My neighbour, Carol, who usually does all the grocery shopping for her household, had sent her husband to pick up a week’s worth of groceries. She was recovering from knee surgery so she tasked him with a list and off he went. On his return he exclaimed his astonishment of how expensive groceries were. Those of us who spend a lot of time in the food stores have been continually seeing the prices creeping up over the last couple years. Currently with the price of beef rising many of us are scaling back on meat and becoming more creative with our dishes. Every member of the family having a 6 ounce steak on their plate is becoming a rare occurrence. The crushing prices of food is going to take more than coupon clipping but optimizing what you can afford.
I have been faithfully menu-planning every week for the past couple years because of the high cost of food. Eating leftovers and stretching what I have in the pantry is how we roll in the Wynes household. With three men to feed I know grilled cheese sandwiches and tomato soup is not going to cut it, especially with one of my sons trying to ‘bulk up’. Satisfying my family with good hearty meals every evening takes not only cooking skills, but planning skills as well. Predicting another spike in food prices due to supply-and-demand and climate change, I am preparing myself on how to manage an increase in my monthly food budget. Here are some ideas that may help feed the big appetites in your family on a smaller budget.
Intentionally Producing Leftovers
When cooking supper I often keep in mind that I may be turning tonight’s meal into tomorrow’s dinner. There have been plenty of leftovers that I have either transformed into casseroles, soups, stews or side dishes. A day old meal can be revived by adding a few fresh ingredients. Some of my best creations have come from leftover rice and pasta, like wild rice casserole and lazy lasagna. Leftovers from supper also make a good brown bag lunch saving me money from eating out.
Chili is also one of my leftover favs. You can easily make taco salad, taco soup and of course soft tacos! Leftover chili is also easy to be added to in order to make more chili. Here is a Mexican casserole dish you can make with yesterday’s chili.
Scale Back on the Meat
I am not protesting against the cattle farmers because I know they work hard to give us good quality beef. However, with beef prices already high and the current drought conditions effecting crops, hay is going to be at a premium come wintertime. This will drive up the cost of beef because if what the cow eats goes up in cost, so will your roast beef dinner. I buy meat when it is on sale and in bulk. At home I divide it, rewrap it and freeze it in smaller packs. I can turn two chicken breasts into a large family meal. Supper doesn’t generally consist of a big piece of protein and a couple sides of carbs around it. I incorporate meat into my dish as a whole. One round steak can easily feed a family of four, if not six. One of the dishes we enjoy are steak fajitas with a side of Mexican rice and beans. Another dish is a beef (pork, chicken or shrimp) stir fry. I like ginger beef and broccoli stir fry on rice or rice noodles. It is very easy to double up without doubling up on the meat. You can add Bok Choy, carrots, mushrooms, celery, bean sprouts and water chestnuts. It is also easy to turn into a soup the next day by adding broth, water, noodles and soy or oyster sauce).
Stretching your dollar as far as you can will involve some menu planning and scratch cooking. Eating cheaper shouldn’t mean eating unhealthy either. In my book, Eating Myself Crazy: How I Made Peace With Food (and How You Can Too), I provide many healthy ideas and tips for making meals and snacks on a frugal budget. As food prices continue to skyrocket this skill is more important to us than ever.