If you’re like most people these days, you’re watching what you spend and cutting back on unnecessary expenses, like dinners out. Still, the more you eat at home, the higher your supermarket bills are -- and they can skyrocket depending on what you cook.
So how do you reduce food costs without spoiling your appetite? Here are four easy, tasty ways to save money while still eating what you love.
1. Buy big, cook small.
The most costly ingredient in many dishes is meat. But if you stock up when your favorite cuts go on sale, you can trim a lot from your bill. “Many stores will cut prices on meat when it gets close to its ‘sell by’ date,” says Kimberly Danger, author of Instant Bargains: 600+ Ways to Shrink Your Grocery Bills and Eat Well for Less and founder of mommysavers.com.
Some of the biggest supermarket savings occur when you buy large “family packs” of steaks, ground beef and chicken. Buy in bulk, divide into small packages (one or two portions each) and freeze.
To stretch your dollar even further, choose dishes that require smaller amounts of meat or poultry. For example, if your family loves steak, instead of taking four individual portions out of the freezer, defrost just two or three, grill and slice, and serve them over a big Caesar salad. Or take out two or three chicken breasts, grill and slice them, and make fajitas.
2. Make smart meat substitutions.
When it comes to chicken, all parts are not equal. “Chicken wings and thighs are much less expensive than boneless breasts, and they taste great when they’re marinated,” says Danger. Many chicken recipes call for these parts anyway.
With meat, the cut really counts. Many cuts sell upward of $8 a pound. For less than $5 a pound, try grilling top blade steak, broiling lamb blade chops or pot-roasting pork top loin.
3. Make meat kebabs.
For ultimate portion control, break out the skewers and stack chunks of meat on one-third of them and cut-up veggies on two-thirds. Choose inexpensive vegetables such as green peppers, onions, mushrooms or potatoes, and skewer them based on cooking times. Your family will automatically eat less meat than if you cooked individual portions for everyone and served them with a side of vegetables. “The key to kebabs is using a good marinade that infuses everything with great flavor,” says Danger.
4. Supersize the sides.
“Meat is usually the main focus of the meal, but offering inexpensive yet flavorful accompaniments allows you to get away with smaller portions,” says Danger. Here are some inexpensive, healthy and filling options:
Couscous with chickpeas
Whole-wheat vegetable pilaf
Cold sesame noodles
Roasted sweet potatoes
Roasted cauliflower with pine nuts
Dark-leaf salad with mixed veggies and either walnuts or shelled pistachios
5. Crumble beef before serving.
When it comes to flavor, a little meat goes a long way. Instead of spaghetti and meatballs, whip up a meat sauce -- using half the amount of ground beef or turkey. If your family can eat 2 pounds of grilled sausage in a sitting, crumble and brown 1 pound of links instead, and make homemade sausage pizza using fresh or frozen dough.
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