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Budget Cooking Ideas for the Family

July 27, 2014

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIf you hear the term “budget cooking” and have a bad image come to mind then the first step on the cooking adventure is clear. Change your thoughts! There are many ways to enjoy flavorful meals that are good for you without breaking your budget.

Budget cooking means making the most of what we have and using lower cost ingredients in preparing meals that are good as well as good for you. The adventure can begin by looking at low cost recipes from around the world. You might have a Mexican meal one night and the next Chinese or Thai or Indian meals. Many countries cook with far less costly ingredients because that is all they have available.

As we explore budget cooking we learn to bypass the expensive cuts of meat for every day use. We learn to make the most of our meals. One of the first steps many employ is getting out recipe books or looking at websites online and making a plan for meals. Look realistically at this and occasionally plan for leftovers. One or two servings of leftovers means a “heat and serve” convenience meal for lunch that is much healthier and cheaper than junk food or no lunch at all.

Once you have a daily meal plan for the week, or two weeks or even a month, then you can plan a list before going to the market. This way you know exactly what you need. More importantly, you have healthy meals planned for the family and can reduce unhealthy binges.

Budget cooking takes into account personal likes. If you like snacks mid day with a toddler plan for that rather than reaching for candy. Many easy tips can be employed that stretch the budget without sacrificing taste.

For example, use ground meat in tacos but that taco meat can also be used served over diced potatoes with a little cheese, or mixed in cooked rice. Ground meats can also be served in gravy over toast or potatoes or rice. In meals such as these meat is a part of the meal but not the focus.

Cheaper cuts of meats can benefit from herbs and moist cooking such as stews or slow cooking to make tender, tasty meat dishes.

Cooking from scratch often takes not that much more time than expensive prepared meals. If time is short on some days again plan ahead. Make up your own pre-measured “box” meals. This way your dry ingredients are already measured according to your recipe plan.

Pasta can be a meal. Spaghetti, lasagna and even macaroni and cheese with a ‘one pan” approach, adding meat and vegetables, can lower grocery costs. This approach can also be used with stir fry, potato and rice dishes – all of which are incredibly versatile.

There are many websites online that have budget meal ideas and although some are from other countries they can be easily adapted to measurements and terms. Many American companies such as Kraft foods or Pillsbury have recipe websites. Of course their focus is promoting their products but you can just as easily adapt them to generic brands or even homemade!

Another important part of budget cooking is portion control. If a serving is a cup then smart homemakers note that. Be creative and cooking from scratch truly is an adventure. It can be a trip to restaurants around the world without leaving home!

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