Grocery Budget Tips: Tip 4 – We Use Simple Ingredients

Welcome back to our grocery budget series!  To learn about the purpose of this series, read our introduction.  I am going to share at least 20 of the ways I can think of that our family uses to keep our grocery budget affordable for our large family.  Here is tip #4:

We use simple ingredients. We buy the basic flour, salt, yeast, sugar, etc.  It’s amazing how many delicious things you can make from basic ingredients.  As well, we buy basic cuts of meat and cook those up with basic ingredients.  The only steaks we eat around here are venison steaks from my husbands hunting.  We rarely eat beef roasts, because they are a little pricey per pound for our budget to eat regularly.  We do, however, eat a lot of venison roasts.  We stretch our meals by using beans, pastas, rice, and like to add a home-baked bread to many of our meals.

We make a lot of our ingredients too, which help to broaden the types of food we can make while keeping our grocery budget affordable.  If we can make the ingredient for less than buying, that makes a lot of sense! We bake bread and make seasoned and plain breadcrumbs from them.  We make our own chicken and beef broth and stock.  We make yogurt, grow herbs for seasonings, bake our own pita and usually make our own tortillas as well.  When it comes to “cream of” soups, we make our own (it only takes a moment, or I make a bunch in bulk and freeze or combine dry ingredients into a jar that I can store in the pantry, then add wet ingredients as I need them), as well as seasonings for pies, stews, tacos, spaghetti, etc.

Cooking can really be expensive if you buy the expensive or off the wall ingredients, also.  Our recipes reflect the kind of ingredients that fit into our budget.  I see some people who try so many new ritzy recipes each month and then complain that their grocery budget is too high.  Cook what you can afford to eat.   I rarely buy name-brand ingredients, expensive cuts, or anything exotic. In fact, I usually buy the same exact items month after month and have been amazed at how many ways they can be used.

Some ways we stick to basic ingredients: Sun dried tomatoes are almost $5 for a small jar (I would have needed two for a recipe I was going to make once – a $10 ingredient for a one time meal just doesn’t make any sense to me) at our local grocery store.  We dry out own tomatoes using our dehydrator, and can then use those in place of fancy “sun dried” tomatoes.  If you don’t have a dehydrator, you can probably dry tomatoes in your oven.   Tomato paste in a tube?  Yikes!  We dehydrate our own tomatoes and can make our own tomato sauce – or reconstitute our dehydrated tomatoes into tomato paste (or sauce).  Herbed cream cheese?  No, I just add desired herbs and mix it in cream cheese myself if that’s what we want.  We also don’t buy convenience meals, convenience breakfasts (pastries, poptarts, cereals), pop or juice for the kids, or many specialty/packaged ingredients.

Having said all of that, I don’t want you to think we never buy different items when we go shopping.  I do hold on to recipes that have more expensive or oddball ingredients that might cost more or require a trip to a different store to obtain, and if we can afford to “splurge” one month, I will buy that ingredient then.  However, if we don’t have the budget for a bunch of new or different ingredients from what we typically buy, we simply don’t try those recipes and hold on to them for another time. If you use your imagination or search the internet, you can come up with many different ways to use the same basic, affordable ingredients.  I find I use the internet (and pinterest) more in searching for recipes because you can search based on ingredients you have, vs. cookbooks.

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