The holidays are upon us with their wonderful meals and foods around every corner. These celebrations can come with a hard hit on our grocery bill. Who wants to scrimp when it comes to those traditional meals? No one, of course. So to keep the grocery budget in line, you’ll have to keep the bills down with those everyday meals.
The best way to keep food prices down is to eat at home. Restaurant meals are more expensive than home meals. Just the simple act of staying home will reduce your budget. You’ll also eat healthier since homemade meals are usually heavier on vegetables, lower on fried food and are less likely to be accompanied by a sugar-sweetened beverage. Eating at home also increases family time as you cook and prepare the meals.
Sometimes the strategy for keeping your grocery bills down is to recognize why we buy and stop yourself from falling into the trap. The grocery store is a tempting place. We’ve all had the experience of going for one item and coming out with two bags of groceries. Impulse buying is rampant because everything looks so good. When shopping, put on the blinders — no impulse shopping allowed. Or shop in your own cupboard and skip the grocery store all together, then you won’t be tempted by fresh-baked bread that smells so good and cookies that are begging to be eaten.
Another tactic is to skip the brand loyalty. It doesn’t pay off in most cases. Consumer Reports did a study in 2009 of 29 different items that compared the name brand and the store brand. In a blind taste test of the 29 items, 19 scored equally as well as those with the fancy label.
Now that we’ve made it through the store, consider meatless meals. I was raised on beans in their many forms as a replacement for a meat main dish, so cornbread and pinto beans with a little cheese, salsa and sour cream is nearly heaven to me. If pintos aren’t to your liking, try some black beans and rice, minestrone made with white beans or a hearty 15-bean soup. Beans are high in protein, low in fat and a lower cost alternative. In fact, that pinto bean and cornbread meal comes in at a bargain price of 78 cents per serving.
Another great meatless meal is eggs. Two scrambled eggs with bacon, hash browns and a piece of toast can be had for $1.60. Consider omelets, French toast, egg salad and boiled eggs. All are high protein, low in fat (unless you load them up with butter or oil) and have lots of essential nutrients. One of my favorite dishes is to make a quiche by using leftover vegetables and small amounts of ham or meat inside of a frozen pie shell. My husband has been known to complain about green beans in the quiche, but I added vegetables to his diet and used up leftovers from the fridge. That’s what I consider a win-win situation.
Soups are another great way to use up the leftovers in the fridge. I usually keep a small bag in the freezer that gets all the small amounts of leftover vegetables until I decide to make soup. The kids always called it hunter’s stew — Mama hunts through the refrigerator and puts everything into the pot. I made posole (hominy and pork stew) for tonight’s supper for $1.60 per serving. Pair any hearty soup with crackers, cornbread or good yeast bread and you have a meal fit for a king.
The other benefit of all these meals besides the cost is that they are relatively easy to prepare. They may take a little time to cook when you count the simmering time on the soup or the baking time on the quiche, but the preparation time is minimal. That’s another great benefit in these times when there is so much to do and so little time.