Someone has to be paid to slice, shred, chop, form, and package food items such as sliced or shredded cheese, pre-formed meat patties or veggie patties, cube meats, chop or shred veggies, etc. Convenience costs money. Personally, I prefer to pay myself and I found ways to do those jobs in MINUTES.
Whether you choose to buy a tool such as a mandoline is your choice. You can do all of the tasks with a good kitchen knife. It does not have to be a chef knife. If you decide to buy any tools to speed prep, be sure to pay yourself back using the savings that you realized with other tips in this Combination Technique.
Cheese: Save money by buying blocks of cheese and shredding or slicing the cheese yourself. One tip to make your job of shredding much easier is to put the block of cheese that you plan to shred in the freezer. In fact, if I have cheese that I want to prevent from going bad, I stash it in my freezer. At some point, I will need shredded cheese. When you put cheese in the freezer, it crumbles pretty much all by itself. This is perfect for making a macaroni and cheese casserole, homemade pizzas, chicken casseroles, enchiladas, breakfast burritos, and other recipes that need shredded cheese or the cheese will melt when baking.
TIP: when blocks of cheese go on sale, stock up and stash the blocks in the freezer. Remember to add the blocks of cheese to the freezer inventory that you keep on the front of the refrigerator or freezer.
Meat: into bite-sized pieces and make stir fries, casseroles, soups, stews, etc.
Storage Containers: If you use plastic containers for leftovers, you will know that all plastic containers either crack or show scratch marks. Add the fact that finding matching tops to plastic containers drives me nuts. Additionally, many of the tops for plastic containers that I had in the freezer broke if I tried to open the container before the food items inside thawed.
When I did all the research for saving money in the kitchen, I realized that I had completely overlooked storage of food items. Shame on me!
Therefore, as I replace those plastic containers, I now either use re-sealable bags and when I buy containers, I only buy glass containers that can go from the freezer to the oven and on the table.
Family Size: the packages are always cheaper. When supermarkets run sales on meat, they usually also run those same sales on family sizes. I like to buy family size packages, even though my son has now grown up and is no longer living at home, and I divide the meat into serving sizes that I will use, label, date, and freeze those packages.
Adjust Your Menu
As I have mentioned previously, I use a menu. That menu is not set in stone. I have a variety of food items built into my menu. When sales run at supermarkets, I shift the recipes around so I can use the sale items. This works because I know the meats that I have in my freezer. Canned food items last for 2 years, so all canned foods in my cupboards will still be good next month.
Making Ground Meats Go Farther
One of the tips that I learned as I talked with my primary care doctor and researched other tips was to replace breadcrumbs that I used to bind hamburgers and meatloaf with oats. By replacing the breadcrumbs with oats, I discovered a new tip. I ground a variety of veggies in my food processor and added the ground veggies to the ground meat.
Add Legumes: Another tip my primary care suggested was to find ways to build legumes such as a variety of dried beans or barley. That opened a whole world of new flavors to my menu!
If you have leftover veggies or meat and are not planning to have a LEFTOVER night, put those items in plastic re-sealable bags and stash them in your freezer. When those items accumulate enough, you can make a variety of soups and stews. I also make my own chicken or beef broth and those frozen leftovers always make my broths taste great – and different since there are never the same frozen items to toss in the broth as I make it.
Tip to Further Reduce Cholesterol: I learned to combine ground beef with ground pork. Study after study shows that reducing the amount of red meats that we consume is not only healthier for us but also healthier for the environment (cattle need to graze). Combining both ground beef with ground pork reduces the amount of red meat that we consumer. An added bonus, adding ground pork also changes the flavor of ground meats.
My primary care’s point was if I made little changes in my day-to-day diet, I would hardly notice any difference in taste; however, the little changes made a huge different in my cholesterol level. One other thing that happened as I added many complex carbs such as legumes was because it takes your body longer to break down complex carbs, my hunger level significantly decreased.
One 8-ounce block cheese to one 8-ounce package of shredded cheese You may need to figure out how much an ounce of each costs because the packages of each rarely are sold in the same number of ounces (that is done intentionally, which is why you need to know the cost per ounce)
One 4-ounce package of “baby carrots” versus a bunch of carrots (weigh the bunch to know how many ounces)
TAKE ACTION #2: Get the family involved: ask each of them to look through recipe books, online websites, etc., to find some recipes that they would like to have included in this month’s menu. They will be more apt to be more accepting if they had a say in some of the recipes. MOST IMPORTANTLY: KEEP IT FUN!!! You want them to WANT to do this task.
NOTE: If you want to read about another one of those unexpected lessons from when I was teaching my son how to be independent when he was young, read this article: Surprising Result of a Lesson of Independence. It made this article too long to put it here.