Frugal Cooking - hints and tips for delicious daily savings
If you engage in frugal cooking, you're helping to reduce your own cost of living in many ways. It's important because eating food is something that most people do multiple times each day. Although cooking for yourself takes a bit of time, you save when you buy the raw materials for a meal, you save when you cook for yourself, and you save by fully utilizing the leftovers for another meal. Also, you can save money by employing a range of tips that help you cook more efficiently.
The key to understanding your savings is largely in what you don't have to do if you cook a meal yourself - no travel to a restaurant, no payment of someone else's overhead, and no need go out for lunch at the office when leftovers work just fine. Saving money on food is only one aspect of preparing meals yourself.
So, let's look at saving money by employing a few tips around the kitchen to help produce more desirable outcomes while spending less money. Let's also square off with the idea of inexpensive meals. As you might expect, they start with traditional foods that serve as inexpensive ingredients.
Also, let's look at the price of various food items. It might surprise you to know that meat products are often much cheaper than vegetables. Go figure. Something you can grow in your own yard costs more per pound than meat. Whatever the case may be, you'll want to make use of cost differentials that are favorable to your wallet. That means buying food in bulk, buying "used food," and timing your purchases to match with seasonal and market swings that can influence the cost of what you buy.
I also want to explore the cost of preparing a meal and how you might reduce that by selecting how to cook it. There are stove top, oven, broiler and grilling methods, and there are also solar ovens that can help you be successful without spending anything on electricity, charcoal, propane or natural gas. How about a nice wood fire barbecue, or a pig pickin' from the spit or buried cooking crypt? Hey, we might as well have a little fun while we're engaged in frugal cooking.
Do you have your own herb garden? If not, you should have. It's another way to have fresh herbs at your doorstep without paying the high price of them at the grocery store.
You'll be needing that herb and vegetable garden because I'm going to provide you with some frugal recipes that will make good use of herbs and vegetables that you might easily grow in your own backyard or on your patio. How about fresh pesto, eggs with fresh thyme, patty pan squash pizza, smoked panfish, eggs and eggplant, and fresh tomatoes baked with cheese and pesto? Some of these dishes are a good combination of delicious, quick, and cheap to prepare. Most are made from ingredients that you can produce yourself. This is where frugal cooking can help you live very well, and still well within your means.
Let's also look a bit at food storage. Part of the economy of frugal cooking can be had by having on hand what you need. It make no sense to be scurrying off to the grocery store each time you need to cook a meal. If you have ample stores in your refrigerator, freezer and pantry, you can have lots of options for meal preparation without having to leave your home to fetch something. A friend of mine refers to this as "back up" and I'm in agreement. As long as you have the space to store it, and you're confident in the shelf life of the item, having a little back up isn't a bad idea. In fact, it should be part of your emergency preparedness supplies.
It's also important that we look at minimizing waste. America seems to run on waste, but your household doesn't have to. If you buy what you need and can use, and you can store it effectively, then you're minimizing waste. It pays to do a little inventory review along with your meal planning so you can make use of fresh foods that will otherwise go to waste if you're not "on the ball." Just think of this aspect of frugal cooking in this way - you paid for all of it, so you might as well use all of it.
While we're talking about waste, we need to recognize that part of the frugal cooking solution to waste is knowing how to avoid it. It would be nice to grill instead of burn, steam instead of drown, bake instead of incinerate, marinate meat using a minimum of marinade, and knowing what herbs and spices go best with what kind of food. If we can prepare it well the first time, we don't have to toss anything out and start over again.
I would be remiss if I didn't also include a little frugal cooking discussion about food substitutions for when the exact ingredients aren't readily available. And, for those who enjoy spirits, perhaps a little discussion about foods that go well with beer and wine, and how best to serve these drinks. (Hint: in a proper glass or mug, not in a plastic cup.)
Also, I'll help you address some of the more "fringe" elements of frugal cooking - wild foods. What would you do if you couldn't get to the grocery store for food, or there wasn't anything to be had once you got there? Do you have a garden? Are you familiar with edible plants and animals that might be available to you in abundance?
That ought to be plenty to get us started with the idea of frugal cooking. If you have ideas to share, I'd love to hear from you. I'm going to start my first detailed discussion about buying lower cost food, and fully utilizing it so there is no waste. Let's start with cooking whole chicken to illustrate many of the concepts noted above.
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