Times are tough for many families and individuals lately. The economy is in a slump, consequently convincing people to spend less in fear of their job security. It never hurts to plan for the worst case scenario, and I am one of those people who plan for it. You don't need to dine out at some trendy bistro to get your gourmet fix. A few cost-effective tips can bring the bistro home without the bistro-style bill.
#1 - Invest in a Slow Cooker: You might be thinking, "I thought I was supposed to save money, not spend more." The truth of the matter is, a slow cooker will pay for itself. The benefit is that a slow cooker can turn a cheap cut of meat into the tender flavors of expensive cuts. Cheap cuts of meat are labeled as such because they have more connective tissue and less marbling in the meat, the slow cooker breaks down that connective tissue and therefore making the meat just fall apart during that low-n-slow cooking process. Another added benefit is that you don't have to slave away over the stove, the slow cooker does the work for you! Slow cookers started the entire concept of "set it and forget it," ideal for those with not a lot of time OR money. A slow cooker can start as inexpensive as 20 dollars for the smaller ones. Check out Amazon.com and find which slow cooker is best for you.
#2 Less is more: Simple meals are classic meals. Don't try to make something complicated with a laundry list of ingredients. You can make a meal with 6 ingredients or less and have some tasty and inexpensive plates to serve up. I recommend reading these books: Six Ingredients or Less by Carlean Johnson and Six Ingredients or Less: Cooking Light & Healthy by Carlean Johnson. I own and use both of these books, and I must admit, they are helpful in a crunch.
#3 Utilize Your Leftovers!: Leftovers don't have to be redundant and reheated. Take some pantry staples and integrate them with leftover meats and sides to create something new! This saves you money by extending you meals through the week. You can make meals such as casseroles, panini sandwiches, empanadas, pot pies, quiches, soups, and more! Just remember to have a few of these staples handy: cream soups, cheese, frozen or leftover veggies, and canned broth (boullion cubes can work also).
#4 Coupons are life savers! Some of you may have heard those amazing stories of penny-pinching moms using a stack of coupons to save 100+ dollars on their grocery bills. That might be a far-fetched feat for those who are always on the go, because collecting THAT many coupons takes a tremendous amount of time. If you spend just a portion of that time, however, you can collect enough to save maybe 20+ dollars instead. The internet has struck again in providing a plethora of information, coupons included. Rummage through a few of these coupon sites and see if you find your favorite products: Coupon Surfer, Slick Deals, Cool Savings, and Coupon Mom just to name a few.
#5 Avoid Over-Indulgence: Just because you make a large dinner, doesn't mean you need to gorge on everything you see on your plate. Making meals with smaller portions not only stretches your food supply, but it also helps your metabolism stay high. Another recommendation is to drink more fluids. You've heard it all the time, but a higher fluid intake not only helps you stay hydrated, it's also half the reason why your stomach rumbles. Too often, we mistake hunger for simply thirst.
Don't let the shabby economy limit your culinary creativity. These top 5 tips will noticably trim down your food expenses, and also turn you into a more talented and innovative cook. Frugality and resourcefulness will take you far and save some cash.