Cheaper Meal Planning

Just because you’ve reduced your food budget doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice flavor.

Bring out big flavor with a small budget. Use these tips and meal ideas to create a variety of meals on the cheap.

Purposeful Shopping
Do you want to spend less money on food? Then plan ahead. Most shoppers waste money on impulse buys or last-minute trips to the supermarket for missing ingredients. When you’re ready to put the skids on wasteful cash flow, try these purpose-driven strategies.

  • Sit down with supermarket sale circulars before heading to stores. Plan out menus based on specials and in-season produce.
  • Always make out a shopping list. Shop and stick to the list.
  • Clip coupons from newspapers, magazines, or the Internet for products that you buy routinely. Take advantage of double coupons days or in-store specials.
  • Consider stocking up on frequently-used items while they’re on sale.
  • Go through cabinets routinely to use up canned and boxed staples.
  • Buy in bulk when the savings prove good.

Eating Ethnic
One of the simplest ways to cut costs is to dine globally. Make it an adventure for your family to try new cuisines. You’ll learn fast what most foreign cooks already know: cooking with lots of vegetables and grains keeps food costs low.

  • Adopt an Asian mindset toward meals. Fill plates with vegetables and starches like rice and noodles. Let expensive meats and seafood, if you use them at all, act as flavorful condiments.
  • Play around with spices. Indian cooks add ingredients like coriander, cumin, and turmeric to build depth in dishes that contain large amounts of vegetables or lentils.
  • Focus on whole grains. Italian cooks stock the cabinet with dry pastas (either regular or whole wheat varieties), and add roasted vegetable sauces, tomato sauce, or a sauce where meat is a minor player.
Vegetable Masala

Photo by ChefJade

Meatless Mondays
Meat, poultry, and fish account for the lion’s share of most grocery bills. You don’t need to give them up altogether, just cut back.

  • Make the usual roast chicken but put out a wide assortment of vegetables, potatoes, and sides. Aim to fill two-thirds of the plate with side dishes and just one-third with meat.
  • Shop for less expensive cuts of meat and use them in stews or soups.
  • Serve casseroles as the main course rather than dishing up meat and potatoes.
  • Stretch meat by adding grains and vegetables to dishes. Add pasta noodles or bulgur to chicken salad. Mix ground beef and beans to fill tacos rather than using meat alone.
  • Serve breakfast for dinner. Omelets, pancakes, and French toast are inexpensive entrees.
  • Try going meatless at one meal each week. Start with simple, well-loved items like macaroni and cheese. Branch out to ethnic repasts like lentil dals or pasta e fagioli.
Mediterranean Chickpea Salad II

Photo by Fit&Healthy Mom

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