Here are tips and strategies for Saving Money on Dinner as suggested by the ThriftyFun community.
I usually "Power Cook" on the weekends. Our schedules change all the time, and we get tired of fast food. So I just cook up 2/3 meals. And I'm not spending a lot of time in my kitchen - cooking and cleaning.
Cut out the meat! I've been a vegetarian for 30 years and I can tell you that you can make pretty much any meal you like without meat. Everyone (in the US) seams to think "it's not a real meal without meat". This is not true and if you think you really need the texture of meat to "fool" your hubby into thinking it's a "real" meal, then you can use a bit of Textured Vegetable Protein (TVP) or you can add grated carrots to spaghetti or anything with tomato sauce (like casseroles) and the grated carrots look like meat and have nearly the same texture.
You can get your protein from egg-whites, peanut butter and a glass of milk, beans, dairy, etc, etc. You can make meatless casseroles, quiches, soups & there are many wonderful vegetarian recipe books out there. (PLUS, you'll be healthier too!)
After holiday meat sales: If you must have meat, buy what's leftover after the big barbecue, 3 day weekend holidays (like Memorial Day, 4th of July and Labor Day) because most barbecue meat (like chicken and hamburger) that's left over in the stores the day after these holidays gets drastically marked down to half price or less! It's worth buying a freezer to stock up on meat after holidays! (Be at the store early the day after the holiday!)
Use coupons on top of more coupons!
Once a week, sit down with grocery ads and a list of what you already have on hand in your pantry. Buy what is on sale that will go with what you already have and plan a week's worth of menus. I have been doing this for a long time and not only does it save money, it makes the old question, "What's for dinner?" a lot less stressful to hear!
Our trick is to have a few popular series of meals that rotate - no wasted ingredients or time and energy spent cooking the same ingredients multiple nights.
Dinner 1: baked chicken with potatoes and green beans
Lunch 1: chicken salad sandwiches
Dinner 2: leftover chicken curry with more rice and peas than you need (same night boil eggs)
Lunch 2: salad nicoise with green beans, potatoes and eggs, etc and tuna if you have it
Dinner 3: fried rice with any chicken you still have
We have another series that also starts with chicken and is followed by beans and rice and eventually ends up as enchiladas. We always make extra pasta and use it for the base of pasta salads that make use of extras from the earlier meals -or- serves as the base for a frittata that can be eaten for breakfast/lunch/dinner.
If you do not know how to cook, look for a good basic cookbook like Betty Crocker or the Joy of Cooking. Sometimes you can find these at used bookstores or at yard sales.
I make a lot of chicken, beans or ground turkey for dinner. Very inexpensive and good. For a family of 4, I only cook 4 pieces of chicken for dinner. I then fill in with frozen or less expensive vegetables and a starch (potatoes, pasta or rice). If my family is really hungry, they will have more vegetables or starch. I only buy meat when it is on sale. If there is no meat we like at a good price, I don't buy it that week. I use what is in my freezer.
Make fast dinners from scratch. Stirfry with a little meat, frozen vegetables and rice make a great inexpensive dinner. I hope this helps!
"Be willing to eat, or at least try, anything that is edible"
With enough Tabasco sauce, anything is edible... ;)
Try looking for "old fashioned" recipes, either in libraries, or the internet. By old fashioned, I mean, cook how they used to cook in less affluent days. For example, when roasting meat, it was often cooked just on the oven shelf with a Yorkshire pudding on the shelf beneath it. The meat juices would drip into the pudding. Then large portions of vegetables and pudding would be served first, then when that was eaten, the meat would be served.
A while back, I was looking through a recipe book of my mother's. It was printed in the late 1940s, when Britain still had rationing. It was full of cakes, breads and other stuff, using what was cheap and available. I still remember "mock cream" in cakes (margarine, sugar, milk and corn flour), and I am not even from that era!
Start asking your grandparents how they lived. Be willing to eat, or at least try, anything that is edible.
I agree with yarnlady wholeheartedly! When my husband and I met 10 years ago, the only things I wouldn't eat were dark meat chicken, sausage and a few veggies. He had a long list of dislikes: no dark meat chicken, no bone in chicken, no pork chops or roasts, no baked chicken, only veggies were corn, green beans, onions, mushrooms and broccoli, no cooked carrots or celery, no rice, no Asian food, no Mexican food, and absolutely no leftovers.
I got over dark meat chicken (49 cents a pound versus $2.00 a pound) and I like breakfast sausage and a bratwurst every once in awhile. I'll eat any veggie except okra (allergy).
And Hubby? Decided that a lot of the things he didn't like were due to bad cooking methods. He still doesn't like dark meat chicken (he just doesn't know I hide it in casseroles and soups!).
Here are tips to affording dinner:
Feel free to share your own advice below.
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I make a point of saving leftovers and using them later. I try to save leftovers in different ways. I either do what most do and put them in the fridge for a meal in a couple days or I put cooked veggies along with cut up veggies that are left from the kids lunches (obviously not the ones half eaten) and throw it in a bag designated for that purpose in the freezer. I use these veggies for soup or casseroles.
I put meats in separate bags and freeze if there is enough of one kind or put small amounts of different meats that go together in a single bag to use for soup. If I have celery, green onions, peppers, apples etc. just before shopping day, I clean out those items and dehydrate them for use when I run out, or the power goes out.
I even save the veggie peels and chicken bones etc to make broth, then pressure can for later. This really saves the cost of broth and gives you a nice coloured, flavourful broth. You can even save apple peels and cores, citrus zests etc and steep in hot water for tea. If you decide to do that you will need to experiment as you will need a lot of apple peels but very little zest. While your at it save the citrus zest and steep in vodka for about 3 months and make lemon or orange extract!
The other thing you can do is not over stuff the fridge. If you can see everything in there you are more likely to use it up and not have to throw it out later. I loathe wasting anything if it isn't necessary.
Each month I place an order through Angelfood ministries. You can feed a family of 4 for 1 week for $30. This week's menu has steak, chicken, beef fajitas, hot dogs, pizza, Salisbury steak, pork chops, milk, rice, apple pie. I wouldn't be able to buy this in a grocery store for $30.
We also do breakfast for dinner, and let the kids have cereal, with toast and juice, or tea, I found a recipe for homemade chocolate syrup, and let the kids have chocolate milk as a treat afterward. A bowl of cereal calms hungry kids who vote for quick fast food, rather than give you a half hour to whip something up. (If you get WIC this would be a good way to go through some of that cereal and milk)
I like to keep a blank calendar month on the fridge. With a Friday Fish Nights, I also have a Pasta Night, Salad Night, Veggies Night, Casserole Night, and so on. The family can then put in a certain request at the beginning of the month, and you can fill in the other two nights with that, or do leftovers, or have a "GIYOS" night which stands for Get It Yourself Or Starve"!
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