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Waste Not, Want Not: Tips for Saving in The Kitchen

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Do you ever wonder how people eat healthy and save money? There are many ways to cut corners and make food last longer, thus saving a few bucks.

One way is to waste nothing (or as little as possible). I’ve noticed that the less I waste, the longer my food lasts and the fewer trips I make to the store or the farm. It’s a pretty reliable system.

Here are just a few of money-saving tips I’ve learned over time and through trial and error:

Find a home for leftover meats. Omelets, soups, stews, casseroles, stir frys, rice dishes…endless possibilities.

Save leftover vegetables. These can also go in many foods like omelets, soups, casseroles, and stir frys.

Use the carcass. Chicken carcasses are great for soups and broths.

Keep bones. Bones are good for soups and broths. I save my meat bones every time we have a meal and put them in a container in my freezer.

Save fat. We keep bacon drippings in a jar to use with all kinds of cooking – vegetables, garlic, onions, scrambled eggs, even to cook with other meats. But my favorite way to use it is to make refried beans. Yum!! There are so many other possibilities with leftover fats – again, soups, stews, casseroles, sautees, stir frying, etc.

Have a few meatless meals. Instead of using meat with every meal, use bone broths, cheese, butter, and other dairy, olive oil, coconut oil, or even cook your rice and vegetables in lard or tallow for your healthy fats and loads of flavor.

Freeze anything you can’t use right away. If you make a large meal that has leftovers and you know you won’t be able to eat it in the next day or two, freeze it.

Make your own salad dressing. A bottle of salad dressing from the store costs anywhere from $1.99 and up, more for the “healthier” brands. I’m here to tell you that most of the brands on the market are not healthy, even the “organic” and natural brands because most of them contain vegetable oils = bad. And that $1.99 brand will cost you more down the road in chronic health problems.

Do yourself a favor and buy a bottle of olive oil, and a bottle of balsamic and red wine, or whatever your favorite vinegars might be. Mix these together in a 3 to 1 ratio (olive oil to vinegar), throw in some salt, pepper, spices, and you have a delicious salad dressing that is good for you. You can add many other ingredients to salad dressings. Get creative. Here is my home-made salad dressing recipe link. There’s even one there for home-made ranch dressing!

Use sour raw milk. This is a fantastic and versatile health food! Make yogurt or kefir, buttermilk or cream cheese, smoothies, and use in cooking – think pancakes, hot cereal, or mashed potatoes.

Buy in season. Buying in season guarantees a lower price. Foods that are not in season and that have to be shipped in are more expensive in more ways than one.

Buy local and buy direct. Local products are often cheaper because there are no transportation or other associated costs for the farmer/merchant. You may have to spend money on gas to go pick something up that is local, but you can plan your trips or carpool and make more than one stop on your way to other necessary obligations/tasks.

Cook from scratch. Anything you buy that’s already been prepared will cost more up front or on the back end (health problems later), or both. Here are some recipes for ideas.

Eat more nutrient-dense foods, and less junk. You will get full and stay that way longer, which will cut back on eating between meals and save money. If you are eating a lot of junk, you will be hungry more often, and have to keep eating more to get full – but you won’t be full, and your body will pay for it in the end.

Plan ahead and make lists. I don’t always do this, but when I do, I reap the benefits.

Consult the Dirty Dozen.  Although I always try to buy organic whenever I can, sometimes this is not possible. Find out which foods are best to buy organic, and which can be left to conventional selections if you are on a budget.

Plant a garden. If you grow your own food, the savings are substantial.

Grow and dry your own herbs. Wash them and shake them of moisture and dirt or insects that may have become trapped. You can bunch herbs together and secure with a tie, then hang them upside down for 1 – 3 weeks. Use care to tie the string securely around the herbs, but not too tightly which can cause broken stems. Best place to hang is in a dark, dry, well-ventilated area. Herbs are dry when they feel crumbly to the touch. You can also use a food dehydrator or oven (if you have a setting that goes down to 150 degrees). Wash, rinse and allow to dry thoroughly. When dry, place a parchment paper sheet in your dehydrator or oven. Place in the device of your choice for 40-45 minutes or until crumbly and dry. Make certain to spread well out and not overlap while drying. Store in an air-tight container, glass is best, or zippered plastic bag in a cool, dark place.

Buy whole foods, and buy in bulk when appropriate. Some bulk items are cheaper, but some are lower quality. Weigh those factors with whether to buy from bulk bins, frozen, fresh, or from the farm directly. A bag of prepared lettuce may seem more convenient, but a head of lettuce is usually cheaper and the savings on packaging is better on the environment.

Instead of toxic, costly cleaners, use vinegar to clean everything in your house. Use about 6 – 7 to 1 ratio of water to vinegar for cleaning. Walls, floors, counters, glass containers, bathrooms, sinks, toilets, and almost any surface you can think of.

Reuse containers. We have a bunch of glass containers and jars in our house that we’ve saved from products we’ve purchased, and they come in handy in many instances. My daily water container, for example, is a 32 ounce (liter) glass jar from unsweetened cranberry juices I buy. Use single-serving juice jars for drinks and baby food and small jars for lunches and to-go food packs. If you must use something disposable, use parchment or glass lids (plates turned upside down work too!), or paper bags. They are reusable, biodegradable, and better for health.

Throw all your organic matter into a compost bin. It’s amazing how fast you can create a wonderful, healthy pile of dirt for your garden by depositing your mustard and carrot greens, avocado peels, apple cores, coffee grounds, and egg shells into your compost bin.

Share with others. If you are going to pick up meat, milk, or produce from a local farm, find others in your area who also want to do this and share responsibility for pick up/delivery. We share our milk delivery with three other families, and thus only have to pick up milk once a month from the farm that is 30+ miles away.

Be willing to volunteer and you’ll reap benefits. A few years back, a woman who was selling locally-produced vegetables and fruits needed delivery drivers to take items around to subscribers on her CSA routes. I volunteered to be a driver to take produce crates around in my own neighborhood and in exchange I got a free crate of fruits/vegetables in return every week. I also made a new friend.  :)

More money saving tips:

Food budgets – using creativity and prioritizing for healthy eating

Proof that nourishing food doesn’t have to cost bundle, is nourishing, and satisfies!

Time and money saving tips – the real health and financial implications of food allergies

Eating healthy in a time of recession

Time and money saving tips – getting the most out of your vegetables

Want to know more about real food?

How well do you know your food? Find out!

What are your tricks and tips for saving in the kitchen? Please share!

This post is part of Food Renegade’s Fight Back Fridays Carnival. Please visit Kristen’s site and read all the other real food posts linked there.

What are your tricks and tips for saving in the kitchen? Please share!