I am so excited to have my second guest blogger sharing some great ideas with us! I hope you find this as helpful as I did. Alysa Seeland is a long-time , dear friend and an amazing writer, mom, and wife. Enjoy!
Meal planning on a tight budget is hard, but doing so with nutrition in mind can seem like a lost cause – NOT SO! I want to share with you five ways my family saves money every week allowing us to eat well AND stay within our means.
1. Save The Veggies!
So you’re chopping carrots and what’s the first thing you do? Slice off the tip and the end and toss them in the garbage. Instead of throwing them away, toss them into a freezer bag to make stock at your convenience. We do this with onions, celery, carrots, asparagus, even the occasional green and red pepper so that we can use them to make stock – chicken, veggie and sometimes beef stock. Every time I fill a gallon freezer bag with these veggie discards I yield a 10C batch of stock. Your average store bought broth clocks in at $3.50 that comes to $0.10 and oz that you’re saving, or $8.75 for a 10C batch. I freeze whatever stock I’m not using that day in 1qt portions to use later.
2. Mind Your Meat
I LOVE me a red juicy steak, ESPECIALLY in the morning with an over easy egg, homefries and watermelon (and, this girl’s supposed to be healthy?!) but that doesn’t mean I need a full 8oz strip at every meal. We shave at least $12 a week off of our budget by cooking meatless 2-3 out of the seven nights and by “peppering” our other meals with meat leaving the veggies to be the main dish. I’ll give you an example:
For our chicken kabob salad I only prepare 1 lg chicken breast (3 tenders, 2 thighs) for every 2 people. To ensure the hubs doesn’t go hungry, we make a large batch of hummus (good source of protein) and pile the veggies high. Its much cheaper to buy three bags of carrots than 2 lbs of meat!
If you find you are CRAVING meat on a meatless night, fry up some turkey bacon and crumble it on top of your entree (it’s surprisingly versatile). We’ve done this quite often and it definitely works.
3. Portion Police
A big way that I save time is by making one to two larger meals a week BUT I have found that if I do not siphon off portions for the other meals I need this stew to last for – we end up eating whatever I leave in the pot. Although it might seem too good to be true, putting out ONLY what we need to eat on the table keeps us from overeating and helps our meals to last longer. Sometimes, especially at first, family members might still be hungry when they reach the bottom of the bowl, make sure you have fresh seasonal fruit and veggies on the table can help finish off their appetite.
4. Scrumptiously Seasonal
I cannot stress this point enough, especially in the fall – buy seasonal! Even if you don’t love the item, it’s seasonal flavor might surprise you. I can only stand cantaloupe and peaches in season and there’s good reason for that – it’s naturally their time to shine!
Loading up on the seasonal fruit is also great way to stretch your nutritional dollar by replacing dessert. A bowl of fresh berries, a fresh-fruit smoothie, an unsweetened sorbet (mango is absolutely delicious) is not only better for you but is surprisingly competitive if not cheaper price-wise when bought in season. Great options for fall are pumpkin, squashes and “stuffed” soups and stews with hearty greens like kale.
5. One Big Batch
Although I can’t quite devote a whole day to food-prep, I do find ways to minimize my daily time-spend on food by making one big dish that lasts 3 meals for the week. This is also a great meal to stuff full of veggies especially ones that are harder to stand like radish leaves, kale, chard and beets. Kale stew, summer squash stew, white bean stew (seeing a pattern here?) chili, and chicken soup are some of my favorites. If we get tired of the meal or I have more than I planned on, I freeze 1 meals worth to use in a pinch.
By: Alysa Seeland
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