Kathy Petersen’s Blog

Reducing the cost of food

Posted in frugal by Kathy on March 13, 2008

In my last post, I talked about how my food budget stacked up against the USDA “cost of food” chart. This is a continuation of the thoughts in the last post….

One thing we could do that we don’t is to eat more vegetarian meals. I’m not talking about weird stuff, because from the vegetarian and vegan recipes I’ve seen, most of the “weird stuff” is either impossible to get in rural Mississippi or is very expensive. My husband is not a “meat and potatoes” person, but he does like to eat meat with things. So I’m going to “less-meat” meals, like stir-fry with lots of vegetables and a little meat, casseroles, salads, soups, stews, and just simply large portions of veggies with small portions of meat. I’m incorporating a lot more meatless meals in the food that the kids and I eat when my husband is at work. I try not to do too many non-nutritious foods like macaroni and cheese, but PBJ is a staple meal for my kids (I use natural peanut butter, not the hydrogenated crap; and home-made buns or bread which is made with some whole-wheat flour). I’m trying to find different recipes for rice and beans, but the main ones are “red beans and rice” and “refried beans with Mexican rice.” These are good, but most refried beans use lard (which I don’t think is healthy), and the red beans and rice is flavored with ham or bacon. Still, it’s a lot less expensive than eating a big portion of ham with a dab of mashed potatoes and a dollop of green beans! I make my own refried beans, but they’re not as good (probably because I don’t use lard or shortening in them). Dry beans are just plain cheap. Brown rice is more expensive than white, but it’s at least healthy. I call white rice “rice starch” because that’s really all it is–almost no nutrition at all. My husband doesn’t like it most of the time, but if the rice is flavored (like Mexican rice or in red beans and rice) he’s okay with it–but only white rice with Chinese! Anyway, he’s given me the go-ahead to have rice and beans occasionally, so that’s a step in the right direction.

I do bake a lot, and cook real meals most of the time. So the foods we eat are almost entirely made from scratch, and I use whole wheat in a lot of things. Breakfasts most mornings are home-made, and include things like oatmeal, muffins, waffles, pancakes, or toast. Usually, I’ll make up a large batch or even a double batch of the baked goods, and freeze the surplus. So, I’ll cook muffins one day and eat them for several days, so breakfast is very easy. We are health-conscious (to a degree), so we don’t eat very many snacks and desserts.

While my husband drinks Gatorade (I bought a large can from the salvage store and reconstitute it), I try to drink only water, and give the kids one glass of juice per day, and make them drink water the rest of the time. [My older son would happily consume nothing but juice ’round the clock. He one time threw up because he drank nearly three glasses in a row. Yes, I was stupid enough to give them to him, but I was emptying out the container of juice, and filling up juice cups (they were diluted with half water), and I never thought he’d drink all of them.] When I figured out how much juice he was drinking on a regular basis–not to mention how much I was spending on juice per month–I decided it was ridiculous, and cut him back.  About the only good thing about the juice is that at least I was getting it at the salvage store, so it was about half as expensive as what it is normally in the store. But it’s still too much for what is essentially empty calories.

To be continued….

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