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Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Pinch-hitting and Penny Pinching

We get paid once a month. And by "we" I mean my husband gets paid once a month. I am a stay at home Mom. I live in an area where with my background and education I would have to work more than full time to make enough to justify childcare expenses for my 2 kids. And that is only IF such a job were available, there isn't one. I also happen to live in one of the most expensive places in the U.S. This goes a lot toward explaining why I have taught myself to really cook and bake over the last few years. I did the math and a decent loaf of bread where I live is about $2.50 - $3. I can make a loaf of bread for less than a dollar. Pictured here is an Irish Soda bread that literally contains flour, baking soda, salt, and soured milk.

We have to budget everything, and consider every purchase. An unexpected trip out of town means canceling anything even slightly optional, from doctor's appointments to a once every three years hair cut. And of course if there is anything like a big expense in a month that means squeezing out every penny from every non-fixed expense. My food budget is one of the few areas where I have some discretion.

My tips for eating well when you have a lean month?

*Eat vegetarian, cheaper pound for pound and often food that has a long shelf life. If you see dry beans on sale 10/$10 you jump on that. Same thing with dried pastas, jarred sauces, canned tomatoes, all the staples.

*Stockpile some versatile frozen veggies for weeks you come up short.

* You can freeze milk, FYI, just pour some out first and put it in the freezer. It will thaw overnight in the fridge just fine, just shake and serve.

*Make your own pizza dough and make it in double batches, make one, freeze one. Makes a fast economical dinner.

*Breakfast for dinner, cheap and tasty! Scrambled eggs, pancakes, french toast (great way to use up stale bread), juice and milk.

*Buy in bulk when you can. Things like peanut butter, jelly, olive oil, vegetable oil, oatmeal, cornmeal. I actually could write a whole post about all the things you can make with cornmeal. Corn bread, corn bread muffins, polenta, grits, use it to bake pizza dough on, corn meal waffles, LOTS of uses.

*Use leftovers for lunch the next day. My husband works 5 days a week, the cheapest lunch near him would cost $6/day, that's $30 per week right there!

*Use your leftovers in interesting ways. Leftover spaghetti sauce makes a great pizza or calzone sauce. Leftover chili can be made into a chili casserole, become taco filling or turned into chii mac. A roast chicken one night can become chicken salad, chicken enchiladas, or chicken soup!

*Bake your own bread, google some no-knead bread recipes, you can make bread in 5 minutes per day (not including bake time).

*Share deals with your friends. If you know someone who has a warehouse club membership offer to split the cost of some larger quantities of vegetables, especially stuff that can last for awhile like onions, garlic, hard squashes, potatoes. Or buy stuff that can be easily made into other things, like berries into sauce or pie and tomatoes into sauce, salsas, or soups.

*Save everything. When you cut the tops off of carrots and onions and other veggies put them in a freezer bag and stash them in the freezer to make vegetable or chicken stocks. Stale bread can be made into bread pudding, bread crumbs, bruschetta, stuffing, dressing. Leftover bacon grease can be refrigerated in a clean jar and used to season vegetables, brown meats, fry eggs, or flavor beans.


  1. Thanks for the tips, especially about freezing milk. What I also find very effective is buying in bulk and splitting the items and the cost with a group of friends my husband and I helped organize. We save money, time, and storage space. Since we are using an online tool called SplitStuff (http://splitstuff.com), splitting is fast and easy for us. We also use this tool to share equipment like lawnmowers.

  2. That is awesome! I obviously do that in a more casual way, but I agree it only makes sense. We also share lawn equipment with our neighbors, especially the hedge trimmer. Seriously, why do we need one in every garage, right? Thanks for the link!