How about something a little different for Menu Monday. Sometimes things happen and some of us run out of paycheck a week or two before we run out of month. It happened to me a lot in my single days, but there were always ways and means to make a few dollars stretch and yes, I ate a LOT of rice. Things are a little different when there are several people living off the maxed out paycheck. These tips are not written for perfectly balanced nutrition, they intended to be for budget emergencies / short term situations. If you are not yet in a bind, but seeking to get your food costs under control, you may find this post on reducing the grocery budget useful.
Inventory the pantry, freezer, and refrigerator.
Of course there are exceptions, but most American families have far more food than they realize on hand. It is easy to overlook foods that are not our favorite. Now is the time to pull out the lurking cans of peas or tuna, the frozen bag of mixed vegetables we intended to use, but just haven’t gotten around to. If food is bad, go ahead and get rid of it, but write everything down, even that last handful of chips.
Play Iron Chef
Look at your master list and create as many meals as possible. Throw out your preconceived ideas about when foods should be eaten. Spaghetti for breakfast never hurt anyone and neither has pancakes or french toast for dinner. Soups and casseroles are your friend. Now that handful of potato chips can become a topping for tuna noodle casserole.
Please don’t whine that Little Johnny will only eat chicken nuggets and french fries. One of the biggest lessons life teaches us is that the world does not cater to our whims and fancies. It’s better for him to receive this lesson with gentle encouragement and praise for trying new things than as an adult with potentially crushing consequences.
When planning your list keep these ingredients in mind for stretching your limited budget as far as possible.
Healthy? Not so much, but used wisely these cubes can make the difference between barely edible and delicious.
- Rice (brown if possible)
Use as a side dish or use cooked rice in place of half the ground or shredded meat in a recipe with few flavor consequences. This works better if the rice is cooked with bouillon
- Beans / Lentils
When served with rice these create a complete and filling protein for a fraction of the cost of meat. Like rice, cooked beans can be added to many recipes in place of half or more of the meat. Try using lentils in place of ground beef in highly flavored dishes. Don’t just think beans and rice, think of chili, refried beans, burritos, enchiladas, etc
Scrambled eggs, omelets, french toast, and crustless quiches are all filling and economical.
- Rolled oats
In addition to oatmeal, rolled oats can also be used to stretch recipes calling for ground beef in casseroles, skillets, and meatloaves. You may need to increase the liquid used in the recipe, so experiment carefully, now is not the time to waste food.
These starchy tubers can make easy, cheap meals if necessary or they can fill in the edges of a skimpy plate, just ask the Irish.
Think chili mac instead of just chili, spaghetti with marinara, or even buttered noodles tossed with frozen peas.
These tips are for temporary budget problems. If your problem is long term and you are in a bind, it is time to contact a food pantry or a local church for help and advice.
Tell me Home Eccers, what do you do when grocery money runs tight?