[Pictured Above: Farmhouse Harvest Soup with White Beans. Recipe link below]
We tend to think we need to spend a lot of money on groceries to eat well, but I’ve learned that that isn’t at all true. I’ve made some efforts recently to cut back our grocery bill a bit and I’ve found that we’re not feeling deprived at all. I just needed to follow some very simple rules:
B. Concentrate on Basic Ingredients
C. Get Creative
Remember, you don’t have to save big every week to make a big difference at the end of the year. If you can save $20 a week, you’ll save over $1000 in the next year.
1. One of the best ways to save is to cut back on meat purchases. Look for dishes that include meat as an ingredient, but make it using less meat and more vegetables, like hearty soups and stews.
Things like fresh carrots and potatoes, canned or dried beans and frozen beans and corn are inexpensive way to make a bit of meat go further. One small package of stewing beef or chicken breast (or whatever meat happens to be on sale) can be added to a lot of vegetables and canned beans to make a hearty meal that every one will love. Here are some recipe suggestions:
Hearty Wine and Herb Beef Stew (Perfect base recipe. Use less meat, more vegetables)
Chicken and Mushroom Marsala Stew (Consider adding frozen peas or carrots to this one).
Spicy Chicken Stew (Consider reducing the amount of chicken in this one)
2. Skip the meat altogether and replace with beans.
Beans are a great substitute for meat. They are filling and hearty, not to mention healthy. For the most inexpensive option, look at dried beans and soak/cook ahead per instructions. If time is short, try canned, but watch for the added salt that comes with them. I like to rinse all canned beans well before using. It helps a bit.
3. Think pasta, orzo and rice.
All these ingredients add a lot of bulk and are inexpensive. Consider a simple pasta (no meat), a risotto with added vegetables or an orzo dish in place of a meal with meat as the star. Don’t forget about adding any of these to your soups as well, for extra bulk. Be sure to check out my 15 Quick and Easy Pasta Sauce Recipes, as well.
Shrimp and Orzo
Scallops and Lemon Orzo (can replace with shrimp or fewer scallops)
Bacon and Parmesan Pasta
One Pot Wonder Pasta
Mac and Cheese with Broccoli
Lemon and Toasted Almond Risotto
Tomato, Sausage and Spinach Risotto
Roasted Sweet Potato Risotto
4. Stir fries are another option to eliminate or stretch meat further
A great way to use up odds and ends and again, you can use less meat (or no meat) and more vegetables. Don’t forget to serve over rice, to make it more filling. Check out my collection of Stir Fry Sauce recipes to help you along.
5. Don’t forget about eggs
The don’t call it the incredible, edible egg for nothing. Think omelettes, frittatas or even fried egg, tomato and spinach paninis.
6. Don’t Waste Anything
Keep a bag in your freezer and put any leftover cooked vegetables in it. When you have collected enough, make a soup by adding the already cooked vegetables in at the end of the cooking, instead of the beginning.
7. Shop the sales and plan your meals
As mentioned above, taking a bit of time at the beginning of the week to check the specials and plan meals will save you time, money and frustration. Before I started doing this, I would get home with over $100 in groceries and find that I didn’t have anything for dinner :) As the week goes on, you’ll be thankful that all the ingredients for your planned meals are already in house as well.
8. Sandwiches aren’t only for lunch
Sandwiches that are grilled or prepared in a panini press are definitely fancy enough for dinner. Serve with a small side salad for a complete meal. Also, consider pita bread and bagels as alternatives to regular bread.
9. Canned Tuna (or salmon)!
10. Bacon or Italian sausage is a “meat”, too!
Sometimes a bit of bacon or sausage goes a long way in a recipe to add flavour and texture, without a lot of extra expense. Consider adding a bit to a soup, stew or pasta sauce.
11. Consider a turkey and ham even if it’s not a holiday
Ham and turkey are both economical (dollar per pound), but one purchase can make many meals. Both are great for lunch sandwiches or casseroles and offer one of the best meat values in the grocery store.