Meal budgeting: the sequal

My most recent post gave a few tips on how to keep costs down while feeding your family. I didn’t get to share all that I wanted because I ran out of time, so I decided I’ll go ahead and add on that.

It’s no secret that cooking at home automatically saves you more money than eating out. Sure, the items themselves may add up to cost a little more compared to one meal out, but you can feed several more people for the same amount. I had gotten to the point to where I wanted the “eating out” taste without the cost, so I decided to up my skills. I started looking for different recipes, recipes for food I didn’t typically cook; things like pork tenderloin with brown gravy, green beans, and mashed potatoes. I had always thought that I would spend an arm and a leg for that type of meal, but after watching a little Worst Cooks in America, and checking it out on Pinterest, I found that making up-scale meals is actually somewhat do-able. But today, I wanted to talk about things you can do yourself to cut costs when shopping.

  • Make it yourself. Sure, it might take a little extra time, but no one ever said that you could be lazy AND save money. When I say “make it yourself”, I’m referring to any and everything. Yes, there are somethings that are better and cheaper to just buy, like boxed pudding mix, but there are many things that you’ve had homemade before and wished you could do it. Well, you can! One thing I’ve started making from scratch is my tortillas. Corn, flour, doesn’t matter, I make them. For the corn tortillas, I just buy a bag of Masa and follow the directions on the back of the bag. It’s literally just the masa flour and water and you stir it into a ball. Yes, it really is that simple. Now, I had always thought that, because I didn’t have a tortilla presser, I couldn’t make them. Well, nonsense! I cut a gallon sized Ziplock bag in half and cut the zipper part off. That way I had two sheets of plastic that the dough wouldn’t stick to. Then, I got my glass pie pan, placed a ball of dough between the two sheets of plastic, and mashed it with the pie pan. It gave it the nice circle I was looking for and I could see through the pan to know how big the tortilla was going to be. Then you just cook it about 30 seconds on each side,  on a non-stick, non-greased, pan. Super easy and they are SO good. I also do flour tortillas which are a little trickier because you have to let them rest a few minutes, then roll them out which is a little difficult, but possible. Another thing I love to make myself is bread rolls. I found the best recipe ever on Pinterest. Here’s the link if you want it. . It’s really easy and very good, and if you try to say you don’t have time, it only takes 45 minutes to make, start to eating. So, there you go. If you want to cut costs, make the food yourself. Don’t buy prepackaged if you don’t have to. You’re paying for someone else to make food that you could make better.
  • Don’t over-cook. What I mean by this is don’t make more than you will eat. If you make too much and don’t eat on it for days, it will go bad. Then you will have to throw it away, and you’re basically throwing away money you could have saved. That’s why it’s important to portion out your ingredients, and only use what you need. If you want to have leftovers, that’s fine, just make sure you know how many leftovers you want to have, and portion for that. For example, when I make baked fish, I make as much as we will eat that night, plus a few extra pieces for Chris to take for lunch the next day. But, I don’t cook the whole bag of fish fillets because we would either eat it when we should be eating something else, or we wouldn’t eat it and it would spoil. Always always portion.
  • Don’t be afraid to experiment. We all have those days where it’s the day before payday, and we have nothing to make a decent meal. Well, instead of going out and spending MORE money, go through your pantry and see what you have, then DO something with it! Let me just say, you can make a decent soup out of the strangest ingredients as long as you season well. Just try to include a starch (corn, potatoes, pasta, bread, etc..), a veggie (canned is just fine), and a protein (this includes beans, chicken, tuna, lunch meat, etc…). I’ll give you a few”toss together” meals you can look to try to make. First is quiche, which you can basically just put cheese and you have a meal, but you can add spinach, lunch meat, bacon, or go a little crazy with beans, but I wouldn’t suggest it. Next is soup. You can put corn, beans, cheese, frozen veggies, cabbage, and any other vegetable you might have. If you don’t have veggies, try to go the chili route with beans, meat, tomatoes (canned is just fine) and a good amount of cumin and chili powder, and you’ve got yourself a nice bowl of chili. to raise the bar a little, you can whip up some quick cornbread to go with it. But, if you can’t seem to find items to make these meals, don’t be afraid to try something a little different. Sure it might be really weird, but at least you won’t starve. If you have food, eat it, don’t buy more.

There you go, there’s a few more tips to help keep your money in your pocket, and food in your belly. Until next time!

HAK – Lindsey

P.s. Here’s a couple of super cute pictures of my kids 🙂




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