Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Is Your "New Diet" Breaking the Bank?

I am about to reveal one of my favorite ways to save money on our food budget. It doesn't involve coupons and may seem too obvious to even state, but it's been revolutionary for us.  Wait for it. . .use the food you have to the fullest. Let nothing go to waste. How often do you clean out your freezer and find yucky frost bitten stuff that you need to chuck? How often does the same happen with your fridge? Or you find stale nasty things in your pantry that you kick yourself for not eating sooner?

1. Menu plan. If you take what you already have in your freezer, fridge and pantry and use it to plan meals you can make the most of what you have and save money. You can use and put in the ingredients you have on hand to come up with recipes. If menu planning feels like a pain, my friend highly recommended the site which makes menu planning easy and almost fun. Frugality Gal has these great printables (below!)

Check out this great printable from Frugality Gal!
2. Use what you have to make more. You can take little bits of veggies (ends of carrots, leaves of celery, etc) and throw them in a bag in the freezer. After you get a bunch of veggies, throw them in the crockpot with a bay leaf, salt  and water. Boom! You have veggie broth with hardly any work.  You can also take the bones of most meat and put it in a crockpot to make broth.  If you have just a few extra berries, mint or a random lime, you can add them to cake or drinks to make something special.

3. Eat up the leftovers. Even if I have a little bit left over I still keep it. Then periodically we have a smorgasbord buffet where I heat up everything and people get to pick what they want. Those little nibbles add up and can make a difference. Sometimes I throw a bunch of snacky things together on a divided plate or muffin tin and call it lunch (i.e. carrots, blueberries, rice, ham).  If I have one meals worth of leftovers and know my kids will all want it I divide it between them into small servings and then add snacky things as side dishes to make it a meal. (i.e. chips and salsa, red pepper slices, apple slices). Every last bit can be used.

4. Reinvent leftovers. Do you have a bunch of random veggies? How about making a stirfry or soup? Do you have leftover rice and chicken. How about frying it with some heart healthy oil and veggies to make a fried rice. Do you have noodles? Make up a new pasta dish or add them to a frittata. I sometimes even have a "make it up" meal on the menu for dinner. We have ended up with twice baked potatoes and other yummy delights by "accident". Having a potato bar is another great way to use up leftovers. Chili, meat, and veggies can go really nicely on a potato. You can take random leftover fruit and make a unique fruit salad (for a punch you can add some marshmellows, pumpkin seeds, dried cranberries or raisins!)

5. Your freezer is your friend. If you think you won't use something before it goes bad, your freezer is your best ticket. You can throw spinach, chopped onion or peppers in there. If you have sandwich meat that might go bad you can chuck it in there and take it out later when you really need it. Don't forget to label with with a permanent maker and a date. Everything looks the same in 2 months!The hard part is just not forgetting it is in there. You can put a sheet of paper on the freezer and list what you put in there (or do the same for the bottomless abyss otherwise known as a deep freezer). That way menu planning is easy and you don't lose sight of those random items you stored in there. (of course that never ever has happened to me.  I'm just sayin') We store Daiya cheese and corn tortillas in the freezer. When we need to make something with "cheese" we just take the Daiya out and sprinkle some on top, throw it in between tortillas to make quesadillas, lasagna or put it on fajitas. If I want it thawed I can take out a serving an hour or so before hand and it is ready to go by meal time.

What are you favorite ways to make the most of the food that you have? I'd love to hear!

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