The frugal kitchen: Eat healthy and save money

January 10th 2013

Frugal living is a way of life which has been mastered and fine tuned to an extent where you won’t feel deprived of worldly pleasures by cutting back on unnecessary expenditures. Most people resort to budget cuts and yard sales in order to live frugally. What they don’t realize is that living a financially prudent and Spartan life is not just about stuffing pocket change into a bank account. It is rather a way of life which encompasses everything, right from the power rating of the appliances you buy down to the ingredients on your kitchen shelf. Here are some kitchen tactics to complement your frugal diet and lifestyle.

Shopping tips

Saving money on food has to start outside the kitchen simply because a little bit of organized shopping can go a long way in setting up your frugal kitchen.

  • Purchase in bulk – There are multiple advantages in buying food material in bulk quantities. In case you’re purchasing large quantities of food material at one go, you would have to travel less to the local supermarket or the grocery store. Buying what you need for the entire week at once will not only save you the pain of going to the market everyday but also let you save on your car’s fuel bill. Moreover, merchants also provide discounts on bulk purchases as an incentive for customers, encouraging them to buy more.
  • Make a list – One of the worst mistakes that people make while they are out buying groceries is that they just go in with a very vague idea of what they need. This eventually results in a lot of needless items in the shopping cart as well as an unnecessarily long bill. Most of the times people just end up forgetting to buy the bare kitchen and fridge essentials and end up running to the store every other day. The best solution to avoid such a situation is to take inventory of your kitchen, stores and freezer and list the things that you would require according to priority. Take some time to make the list and ensure that you review it before finally going out shopping.
  • Plan the menu – A little bit of planning what you are going to eat will go a long way in saving money and keeping your grocery list concise. Do a weekly or bi-weekly menu plan and then build your grocery list accordingly. You can still add a margin for adding a few things to the cart while you are out shopping without losing focus on what you essentially need.
  • Build a kitchen garden – This is one of the inexpensive ways to ensure a steady and fresh supply of herbs and spices. Although you would need to buy the more exotic stuff like cardamoms and cinnamon, you can easily grow stuff like parsley, basil, thyme and rosemary in your own back yard. Even if you don’t have enough space to build a full scale kitchen garden, you can opt to use small sunlit spaces like the window sill or the balcony and set up flower pots for the plants. You can acquire the seeds and saplings from your local nursery or buy them online.

Cooking tricks

Once you are done shopping and getting things ready, its time to get into the kitchen and learn how to optimize the utilization of your resources.

  • Reduce wastage – Most people don’t realize that there is a lot of unconscious wastage that occurs every time they set out to cook a meal. There are some ingredients as well which people don’t realize are edible and end up dumping it in the trash. When you boil chicken, use the liquid left over in the saucepan for making soups and sauces. You can also boil noodles or rice in the liquid to make it more flavorful. You can also use the liquid to steam dumplings to enhance their flavor. There are many such things all over the kitchen which people don’t know are usable and end up wasting them which adds to the weekly food budget.
  • Co-ordinate ingredients and dishes – Ensure that the ingredients you buy can be used for multiple dishes. This will enable you to buy each item in bulk quantities and also reduce the number of other ingredients you will need to cook a meal. For example, you can fry bacon for breakfast, chop up a few fried bacon slices and use them in a salad, and you can use the same chopped bacon for dinner along with spicy baked beans. Just mix and match and spread out your menu evenly so that you don’t have to repeat the same ingredient too many times.
  • Reprocess leftovers – A bowlful of sautéed vegetables from lunch, that handful of chicken nuggets from dinner and the little bit of spicy curry left over from the Indian food that you had ordered out will eventually end up in the dustbin. Don’t neglect leftovers. Statistically speaking, the quantity of leftovers accumulated in 2 days by the average American family can be reused to make 2 complete meals. Put all the chicken and the veggies on a tray, cover it with a sauce and bake in an oven or just drop them all into a stockpot and turn it into a soup. You can also find various creative ways to reuse leftovers and save money along the way.

Cooking is an art and frugal living is a way of life. If you can successfully combine both, you will be able to eat healthy without spending a fortune. You will also be able to reduce the amount of time and energy spent in the kitchen, leaving you free to take care of other things.

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