This might be my very favorite post in my series of Real Food on a Budget. I think this tip has a ton of potential to cut down on your grocery bill and also lead to some creative genius in your meals! How many of us have a bottle of something or another sitting on a shelf that we swear we’re going to use one day? Or that half used pack of rice noodles that look at you longingly. A great way to cut down your food bill while eating real foods is to actually use them. Even if you’re eating real, whole foods chances are you will have some dry ingredients that begin to take over your cupboards.
There are some creative ways to incorporate half used ingredients that will go a long way to stretch your budget. Last night was a good example of this. Usually when I buy chicken breasts they come in packs of 4 but I generally only cook 2 or maybe 3. I put the other into the freezer. Now I can’t make much with a single chicken breast, especially when feeding 4 people but I can incorporate it. After reviewing my cupboards I discovered the package of rice noodles. In my fridge there was 2 handfuls of peapods and maybe 2 cups of chopped broccoli. None of these alone would have made a meal. But they did make a great stir fry. By using only the bits and pieces of things I had on hand I put together a really great dinner.
You no doubt have many things sitting around that alone wouldn’t make much of a meal but can be combined to make something delicious and inexpensive. Here are some examples of “pantry meals” to stretch your budget.
- Stir fry
- Pasta Puttanesca (really any type of pasta can be mixed with vegetables and a little cheese to make a satisfying meal!)
- Toss Up Salads – put out all the odds and ends of vegetables you have, any dry items from your pantry like nuts, croutons, etc and dressing – make your own!
- Tuna Melt Sandwiches
- Stone Soup – just like the story, this kind of soup is really whatever you might have laying around!
- Homemade hummus with vegetables
- Lentil Burgers (or any bean will work!)
- Beans and Rice
This is just the tip of the iceberg. When you’re meal planning this week consider what you already have on hand. You might be able to cut back on your purchases even more!