Sunday, December 30, 2012

The Nuts and Bolts of Meals on the Cheap

It's the first of the month...almost. Every first of the month I do a review of the
Basic principals of meals om the cheap. I want to pay 1/2 price for food. The USDA has stats on how much you should spend based on family size and ages. It is not adjusted for the drought prices we are experiencing.

Groceries on the Cheap takes a three- pronged approach. Planning and organizing, shopping wisely, and cooking from scratch.

Once you get yourself set up, you should spend very little more time than the average person does without the concept and be a whole lot richer! LOL

If you spend more time on the front end of the. "Get the meal on the table train " and less on the back end and you will be a lot better off. You get "paid " for shopping , not for cooking. If you spend an hour shopping and you save 75.00. Basically you are makimg 75.00 an hour. This is a concept not everyone can see.It's not a virtual concept.


First, compile recipes for main dishes that use inexpensive sources of protein.
Rice and beans, chicken, pork, some beef, eggs, cheese, tuna, some fish. start with seven and expand to 14 to give yourself more variety.

Next, make a list of stock items that you use frequently. At our house that would be diced tomatoes,canned beans, instant mashed potatoes, refried beans, some corn and green beans, pasta, black olives and canned pasta sauce.

Start a small spiral notebook or a spreadsheet and track the price you paid, where you purchased it and when you purchased it.

Page Heading: Green Beans

1/2/12 QFC. 1.59
3/6/12 top. .67

Soon you will see a pattern and know the lowest price. When the price is at it's lowest, buy as many as the store will let you buy, as many as you can afford to buy, or as many as you need to replenish your stock, whichever comes first. If I use something once a week, I keep 24. If I use it once a month, I keep 6 .


The main idea, is never pay full price for anything. My mother used to call it not paying top dollar.

Take advantage of what meats are the cheapest any particular week. Use the least expensive veggies that are in season. They will taste better too. Roma tomatoes have more flesh and are usually cheaper.

When the weekly ads come out, take a piece of computer paper and divide it into quarters. Mark each quarter with the name of the store. Now go through the ads and write the things that are truly on sale that you use. Forget the ready made junk food. When you are done, cross off anything that is cheaper elsewhere and anything that you have enough of. Now pick the two stores that have the best prices in the things you want. I don't bother to go to two stores if there is only one thing on the list.

Take the ads, your list, and any coupons you have come across. Get in the store, get your list, and get out. The more time you spend in the store, the more money you will spend. The stores have spent a great deal of money researching ways to get you to impulse buy.

I used to work for a grocery wholesaler. There one store that has a 42 percent markup. That is huge. Stick to the large chains. We hit Costco, winCo, Grocery Outlet, and the Bakery Outlet about every four to six weeks. I usually try to hit them when we have other errands in the area or group my stops to make the best use of our gas. I don't advocate going across town for .15 savings. I stock when I go. often I save a dollar a unit--that ads up fast.

When a roast or London broil is cheaper than hamburger, we make our own hamburger.


besides going to the specialty store every other day to buy just what you need for two nights dinners, ready made foods and snack foods are the fastest way to derail your budget.

My daughter and I diasected a hamburger meal box. It is on a prior post, it is a real eye opener.

There are ways to cook from scratch almost as fast as using mixes or ready made .
The slow cooker and pressure cooker are your best friends here. Also anything that you can quickly prep and shove on the oven works well too. The microwave is a boon for some things. I really like the microwave pasta cooker. It uses one "pot" to cook drain and don't have to watch the pot. Just use a few less minutes than it calls for, it tends to overcook.

I frequently post recipes that are easy and quick.

I almost always precook my meats the day of shopping, or the next day. buying bulk meat and pre cooking and meal size portioning is a way to waste less and get a headstart on dinner prep. This is especially true of hamburger. I either buy hamburger in bulk, or make low fat myself. Then, I make taco meat,meat balls, meat loaf,and crumbles, or some of the above. I defat the taco meat and crumbles.The meat loaf is baked in a meat loaf pan so that the grease drains, and I cook meatballs in the oven on a rack lined sheet pan. The technique for defatting is in a previous post.

I roast a chicken , pretty much set it and forget it. Then separate it into leg portions, and two breasts. Make stock from the bones. That makes four meals.

Never buy a chicken less than 3 pounds. Every pound over 3 pounds is gravy. Three pounds is the break even point. you don't want to pay for too much bone to meat ratio. A precooked chicken at the deli is usually three pounds. Costco is the cheapest. You are paying 1.67 a pound for chicken. I frequently get good northwest grown chicken for under a buck. It takes about 10 minutes to prep a chicken. It motivates you to scratch cook when you do the math. A six pound chicken is about 4.00 less than two three pound ready made chickens. If it takes you ten minutes to prep a chicken, you are making 24.00 an hour for your labor and you are getting more chicken for your buck.

I take and roast off a beef or pork roast. We have a roast dinner and thinly slice and freeze the rest in meal sized portions for a roast beef a jus or BBQ sandwiches.

There are a few things that are cheaper than scratch to buy, or that are just too much bother to make from scratch. Remember, when we are spending the majority of our time on shopping, rather than cooking.

Pasta, taco shells, mayonnaise(because of health reasons), and refried beans come to mind. I buy canned beans on sale and they are about the same price as dried beans. Rinse them well to reduce the sodium. Beans have a really short fridge life. It's not worth it to cook them from scratch and taking a chance on getting sick. You can cook them in pressure cooker.

Another note, there are storage solutions that keep fruits and veggies longer. They are well worth the investment.

Thank you for stopping by
Please share. I know with stores closing and unemployment there are people that this will help.


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