Today’s Monday Mission is a bit of a flip on its head – rather than giving you a new task to complete or attempt in the kitchen, I’m asking you to branch out to help your own friends/community. I’m kind of excited about this mission, so bear with me as I explain what I’m thinking.
Your mission, if you choose to accept, is to be a rock star in someone else’s world today.
Someone on my personal Facebook page asked for my best tips to trim the budget. The gal who asked already does an amazing number of frugal tips, so I wasn’t sure how much she’d learn, but the question itself inspired me to think outside the box for this Monday Mission.
I want YOU to think about your own frugal journey, whether you’re at the beginning of learning budgeting (or reducing the budget for whatever reason), in the midst of the journey, or at a comfortable place but can still remember the leaner days.
Write out your TOP 3 frugal tips, especially if they have to do with the kitchen or fit within the natural living field – anything having to do with simple cleaners, reusing stuff, reducing your waste, etc. You might also share ways you make extra money since that achieves the same end as being frugal with what you already have.
I absolutely cannot wait to hear what you all come up with. If I’ve learned anything over the nearly many years I’ve been writing here at Kitchen Stewardship, it’s that my readers know wayyyyy more than I do. About just about everything.
Here’s a great thread on facebook with over 25 replies to this question!
If you’re not on Facebook, we’d love to hear from you in the comments here, and if you want to accept the “rock star” part of the mission, think of 3 people to email, post on Twitter, or share at a weekly Bible study or Mom’s group. You can blame it on me so you don’t feel weird.
What About My Top 3 Tips to Save Money?
I almost don’t want to share my top 3, because I don’t want to sway anyone’s thinking. I want your rock star tips to be 100% your own without my interference, so make sure you’ve done yours before you read any further.
Go on. Type them out.
Now go share them so you can’t edit based on what mine are.
You can look at these pretty food pictures so you don’t see my three…
Now I’ll share mine, but if you’ve been around long enough here, you’ve heard me talk about them before.
1. Homemade Yogurt
I remain amazed at how much I save with this one little kitchen task! I’d never give it up!
A quart of organic Stonyfield yogurt is about $4 on sale here, and Greek yogurt is even crazier.
I make a quart of organic yogurt for $1.75.
And I make 4-5 quarts per week.
Assuming I couldn’t always find yogurt on sale, let’s say $5 is a fair price. That means I save between $13-16.25 every week. Who wouldn’t want a savings of around $650-845 every year?! That’s a lot of wiggle room in the food budget – enough to buy a quarter cow and save even more buckeroos.
Here’s my homemade yogurt tutorial with lots of pictures to make it totally simple. (Did I mention I only spend about 20 minutes a week making this? That means I “earn” over $40/hour making yogurt!)
If you don’t eat yogurt – you should! The healthy probiotics are second to none. If you do it right, a little frozen fruit and honey makes it taste like ice cream. Trust me. Get on this one.
2. Homemade Chicken Stock
Bones + Veggie Scraps + Water = Broth
It can’t get any cheaper than free, folks. Now that I’m actually saving ends of carrots, onions, and celery in the freezer and growing my own parsley in the summer, then freezing it too…AND reusing the bones a second and even third time…I am truly getting gallons of organic bone broth for the cost of my gas range and my time (and I suppose the huge stock pot I own).
Making your own homemade stock is the only way to get truly healthy, full-of-, instead of imitation broth that usually has MSGs somewhere in there and lots of salt. , immunity-boosting stock
Anything that takes garbage like chicken bones and vegetable scraps and turns it into not only food, but power-packed, nutrient-dense healthy and delicous food, is a frugal trick you must learn.
I haven’t priced organic broth in a long time, but I’m willing to bet that I’m saving $20-50 each time I make stock, PLUS having plentiful broth on hand encourages me to make and consume more soup, which is definitely healthier for my family (and usually less expensive than other types of recipes!).
Y’all. If you’re not making stock yet, resolve to start NOW. Here’s how.
3. Cooking with Dry Beans
This is sort of a cheater, really, because I’m hitting two birds with one stone.
Particularly in the real food, traditional foods, well-sourced world that I live in, meat is the most expensive thing we eat (and maybe cheese). That means that cutting down on meat here and there really helps the budget.
I use less meat when beans are either part of the meal (like making a double batch of chili but not doubling the meat) or the main attraction, like chickpea wraps, black bean soup, or veggie bean burritos.
And if I’m cooking my own beans from the 25-pound bags of dry beans (found on Amazon) that I have in the basement, the savings is pretty huge. (You caught me – drat – that’s actually 3-in-1 here isn’t it? Cutting meat, using dry beans, AND buying in bulk. Sorry about that – I always ask if ice cream places can put two flavors in one dish, too.)
Soaking dry beans and cooking them slowly also knocks out some of the hard-to-digest parts of beans, increases their nutrition, and helps you avoid BPA-laden plastic linings in cans.
It also offers 30 bean recipes, for the bean lovers of the world and the bean haters.
More Ideas to Save Money in the Kitchen
Those are my “big three” ideas to save money in the kitchen, but I have a few more frugal tricks up my sleeve that I’d like to share with you.
I love some scrambled eggs for breakfast, and I know they’re much more nutrient-dense than grains, but you know what? $1.50 or more for breakfast for my family can’t hold a budgetary candle to $1.50 for 6-7 breakfasts of soaked oatmeal with raisins, cinnamon, and coconut oil.
I buy my oats in a 25-pound bag to get the bulk discount. If you can find a bulk purchasing option in your area, it’s WELL worth it.
This will be a controversial choice for sure, since some say the starch in white potatoes metabolizes just like sugar. Well, shucks. There’s also iron in the skins, some protein in there, a good opportunity to slather on the butter, and they’re one of my favorite foods.
Particularly if you’re grain-free, like we are right now, I don’t know how to do it without potatoes.
I like to find them on reduced produce for about 20 cents a pound. Definitely frugal, and I’m sticking to it.
Since we are currently eating grain-free to explore a gluten sensitivity issue, and grains certainly are harder to digest and take more time to prepare than some other foods, I’m not sure where I stand on other grains.
However, if you eat grains no matter what, of course grinding your own and baking homemade bread will save tons of money. You’ll definitely want to learn some skills with flour…but run a cost-analysis to make sure your time is worthwhile.
Before we were eating grain-free, for reasons other than frugality, namely health benefits and the ability to soak the flour, I chose to make my own homemade tortillas. But budget isn’t the driving factor there, but it still saved money over storebought tortillas.
You’ll find incredible cost savings with many of my other foundational Kitchen Stewardship habits.
Top 5 Expensive Foods
Consider this: cutting some expensive foods may be just as frugal as buying cheaper foods or eating less. Here are five foods that jack up your budget, some which you may not even think about when you sprinkle them over top a frugal casserole:
- Cheese: This is a sneaky one for us – it’s so easy to serve cheese and crackers as a snack and pile on the cheese to make any meal more delicious. But remember that most cheese, even cheap stuff, is still $3-4 per pound, more than most meat. Be aware.
- Meat: No kidding. Buying less expensive cuts of meat like stew meat and using a whole chicken for stock and stretcher meals like casseroles and soups is the best way to make sure you have meat, yet remain within your budget.
- Eggs: A middler. High-quality eggs can cost 3x more than store eggs, which are a pretty frugal option, but as you saw on my splurge list, they’re worth it to me.
- Sweeteners: honey, maple syrup: Rather than give in and buy white sugar all the time, just figure out how to use less. Even “good” sweeteners aren’t healthy for you in large amounts.
- Dried fruit and nuts: Worth the price, but definitely something on which you want to watch for deals. I try to teach my family that nuts and things like power bars (dried fruit and nuts) from my Healthy Snacks to Go ebook will fill you up and last longer than a handful of potato chips, so eat them differently. Savor. Take smaller bites. Eat less. But we still go through a pound of crispy nuts awfully fast!
Fast, Frugal, Real Food Meals? (Or Even Just “Fast”)
When it comes to mealtime, it’s important to have a cost analysis of what each meal totals, too, so you can ensure you have some “frugal” meals in your menu plan each week. I shared my top five frugal meals, most of which can be put together in 30-60 minutes and/or made ahead and reheated.
I was thinking of which meals can be made “with pantry staples” and just tossed together quickly, like if you walk in the door from vacation at 6:00 and you need something NOW. No pre-planning, no soaking, no cooking dry beans.
If you want to stick with a true traditional foods lifestyle, that’s a tough one.
Chicken broth isn’t in the pantry in a can; it’s in the freezer.
Beans aren’t in a can, either – they take 24 hours of pre-planning (unless you have them in the freezer, which could possibly make a quick meal).
Any grains in the pantry ought to be soaked overnight to reduce phytic acid, so that’s out entirely. The old quick spaghetti trick from my processed foods days isn’t an option either for a true real foods diet, especially gluten-free.
Scrambled eggs are quick – I’d serve with thinly sliced, fried potatoes and maybe grain-free almond apple pancakes – but that’s not exactly from the pantry.
Nachos are the best I came up with – Cook up some frozen meat, thawing each half-centimeter in the pan while you go (or did you know you can cook ground beef from frozen in just a few minutes?!), season, and eat with the best store tortilla chips you can find (usually no trans fats, at least, which is better than I can say for store-bought tortillas). Maybe a can of beans with seasoning or refried beans without trans fat on the side.
Other Frugal Resources at KS
Back in 2011, a group of bloggers began an incredible series called Eat Well, Spend Less. The collaboration was in response to some serious rising food prices we were observing – and that trend hasn’t really stopped in the years since.
Here’s a post I wrote at the inception of the series listing out the foods I’m willing to splurge on, and where I can save money by settling or skipping and also listed ALL the best ways to save on the budget.
That post includes my best food savings tips and other areas to trim the budget.
If your interest is piqued, you can view the entire series right HERE.
Other Frugal Resources on the Web
- One of my favorite bloggers who will teach you to get out of debt and stay that way is Stacy Myers of Stacy Makes Cents. Her first eBook, Crock On!, is truly one of my most-used cookbooks, and I’m ready to dig into her second book, Keep Crockin’, hot off the presses!
- I wrote a post at Green Your Way about 9 Ways to Cook with Garbage that will help you reduce your food waste and have fun with it!
- Another eBook perfect for this subject is Stephanie Langford’s Real Food on a Real Budget, a massive tome covering just about every way you can save money on real food that exists.
I’m pretty excited to see where this “sharing” mission goes and what ideas you all come up with – leave them here in the comments or tag my Facebook page.
Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links from which I will earn a commission. See my full disclosure statement here.