We all have to eat, but the annual cost to buy food at the store or in a restaurant adds up. In fact, food expenditures total about $6,800, or 13 percent of our total annual spending, says the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Consumer Expenditure Survey. The good news, however, is that if you are working to cut back your budget, food costs are one place where you can find savings.
Preparing your meals at home is one way to save. Relying on recipes that feature inexpensive, but healthy ingredients, is another way. Just be ready to use your slow cooker and make friends with the $1 bags of vegetables in the frozen foods aisle.
Black Beans and Rice
Beans are nutritious and cheap. A one-pound bag of dried beans, at roughly $2 per bag, will serve about 10 people when cooked.
To prepare, add one pound of dried beans, six cups of water, a diced onion and a couple of garlic cloves to your slow cooker. Cover the pot and cook for three hours on high or six or seven hours on low. Add salt to taste. Serve over cooked rice, which costs about $1.50 per one-pound bag and serves 10 people. Top the dish with cheese, salsa or sour cream. Serve with frozen vegetables.
Homemade Spaghetti Sauce
A 24-ounce jar of spaghetti sauce will cost between $2 and $5 and be enough for a single meal for a family of four. You can spend almost the same amount by making your own sauce -- and have leftovers for another day.
In your slow cooker, combine two 28-ounce cans of crushed tomatoes, which cost about $1 each; one six-ounce can of tomato paste, which costs about 50 cents; one diced onion; a few cloves of chopped garlic; and two tablespoons of Italian seasoning. Stir and cook on low for eight hours. Serve over pasta, which costs about $1 per pound, and with a bag of frozen veggies. Freeze the leftover sauce or save it for another meal later in the week.
The average price per pound for a whole chicken, which typically weigh 3.5 pounds, is $1.48. At that size and price, a whole chicken will cost about $5.20 and serve six to eight people. What’s more, the bones can be used to make chicken broth for future meals. Kitchn.com has easy recipes for roasting whole chickens and turning the bones into broth. Don’t have time to roast a chicken in your oven? Slow cook it. Serve the chicken with some rice and beans from earlier in the week and a bag of frozen vegetables or fresh veggies that are on sale.
Eggs are packed with vitamins, protein and minerals and, at about $1.70 per dozen, are very affordable. A simple frittata requires just some eggs, milk, onion, salt, pepper and oil. If you have leftover vegetables or meat, mix them in. Epicurious.com has an easy recipe for frittatas.
Homemade soups pack nutrients and not much of a punch on your wallet. In fact, RealFoodDeals.com lists 25 soups that cost less than $1 per serving, including a dumpling soup that will set you back just 21 cents per serving.
By simply including these and other frugal recipes into your meal rotation, you can feel good about the food you’re serving your family … and the savings you’re seeing at the store.
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