Have you wondered how to stretch your dollars while eating healthy? There are a variety of creative ways to make food last longer, and preserve your budget while eating real, healthy food.
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 some money-saving tips I’ve learned through the years:
1. Find a home for leftover meats, poultry, and fish.
Omelets, soups, stews, casseroles, sauces, stir frys, potato and rice dishes. There are endless possibilities.
2. Save leftover vegetables.
These can also go in many foods like omelets, soups, casseroles, and stir frys.
3. Use the carcass.
Chicken carcasses are great for soups and broths. These are nutrient-dense foods that add flavor and can be used in a wide variety of foods. We use stock every single day in our cooking and food preparation for soups, stews, sauces, marinades, for braising meats, poultry, fish and vegetables, and for homemade refried beans. We use stock anytime we need moisture. For this reason, it is a great tool for reheating leftovers.
4. Keep bones and use them for stock, broth, soups and more.
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.
5. 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.
6. Have a few meatless meals.
Instead of using meat, poultry, or fish with every meal, use bone broths, cheese, butter, ghee and other dairy, lard, tallow, or others including goose or duck fat, olive oil, coconut oil or a combination of these. Cook rice or potatoes and vegetables in traditional fats for added nutrients and flavor.
7. 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.
8. Make your own salad dressing.
A bottle of salad dressing from the store costs anywhere from $1.99 and up, more for the so-called “healthier” brands. Most brands on the market are anything but healthy, even “organic” and “natural” brands. Many such products contain vegetable oils and other toxic ingredients. Vegetable oils are high in polyunsaturated fats which are easily damaged by heat and long periods of shelf storage. Polyunsaturated fats are highly processed with heat and chemicals, and by the time they get to the shelf are rancid. That cheap bottle of $1.99 salad dressing will cost you more down the road in chronic health problems.
With a bottle of organic olive oil and balsamic or red wine vinegar, salt, pepper and some herbs, you can be well on your way to making a healthy, delicious dressing. You can also incorporate other ingredients such as real organic soy sauce, chicken broth, salsa, mustard, lemon, lime, sour cream, kefir or yogurt for alternative textures/flavors. The possibilities are endless.
Recommended brands of olive oil and vinegar:
Bragg’s Organic Extra Virgin Olive Oil or Bariani California Olive Oil, Coconut Secret Raw Coconut Organic Vinegar, Bragg’s Raw Unfiltered Apple Cider Vinegar, Eden Foods Organic Raw Red Wine Vinegar, and Bionaturae Organic Balsamic Vinegar.
Mix these together in a 3 to 1 ratio (olive oil to vinegar), add salt, pepper, spices, and you’ll have a delicious salad dressing that is good for you.
Recommended unrefined salt brands:
9. Use sour raw milk.
10. Make your own kombucha and fermented foods.
Did you know fermented foods are supportive of digestive and immune health? That translates to better overall well-being, which is something most of us would like to have.
You can find a variety of these wonderful, probiotic-rich foods at the store, but they are typically expensive and usually don’t go undergo the same fermentation time as those you can make at home. For example, store-bought kombucha, which usually provides 14-16 ounces and costs anywhere from $2.50 to over $5 a bottle. If you make it at home, you can make a gallon of kombucha for $1 or less, depending on the amount you spend for ingredients (filtered water, tea, and sugar). Store-bought kombucha is also sweeter which means more sugar and less probiotic cultures, and therefore less benefit to your digestive tract and immune system.
Like kombucha and other store-bought fermented drinks, fermentation times for store-bought yogurt, kefir, sour cream, sauerkraut, pickles, or other fermented vegetables are shorter as well. Depending on the brand, what you are getting is usually 4-12 hours. Some do ferment longer, but ultimately you have the most control making your own as you can leave your fermented foods to culture as long as you want. Cultured dairy foods and some pickles, sauerkraut, or other vegetables available at the store are also often pasteurized, which greatly diminishes probiotic content, enzymes, and valuable nutrients found in these foods.
I highly recommend Kombucha Kamp for all your kombucha making-needs. Our family has been brewing our own kombucha for over 2 years, and we absolutely love it! I can’t tell you how excited I am each morning to wake up and have a cup of the kombucha that’s been brewing and is ready to drink. We have a continuous batch brewing system in place so that we have kombucha ready each day. My family loves the taste and we are quite dependent on this lovely, sparkling beverage for its many supportive health benefits.
Check out this continuous brewing system from Kombucha Kamp which includes everything you need to get your brewing system started. We already had a brewing system in place when I discovered Kombucha Kamp’s products. This is what we will purchase when our current system is no longer functional.
Be sure to sign up for Kombucha Kamp’s e-mail list. When you sign up, you’ll receive the DIY guide and e-book FREE!
11. Buy in season.
Buying in season often means lower prices. Foods that are not in season and that have to be shipped in are more expensive in more ways than one.
12. 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.
13. Cook from scratch.
Anything you buy that’s processed or already prepared may seem cheaper up front, but has the potential to add costs later (especially where health is concerned).
14. 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 saves 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.
15. Plan ahead and make lists.
I don’t always do this, but when I do, I reap the benefits of organization.
16. Consult the Dirty Dozen.
Although I 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 or find yourself in a situation where organic is not available.
17. Plant a garden.
If you grow your own food, the savings are substantial.
18. 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 preferable, or zippered BPA and other toxin-free plastic bag in a cool, dark place.
19. 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.
Buying meat or other animal foods in bulk from a farmer is a great way to save money over the longer term. If you are in a position to purchase a quarter, half, or side of meat or 20 chickens at a time from a farmer (and enlist a friend or two to share the cost) and have the freezer space, you can purchase a bulk amount of meat, poultry, or some other food you consume regularly. This may require the purchase of a larger chest freezer or something similar if you don’t currently have one. But, this is a one or long-time purchase that will enable you to reap the benefits of buying meat in bulk.
20. Instead of toxic, costly cleaners, use natural substances such as vinegar, lemon, and baking soda to clean everything in your house.
Use 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.
21. 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. Lifefactory bottles are an excellent
22. 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. If you are brewing kombucha and have extra SCOBYs (the culture and yeast colony from your brewing activities) that you can’t use otherwise, you can include these in your compost for more beneficial bacteria.
23. 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.
24. 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 (community supported agriculture) 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 each week. I also made a new friend.
Consider volunteering through a farm, local community garden or CSA as a way to receive food or credits in return, and as a way to give back to your local community and support the efforts of mindful farmers who are raising and producing real, healthy foods and other products.