Eating pastured and wild caught and mostly organic foods can be difficult for those on a tight budget. This is especially challenging when you have many mouths to feed. What follows are some tips to help you make the most of your budget, your valuable time and help you eat the best food possible.
~~Be sure to download my Tips and recipes mentioned here. Links are at the end of this post.
A few guiding principles to keep in mind as you browse my list of Budget Friendly Meal Planning Tips –
- You probably won’t be able to purchase all your food at one store. Sourcing food at local CSA’s, farm markets, co-ops, buying clubs as well as on-line stretches your food dollars.
- You’ll need to shop in bulk as much as you can to get the best prices and this may mean purchasing a second freezer and/or refrigerator.
- Be ready to set aside a few hours to do food preparation every week. Getting other family members involved to help you is a must.
- Cooking your own meals from scratch is essential to making the most of your food dollars and getting the very best quality food for your family.
- ~ Buy whole chickens. Precut chicken is more expensive and you miss out on those nutritious bones. Both Costco and Trader Joe’s sell whole organic chickens. If you cannot afford organic then Amish chicken is a good second option.
- ~ Homemade stocks. Use bones from chicken and beef bones to make your own nutritious bone broths and stocks. Ask your butcher for bones and save even more.
- ~ Buy organic strategically! Many stores offer 25 lb. bags of carrots and pack of 6 organic romaine hearts for example. You can also substitute frozen organic vegetables and fruits in many recipes at a savings.
- Grow some of your own vegetables. It’s easier than you might think and can be done even in small spaces or containers. Growing your own ensures you’ll be eating the freshest produce for just pennies. And if you find you have bumper crop you can trade with a friend or preserve them through canning.
- ~ Nothing goes to waste. Keep all vegetable trimmings, onion skins, carrot and other vegetable tops and use to make vegetable and bone broths. You can freeze this in a plastic freezer bag and use when you’re ready to make the stocks.
- ~ Re-inventing A large piece of meat such as a 3 to 4 pound pot roast can be one nights protein and the left overs can be used for sandwiches the next day.
- Portion size matters. Learn to eat smaller portions of animal protein and more sides like vegetables (local and in season or home grown). Add brown rice, potatoes, quinoa, millet or starchy vegetables to round out and fill up big eaters.
- ~ Serve a meatless meal each week! Sauté garlic and red onion, dried basil, tomatoes, (and any other vegetables you have on hand) in some olive oil; toss in some pre-cooked brown rice or brown rice pasta and mix. By adding a side salad with some nuts or seeds you have an inexpensive vegetarian meal.
- ~ Stretch it! Cutting bacon in half vertically down the middle helps extend this breakfast protein. Most kids won’t notice.
- ~ Two for one anyone? Use ground meat for tacos one night (you can extend the protein by mixing it with rice or add re-fried beans to the bottom of the tacos, to use more beans (less expensive) and less meat, which is more costly. You can create a second meal by reusing the leftover meat the next day for taco salads or quesadillas or nachos or burritos.
- ~ Make ahead. Lasagna is a dish you can make lasagna many ways including gluten free, or even vegan using zucchini noodles and a marinara sauce base (try my Mexican Lasagna recipe).
- ~ Always make extra sauce (try my Vegetable Marina recipe) and save it and cook pasta or even rice and serve as a second entrée. Extra sauce can always be used for casseroles or an enchilada pie.
- ~ Serve breakfast for dinner! You can easily turn a few key ingredients into a supper. For example a 1 lb. of browned and seasoned ground meat can be mixed with cooked potatoes, and a bag of frozen spinach (or other greens such as kale or swiss chard) to become the base for a eggs.
- ~ Soups, stews in the slow cooker and chili are all simple and inexpensive and you can even triple everything else but the meat. Chili leftovers can be refashioned into a second lunch or dinner by pour it on tortilla chips for nachos or make a burrito out of it for a couple days. Use leftover chicken, frozen vegetables or leftover vegetables that are going to go bad soon to make soup.
- ~ Stop buying bottled salad dressings and make your own. Basic olive oil or flax seed oil and vinegar dressing is so easy and fast to make. All you need is the basic ingredients and a jar. You can change up flavors by adding a variety of dried or fresh herbs, mustard’s and using different vinegar’s. The basic ratio is 2 parts oil to 1 part vinegar (or lemon juice).
Resources for value shopping: