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ideas for a (new) very tight food budget

I know there have been numerous posts over the years about how to eat on a tight food budget, but I'm looking for ideas and tips beyone pasta. We have teens who need a meal, and given the current state of things, I need to work up a food budget for our family of six for the first time.

Any ideas? Is it a good idea to shop a Sam's Club, etc? Recipes that stretch a pound of hamburg or chicken?

I'm overwhelmed.

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  1. Try replacing some of your animal protein with beans and/or lentils. You can buy them dried in the bulk food section and re-hydrate them by soaking them overnight before you plan to cook them. Bean soups and bean chilis are very filling. Red lentils cook very, very quickly and don't need to be rehydrated before cooking.

    1 Reply
    1. re: Jetgirly

      i forgot to mention ,save the seeds from veggies like bell peppers and plant them.you can go to a small outlet store and buy planting materials like pots and potting soil. i do this and its awesome.my daughters appreciate the meals better now that they are involved in the growing process. small veggies do not take very long to grow. i live in west Texas and its not easy financially.but what you really need to do is search out orchards and farms in your area,believe me they are everywhere.oh and dont be ashamed to clip coupons!my sister does and told me to go with her one day.i did and
      a single basic run to the store she had saved $67 and some change.thats great
      i was ashamed to do it or was too proud but i do it now and i dont spend near the amount
      i used to,and i know that each individual coupon does not seem like much but it adds up.
      and if what you need to buy is not on sale or you have no coupons for it buy generic or the cheapest brand.

    2. Soups, soups, soups! Very filling and a meal with a salad or some bread. Plus, you can put just about anything into a soup.

      2 Replies
      1. re: nofunlatte

        I'm in complete agreement! I have been making a LOT of soup lately. Possibilities are endless and it will past you a few meals.

        1. re: nofunlatte

          Yes! I just made soup from a huge pack of turkey necks ($2.49) and mushrooms ($1.50). Every thing else was odds & ends of veggies I had already, plus a little sherry, seasonings and wild rice. It made 9 very large portions.

        2. Save your bones from chicken, etc. in a ziplock bag in the freezer, as well as vegetables that are starting to wilt. Use that to make stock. With good stock, you have the basis of a lot of great meals.

          Buy inexpensive meats that are higher in fat and connective tissues (like short ribs) that you can braise (and use the stock that you've made). Long slow cooking softens them up and nothing beats a good braised meal in the winter.

          1 Reply
          1. re: chowser

            Agreed on bones from chicken. I (almost) always buy bone-in breasts even if I intend to make a boneless preparation. It's usually cheaper that way, even considering the increased weight, and you can easily take the filet off and then make chicken stock w/ the bones. Pick off the remaining meat and have chicken soup if you will.

            I also second an idea below: plant a veggie garden, i love it in mid-summer when i can just stroll right through that god-foresaken-expensive produce dept. at Whole Foods w/out stopping. If you don't have space for veggies, at least plant some herbs in window pots.

            Make friends w/ a hunter...they often have more venison than they can use (or know other hunters who would love an excuse to take another deer.)

          2. I think you should really focus on figuring out how to throw things together efficiently. Often, I am left with two stalks of celery, one carrot, a can of beans, etc. -- totally random stuff after the meal I planned to make is long gone. Luckily, my mom was a genious at throwing all kinds of stuff together. She'd make sh!t on a shingle - toasted white bread smothered in ground beef and white gravy, and all kinds of stews and casseroles out of the leftover stuff.

            Some things you can do to help this along, IMO, is buy lots of canned goods - tomatoes, corn, beans, etc. As for recipe ideas, chicken pot pie with frozen veggies and chicken thighs and bisquick topping is always good. As is tamale pie - same idea, but with a Mexican twist. Stews might be a heartier alternative to soups for the winter, too.

            As for money saving strategy, unless you are really good at using up all the quantity, I don't think clubs are always a great value. I'd recommend coupon clipping at your local grocery store.

            1. I love cooking a big, pork shoulder roast in the slow cooker. Tons of meat for all sorts of things. Our favorite is soft tacos. With rice and beans, that really stretches the meat. I've also done turkey drumsticks and lamb shanks in the slow cooker - not at the same time :)

              I like to add orzo pasta or the like to soups. Feels more like a meal to me. I never buy salad dressing. So easy to make your own. Do you ever look at epicurious? Good ideas there --- as well as here, of course! I love casseroles of all sorts. Tomorrow I'm fixing a recipe from Bon Appetit for a baked pasta, cauliflower, cheese dish. If you're tired of pasta, there are more grains out there than I can even imagine what to do with. How about stuffed peppers? I detest uncooked green bell peppers but love them cooked. I've used a mixture of chorizo, spinach, cheese, an egg, etc. Or throw in rice or orzo to make it more.

              These ARE overwhelming times - and we're only a family of two these days. Good luck. I'm sure your creative juices start to flow again, you'll think of tons of things.