Monday, October 3, 2011

Cooking on a Budget - Part Two

Your spending habits and what's really cheaper.

Budgeting 101 says that you make a budget by first looking at where you have spent your money in the past.  Just like with everything else in our lives we fall into habits here.  We tend to do what is easy, especially the busier we get.  But we need to take a close look at how we spend money on food.  You'll probably be surprised at how much you can save and eat better too.

Back to budgeting 101; just like in every other area of spending, go back through your checkbook and credit card statements for the past 3-4 months and see how much you have spent on food at the grocery and eating out.  Don't forget any stops at the 7/11 for milk and bread.  If you have kept your receipts or know what's what in your checkbook, write down how much you have spent in each category: eating out, grocery, gas station quick stops, etc.  Add it all up, and then see where you need to make the cuts.  For some people, you need to plan better and quit paying $10 at the gas station for milk and bread and be sure you get it when you go to the grocery, saving you anywhere from $3-5.  Some of you eat out twice a day.  You could save a ridiculous amount of money just by cutting that in half....of course, our goal is more!

Most Americans spend almost 50% of their food budget eating out.  While it can be more fun and easier on you to eat out, you can do most of the same things at home for less than half the cost and without tipping.  And it can be more family time if you all work together.

So, what's really cheaper?  Saving at the grocery will depend on what you buy.  For example, you can get boneless, skinless chicken breasts on sale sometimes for $1.99 a pound.  Still cheaper than a restaurant, BUT you can get the ones still on the bone for 98 cents a pound.  Then when you debone them yourself, save the bones and skin and make your own stock.  4 cups of store bought chicken broth $3.98.  4 cups of chicken broth you made yourself: the cost of 5 cups of tap water.

Vegetables: Frozen and canned are cheaper than fresh most of the time.  Nutritionally they are about the same. Frozen is sometimes actually better because the vegetable are flash frozen as soon as they are picked.  Fresh comes from the farm to the processor to the store and sits on the shelf.  Canned is the same way as frozen with the exception that some add salt, you'll want to read the labels on canned.

Meat: buy a cheaper cut of round steak and then marinade it overnight to tenderize it and make it more flavorful.  Or use it in the crock pot which softens even the toughest cuts of meat.  Buy that same steak and pound it with flour to make your own swiss steak.  Buy ground beef on sale and make your own hamburgers rather than the premade ones that can cost $2-3 more per pound.

Canned and dry goods: stores now show unit pricing right on the price tag....a budget shopper's best friend.  Always check the price per ounce.  Bigger is not always better.  Know what you are paying per ounce and always get the cheapest one.  Sometimes that means two smaller boxes instead of one large one.  If your store doesn't have these tags, bring a calculator with you and divide for yourself.

Until Next Time.....

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