Frugal Cooking for Those on a Budget

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.

Buying in bulk is one way to keep the cost of food to a minimum. Foods that have a longer shelf life like canned and packaged foods are best. If you buy fruits and vegetables in bulk, they will spoil before they're used. Poultry and meat can be purchased in bulk and frozen. Bags of frozen vegetables are good "bulk" items to buy. They can be kept fresher by double bagging in zip-lock bags.

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.

You don't always have to buy the top brands of canned or packaged foods. Generic or "store" brand foods are less expensive and, when used in casseroles or mixed with other foods, taste just the same as the more expensive foods. Sometimes, they even taste better.

Discount stores are a good place to go for packaged foods and canned goods. These stores carry foods that have gotten some sort of damage to their can or box. These dents and tears do not affect the quality of the food inside. Canned foods, especially, are a bargain. Flour, baking soda, sugar and baking powder are also a good buy at discount stores. You'll need to pay close attention to expiration dates so that you're not wasting money on foods that are paste their "use by" date.

You should always use a shopping list when you go grocery shopping. Don't be tempted to buy anything that isn't on your list. The grocery stores put all of those items that are expensive, sweet and fattening on the shelves that are at eye level just to entice the impulse buyers.

Plan your meals for the week before you go shopping. Look for coupons and sales in your local newspaper and create your weekly menus around those foods that are sale. You'll save money and have that additional benefit of eating meals that are more nutritious.

When you need to buy ingredients like spices (Italian seasoning, oregano, thyme and basil), go to the Dollar store where you get get them for - you guessed it - a dollar, instead of the $6.00 you'll probably pay in a grocery store. You don't have to worry about losing the strength of the spice if you don't open the jar. So, buy more than one when you can.

If you're looking for bargains when buying in bulk, try one of the membership stores. There's a fee, of course, but the savings in buying in bulk makes it well worth it. The items they have for sale change frequently so don't expect to always find everything you need. Pet food, paper products and canned goods are only a few of the deals to be had. Meat and Poultry is also available at very good prices. Split the large packages into family-sized servings, put them in the freezer and you're set.

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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