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10 Ways to Save Money in the Kitchen

Posted Feb 12 2010 12:00am

48_PenneSummerGardenSauceSaving $0.12 on one item in the checkout-line doesn’t really ease the strain on your wallet. But saving a little bit on everything adds up to a lot over time. Here are 10 ways to jump-start your savings for 2010!

1. Prioritize Your Organics

If you haven’t heard of The Dirty Dozen, start to familiarize yourself with the produce on that list. It tells you the most important foods to buy organic (peaches, apples, bell peppers, pears, kale, celery, nectarines, strawberries, cherries, imported grapes, and spinach). Organic produce does typically cost more than the non-organic alternative, but here’s what you can do: Supplement the foods on the Dirty Dozen list with those that are free of pesticides and don’t have to be organic to be safe to eat. For instance, if strawberries are a must on your grocery list, choose other produce items for the week that are on the “Consistently Clean” list, such as: onions, avocados, sweet potatoes, corn, papaya, mango, pineapple, asparagus, kiwi, broccoli, cabbage and sweet peas. This will bring down your bill and make conscious decisions routine.

2. Buy Certain Items in Bulk

Beans, grains and lentils are perfect items to buy in bulk because they store easily and do not spoil quickly. In addition, they are cheaper in larger quantities. For example, when you buy quinoa in a box, it can cost up to $5.79/12oz (about ¾ of a pound). However, if you buy (organic) quinoa in bulk, it is only3.39/lb! Therefore, pound for pound, you are saving on average $4.33/lb! Now that will add up fast! I keep my quinoa and other grains in a large ceramic container with a sealable top on my kitchen counter for easy access and storage.

3. Buy Quickly Perishable Produce in SMALLER Quantities.

One of the fastest ways money disappears is over-purchasing produce only to have it rot on your counter top or in the bottom of the fridge. We have all over purchased, its no crime, but if it happens every week, it could put a major dent in your spending. If you are having trouble figuring out what you actually need, just be aware next time you purchase a bunch of apples (or any other fruit) and see how fast they go. If the answer is “not so fast,” then cut your produce in half next time. Additionally, certain produce freeze well so if you have over purchased, and you don’t think it is possible to consume all of your produce in a timely manner, eat the items that won’t freeze well first and then prep the others for your freezer. For example, dice leftover peppers and put them in a glass storage container to freeze and add to soups, chili or stir fry in the future. Also, you could sauté your greens, let them cool and freeze them as well.

4. Serve Yourself and Your Family in Smaller Portions

We all know portion control can have a slimming impact on your waistline, but it can do the same to your spending! Our eyes tend to be bigger than our stomachs so we pile food on our plates only to throw half away in the trash. Instead, serve a smaller portion and go back for seconds if you’re still hungry. That way, there should be more “untouched” food for leftovers.

5. Use Your Leftovers!

How often do you have the best intention for leftovers but end up leaving them in the fridge until they resemble something that grows on a rock?! No one wants to deal with that, so make use of them! Revive leftovers with a fresh ingredient. For example, top fresh romaine lettuce with last nights steamed broccoli or roasted veggies, add balsamic vinegar and olive oil and maybe a tablespoon of slivered almonds and you have yourself a gourmet salad!

6. Buy Local

It’s not always possible, but when you can, buy food that is grown locally. Not only will this make an impact on the environment, but it eliminates the added cost of shipping (sometimes overseas) for food that can be grown down the street.

7. Buy Fresh and Freeze

For most of us, certain fruits and veggies are only available at certain times of the year. If you do not want to sacrifice them the rest of the year, but can’t afford $6/ ½ pint of blueberries, buy them seasonally and freeze them for the off season. For produce like blueberries, wash them and let them dry completely. Place the blueberries on a sheet pan in a single layer and let them freeze over night. Scoop frozen blueberries into a glass storage container and keep them in the freezer for up to 3 months.

8. Eat Vegetarian 2-3x/Week

Saving money also means getting healthier food choices: meat costs more than beans! Replace your meat dinners with a vegetable alternative just 2-3 times per week and the savings will start piling up. Here’s a comparison: 1 can (16 oz) of organic beans (generic brand) will cost $0.99 on average vs. 1 lb (16 oz) of organic beef will cost $5.99 on average. That is a savings of $5.00/lb! If you replace 1 lb of beef with 1 can of beans just twice a week, you will save close to $500 per year!

9. Plan Ahead

It may sound daunting, but taking the time to plan out your menu for the week and make a grocery list will help to eliminate unnecessary spending. That, and not going to the grocery store when you are hungry. Visit The Six O’Clock Scramble for weekly meal plans and delicious recipes – complete with a shopping list!

10. Cook at Home

Even “inexpensive” meals out can be less cost effective than the same meal eating in. This is where the biggest savings comes in. It is quicker to go out, grab something on the run or buy lunch at work, but if you get in a routine and plan on the time it takes to make a sandwich or quick salad for yourself to take to work, it will make the biggest impact on your wallet!

Start whipping up family dinners a few nights a week with these excellent recipes from Eat Healthy:

Homemade Greek-Style Veggie Burgers

Pasta with Greens and Feta

Image Courtesy of Earthbound Farm.

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