Simple Tips to Stretch the Food Budget

The tips in today’s post are filled with practiced wisdom for practical solutions, novel ideas, and inspiring concepts that make cooking fun and rewarding for you and your family—and stretch that food budgt!

GRATE SAVINGS. You pay a lot to have someone else grate your cheese for you—at least two bucks a pound more than if you buy it by the block. You’ll also save by cutting up whole chickens, slicing your own pickles, slicing meat for cold cuts, and using a blender or rolling pin to make your own bread crumbs.

FOUND FOOD. You know that last slice of bread? Often it’s dry, past its prime and not enough to make a sandwich, so into the garbage it goes. Well, not so fast!

Making your own breadcrumbs is as simple as whirring a few slices in a food processor blender until the bread becomes fine textured crumbs. Bake the crumbs on a baking sheet; 350 F stirring every 10 minutes. Depending on how much moisture you’re dealing with and the depth of the crumbs, it should take about 20 to 30 mins.

Make Italian-style seasoned bread crumbs by adding 1 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning blend to every 2 cups to crumbs before baking. Cool completely then store in an airtight container.

VEGGIE BOUQUET. Store asparagus in the fridge in a glass of water (like cut flowers in a vase). It will stay fresh for a couple of weeks. Works with celery, too.

STORE TOMATOES stem end down to keep them from spoiling as quickly. This prevents air from entering and moisture from exiting the scar where the tomato once attached to the vine. Storing them at room temperature rather than in the fridge also makes them last longer.

BEEF IN BULK. Buying the “family size” package of ground beef will chop the cost per pound significantly! But if you use it up faster just because you have more, there go the savings.

When you get home you need a reliable way to divide the meat into usable portions.

If a recipe is filling and tastes great with just 1 pound of ground beef, why use 1 1/4 pounds? If you try to eyeball that amount, you can easily be off by a quarter pound.

Investing in a reliable kitchen scale makes lots of sense. You don’t need anything fancy, just make sure to purchase one that can be easily cleaned. I have this digital multifunction food scale, about $12.

D.I.Y. BUTTERMILK. To make buttermilk when there’s none of the real stuff in the fridge, add a tablespoon of vinegar or lemon juice to regular milk. The mixture won’t get as thick and creamy as buttermilk, but it will help create fluffy pancakes and quick breads just the same.

COKE MARINADE. Tenderize cheaper cuts of meat by marinating them in cola. Several hours ahead of time place the meat in a bowl and cover with cvola. Add 2 of tablespoons soy sauce and 1 teaspoon garlic powder. While grilling brush the cola marinade over the steaks. This is a great way to use up cola that has gone flat!

BYE BUGS. To protect dry staples such as flour, meal, grits, pastas, and rice from contamination, pop in a couple of dry bay leaves. This won’t affect the taste, but it will prevent pesky bugs from ruining these products.

ACT LIKE A KID. If ordering a small smoothie from Caribou Coffee, get a kid’s size instead. It’s 27 percent smaller for $2 instead of $4.29.

WEIGH BAGGED PRODUCE. Use the handy scale in the produce department to weigh pre-weighed bags. For example, if you’re buying a 10-pound bag of potatoes, weigh several. The bags will vary and you’re sure to find one that’s 10 and a half or more for the same price.

SOFTEN BUTTER IN A FLASH. Keeping butter out on the counter for an hour isn’t exactly ideal for a tight schedule. To speed up the process, grate it with a cheese grater or flatten it with a rolling pin (but put it in a plastic bag first) for spreadable, mixable butter in a pinch.

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12 replies
  1. Betty Thomas
    Betty Thomas says:

    These are great tips! I would of never thought to weigh those 10 lb. bags of potatoes as I assumed the producers weighed them as they were filled. As far as grating your own cheese it is not only money saving but the cheese actually tastes and melts better too. Pre grated cheese has something mixed in with it to prevent it from sticking together. Thanks Mary.

    • Renita
      Renita says:

      It’s usually cornstarch. Which actually helps it thicken up better in cheese sauces.

      That said, ounce for ounce, bags of shredded cheese are often the same price where I shop – 8 oz of shredded or a block is still $2.50 or so. And if you want a blend, it’s much more convenient to buy the pre-shredded.

    • Dorothy McGee
      Dorothy McGee says:

      I’ve been having a problem with pre-shredded cheese becoming sticky and lumping together, even when I haven’t opened the package. I’ve checked the expiration date, and that’s not the problem. It’s really weird, so the idea of shredding my own is starting to appeal to me.

  2. Gail Locy
    Gail Locy says:

    I would take the purchase of family size meat a step further. If the ground beef is not for burgers, I would cook it all and then package it in recipe size portions. I also do this is chicken breasts. One dirty pan. Then on a busy night, I can grab a package, defrost for a minute or so in the microwave and continue with the rest of the recipe.

    • MNMann
      MNMann says:

      Some people do not like the taste of ground beef that has been cooked and frozen. We divide the bulk packs into 3/4 lb portions and package in ziplock bags. We dont worry about freezerburn because we use the portions with in a couple weeks. 3/4lbs works fine in recipies that call for 1lb.

  3. Rhonda
    Rhonda says:

    I’m curious where you shop for cheese. The grocery stores I shop charge exactly the same price for block or grated ($1.98/lb on sale). I love block cheese better bc I don’t care for the texture with cellulose added to shredded but usually buy it anyway for convenience. When cheese isn’t on sale, I buy it at Sam’s Club where grated cheese is $2.13/lb. I’d love to know where can you buy block cheese significantly cheaper than that?

    • Kimberley Hunter
      Kimberley Hunter says:

      I think Mary lives in Colorado. Prices might be different there than where you are. I’m in Canada, where everything costs more than in most of the U.S. But I can tell you that even at the grocery store I do most of my shopping at, block cheese is always cheaper than the pre-grated stuff.

    • Linda Pries
      Linda Pries says:

      I always thought this sounded strange too, so while I was out shopping for shredded mozzarella I compared the price and the shredded I bought was 17.3 cents per ounce while the block cheese was 23 cents per ounce. It might be cheaper to do it yourself in some places, but not around me. I would rather buy it pre-shredded because when I do it myself it all sticks together and I do not like that.

  4. PatriotPeg
    PatriotPeg says:

    i am 74 yrs, old mary, and have NEVER refrigerated butter in my life. neither did my mother. i have never had rancid butter. we use a lot less, because it spreads thinly. i am a loyal fan of your tips, been reading u for yrs. thanx,

  5. Mary Boyden
    Mary Boyden says:

    Mary, I heard an ad on the radio yesterday and after reading your email today I searched for it. I love it! This website has so many good ideas on food storage, they have recipes, and many more tips on NOT wasting food. Thanks for push.
    Mary B.

  6. Sanra
    Sanra says:

    I just paid 4 cents less for 8 ounce bags of grated mozzarella than 16 ounce bags of same or blocks. It always pays to take a few extra seconds and do the math.


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