Gary Foreman is a former financial planner who currently edits The Dollar Stretcher website and newsletters. He wrote "New Frugal You," a weekly Q&A column about frugal living, for CreditCards.comAsk a question
Dear New Frugal You,
need help finding some cheap recipes. My grocery bill is a killer. Prices keep
going up and my income is going down. As a single mother of four, I need to feed
them healthy meals. Since I work I use some already prepared foods to save
time. Can you help me save money by finding some cheap, easy recipes? -- Kelsey
right. When you come home from work and have four hungry kids to feed, it's hard
to think frugally. But as you've already discovered, that's a quick way to let
your grocery bill get out of hand.
to the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture, food prices only went up 0.3 percent in the
first 11 months of 2012. But everyone I know who has been to a grocery
store wonders if their calculators are broken in Washington. It feels as if
prices go up every time we visit the grocery store!
let's see if we can't help you find some cheap, healthy recipes for your
family. Rather than a collection of recipes, we're going to suggest how to find
them and other tools that can soften the blow at the grocery store.
by looking at the food you're buying now. What you have in your cart will
tell you a lot about where you'll find savings. Are you buying a lot of
individual ingredients or prepared and prepacked foods? Is everything
ready to pop into the microwave? A lot of individual serving sizes?
you've examined your current shopping and cooking habits, you're in a position
to look for ways to save.
grandmothers may not have worked outside the home, but they worked very hard
inside it. So they found simple recipes that were tasty, nutritious, easy and
inexpensive. Ask grandma for her favorite recipes or search out copies of older
recipe books such as Betty Crocker. You can find them at thrift shops or online.
for other recipes online, too. Include words like easy, simple and cheap in your search. Look
for Depression-era recipes, too.
an extra effort to find easy recipes that can replace convenience foods.
Despite what you see on the Food Channel, cooking doesn't need to be
complicated or take hours.
your cooking style. Many of us think the microwave is for popcorn and heating
premade dinners we've bought at the store. The surprising fact is that you can
cook many things in the microwave. Both main and side dishes can be cooked in a
relatively short period of time.
crockpot cooker is another great tool for anyone looking for cheap recipes. Not
only does it allow you to prepare an easy meal in the morning and have it ready
when you come home from work, but the slow cooking makes even cheaper cuts of
what you eat. Dieticians will tell you that Americans have a very meat-centered
diet. Meat is expensive. Other sources of protein (think beans) are less
expensive. You don't need to become a vegetarian. But every meal doesn't need
1/4 pound of meat per person. An occasional meatless meal won't harm your
to a simpler diet. Many cultures have a diet featuring grains and vegetables.
Items such as rice are very inexpensive. In season, locally grown veggies are also
attention to unit pricing. Bring a calculator with you when you shop. Often
your favorite brand might not be the cheapest. Why not try the cheaper brand?
Perhaps you'll find you like it.
for ways to keep your kitchen time to a minimum. We buy convenience foods to
save time in the kitchen. But that's not the only solution. Look for ways to
get two meals out of one cooking effort. For instance, you may be browning
ground beef for today's sloppy joes. But you could just as easily brown twice
as much and save half for another meal in a few days.
to cook your own fast food at home. Most fast food is not that hard to make. The ingredients are generally simple, and often cheap.
can premake and freeze many fast food items. Things such as burritos, pockets and
personal pan pizzas can be made a dozen at a time and frozen.
many of these tools will require minor lifestyle changes. But those changes
could benefit your family. Reducing prepared and fast foods could provide
better nutrition for your growing children.
Spending a little more time in the kitchen isn't always a bad thing. It's a
perfect time to talk to your kids about their day at school or to help them
with their homework. It also gives you the opportunity to teach them about
cooking so they're in a better position when they have their own family to
See related: Feeding family frugally, Beyond couponing: How big families can cut food budgets
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