Frugal Cooking at Bargain Prices

Frugal cooking is very important now because it's costing more and more to just exist in these days of the rising cost of living. It's getting to be a real problem, especially for those on a fixed income or public assistance.

Buy canned goods and packaged foods in bulk. These have a longer shelf life and can be used months later. Be sure to look for expiration dates. Don't buy vegetables and fruit in bulk because they will spoil before being used up. You can freeze poultry and meat quite some time if you double bag them in zip-lock bags. It's the same with frozen vegetables. Double bag them and they will last longer.

Many people are tempted to buy packaged foods like Hamburger Helper. These foods contain excessive amounts of salt and other unnecessary ingredients. It's not really that much faster to cook your own "fast" food from scratch. I just brown up some hamburger and onions. In a separate pan, I mix up the macaroni and cheese. When both are done, mix them together.

Generic or "store brand" foods are generally less expensive than the more popular brands. Quality is sometimes a bit lower but when you use them in casseroles or mixed with other foods, you won't be able to tell the difference. Some generic brands are actually better tasting than brand name foods. You can try different generic brands to see which ones you like the best.

If you go to discount stores to pick up canned goods and packaged foods that have been dented or damaged in some way, you'll definitely get a good buy. You do need to watch the expiration dates closely so that you're not buying something that is out of date. Ingredients such as baking powder lose their effectiveness when they go beyond their "use by" date. But, discount stores are a great place to buy things like flour and sugar.

When you go to the grocery store without a shopping list, you're leaving yourself open to buying things that you think you want instead of things that you really need. There's a reason that the stores put certain items on shelves that are at eye level. They want you to buy the more expensive foods rather than the cheaper foods.

Create a shopping list from "on sale" items from your local newspaper and flyers. If you plan your meals around the items that are on sale and in season, you'll save more money. Planning meals is always a good idea whether you're on a budget or not.

The Dollar stores, as they are called, can be another good source for inexpensive shopping. Italian seasoning, oregano, and other spices can be found there for just a dollar or two. Purchase more than one because, if you don't open them, they will last for a long time without ruining their strength.

Join a "membership" store such as Costco. You may think that the membership fee isn't worth it, but trust me...I've saved a LOT of money there. You don't always find exactly everything you want but you can get great deals on cases of canned goods, paper products and pet foods. Even though Fido has to eat, he doesn't have to have "Pet Store" food! You can also get great buys on meats and poultry at membership stores. They bulk package so you'll have to divide them into appropriate meal-sized portions before freezing.

Freeze your leftovers if you're not going to eat them within a couple days. I know most people just hate leftovers, but if you're on a budget, it doesn't pay to waste food. Purchase a good supply of different sized freezer bags. They don't have to be the top brand, fancy ones. Sometimes it's better to get the cheaper ones even if you have to double bag. You can always wash them out and use them at another time.

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About The Author, Jude Wright.
Come by for cooking lessons, information about food and lots of recipes.