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Frugal Cooking - a Bargain You Can Live With

Jul 29, 2008
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.

One way to help keep food costs down is to buy in bulk. I'm talking about canned goods and packaged foods that have a long shelf life. You don't want to buy things like fruits and vegetables in bulk because they will likely spoil before you get a chance to use them all. You can also buy foods in bulk that freeze well, such as meats and poultry. Also, watch for bags of frozen vegetables to go on sale. These will keep for quite a while in a good freezer, especially if they are "double" bagged inside another zip-lock bag.

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.

Store brand or generic canned and packaged foods are normally cheaper than the well-known brands. The quality may suffer just a tad, but the price is usually worth it. Mix generic canned veggies in a casserole and it will taste the same as the brand name foods do. Just like any other foods, some generic brands will taste better than others. Experiment to see which are best for you.

I normally go to discount stores to buy canned and packaged goods. The quality is the same but slight dents in the cans will lower the cost, sometimes considerably. The only difference is the name on the can and the color of the label. Why pay full price for something that is just as good elsewhere? You can also buy flour, baking powder, baking soda and sugar at discount stores cheaper than at regular grocery stores. Do watch the expiration dates on these items. Baking powder that is too old won't work as it should and you'll be wasting your money.

Always shop with a shopping list. And, ONLY buy items that are on your list. Impulse buying is a real temptation in a store with shelves lined with goodies. Why do you think the grocery stores put the most expensive, least nutrious foods right at eye level? Enough said!

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.

Go to the "Dollar" stores in your area to buy spices such as oregano, thyme, Italian seasoning and basil. You can buy more than one jar if you want to. The spices will keep just fine as long as you don't open them.

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.

Nobody likes leftovers, but people on a budget don't always have a choice. Leftovers can really come in handy for those days you're in a hurry and just want something that will be quick to heat and serve. Use generic brand freezer bags. They're nearly as good as the more expensive branded bags. If you feel they're too thin, just double them up.
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