meat/seafood/poultry to finish the "canvas" so to speak. Then if a can of tomatoes, or a spice, or whatever-to-add was needed, I swooped back through the store on the way to the registers, to collect it.

Carrot top: you make an excellent points about paying attention

and not letting the $$ trickle away, and if you get into this mindset

it becomes second nature.

A major point: don't think of beans and lentils as "grains" - they

are a major protein source and about the cheapest things going!

E.g. where I live, cans of black eyed peas are 2 for 1$ or 3 for 1$.

2 cans + some tomatoes, spices, and spinach makes a main

dish for about 3 meals for my family of 4. Can't beat that with a stick.

to the OP: you said you liked Indian food,

This dish is so quick, easy, and tasty for a week night:

2 cans BEP drained and rinsed

1 onion, finely diced with 2 cloves garlic and 1 inch ginger

1 can petite diced tomatoes, or in season, use fresh.

Frozen chopped spinach (optional, use fresh or use other greens, as liked).

1 to 2 tbsp "curry" powder, salt, pepper.

(or, if you have the spices, don't use the powder, but use:

1 tbsp coriander powder, 1 tbsp cumin seed, red pepper to taste,

1/2 tsp turmeric, and 1 tbsp garam masala)

Saute the onions, garlic, ginger over low heat in 1 tbsp or so oil

for ~ 20 to 30 minutes stirring frequently as you go about your

other chores (or use a crock pot and forget it for ~ 1 hr).

When they are cooked down, and dark golden and fragrant and

the raw smell has gone, add spices EXCEPT garam masala

and saute for a few minutes

on higher heat until the spices lose their raw smell, don't let them

burn - so watch closely - whether in crock pot or stove top.

Add the BEP, tomatoes, and greens if using, and simmer on

low for ~ 15 minutes until all homogenized (or another 1 hr in a crock pot).

Add the garam masala

towards the end; add salt to taste, and maybe a shot of lemon juice

when the heat is turned off.

Serve hot with rice or tortillas.

Leftovers just get better with age. Refrigerate and reheat.

1 lb of lentils makes 3-4 meals for a family of 4.

1 lb of meat will make 1 meal for 2 to 3 people, maybe.

The economic difference is staggering....

To the OP: when you say that you would throw away leftovers,

I am curious why you would do that? Why not pack them for

lunch?

Milagai

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I find that another great way to cut down on costs, is NOT to cook from recipes.

This requires a certain skill, improvisation, and fantasy. But I find that when I pick out a recipe in the morning, and go to the grocery store after work armed with my list, I have to buy lots of stuff just for that particular recipe. And sometimes, yes, because I am pretty unorganized, I buy things that I later find, are already in the house...

So, during the week I almost never cook from recipes except when I find a recipe that will suit what's already in the pantry/fridge. I go to the store and buy some things that look good (like Carrot Top, I usually start with a vegetable) . Browsing new cookbooks, and magazines, where I am lured into experimenting with new recipes, is for the weekend when I am willing to spend both more time and money on cooking.

Edited by Chufi (log)
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These are just ideas.  I am sure others have much more inventive ways of extending your meals.

Following up to my own post.

There are other variations on this theme..such as divvying up something before cooking, and making several dishes out of the same piece of meat, or poultry. I ran across an example of this yesterday, going through some of my cookbooks. This idea was from Jacques Pepin, ever a thrifty cook. He started with a whole raw chicken and used almost all of the chicken for Chicken Diable, then went on and made a chicken and lentil ragout with the rest of the chicken carcass. I think in the same book there is another example of getting a small turkey and using the various parts for totally different dishes.

I have seen this done with other things too such as a pork roast: one part is cut up for chops, and the rest of it is used for some other preparation such as a stew. If you like duck, I know I have seen this done, whereby the breasts are cut off the carcass and cooked on the rarish side, and the legs and the body of the duck have been turned into a fine ragout. And to extend this even further, I have seen that same ragout turned into an excellent pasta sauce, served on top of papparadelle, or layered into a lasagna.

Christine

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A major point:  don't think of beans and lentils as "grains" - they

are a major protein source and about the cheapest things going!

E.g. where I live, cans of black eyed peas are 2 for 1$ or 3 for 1$.

2 cans + some tomatoes, spices, and spinach makes a main

dish for about 3 meals for my family of 4.  Can't beat that with a stick.

I absolutely agree with you, Milagai. I was being lazy in my writing this morning. My mind to itself says "beans" or "pulses", with pulses being equal to meat in flexibility in application to designing maincourse recipes, beans slightly less so.

I stopped saying "pulses" out loud though for when I would say to someone "I think I'll start off my dinner with a pulse today" people thought I was merely wisecracking.

:laugh::wink:

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I agree with Chufi that cooking straight from recipes gets really expensive. If you go to the store, and see what vegetables are cheapest, they will generally be the most in season, and the freshest. You may not have known which ones they were before you got there, and they wouldn't be on your list. If you plan out only a couple of meal ideas before shopping, you can base more of your meals around things that are fresh and on sale, which will save you money.

The other thing is that some things are just generally inexpensive - dried beans and cabbage come to mind. The more you buy and cook these things, the better you'll be able to cook them, and you'll save money there as well. If you buy meat for every meal, that's probably what you're generally good at cooking, if you start planning your meals around less expensive ingredients (like Carrot Top mentioned), you'll get better at cooking them, and find them more satisfying.

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Just ran across this article which argues that eating out is actually cheaper. :biggrin:

Is eating out cheaper than cooking?

"When I add my hourly rate, the time to cook at home, I can instead take my family out to dinner, and it comes out pretty even," said Paul Howard, a manager-instructor at Café Laura, a restaurant run by college students at Pennsylvania State University in University Park, Pa

Ahh. The pleasures of economic rhetoric. :wink:

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I find that another great way to cut down on costs, is NOT to cook from recipes.

This requires a certain skill, improvisation, and fantasy. But I find that when I pick out a recipe in the morning, and go to the grocery store after work armed with my list, I have to buy lots of stuff just for that particular recipe. And sometimes, yes, because I am pretty unorganized, I buy things that I later find, are already in the house...

=snip=

Interesting – I’m the opposite. If I don’t plan the week’s meals, I wind up with stuff that doesn’t get used. If I plan meals, shop from a list, and make something on Friday that uses leftovers, we have little or no wasted food. I think the key is your statement that “this requires a certain skill, improvisation, and fantasy.” You clearly have the talent to improvise and produce wonderful meals.

Me, I’ll keep plodding along with a shopping list – I’m better at organization than improvisation. :wink:

Ahh. The pleasures of economic rhetoric.  :wink:

Yes, I have not been deluged with offers of cash for my “free” time. :biggrin:

Edited by C. sapidus (log)
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Just ran across this article which argues that eating out is actually cheaper.  :biggrin:

Is eating out cheaper than cooking?

"When I add my hourly rate, the time to cook at home, I can instead take my family out to dinner, and it comes out pretty even," said Paul Howard, a manager-instructor at Café Laura, a restaurant run by college students at Pennsylvania State University in University Park, Pa

Ahh. The pleasures of economic rhetoric. :wink:

Interesting article. A friend of mine eats at diners regularly and gets additional meals from the leftovers. She and her husband take advantage of the huge portions without too much damage to their waistlines. As far as the quality of the food, she says that neither is too fussy and she comes from a long line of so-so cooks, so the diner food is just fine for them. She says it is faster and cheaper than cooking at home.

The economic theory works if someone was going to pay you an hourly rate to do something else for the time spent cooking. Otherwise, if you've finished work for the day or we're talking about the weekends, I don't get his logic. The article doesn't address the joys of cooking. It's just about feeding people.

KathyM

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I have saved a lot of money by ignoring the weekly food ads. The old ostrich head in the sand defense. I shop at local butchers, delis and other independent places for meat, prepared foods and produce. Other grocery items not offered at these places-paper products, beer and kids' school snacks require a trip to the supermarket. I use to examine the ads and add to my list various sale items that I may not need but because they are on sale and I am already in the store I would get them. I am no longer tempted by frequent sale items such as cookies, ice cream, bags of chips, bacon, pastries etc that would not have made it into my basket. Out of sight out of mind! And those extra bottles of ketchup, mayo and other frequently on sale condiments no longer accumulate in my cupboard. Sure, some times I run out of something and have to pay a nonsale price but the small savings is outweighed by the expense of the needless sale items.

What disease did cured ham actually have?

Megan sandwich: White bread, Miracle Whip and Italian submarine dressing. {Megan is 4 y.o.}

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I have saved a lot of money by ignoring the weekly food ads. The old ostrich  head  in the sand  defense.  I shop at local butchers, delis and other independent places for  meat

Damn. Because of the way the lines break on my screen, I read the phrase as "ostrich meat." :wacko:

SuzySushi

"She sells shiso by the seashore."

My eGullet Foodblog: A Tropical Christmas in the Suburbs

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I find that another great way to cut down on costs, is NOT to cook from recipes.

This requires a certain skill, improvisation, and fantasy. But I find that when I pick out a recipe in the morning, and go to the grocery store after work armed with my list, I have to buy lots of stuff just for that particular recipe. And sometimes, yes, because I am pretty unorganized, I buy things that I later find, are already in the house...

So, during the week I almost never cook from recipes except when I find a recipe that will suit what's already in the pantry/fridge. I go to the store and buy some things that look good (like Carrot Top, I usually start with a vegetable) . Browsing new cookbooks, and magazines, where I am lured into experimenting with new recipes, is for the weekend when I am willing to spend both more time and money on cooking.

Totally agree with you Chufi!

In our house we are just two of us.

My way is:

1. except when we are on vacation we generally don't eat out. I prefer homecooking to restaurants. I always think that with 80 pounds, that's how much you'd spend in London for a decent meal, I can have a damn good dinner :biggrin:

2. I make my husband lunch every day, I don't like him eating cheap fast food. I know what he is eating.

3. I don't like to buy in bulk, you alway buy too much. My refrigerator is alway almost empty, I go and buy everyday what I need. Now I am not working, so I have more time at hand, but up to last year in NY I'd stop 15 minutes at the supermarket on my way home from work.

4. Only to the market I go once a week. I usually don't have a list, just look what's there, I normally don't think of buying what's cheaper, rather I think of what is that vegetable going to become and how many meals I can get from what I buy.

5. I am very good at "food in process" :biggrin: For example. If on friday at the market I bought meat, I would debone it. The meat becomes dinner. The bones are turned into stock and I freeze in portions. If I have too much of one vegetable, usually I will blanch part of it and freeze, then I want to make a soup or a side dish, I go and look for the small bags of different veggies.

5. Beans I alway buy dry. I will cook one box at the time, drain and freeze up in many bags. It's cheaper and better quality than cans.

It's really rare I will waste food.

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We have 5 sons, my MIL and BIL, as well as ourselves living in one house, so thrifty cooking and shopping are a way of life around here. My most helpful hints are to improvise with recipes, freeze indivual portions in ziplocs for quick heat and eat meals and get to know your grocer/butcher/fish monger. You can improvise most any recipe with what is on sale that week or what you have a surplus of. The ziploc meal portions are great when you have hungry teenagers always foraging in the fridge for food. Getting friendly with the grocer ensures a heads up on any future sales, and maybe even special discounts. I had an vendor at the West Side Market who every few months would give me a free case of speckled bananas in exchange for a couple loaves of banana bread. In return, I got enough bananas to bake with, and mash and freeze for months of future baking. Also...buy in bulk and freeze recipe sized portions when there's a great sale on meat or fresh veggies.

I'm also always on the lookout at the reduced produce rack...I can get 6-7 red bell peppers for $1, one or 2 might have a couple soft spots...but if I cut around the soft spots, dice or slice and freeze in ziplocs the same day, I have red peppers ready to go for months...which is a timesaver as well. I also stock up onions when they are on sale and dice or slice and freeze half of them. Mushrooms freeze well if they are sauteed before freezing. Fresh herbs can also be pureed with a little water and frozen in ice cube trays...makes handy recipe size cubes. My favorite store offers lunchmeat and deli cheese ends for 1.59 a lb....hunks of ham ends are great in bean soups...and the cheese can be melted into a bechamel sauce for casseroles, sauces, etc. They also freeze well as is for future cooking. Also, stock up on butter when it is on sale, and freeze in ziplocs. Pints of whipping cream also freeze well, if you don't plan to whip it later...great for cooking tho.

I also do little things, like use reconstituted powdered milk for baking or cooking...you can't tell the difference in the finished product. A great summertime meal is to make a pasta salad with whatever veggies need to get used up, you can even add some diced leftover meat or seafood from a previous meal. In the winter, the same veggies and meat can make a great stew or homemade potpie or casserole.

We NEVER buy processed or convenience food...it's so much cheaper to make your own 'convenience' food....making homemade pizzas in quantity and freezing the unbaked pies is 1/4 of the price and incomparable in taste. Making homemade cookies is a great way to spend a little time with the kids, and you end up with twice the cookies for 1/4 of the price. Elbow macaroni is so cheap, and with a cheese sauce made from those deli cheese ends produces a mac and cheese that beats the boxed stuff every time...adding leftover meats and/or veggies makes it an even more substantial meal.

A good investment are some sectioned tupperware-type containers to make your own "tv dinners", they pack great to bring to work for lunch...by lunchtime, they are partially thawed and ready to reheat in a microwave. No need for ice packs or a cooler.

I hope at least some of this was useful to you guys...just things I've picked up over the years. A little frugality each day allows you a little extra in the budget for those "special" meals once in awhile...cuz we all deserve a little extravagence in our lives.

"There is no sincerer love than the love of food"-

George Bernard Shaw

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It's a small thing, but....

when I'm living & cooking away from the herb garden, [far too much of the time] I'll buy the supermarket fresh herbs sold as "poultry mix" rather than buying individual bunches. One package contains Italian parsley [for my bastardised sauce Grenoblois for fish], Thyme which often ends up along with Moroccan olives and home made bacon in fritattas, Rosemary which might go into Olive oil and Rosemary bread, into soup or on top of steaming cauliflower, and some sage which might find its way into a pork prep.

Someow it feels more like real food to me when there are fresh herbs around.

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Speaking of fresh herbs.... I've also found it interesting that I can buy a potted herb plant at Wal-Mart for about half the price a bunch of the same fresh herbs costs at the supermarket! I've had bad luck growing them, but that's not to say I won't pick up a plant to snip fresh herbs from for a couple of weeks.

SuzySushi

"She sells shiso by the seashore."

My eGullet Foodblog: A Tropical Christmas in the Suburbs

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I love indian cuisine...I have cooked some, but I am not very good at it yet..do you know of any good resources?

Has this been answered yet? There's the obvious, eGullet's Indian food forum, which has some incredibly useful information for cooks of all abilities - detailed descriptions of how to properly cook in the spices in, for example, so that their flavour is brought out fully. Or the discussion on making paneer, which is a perfect demonstration of what a forum can do that a cookbook or TV program can't.

Madhur Jaffrey has published a range of cookbooks in the UK, all the ones I've seen are well worth picking up. She's probably the best known writer on Indian food in Britain. The earlier ones published by Penguin are text only, but still excellent. There are also her various television series, all BBC, I think. Interesting, though some of these fall more into the food+travel+local colour category.

There are many other good writers, and dozens of fine books on Indian food are available nowadays. There are plenty of websites too. You just need to filter them a bit more carefully---some post a lot of recipes that are obviously adapted to local (non-Indian) taste, ingredients, and cooking methods, and I don't think Indian food is well served by those kinds of shortcuts.

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There is so much good advice here that I have just been nodding my head, especially after the posts by Phawless and Chufi, who Franci seconded already.

I usually shop with 1-2 dishes or meals in mind, but rarely without the intention of making something else entirely if specials or newly arrived vegetables catch my eye while shopping. If I find a recipe after the trip that calls for 1-2 crucial, unanticipated items, fine. After that second trip later in the week, I still buy and spend less.

I prioritize items on lists. On the left, things I absolutely need. On the right, staples that are running low that I'll pick up if there is a bargain or if I've been particularly frugal. On the bottom, a list of promoted specials at local stores.

Perhaps the best cost-saving tip I can offer is something I learned from friends who keep an eraser-board on the front of their refrigerator where they write down things they've just bought for the week, leftovers, what's in the freezer... I often do something similar on the computer (tres nerdy), and with things in the pantry in mind, figure out meals for the week ahead that I can make with what I have at home, with the addition of mushrooms and cream I'll need to pick up, more chicken legs and wings to make stock, and so on.

If I don't feel like making or eating something planned this way, fine. Nonetheless, I am throwing out less this way. I also have started to freeze more produce or other items I fear I won't get to before they've spoiled. Better to take a few minutes to blanche expensive haricots verts from the market and spread them out on a jelly roll tray to freeze before bagging them than to let them rot.

Much as the idea of relying heavily on dried beans instead of meat is more of an ideal for me than a way of life (not that I consume a lot of animal protein), I find one of my prejudices against the perceived monotony of dried beans is slowly changing when I use meat to flavor dishes, such a smoked ham hock for black beans cooked slowly in the oven. Dinner with green rice, an avocado-orange salad (both on sale), fried plantain and a dollop of homemade yogurt.

I used to clip coupons every single week, but find that they're best for non-food items. Most foods they encourage you to buy are highly processed, ice cream in January or "Buy 3..." Every so often there are good deals on cooking oil, canned tomatoes, oatmeal, even dairy products that have matched discounts at only one supermarket chain. I have saved as much 35-67 percent that way, but never at the store where I get most of my fresh produce, milk, etc. Mostly, I just rely on the store's discount card.

"Viciousness in the kitchen.

The potatoes hiss." --Sylvia Plath

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In case you needed a very dramatic example,

try the following link:

http://www.finance.cch.com/sohoApplets/LunchSaver.asp

You can plug in what eating lunch out would cost

(e.t. $ 6.50) vs. bagging your lunch (e.g. $ 3.00 - a HIGH

estimate to me, mine cost much less).

If you had eaten out 20 times a month (e.g. every working

day), but put that money instead into some form of

investment that yielded a 6 % rate of return, in 4 years

you could have saved $ 3,793 (you can play with any

of the numbers here).

Like someone said earlier, I can't fathom not bagging my

lunch most days, but still less can I fathom throwing out

food regularly...... I just can't afford it (and we're a middle

income sort of family, 2 adults, 2 kids).

Milagai

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I am so grateful to everyone that has responded. I have followed bits and pieces of everyone's advice all week and I have spend much less money and have eaten and enjoyed my food more. I have found ingredients in my cupboards that could make all kinds of things and could probably go another week before having to go get perishables from the store. I am interested in seeing all the things that extra money can go for.

I am definately checking out the indian food section of this forum...

I will have to start freezing more things. To be honest I never gave that much of a thought. I figured the veggies would come out soggy and nasty. I will have to read up on it and try it now. :)

kat

"I eat fat back, because bacon is too lean"

-overheard from a 105 year old man

"The only time to eat diet food is while waiting for the steak to cook" - Julia Child

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I used to spend a fortune on food, and much was wasted. I live alone, but like to eat well.

Number one, I bought a Foodsaver. It has paid for itself at least every six months. And it's at least 6 years old.

I buy family size packages of meat on sale. I buy whole hams. I buy 10 pound packages of chicken,or whole chickens. I now usually buy only when they're on sale.

I keep a magnetic clip on my fridge. Several months ago I also did the same for my pantry. Each clip has a pen, and 5-6 sheets of plain paper.

When I put away groceries, I scribble the entry onto the page. When I take something out, I cross that item out. I found it was much less time consuming than the time I wasted in supermarkets wondering what I already had.

Sounds simple, but I know what's in there. I can never remember, when I'm shopping, what I already have. I love to bake bread, and once found myself with over 4- 5lb. packages of King Arthur flour. And that was just the bread flour. We won't discuss the whole-wheat,etc.

That was nuts.

I've found myself with 4 large jars of Hellman's mayo, 2 dozen unused and past sell-by-date eggs, enough brown sugar to sink a ship, 6 pounds of butter in the freezer, but couldn't remember while I was shopping if I had these things. Planning to do some heavy baking that weekend and didn't want to find out I was out of something. So I bought more.

Total waste.

And I don't know what it is with dairy products. Heavy cream,sour cream.butter,cheese..

..

I must purchase more every time I'm in a grocery.

I have a scanner for my PC. I try to make it a rule now to pre-plan major shopping,and I scan the pantry and fridge pages and stuff them in my purse.

It's saved me a LOT of money. If you have no scanner, grab the real pages.

And cooking. One beer-can chicken cooked in the oven is good. Takes no more electric to do 3. Vacuum package them as is, or debone, package and freeze.. A myriad of things to do and the main ingredient is already done.

One large ham , cooked then packaged partly in slices, part in chunks for soups and stews, and some in small dice for ham salads,the bone for wonderful beans or soups.

Steak on sale?

Partially freeze it, then slice as for stir fry. Vacuum pack it. Fast dinner, and you got it on sale. Good to make stir fry, sauteed with onion and cheese for sandwiches, top a salad with it, or whip up the noodles and favorite sauce.

Fresh fruit, peaches, corn in season. I've had some really yummy fruits and veggies in the middle of winter when prices were downright silly.

Nothing like a nice peach compote on those pancakes.

Just things that worked for me.

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Fresh fruit, peaches, corn in season.  I've had some really yummy fruits and veggies in the middle of winter when prices were downright silly.

Nothing like a nice peach compote on those pancakes.

All of KitchenQueen's post was valuable, but it was good to be reminded of preserving fresh produce. I understand that not everyone has time, after a full work-day, to shop for produce and then stand in the kitchen preserving it. But even one batch of jam, once or twice a year, is worth the trouble. Making and freezing pesto takes minutes, too (see the "What To Do With A Glut of Basil" thread in this category).

I learned to make small batches twice a year rather than big mason jars-full every summer; it just works better for our family because we don't consume a lot of jam. When I was making big quantities of strawberry or peach jam, the family would just get bored with it and I'd find myself throwing some out at the end of a year. Better to make a few small jars of cherry and strawberry jam come springtime, then apple butter and peach jam late summer/fall. Or whatever fruit strikes the fancy at the time and is cheap. I'm the only chutney lover so I make a very small recipe, enough for 1 clean mayo jar at a time, and vary recipes according to whim (and the season). For the holidays, when I can expect more chutney-eating guests, I make more. Chutneys aren't commonly available here; a few boutique products may be found at very high prices. It's a pleasure to open a jar of my own apricot or apple and walnut, or hot mango chutney and spoon some out. Or to top pancakes with summertime preserves, or roast a chicken with them. And those preserves are sure appreciated as Purim or get-well-soon gifts.

Miriam

Miriam Kresh

blog:[blog=www.israelikitchen.com][/blog]

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  • 2 weeks later...

Hi there-

I made the decision this year to feed myself and my husband on a budget of 200.00 per month. I will admit it took a little planning, but we live quite comfortably within that price range. The 200 per month includes most staples, all meat, vegetables, dairy, beer/wine to accompany dinner.

My tricks are the following:

Plan for every protein to serve two meals. Buy head on shrimp and fish, use the bodies for risotto, the heads will make wonderful stock/ soup for another meal. Roast meats for one meal, thin the leftovers and serve as a sauce over pasts for another meal. Chicken can be roasted for one night’s dinner; the scraps are salad for another meal. I find that I end up purchase a small group of proteins for each of the 4 weeks of the month and it helps keep the costs down.

Find a vegetable market with a really fast turnover and benefit from the boxed lots they sell at a reduced price. This step really turns the phrase, “Eat by the seasons” into reality. You will find that your cooking skills will sharpen as you work to create delicious meals from veggies you may not have encountered before.

Cook slow A lot of the cheaper more flavorful cuts are from working muscles. Plan to cook slow and extract the flavor using time instead of money as your medium.

Have a plan- Know what is in your freezer and fridge. Have an idea on how they will fit together.

Slow down your meal-You would be surprised how slowing down your meal allows you to be full on a smaller portion (not to mention the pleasure of good conversation).

Cook from Scratch- It makes all the difference in the world. It doesn’t take that much longer, and its tastes a leap better.

Target Certain Cookbooks- Pick up a copy of Jacques Pepin’s, Cuisine Economique or Madeline Kamman’s , When French women cook”. One of the first things that you notice is that ingredients are used frugally, very frugally. It gives you a different slant on what you are cooking.

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ok..just for giggles I went in a took out my bank statements and totalled where all my food dollar was going.....fast food for the hubby that was a huge one..and the total for the month was over 1000.00 adding in grocery store, eating out, coffees out...all of it...I am floored at this moment.

No, leftovers rarely get eaten round here. I don't know how to make main course meals that can be used for two or three meals.

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It appears you are making almost all the costly mistakes possible. Eating extra large portions also eventually wrecks your health, so start there. I would begin by weighing meat portions when you get home from the grocery. Three and a half to four ounces is a portion, not including bones. Make the rest of each meal as big as you like using vegetables, starches and fruits, but control those meat portions! Your heart will thank you for it. Also look into the cheaper cuts of meat, which make peasant foods from around the world and are often tastier than the quicker cooking kinds.

The fast food is a choice, and if that's what he likes to do you probably aren't going to change it.

I think you do know how to make planned ahead leftovers meals, you just don't realize it. I love hash, especially red flannel hash. To get to it, I have to make a boiled dinner which doesn't transport me, but how else can I get to the hash? LOL OTH, if you two eat up all the meat in the first meal, you won't get there either. This from someone who hates leftovers, but loves planned overs.

A few extra boiled potatoes which can become hundreds of different things, rare roast beef to serve on salads, in sandwiches, rolled around asparagus, roast chicken that becomes hash or chicken salad... you just have to think ahead and not eat it all up like the papa bear.

Indian food and Asian stirfries are both good ways to some meatless meals. It isn't a sacrifice, it's a treat. I could say the same for almost any ethnic cuisine.

I won't say I make a lot of sacrifices to save money, because the first would be not to cook for guests and I would hate that. I made changes for my health and to expand my view of food and what it could be instead of what it always had been.

I drink good wine, go out for coffee or drinks, have restaurant meals when I feel like it. I would hate not to be social in those ways. BUT ingredients here are much more costly than they were in the US and I began to be embarrassed at how much food I wasted, so I tackled that and the result was lower bills for food.

http://expatsinitaly.com/judith

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The thing that saved us the most money, over the years, has been meal planning. Once a week (usually Saturday night - I just did mine and hopped onto the computer) I sit down and start thinking about the meals we'll be having for the next 7 days. I look at what's in season, what happens to be inexpensive at the time, what we all feel like eating, and what the schedule will be like in the next week. I check my refrigerator, freezer and pantry (usually do this in my head - I have a scary ability to pinpoint everything in all of them at any given time) to see what can be used or combined. Then I plan out meals, including everything that will be needed for each. When I make the shopping list out, I check off each meal when I've assembled all the necessary ingredients, between the shopping list and what I have in the kitchen.

Planning meals makes me really think out what we're going to have. It allows me to put together things like making a protein stretch out across several meals, since I've got everything on paper and can figure things out across a whole week instead of meal by meal. I can plan out leftovers - if I make a big pot of soup one night, I'll plan to have it a few nights later or divvy it up into lunch size portions to go into the freezer or put the whole thing in a large container in the freezer, to be eaten on a night when I don't want to cook. There is almost no waste when I have all of my meals planned out. Also, I can think about portions. I only cook for me, my husband, and two very small boys, so we don't eat a lot at any one meal. I know this, and cut down recipes if I'm only going to make it once or plan to do leftovers or freeze for later if a recipe serves 6-8. Menu planning also saves my sanity on days when I'm sick, or when the day has been really hectic or stressful and I just can't think of what to make - it's all been planned out and I know I have everything on hand.

It's worth giving a try, if only to really concentrate for a while on exactly what you are both going to have, and seeing where you can tweak things here and there.

Kathy

Cooking is like love. It should be entered into with abandon or not at all. - Harriet Van Horne

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