The damage is done: you’ve overindulged, and there’s no going back. Well, maybe you can for your waistline, but your bank account is a real problem. Of course, some of the most effective ways to cut food costs are the hardest (eat and drink less; don’t go out so much); though not all are impossible (make it yourself instead of buying the packaged version; buy in bulk; substitute dried herbs and spices where possible).
But here are a few more creative and hopefully more moderate things you can do in the kitchen to curb your spending and maintain more sustainable habits, along with some relatively low-cost recipe suggestions:
1. Get organized! Make lists and plan your menus to incorporate leftovers and use up all perishable ingredients.
2. Seek out what’s local and in-season—it’s a good habit for life. Produce can be expensive, but it doesn’t have to be if it hasn’t been shipped from another hemisphere. Depending on your region, common cold weather crops include spinach, kale, winter lettuces, Brussels, broccoli, cauliflower, some onions, beets, carrots, parsnips, turnips, cabbage, and collards.
3. Opt for more legumes, whole grains, or pastas.
- Paula’s Italian Pasta Salad
- Hearty Beef and Noodle Soup
- Sausage, White Bean, and Swiss Chard Soup
- Shaggy Man Split Pea Soup
- Hoppin’ John
4. Be selective with meats. Meat and dairy are often the more expensive ingredients, and let’s face it—eating more vegetables would probably be good for you right now! But if you need your meat, try these cheaper options, keeping in mind that they might require marinades and longer cooking times for more flavorful, tender results. Get two meals out of one purchase by using chopped meat as a main dish over rice the next night. Also, it’s hard to say no to burgers or hotdogs, for which Paula has many recipes.
–From the cow: try grilled (or ground) chuck, flank or hanger steaks, tri tip, brisket, ribs, or oxtails:
–From the bird: often cheap unless you’re buying breast meat, try chicken thighs or turkey parts:
- Bobby’s Lighter Un-Fried Chicken
- South of the Border Chicken
- Chicken Brunswick Stew
- Turkey and Black Bean Ziti
- Creamy Chicken Rollups
–From the pig: there’s always the pork shoulder, which can be transformed into all kinds of deliciousness, including pulled pork and stews. And a little ham goes a long way:
–From the sea: try tilapia, mahi-mahi, or canned tuna: