Stretching Food Budget
I know it is virtually impossible to store any food in a FEMA trailer or small apartment. This makes it especially difficult to keep food bills to a minimum. However, you might be able to incorporate some of the ideas here and reduce your bills even a little bit.
Coupons – besides what you get in your Sunday paper, try these
Food Pantries. Many only allow you to use them monthly, quarterly or even only once ever 6 months. Don’t let that discourage you. Social Services should have a list to send.
Community Meals. Many churches and civic organizations serve community meals for little or no money. My area has at least 2 every day in a 15-minute radius of each other. Few will be breakfast; some will be lunch and some dinner. Many organizations also have very inexpensive meals - cheaper than you could buy the ingredients to make yourself. Social Services should have a list to send you.
Menu Planning. This takes a little time to learn, but becomes easy and is worth the effort.
Chicken – buy a whole chicken. Roast it for one meal. Pull the meat off the bones and boil the bones for broth. Use half of the broth and 2/3 of the meat to make chicken and gravy for on biscuits or unsweetened French toast. Use the other half of the broth and the rest of the chicken to make soup. This gives you at least 3 meals to work with on just 1 chicken. Plus, a whole chicken is less per pound than cut pieces.
Roasting Chicken – rinse off, pull giblet pack out of cavity. Lightly salt and season skin if you want. Roast at 325 for 70-90 minutes. When juices run clear out of a cut near the thigh, it’s thoroughly cooked.
Boiling chicken bones – pull most of meat off bones. Put bones in large saucepan. Add onion, garlic, tomato, celery for flavor. Cover with water and slowly bring to boil. Skim foam off – this is what makes broth go from good to great. Slow boil for up to 2 hours. Strain bones and pieces with colander and or cheese cloth.
Making gravy – chicken gravy takes more flour than beef gravy. Heat broth to rolling boil. Mix water and flour to a very thin paste. Mix into broth while stirring constantly with a whisk. Boil for 2 minutes to cook flour completely.
Making soup – Great way to clean the refrigerator of leftovers! Large saucepan, 2 T of oil, brown everything going in – chicken meat, raw vegetables, rice, barley. Add a bit of tomato paste, soup, sauce, juice for depth of flavor. Add broth. Add any leftovers to the soup. Cook for a half hour. Let set for an hour before cooling rapidly to store. Or reheat and serve.
Beef – Buy roasts. They are more expensive initially, but you can do the exact same thing for roasts as you do for chickens.
Chuck roast would be the most economical for this use. Brown the meat heavily with salt and pepper before covering it with water to slow cook. Cover with at least an inch of water to have more broth. Cook onions, potatoes and carrots with the meat for the initial meal.
Use 1/3 of broth for first meal for gravy.
Use 1/3 of broth and any gravy left from prior meal to make gravy for hot beef open-faced sandwiches (Add previous gravy at the end of the cooking of the new gravy).
Use 1/3 of broth for soup. Leftovers are again utilized very well in this soup. So is cut up spaghetti, spaghetti sauce and any pork meat you might have. Add previous gravy at the end of cooking to get a very hearty stew.
Shepherd’s Pie - Uses ground beef, is nutritious and goes a long way. Again – you can use left over vegetables to help fill, use mashed potatoes for the top or biscuit dough, or even cooked pasta.
Chili – with at least a 1:1 ratio of beans to ground beef, along with a good portion of other vegetables, this is inexpensive and nutritious. Make it go further by serving over rice or pasta.
Corn/Potato Chowder – easy, fast, cheap, nutritious. Fry cut bacon. Add chopped onion, carrot, potato and brown in bacon grease. Add about 1C water (or broth) – just enough to cover vegetables. When potato and carrot are tender, add corn and milk to make a thick soup. Mix some flour and water for thickening if desired. Bring soup to boil and rapidly stir thickening in. Boil for at least 2 minutes to cook flour thoroughly. Northern beans go great in this to make it even more nutritious.
Leftovers – A friend of mine has a container in her freezer that she puts all leftovers in: Vegetables, meat scraps, leftovers from dinner plates, etc. When the container is full, she makes soup. It allows you to utilize every bit of what you cook as well as reduce the number of storage containers in your refrigerator.
Making extra broth. Ask your meat counter for both pork and beef bones to make more broth from. Brown or roast them prior to boiling for better flavor.
Vegetables – for soup, ask your produce section for deals on veggies they can’t normally sell. You can cut the bad parts out and use the good parts for soup.
Breakfast – Oatmeal is by far the cheapest and most nutritious meal you can make for breakfast. Get containers rather than prepackaged. Get the quick cooking rather than the instant. Cook it milk for more nutrition. Add sugar, peanut butter, nuts, and dried fruits all during cooking for a more flavorful meal.
Lunch – Make leftovers; Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches; Soup.
Remember what my grandmother always said, “What won’t fat will fill.” You may get sick of the stuff, but it’ll keep you going, healthy and make eating more affordable.