Wednesday, April 24, 2013

The gist of it

Every month I write about the basics of groceries on the cheap for anyone that wants a refresher or for new people.

I feed our family on 1/2 of the USDA stats for thrifty food. I have done it for years and was in the Woman's Day years ago when my children were teens.

1/2 price cooking takes a three-pronged approach.

1) plan and organize
2) shopping
3) scratch cooking


1) develop your own recipe book of main dishes that use an inexpensive form of protein. Start with seven, and increase it to fourteen so you have some variety. For us that protein would be cheese, pork. Chicken, some cuts of beef, beans.

2) make a list of staples that you use often. For us that would be beans, some green beans and corn, pasta, pasta sauce, diced tomatoes. Some tuna, instant mashed potatoes, refried beans.

3) create a price book or a spread sheet on these products. You should have ten or fifteen items max.

Note the item and the size of the package, the place you bought it,the price and the date. Pretty soon you will have a good idea of the lowest rock bottom price of that item. When you find that price buy
A) as many as you can afford to buy
B) as many as the store will let you buy. Or
C) as many as you need to replenish your stock, whichever comes first.


This is not about hoarding. If I use something Once a week, I keep 24. once a month , I keep 6. I keep one ahead of things like mustard, catsup, mayo etc. I don't want to run to the store when I run out.

When the grocery ads for the chain stores come out. I sit down with a piece of computer paper, divide it in fourths and head each fourth with the name of a chain store nearby. I go through the ads and write down everything that is on sale that is on my target list, and any fruit, veggie, or perishable we eat and any meat that is a good price. Then I cross off anything that is more expensive than elsewhere and anything I don't need. Now pick The two stores that have the best buys on what you need. Plan your trip so you use the least gas. Take your list, get in , and get out. The longer you spend in a store, the more you will spend. Avoid impulse buys. be sure and take the ads with you. .

We have several stores clustered together. I can incorporate the dollar store,the pharmacy, and maybe big lots or
Grocery outlet in the same trip. I almost always hit the two chain stores. If it is convenient, I hit others,
there are certain things that we buy at the alternative stores, and we can get in and out quickly. If we are short on time, we divide and conquer. We hit Costco, the bakery outlet and WinCo once every four to six weeks.

Costco is close by so we can hit it when we are running out of things. The others are several towns away, so they are on a longer cycle.

We seldom spend more than an hour or so shopping a week.
1/2 price foods leaves no room for a lot of snack foods, pop, chips, etc.

After your shopping trip, jot down seven meals. Just the main dish, nothing time consuming or fancy, I do this after because sometimes while shopping you find something real l y cheap or what you planned to buy is not good.

Ready made foods are a sure way to bust your budget! It doesn't take a lot of time to cook from scratch. There are all kinds of tricks to make your time in the kitchen short.

1) batch cook
2) marathon cook
3) stair step cooking
4) slow cooker or pressure cooking
5) cooking fast foods

Marathon cooking is cooking a months worth of foods in a weekend. Shop one day and cook the next. I went to a class on it years ago. I don't have the stamina for it, and we enjoy fresh fruits and veggies. There are books on it.

Batch cooking works for me. I buy meat when it is the lowest price. It is hard to judge the ever skyrocketing costs of beef, but chicken and pork aren't bad. Usually, I find one meat a week. I cook it that day, or the next day.
Portion it into meal sized packages and freeze. I get good hamburger when it is B1G1 and do the whole thing. It creates less waste and less clean up. I can spend the time to defat it. Defatting hamburger can make it have less fat than boneless, skinless chicken breasts. Directions are on an earlier blog. I make hamburger crumbles, taco meat, meatballs, meatloaf. Sausage is cheapest at Costco , I fry it and defat it as soon as I get it home.

I also make my own taco seasoning, and other mixes. Another way to jack up food prices.

Stair step cooking is cooking a double batch of something and saving some for later in the week. A double batch of rice can be for Mexican rice one day and the base for sweet and sour pork or chicken or beef tips another.

Slow cookers are your best friend in the kitchen. I loved coming home to the smell of dinner when I walked in the door after a long day! I still love the concept, I just don't have a sense of smell! LOL

I have a recipe on the blog for almost FREE pizza!

I want to be in and out of the kitchen in about twenty minutes not including passive cooking. Love it when I can shove something in an oven or slow cooker and walk away to do mail management or wash a load of clothes etc.

In the summer when our east facing kitchen gets hot, ( did I say that in the Pacific NW)I like to make a bunch of salads on Sunday and then cook hot dogs, hamburgers, or chicken on the grill. salads last well into the week.
EASY and my husband does the grilling!!!

The main thing is to not buy anything ready made. A few things are as cheap or cheaper to buy ready made.
I buy tortillas on sale. Ditto refried beans, instant mashed potatoes, pasta sauce (Hunts ) or another can that I found at WinCo. I buy bread and sandwich rolls at the bakery outlet unless I find them cheaper somewhere else.

DELI chicken and Hamburger Meal boxes are about the most expensive items in the store. ...well maybe not if you shop at whole paycheck type stores. LOL My daughter and I thorally investigated hamburger meal box. it's on a blog last summer-- it's a real eye opener. Deli chicken is another topic.

My manta. Better, cheaper, faster!

If you spend more time on the front end of the GET A MEAL ON THE TABLE TRAIN, and less on the back end, you will be better off. You get PAID for shopping, you don't get paid for cooking.

Thanks for stopping by

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