Thursday, November 9, 2017

Money Saving Ideas for the Kitchen, Part II


For this installment of my new series, I will be talking about shopping strategies and what to choose while you're at the store. Have you ever
gone shopping with a specific budget and plan, only to find out that you've bought the whole store and are WAY over your budget? Here are some ideas to help that. As part of saving money in your kitchen involves the choices you make, why not make better ones and leave yourself more money to save or put somewhere else? For example: What are some foods that are high in nutrition, but low in cost? Is there a difference between name brand and generic? I've done a lot of research and over the past few years and here is what I have found. You can make lots of choices about what you purchase and those choices can either help or hurt your finances. I'm going to tell you some of the choices I have found that make our food budget stretch a little further.

When to shop and what to look for?
Buying food at the store can be a very rewarding and/or frustrating process. How do you buy enough so that you aren't starving at the end of the month, but you have enough of the important stuff, you know, the things that taste delicious and are healthy for you?
Now, I've talked about kinds of foods, but how do you shop so that you don't buy everything on the shelves and/or the wrong things? These are tips I've found after years of shopping and by looking around to see what others have used to help out. The most important way to save money is DO NOT GO SHOPPING WHEN YOU'RE STARVING! This will make it incredibly difficult to not just buy the first thing you see so you can fill up and not be hungry. Eat something before you go! Your wallet will be very thankful. Also, stay away from the middle aisles...the shelves that are right at eye level. The most expensive stuff will be there...go up or down and look around. Also, as I said before, don't do brand name...the price difference isn't worth the taste difference, especially if you just add the kinds of flavoring to fix it up. I've saved up to fifteen dollars in an entire shopping trip by not picking the name brand. Also, another idea is to buy individual parts of a meal, not just the frozen already prepared option. Frequently, you can use the extras from meal preparation to make another meal or meals, and create something that fills the nutritional requirements of your own family. If you never have time during the week, just set aside some time somewhere and pre-make food for the week and freeze.
Making Better Food Choices:
Choice 1: Generic versus Brand name?
Top of the line brands and generic brands often do not taste very different. The difference is that due to it being a name brand, you're more likely to spend a lot more than you would if it was a generic product. This is due to a lot of marketing and research on what makes brands worth more or more able to be marked up in value. Just buy the generic stuff and add whatever you need to make it taste the way you want...your wallet will thank you. Adding seasonings such as basil, parsley, garlic, and onion will improve the flavor immensely.
Choice 2: Fresh versus frozen?
Canned, frozen, and fresh produce can provide various benefits to you and your family, however, frozen vegetables are actually cheaper than fresh for the most part. You can save them a little better because you can use what you need and put the rest into the freezer for the next time. Freezing prepared food is also an option that allow you to monitor what your family eats and provide variety to your table. You can buy in bulk, prepare meal sized portions, and then freeze, to limit waste of expensive food (IE meat), and also minimize leftovers, since you're preparing only enough for one meal at a time. Please read the information on the label and check the price per ounce. 
Choice 3: What is low cost and high in nutritional value?
Many foods have lots of nutritional value, but can be very expensive. How do you find things that are both low cost and high value? Here are some choices that I have found. Obviously, if you're vegan or vegetarian, avoid the stuff you're not able to eat, but there are a pretty good variety of food stuff here. I've scoured the internet for these items and price compared with my local grocery stores for these selections and these are some of the more cost effective choices I've seen.
Which types of food to buy?

Grains/Starches
  1. Sweet potatoes
  2. Brown Rice
  3. Multigrain pasta
  4. Whole wheat bread
  5. Old Fashioned oats
  6. Russet potatoes
  7. Canned beans*
  8. Dried lentils and beans
  9. Whole wheat pita bread
Vegetables
  1. Frozen vegetables
  2. Bagged spinach
  3. Frozen edamame
  4. Cabbage
  5. Carrots
  6. Jarred or canned tomato sauce
  7. Squash and/or pumpkins
Dairy
  1. Greek Yogurt
  2. Milk
  3. Bulk eggs
Meats
  1. Canned tuna
  2. Chicken breasts
  3. Whole chicken (see above for ideas how to use the meat, bones, etc)
  4. Lower quality meat cuts (just use tenderizer).
Also, you can buy vegan/vegetarian protein supplements to help increase your protein intake. It can be a little expensive, but you can add it to tons of stuff and increase your protein and vegetable intake that way. Buying some expensive items can be beneficial, if you just make sure to use less and as a flavoring, not as a main dish. 
I hope that these ideas give you something to think about and help you cut down your food costs just a little. There is so much more to this topic than what I've mentioned here, so eventually I'll expand a little further. But, for now, these are a few ideas to get started. Most of these foods are also compostable, as I mentioned in my previous post in this series.


Recipe Idea: try chickpeas, add lemon juice, olive oil, and salt for a delicious hummus! Grind in a food processor til smooth. My kids swear by this and I add extra vegetables to increase their nutritional intake.

Extra Resources:
WebMd's Cheap Healthy foods


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