The economy today affects everyone, especially the price of food. Below you will find a listing of tips and ideas to help trim your food budget and save time in the kitchen when preparing meals. When able, purchase the following items in bulk: coffee beans, dried beans, pastas, grains such as rice, ground beef, ground turkey, whole turkey, chicken legs and thighs, and plenty of storage bags and containers. Keep permanent markers on hand to label and date your food for the freezer.
When you are purchasing ground beef, lean grinds such as round and sirloin produce less fat and more meat when cooked. These cuts cost more but less is needed in recipes which saves money in the long-run. Time can be saved by dividing larger packages and either freezing or browning the ground beef for use in casseroles, chili, or soups.
Dried beans are much cheaper than canned. Good varieties to purchase are lima beans, kidney beans, navy beans, black bean, and red beans. Black-eyed peas, lentils, and split peas are also great to keep on hand. To save cooking time, soak the dried beans overnight; then cook until crisp-tender. Drain and cool before placing in freezer bags and freezing for future use.
Instead of purchasing plastic containers for storage, wash out your jelly, pickle, mayonnaise, sauce, and other jars with their lids. Then use to store rice, dried beans, pasta, and other grains on the counter or pantry shelves. The colors and textures of the contents add beauty to the kitchen.
Boil chicken legs and thighs to make your own broth without added salt and other preservatives. Freeze the broth in plastic containers for future use. Pull the meat from the bones and freeze in bags for use in casseroles and sandwiches.
Make several recipes of your favorite cookies. Package in bags or containers and freeze. They will keep up to 3 months in the freezer. Allow to thaw at room temperature before serving.
Make and bake layers for cakes. Individually freeze on cookie sheets, then wrap in aluminum foil and store in freezer bags for later use. Allow to thaw at room temperature before frosting and serving. This works well for pound cakes also.
Purchase fresh fruit such as pineapple, grapes, cherries, blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, mango, and papaya. Prepare the fruit as if for serving. Place in freezer bags, pint or quart, and freeze. Allow to thaw in the refrigerator before serving. These fruits are great for desserts, smoothies, and snacking on. Partially frozen fruit is a great treat in the summer.
Purchase onions, peppers, and celery in bulk. Create your own seasonings by chopping and freezing the vegetables separately and in different combinations in pint freezer bags.
Making a vegetable soup base from your favorite vegetables and freezing makes soup preparation quick and easy during the cold months. Beef, chicken and vegetable broths are easy to prepare by simply boiling the meat or vegetables with or without seasoning before placing in plastic storage containers and freezing. Freezing unseasoned broth is best for it can be used in many different ways and seasoned for the dish being prepared.
Purchasing larger bags of whole coffee beans and grinding them yourself before using is a great way to get the freshest tasting coffee. Freeze the beans until you need them, take out the amount you need and then refreeze. You can create your own blends by purchasing several different types of beans, mix some of the types you want to blend in the coffee grinder and grind to your taste.