Like many of you, I usually cook three meals a day, 7 days a week. I don’t mind, really, but if there are ways to get thing done faster and cheaper and still serve quality meals to my family, I’m all for it.
So, today I thought I’d share with you a few of my best time and money saving tips. I’m not going to mention things like meal planning because we all KNOW that is number one.
1. Buy your canned tomato products in bulk. Every year I set a goal to can enough dehydrated tomatoes, spaghetti sauce, tomatoes and onions, and salsa to last a year. I’ve yet to achieve that goal. So that means for at least a portion of the year I have to buy things like diced tomatoes and tomato paste. If I buy diced tomatoes at the grocery store I pay .79 for a 14.5oz can. I can buy a #10 can for under $4 at Sam’s – that’s 102oz. When I open the can, I scoop out what I need for that meal and then portion out the rest into wide mouth pint size mason jars. I put lids loosely on them and then put them in the refrigerator. The next day I move them to the freezer. I do the same thing with tomato paste, only I portion it out into snack size Ziploc bags. Many regular grocery stores also carry #10 cans of food.
2. Use bacon as a garnish not as a meat. We love our bacon around here but there are a lot of us. So when I get home from the grocery store, I immediately put the bacon in the freezer. If it stays in the refrigerator, it will all get eaten at one meal. When I want to make something with bacon, like eggs or kale salad, I take the bacon out of the freezer and cut an inch or two from the end – across all the slices. Right through the plastic. Then I put it in a ziplock bag and put it back in the freezer. For eggs, I fry the bacon and when it’s done pour the eggs in to scramble. So we get all the flavor, I don’t have to spend the time frying up an entire package of bacon and I get several meals from one package of bacon.
3. Use regular mouth canning jars instead of your blender carafe. I mentioned this in pesto preserving post. I learned from Heather, The Homesteading Hippy, that the blender blade and locking cap of many brands of blenders fit a regular mouth mason jar. Now, when just one person wants a smoothie, it gets made right in the glass he’ll be drinking it out of. This has been life changing, I tell you.
4. Make a big pot of pinto beans every couple of weeks. For us, big means a four pound bag of dried beans. This is my super secret survival trick. Every two weeks or so I cook four pounds of beans in my roaster oven. When they are done, I let them cool and then put them in containers and freeze them. I prefer to use these glass containers but I’ve also used old yogurt containers from store bought yogurt. With these beans I can make bean burritos, taco salad, chalupas and taco soup, to just name a few things. Also, it doesn’t take long to defrost beans in the microwave – which is always a plus.
5. Rotisserie chicken and boxed salad instead of fast food. It happens to all of us. There are just some days that don’t go as planned and it’s now dinner time and we have nothing fixed or even thawed – we may not even be home. We just want to eat and have the day be over. (Maybe that’s just me, but I have a feeling I’m not alone.) Sometimes our family just has popcorn for dinner on these nights. But if either Carl or I (or one of our children who drives) is in town, we’ll stop by the grocery store and buy a rotisserie chicken or two and some ready made salad. I KNOW it’s not as cheap as cooking at home but for about $15 I can feed our whole family something more nutritious than Little Caesar’s. I learned this from my (in real life) friend Kara from Home With Purpose.
Your turn. What are your best time and money saving kitchen tips or tricks?