Saturday, August 31, 2013

The basics: cooking from scratch

Groceries on the cheap is a whole new way of looking at shopping for food. One of the fastest ways to derail a thrifty budget is to go to the store every day or every other day and buy just enough food to get you by for a couple of days. you spend more gas, more time. subject yourself to the deluge of impulse stimulation, and probably pay top dollar for your food. Another way, is to go to one expensive store and buy whatever looks good to you without as much as a plan or list. Again, you are paying top dollar and you are setting yourself up to repeat performances.

Like anything you want to do well, shopping on the cheap takes some planning and organization. A little time up front will save a lot of stress and time in the long run. I have got pre planning down to a half hour or so. When you have your staples stocked, grocery lists come down to 1) perishables that need replenishing: produce and dairy around the perimeter of the store 2) a loss leader meat you will batch cook. And 3) any stock items that you need that are at or below your target price.

If you spend more time on the front end of the "get the meal on the table train and less time on the back end, you will be better off. You get "paid" for,shopping, not for cooking. You save momey scratch cooking most of the time. But saving momey shopping really shows up in the bank account and on the bottom of your receipt.

For the most part, it is necessary to cook from scratch to maintain a 1/2 price budget. Cooking from scratch does not have to mean long hours in the kitchen. If you enjoy cooking and have the time, that's great. Most of us have busy lives and it is usually hectic around dinner time.

Purchasing ready made dinners and a lot of box mixes and snack foods will derail your train fast. With some planning, scratch cooking can be fast and easy.

You need to start with a plan. Make meal plans when you get home from the store. Try to leave children at home when you shop. Plans can be altered, but you need a plan. Otherwise it is too easy to fall into the what's for dinner answer of drive through or order pizza. LOL

Cooking your meat in batches and portion controlling it is a good money and time saver. You are buying loss leader in bulk. You cook once, preferably at a time of day when you are the least stressed. You portion it out in meal sized bags. You save a lot of time at meal time because the meat takes the longest to cook. Your non- passive time in the kitchen is minimal. You clean up the bulk of your dishes once.

I cook and defat ground meat. Make meatballs, meatloaf, crumbles, taco meat.
I cook and defat sausage. It is usually cheapest at Costco.
Chicken is either roasted whole, or grill packs are split between breasts and legs and thighs.thenbreastsmaremdebomed and the rest is cooked in water and vegetables and the meat is shredded and the stock frozen.
Pork Loin roast is roasted off. The first meal is pork roast, the rest is sliced thin and frozen for hot sandwiches or some of it sliced off for pork chops before cooking.

I cook roast beef the same, but haven't since beef took such a hike.

Your slow cooker can be your best friend in the kitchen. It cooks dinner while you are out and you are welcomed to the smell of dinner done, or nearly done when you arrive home.

Making quick breads or muffins is a cheap, nutritious, and easy start for breakfast and/ or snacks. Air popped popcorn is another good cheap snack.

Cocoa and other items are sometimes cheaper in the bulk isle. Compare prices. Bulk is not always cheaper. Winco has the largest bulk isle I have ever seen.

Do the math. Some things are cheaper ready made, but most of the time, it is not so. There are ways to cook almost everything quick and simple. I want to spend twenty minutes or less non-passive cooking time cooking dinner.
Sometimes, lately,with coupons and mega sales, a few things have been cheaper than scratch. You are still sacrificing the home made flavor and the idea that your food has less chemicals in it.

Refrigerator bread is fast, easy, and cheaper than sourdough bread from the store.

Sometimes, I cook sometching from scratch or near scratch and find a remarkable difference. My daughter was buying lemon pound cake from a big bucks coffee shop. The difference between buying it and cooking it from almost scratch was Something like 212.00 an hour. Well worth the effort.

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