I got a little carried away this week making some fun dishes for the holidays, showing off just a little too much. But after looking in our bank account I decided to bring things back to basics and start cooking simple again, making meals a bit more frugal so we can pay of some of holiday bills we have accumulated (Grrr…). So here are a few tips for cooking simple meals after the holidays that I will be using over the next few weeks that you may find helpful.
1- Don’t Knock The Rice and Beans
We Latinos have the right idea… rice and beans are an excellent cheap filler in just about any dish. Rice is an awesome, wallet-friendly grain when bought in bulk. Beans contain protein and fiber, making them healthy and economical (Note: prepackaged instant rice is usually more expensive). If you’re not sure how to cook rice, you can learn quickly right here.
2- Try Making Soups and Stews:
Try adding rice to a soup or stew to stretch out the portions. You can add a cup of rice, a bit of water or soup stock, and have a big enough pot of soup to serve a large family. If your family is a bit smaller and you have some leftovers, you can freeze the rest for another meal. The same goes with beans. You can add canned beans to a soup, or you can create an entire soup around beans. You may consider leaving out the meat entirely if you want to save even more money.
3- Cook Extra Rice and/or Beans:
When making rice I cook an extra batch every time. It makes for an inexpensive leftover dish, or a convenient ingredient for other dishes. You can always add hot sauce, garlic, onions, jalapenos, or even a scrambled egg to rice. To make an easy Latin side dish, use the rice to stuff green peppers along with a little ground beef or chicken.
4- Pasta is Cheap, Easy… and Did I Mention Cheap?
Pasta is another cheap and filling main dish. You can create your own inexpensive tomato sauce or other delicious sauces that will fill up your family and still save you money.
5- Make Your Own Sauce:
Make your own spaghetti sauce rather than buying prepared spaghetti sauce in the jar or can! It’s much cheaper and fresher, too! (Recipe coming soon)
6- Cook Extra Pasta:
That’s right, cook double or even triple the pasta so you can add to any leftover sauce to it for the next day. You can even add some cheese and breadcrumbs to the top, and bake it. Cooking simple doesn’t have to be boring!
7- Buy Ground Meats
Rather than empty your wallet (even if you really want to) on often pricey steaks, chops and roasts, buy ground beef, turkey, pork or even chicken. Ground meat is usually cheaper, and you can brown it and drain off the fat to help make your meals healthier.
8- Buy in Bulk
Buy in bulk when you can, some months produce more money for you than others so stock up on all dry ingredients like rice, beans, cereal and pasta when they are on sale. Over time, this becomes so much more economical.
9- Learn to Love Your Leftovers
Never ever throw away leftovers! You can make something out of just about anything.
- Use leftover chicken or vegetables to create a quick chicken soup.
- Include leftover cheese in casseroles and to sprinkle on top a rice or pasta dish.
- Turn day old bread into a bread pudding or croutons for a salad, or breadcrumbs for chicken cutlets.
- Shred leftover potatoes for morning hash browns
- Use leftover eggs for omelets, egg-salad sandwiches, devil them for simple snacks, even add them in a soup.
10- Simmer Your Own Stock or Broth
Instead of using stock or broth in soups and stews, use water and a bouillon cube or salt to taste. You can get low-salt bouillon cubes that will keep you from spending money on expensive stocks. Better yet, make your own stock and save even more since you can use the vegetables and seasonings in a soup or stew after you’ve finished the stock.
11- Be Creative
Simple cooking doesn’t mean cooking meals that are boring or tasteless. You can create mouthwatering, money-saving meals by unleashing your culinary creativity.
12- Pass it on
It takes a little planning to eat cheap, but you can do it. Follow these tips, and you’ll soon be coming up with your own frugal food tips you can pass on to friends and neighbors. They in turn will pass on their money-saving tips to you, as well.
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