Author Topic: Frugal grocery and cooking advice  (Read 2177 times)

Zola.

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Frugal grocery and cooking advice
« on: February 09, 2018, 02:33:41 AM »
Come the weekend I am filled with optimism about the week ahead's cooking...

On Saturday we get all the food we think we need - but we always run out come Thursday.

My wife and I cook a large recipe from scratch that will be eaten at work (e.g. This week it was a beautiful chilli con carne, made into 6 portions).... then we have something for the rest of the week at night, often put in the slow cooker on Monday morning, ready for us coming home. e.g. a chicken casserole.

We intentionally cook lunches for 3 days for both of us, as thats enough in the week of eating the same thing, but as a result it usually ends up with me going to the shop on wednesday night / thursday night to top up the food shop to get us through to the weekend.

The slow cooker pot never seems to last beyond 3 nights max.  Any ideas of meals we could make when we get closer to the weekend?  One thing I noticed is we eat meat basically every lunch and dinner... maybe some meat free meals would be healthier, and cheaper?


Malkynn

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Re: Frugal grocery and cooking advice
« Reply #1 on: February 09, 2018, 04:32:18 AM »
I cook 3-4 large dishes on the weekend and pre-portion them into single serving containers.
It doesn’t take much more work or time cooking multiple dishes at once than it does to cook one. Plus with at least 3 food options, you never have to repeat the exact same food sequence two days in a row. I cook at least 20 servings of food each weekend: lunch and dinner for 5 days for two people.
Pre-portioning it out ensures that DH doesn’t over serve and mess up my planning.

We were also eating too much meat, so I started making a bunch of vegetarian dishes. I now actually cook almost entirely vegetarian at home.





Roadrunner53

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Re: Frugal grocery and cooking advice
« Reply #2 on: February 09, 2018, 05:29:59 AM »

Pigeon

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Re: Frugal grocery and cooking advice
« Reply #3 on: February 09, 2018, 05:36:35 AM »
I rely heavily on my freezer and pantry to have a stock of home cooked frozen entrees, some meat that can be thawed and cooked and a few "emergency" meals that can be slapped together quickly.  The latter includes a few convenience type foods like boxed jambalaya and frozen shrimp or sausage.  Pasta and jarred sauce are on the regular rotation.

I'm not a fan of frozen veggies.  I try to mostly shop once a week, but often make a very quick mid-week stop to pick up produce and milk.

Roadrunner53

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Re: Frugal grocery and cooking advice
« Reply #4 on: February 09, 2018, 06:06:21 AM »
These are a few things that make life easier. Make up a big batch of rice, boil a batch of pasta like penne/spaghetti, make a pot of mashed potatoes. Put in refrigerator.
Buy a giant family pack of boneless chicken breasts and poach them in boiling water. Shred half of them, vacuum seal in meal size pouches and freeze.
Buy a chuck roast, put in crockpot with some beef broth and cook till it is tender. Let it cool, shred it up. Package it into meal size portions.
Buy a giant family package of hamburger, cook it up with onions. Once cooked up you can drain it, package into individual meals size portions.
Buy a few small ham steaks that are already vacuum packed. Be aware of expiration dates.
Buy some frozen broccoli, florets, mixed frozen veggies, peas or whatever you like.
Buy some marinara sauce or make your own. Freeze into pouches, SEAL do not vacuum, get out as much air as possible.
Buy some Alfredo sauce in jars.
Buy some shredded cheddar cheese.
Buy a couple taco kits.
Buy kidney beans, black beans and corn in cans.
Buy a couple of taco seasoning packets.
Buy some jarred beef gravy.
Buy sour cream.
Buy Rotel diced tomatoes.
Buy frozen sliced peppers.
Buy Pesto sauce.

Now you can have:
Chuck roast, gravy, potatoes and peas.
Beef taco's with black beans, cheese, sour cream on top.
Chicken, rice and broccoli, pesto.
Rice, kidney beans, corn, Rotel tomatoes, taco seasoning packet with or without ground beef.
Penne, chopped ham in squares, alfredo sauce.
Penne, ground beef, marinara sauce, frozen peppers.
Chicken breast sliced on a sandwich with mayo, lettuce and tomato.

Most pasta freezes well, I have had good luck with spaghetti. Rice freezes great and so do mashed potatoes.

Costco has canned roast beef, canned salmon and canned chunk white chicken meat. It is nice ot have on hand for when you are scratching your head on what to have for dinner. Roast beef is just like a home cooked chuck roast.



brokelibrarian

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Re: Frugal grocery and cooking advice
« Reply #5 on: February 09, 2018, 08:16:19 AM »
It sounds like you're doing some great prep, just not quite enough of it. For two people of average appetites two slow cookers' worth of food just isn't enough.

There are two directions you can go and I actually recommend a combination of both that works for you:

1. Dole out smaller portions from the meals you're already making and supplement them with sides or snacks that are easy to put together. Carrots & other veggies, yogurt, crackers, a quick green salad that can be as simple or complex as you feel like dealing with, dropping a fried or sliced hard boiled egg on top, or serving something over pasta/on a tortilla/over greens are all great ways to stretch out things you're already making and ensure you're still satisfied at the end of a meal.

2. Make an additional meal or two. This could be added to your weekend cooking routine or you could spend the time you're at the shop mid-week cooking another two from-scratch meals. I'm a big fan of making a big pot of rice and roasting a sheet pan of veggies seasoned only with salt & pepper. I usually do at minimum onion, green pepper, garlic, sweet potato or butternut squash, and then whatever else I have in the fridge/freezer. It's the base for a lot of different things:
       add mexican seasonings and beans and make a burrito bowl OR wrap it in a tortilla to make an actual burrito or tacos
       the same can be done with your protein of choice instead of or in addition to the beans (I actually crave beans more than meat these days because meat isn't my
             primary protein anymore)
       add some soy/hoisin sauce or whatever other asian sauce you're into and make an asian rice bowl with tofu or another protein
       add some italian seasoning and a little olive oil and some grilled or roasted chicken & serve it over penne or whatever pasta you like (especially good if you used
             butternut squash and if you have some fresh sage around)

Something I had to let go of recently was that not all of my meals have to be from-scratch gourmet affairs. Yes, I love to cook and I love to eat healthy and often fancy-ish foods but I also value my free time and sometimes I just don't have the spoons to cook another meal (not to mention the cleanup). There is nothing wrong with an occasional cheese sandwich or good old-fashioned PBJ for lunch with some baby carrots. Unless you actually hate that. Then don't eat it. But you get my drift. If you like veggies & hummus and can get full from that and an apple or a handful of crackers or something, take that for lunch and don't stress about it. My lazy meal is a cheese quesadilla with some taco seasoning and maaaaaybe some beans or veggies if they're already in the fridge, thrown in the microwave. Grilled cheese, a fried egg on toast, boxes of organic soup, or pasta with jarred sauce are other low-effort meals I keep ingredients around for. It's not the most healthy and it's not the most enjoyable but it's decent and always beats going to the store again or spending money on takeout.

sjc0816

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Re: Frugal grocery and cooking advice
« Reply #6 on: February 09, 2018, 08:19:31 AM »
I would plan to cook one more meal per week....OR, be okay with fixing something super simple when you run out of leftovers/meals. We have a family of four, but at least one night a week (sometimes two if my leftovers don't last as long as expected)....we fix something simple like: egg sandwiches and chips, fruit or potatoes....bean and rice burritos, bean and cheese quesadillas, BLT's, etc. I always have cans of refried or black beans, a huge thing of shredded cheese from costco, tortillas in the freezer, tons of eggs....you get the picture.

Zola.

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Re: Frugal grocery and cooking advice
« Reply #7 on: February 09, 2018, 08:30:42 AM »
I cook 3-4 large dishes on the weekend and pre-portion them into single serving containers.
It doesn’t take much more work or time cooking multiple dishes at once than it does to cook one. Plus with at least 3 food options, you never have to repeat the exact same food sequence two days in a row. I cook at least 20 servings of food each weekend: lunch and dinner for 5 days for two people.
Pre-portioning it out ensures that DH doesn’t over serve and mess up my planning.

We were also eating too much meat, so I started making a bunch of vegetarian dishes. I now actually cook almost entirely vegetarian at home.

Any good recipes to share? Ideally ones high in protein, i do a lot of gym work and bjj!



Thanks all for the helpful replies, some 'food for thought!'  :D
« Last Edit: February 09, 2018, 08:35:25 AM by Zola. »

HipGnosis

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Re: Frugal grocery and cooking advice
« Reply #8 on: February 09, 2018, 12:12:11 PM »
Frugal groceries is knowing when and where to buy the things you eat.
A grocery price book shows you where.  It can be done on paper, a spreadsheet or an app.
With mine, I've discovered that a certain gas station has the cheapest milk, bananas and bread. 
Use it in conjunction with the sales flyers of the grocers and stock up when things are a good price - note that just because something is in the flyer doesn't mean it's a real good price.
For me, the big savings are chicken thighs and pork loin or roast (when they are on sale).   I use to buy big bags of frozen vegs, but now I buy the regular bags, when they are on sale.
Soup or stew is always cheaper than a cut of meat with a veg. and a starch.
 

AnnaGrowsAMustache

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Re: Frugal grocery and cooking advice
« Reply #9 on: February 09, 2018, 07:07:40 PM »
I usually include a roast chicken somewhere in the week. Something free range, or it's tasteless. Anyway, you don't have to eat it as a roast - roast veg in a warm salad, pull the meat off to use in something else, simmer the carcass for stock for the freezer etc. A chicken and some veg will do 2 people 3 meals each, counting soup. Possibly more. You can freeze the cooked meat to put in something else later. You can freeze the carcass and boil it up for stock when you have several and can be bothered. I get the organic, macro, free range, high end fresh chickens when it's reduced for quick sale, and just roast as many as I bought at a time. Economic, versatile and easy.

Bee21

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Re: Frugal grocery and cooking advice
« Reply #10 on: February 10, 2018, 02:23:02 AM »
Get a pressure cooker as well. Cook more meals, utilising the oven.

Eg. Tonight we had roast chicken w vegetables (i planned to make them tomorrow but realised that we are low on lunches so I turned tonight into a bulk cooking exercise). So, i threw in an extra sheetpan on roast of veggies, plus a batch of marinated boneless chicken thighs in the same oven for adult lunches during the week. I saved half a breast (=chicken enchilladas on monday), cooked some rice to go with the marinated meat and roast veggies for the lunches, I also made chicken noodle  soup in the pressure cooker (using the backbone and added the cooked noodles in the end), so I will be able to use the stock for other soups. Some of the veggies will be turned into a soup. On thursday I had a ground beef and and pasta session, when I made a large batch of mac n cheese, pasta bake(kids lunches), bolognese sauce, sweedish meatballs (dinners)and asian chicken meatballs(lunches).i made enough to last a couple of weeks. Next week I will stay away from the kitchen, we have enough food to last till friday. I hate these marathon cooking sessions btw but they are great timesavers.

we can't have the same food for more than 2 days in a row.  The pressure cooker is great when you fail to plan as it can make a soup or risotto or a curry in 18-20 minutes. Make a large batch and freeze it for later. If you consistently make double batches of easy to freeze food it is easy to build a variety of meals for your freezer so that you don't get bored and don't run out of food.

Malkynn

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Re: Frugal grocery and cooking advice
« Reply #11 on: February 10, 2018, 03:31:08 AM »
I cook 3-4 large dishes on the weekend and pre-portion them into single serving containers.
It doesn’t take much more work or time cooking multiple dishes at once than it does to cook one. Plus with at least 3 food options, you never have to repeat the exact same food sequence two days in a row. I cook at least 20 servings of food each weekend: lunch and dinner for 5 days for two people.
Pre-portioning it out ensures that DH doesn’t over serve and mess up my planning.

We were also eating too much meat, so I started making a bunch of vegetarian dishes. I now actually cook almost entirely vegetarian at home.

Any good recipes to share? Ideally ones high in protein, i do a lot of gym work and bjj!



Thanks all for the helpful replies, some 'food for thought!'  :D

My DH does a lot of weight lifting, so I tend to add eggs to a lot of his meals for more protein.
This is just a few of the recipes I have, but the others are on Pinterest, so I can’t just easily copy and paste them.

I second getting a pressure cooker, I find it tricky to do 3 meals at once on a stove with only 4 elements, but having the pressure cooker makes it easy to add a 3rd dish cooking at the same time.

https://minimalistbaker.com/simple-chickpea-bolognese/

https://damndelicious.net/2014/04/19/quinoa-black-bean-tacos/

http://www.health.com/recipes/vegetarian-white-bean-chili

http://www.hungryhealthyhappy.com/couscous-feta-and-olive-stuffed-peppers/

https://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/poached-eggs-in-tomato-sauce-with-chickpeas-and-feta-368963/amp

https://umamigirl.com/baked-eggs-potatoes-kale-skillet/


https://umamigirl.com/bean-stew-corn-potatoes/

https://www.skinnytaste.com/spinach-artichoke-and-feta-breakfast/

https://www.theendlessmeal.com/coconut-red-lentil-peanut-soup/

https://veganheaven.org/recipe/creamy-vegan-one-pot-pasta-asian-style/

https://thestonesoup.com/blog/2010/11/the-secret-to-a-perfect-frittata-5-ingredients/

https://www.budgetbytes.com/2015/06/spanish-chickpeas-and-rice/

https://www.budgetbytes.com/2014/05/baked-eggs-spinach-tomatoes/

https://www.budgetbytes.com/2013/05/chana-saag/

Zola.

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Re: Frugal grocery and cooking advice
« Reply #12 on: February 11, 2018, 02:31:48 AM »
wow thanks!!

I have a pressure cooker but I have only used it once, I really need to get practicing with it.

Malkynn

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Re: Frugal grocery and cooking advice
« Reply #13 on: February 11, 2018, 06:08:12 AM »
wow thanks!!

I have a pressure cooker but I have only used it once, I really need to get practicing with it.

It really doesn’t take much practice. I was seriously intimidated by mine, but within 3 uses, I felt confident.

Pinterest is where I get most of my pressure cooker recipes, and so far they’ve all been amazing.

Zola.

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Re: Frugal grocery and cooking advice
« Reply #14 on: February 13, 2018, 05:52:32 AM »
wow thanks!!

I have a pressure cooker but I have only used it once, I really need to get practicing with it.

It really doesn’t take much practice. I was seriously intimidated by mine, but within 3 uses, I felt confident.

Pinterest is where I get most of my pressure cooker recipes, and so far they’ve all been amazing.

I think its knowing how much steam to let out, how much is too little or too much that concerns me! haha

Malkynn

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Re: Frugal grocery and cooking advice
« Reply #15 on: February 13, 2018, 06:16:38 AM »
wow thanks!!

I have a pressure cooker but I have only used it once, I really need to get practicing with it.

It really doesn’t take much practice. I was seriously intimidated by mine, but within 3 uses, I felt confident.

Pinterest is where I get most of my pressure cooker recipes, and so far they’ve all been amazing.

I think its knowing how much steam to let out, how much is too little or too much that concerns me! haha

If you look up instant pot recipes, they will tell you exactly how to release the pressure for that particular dish. I knew literally nothing about mine when I got it for Christmas and haven’t had a single problem with it.

It becomes pretty intuitive: things that can be over cooked need specific release instructions, things like stews and soups don’t usually.

Zola.

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Re: Frugal grocery and cooking advice
« Reply #16 on: February 13, 2018, 07:47:13 AM »
This looks like a good website!

https://www.pressurecookrecipes.com

:)

Kansas Terri

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Re: Frugal grocery and cooking advice
« Reply #17 on: February 13, 2018, 12:09:21 PM »
Would you consider keeping a pantry? Mine is in the closet of my son's old room (he moved to an apartment)

Basically, when something we use a lot of goes on sale I buy a few of it, and it goes in he closet. When I do not wish to go to the store (or when I am feeling like an easy meal) I open some of it up.

For example, 1 box of rice gumbo + 1 can of meat + some froze peas can be put in the rice cooker, and 20 minutes later dinner is served.

And I watch the sales. A couple of times a year the local store gives a free pound of pasta with every 2 jars of Ragu sold, and since Ragu is our favorite spagetti sauce I will get my limit of 12 and pick up the 6 free pounds of noodles. I put noodles in the freezer to keep the moths out of it, and so I generally choose spaghetti noodles as they take up little room. And, 1 can of beef added to the Ragu served over noodles ALSO makes a meal.

Having a pantry saves me money, and also I never have to make a mid-week run to the store. Ever.
« Last Edit: February 13, 2018, 12:17:43 PM by Kansas Terri »

Roadrunner53

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Re: Frugal grocery and cooking advice
« Reply #18 on: February 13, 2018, 12:20:19 PM »
Kansas Terri,

If I move to another house, I plan to convert a whole room into a pantry. A place where I can have all my small appliances and rolling racks with canned, jarred and boxed foods. It would make life so nice to be able to go to a shelf and get something off it without having to unload 10 things nested on top of the thing I want to use. I have a lot of pots and pans and small appliance that would get used more if it wasn't such a chore to get to them.

YES! I want a pantry!

Kansas Terri

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Re: Frugal grocery and cooking advice
« Reply #19 on: February 13, 2018, 01:29:59 PM »
Pantries are awesome. Last week I stubbed my toe pretty bad, and the nail actually lifted a little, and it was shopping day. And It hurt to put a shoe on.

So I did not go shopping.

No biggie. 4 days later we were out of kitty litter and flour and  almost out of bread, so THEN I went shopping: until then there was plenty of food in the house!