Sunday, March 13, 2011

Eating on a budget: Cook what is on sale

Tips on eating on the cheap.

We tend to get an idea in our minds of what we want for dinner, write a list, go to a nearby store, buy all the ingredients, and cook it for supper. Actually, that is a cumbersome and arrogant way to cook, and expensive, too.

Most of the world eats what is locally available, not being able to afford trucked-in specialties and off season produce. Deciding beforehand what we want to eat and then going out to buy it is a backwards way to go about it. Quite often, this or that ingredient we've bought for that meal or this is something you rarely use and will go over in the fridge or get lost in the condiment cupboard.

Go to the store, buy what is on sale, come home and then cook what you've bought and add to it what you have on hand. It takes a bit of creativity but after a while you will get used to thinking on your feet and cooking by combining sale ingredients with ingredients you already have.

This week at the store, cantaloupes were on sale for 99 cents, so I bought one. Strawberries were on sale, too, two for $3. I decided that these two fruits would be my snacks and desserts for the week. I could prepare them in the form of smoothies with yogurt. Yogurt is one of my staples. I could have them with cottage cheese or Cool Whip. Atop french toast or just plain. The trick to fruit is to prepare it for eating and have it on hand in a large bowl in the fridge. Cut up the cantaloupe and the strawberries after washing them and it's done. You tend to eat more fruit when it is easily grabbed rather than having to peel it or core it at the moment you are hungering for something quick. You won't have any waste, either. We throw out a lot of food in America.

Eggs were on sale as were peppers, so I will eat eggs and peppers this week, accompanied by red potato hash browns because red potatoes were on sale. A half-dozen English muffins were 99 cents so I bought two and one went in the freezer.

Tomatoes were on sale so I got a bunch, and will put them into a salad (bags of lettuce were on sale). So salads will be featured on the menu this week as well as tomato sandwiches and homemade English muffin pizzas featuring, of course, tomatoes.

It is not hard to re-train your mind to think about putting together ingredients that you've bought on sale. It just takes practice and pretty soon you will be reaping the benefits of a reduced grocery budget!

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