My husband and I generally see eye-to-eye when it comes to money, but we have very different ideas about shopping for food. Since I do the cooking, I find it’s easier for me to grocery shop as well-after all, I’m the one who’s going to be preparing the food, so I have a head start on meal planning if I choose what we buy.
But the fact that I’m responsible for both shopping and cooking means that when my husband comes home and looks in the fridge, he will often say something to the effect of, “I thought you were going to the grocery store. Why don’t we have anything to eat?” To him, having done the weekly shop should equal ready-to-munch goodies in the fridge.
For the frugal food shopper, that isn’t usually the case. We have to look beyond the prepared and convenience foods to see the bigger picture-how to make something healthy and delicious out of less expensive raw ingredients. And in these times of soaring food prices, we also have to think about how to get the most bang for our grocery buck.
Some of my regular go-to foods are ones that can serve multiple times in the same week of menus. For example, if I buy a jumbo bag of carrots I can use them for a starter chopped up into sticks, as an add-in for soups and casseroles either sliced or purÃ©ed, and as a simple side dish for lunch or dinner. One item that I use almost every other meal is crÃ¨me fraÃ®che, which you could substitute with sour cream if it’s not readily available to you. It’s great for making quick sauces as it adapts to whatever flavors you add to it. My kids are big fans of beans (especially chick peas and kidney beans) which can be stored for a longer period of time than fresh meats.
And just as I know what foods work for us, I know which ones usually don’t. This includes things like a head of lettuce, which I’ll use once for salad and let sit until it’s brown and limp in the veggie keeper. I also have to be careful about things like wheat germ and rolled oats, which I’ll buy with all good intentions of eating on a regular basis and then forget about at the back of a cupboard until they’re out of date.
Of course, it takes thinking like a cook to see the possibilities in the raw materials we bring home from the grocery store. It’s something I’m getting better at the more I practice, but I’m still learning how to shop frugally for food. What about you? What are your go-to frugal foods? How to you make the most of your food budget dollars?