My first article on cheap meals has gotten a lot of views, so here are a few more tips and a couple recipes to help you save money in the kitchen!
It is necessary to note that I am not a nutritionist or have any expertise in this area. I’m just a guy who is cheap and learned to cook quick and cheap from many years on my own. The following ideas are not loaded in nutritional value and your first job as cook is to assure your family’s health.
First, the most important rule is that cheap ingredients make cheap meals. Potatoes, bread, vegetables, and anything homemade need to be foundation that your meals are built around. Meat, dairy, and fresh fruit are becoming more expensive and need to be used less often in order to save money.
Second, shop your local farmers markets (most national supermarkets are not very good for you and expensive!). Plan your meals around the meats and other items that they have on sale. For quick meals, frozen dinner entrées can often be bought inexpensively. While not as cheap as making it yourself, they are certainly cheaper than eating out. Pot pies and ramen noodles should be on hand in all budget conscious homes.
Baked potatoes are simple to make, but rather plain to eat. A great way to improve on an old favorite is as follows:
Slice the potato side to side about ¾ of the way through for the length of the potato. From the top the potato should look a bit like a slinky. Cover the potato with butter (and seasoning of your choice) and bake as normal. A few minutes before being done, take the potato out of the oven and cover with shredded cheese (buy it in a block and shred it yourself). To add a different spin to it, try barbeque sauce on the potato before adding butter. Serve the potato with a small amount of meat and a large serving of vegetables to make a great meal.
Good Old Potatoes…
Potato soup is surprisingly easy to make and is also very inexpensive. Peel and dice about 6 medium sized potatoes and a small onion. Then place a large pot on the stove over medium heat. Throw a couple tablespoons of butter into the pot. After it melts, add the diced onions and sauté until the onions get clear looking.
Then add a couple cups of water and the diced potatoes. The water should about cover the potatoes. Bring to a boil while stirring to assure the potatoes aren’t burning. Boil the potatoes until they soften and add a little milk to make the soup creamy. Serve with crackers. You can garnish the soup with cheese if you like. You can also add crumbled bacon or sausage as well.
When you get a deal on hamburger, here is an idea. Brown the burger and drain the grease. Add a can or two of baked beans to the meat and cook over low for a few minutes. Remember to keep stirring to not burn the beans. Add ketchup, mustard, and brown sugar to taste. Serve with green beans, peas, or other vegetables.
Cooking for One
I have found what works best for me to: shop for deals, buy some things in bulk, buy some prepackaged items and pick up smaller sizes of the staples like flour, sugar and hot cereals. Canned and frozen fruits and vegetables are good. Salad greens can be bought sealed in a bag already washed and ready to eat. Well, I think I would rewash them.
Purchase (or drop some hints to your family) an electric griddle to make your life a whole lot easier. There are several companies that make really good ones and since I bought one a few years ago, it’s made cooking much easier. The great thing about an electric griddle is that it heats up fast and you can throw your leftovers on it. You also don’t need to use the stove top and to be honest I just like the food on the electric griddle better than my pans. Not to mentions it’s way easier to do some cooking.
When I cook a full meal for myself or my family, rather than just putting the leftovers in the fridge only to be thrown out a week later, this is what I do: I find microwavable plates or containers, fill them as I like,then slip the plate into the vacumm sealer plastic bag and vacuum out the air and freeze. The plates take up very little room in your freezer and can be stacked. Be sure to label and date the meals. When it comes time to serve the frozen meal, remove from plastic bags, cover with waxed paper and re-heat in the microwave.
It is fine to save the used bags to use again; just be sure to wash them first with soap and water. Do not reuse bags that you used to freeze raw meat!
One of my favorite ways to stay active is to cook outdoors! It’s a great way to get away from the digital nightmare of our current reality and be around your good friends and family. If you don’t have a grill or a smoker yet, then you’re missing out. Every chance that I get, I cook all of my food on my charcoal smoker, not only because it’s convenient but because the food just tastes so much better. It’s also much healthier to cook on a smoker, rather than a grill.
One of my favorite things to cook is baby back ribs… If you haven’t tried smoking baby back ribs with BBQ sauce then you are missing out on life. I usually have a party once a month and most people can´t believe the flavor of charcoal smokers. Most people have never seen one used, except for at a state fair or cooking competition. It’s easy to use and I would highly recommend getting one ASAP!
You can get good deals on meats at your local farmers market and when you’re cooking for a bunch of people this is a must have. There’s almost one thing that I forgot.
Always keep an eye out for a deal and have fun when you’re cooking!