With real inflation at around 12 percent (more about which later, when I feel like thinking), we’ve all noticed grocery prices have reached orbit somewhere close to the moon. Here are a few ways, beyond the obvious advice to use coupons and shop for sales, to save money on real food (as opposed to packaged stuff containing artificial chemicals, stabilizers, flavors, and various “enhancers” whose names you can’t pronounce).
- Serve smaller portions of meat. A porterhouse steak, for example, contains three servings: the tenderloin equals one serving, and the sirloin strip side can be cut into two pieces. A ribeye steak similarly can be cut into three smaller servings. Make a full dinner by adding a serving of rice, pasta, or beans; a serving of green, yellow, or orange vegetable; and a serving of salad. All these items taken together are enough to satisfy any appetite.
- Learn to butcher meat yourself. Some years ago I stumbled upon Merle Ellis’s Cutting Up in the Kitchen, a user-friendly guide to DIY butchering large pieces of meat and fowl. A whole chicken, a whole turkey, or an entire set of beef ribs is invariably cheaper than neat packages of prepared servings. Turns out that it’s pretty easy to reduce a large chunk of meat or fowl to meal-sized portions, given a sharp knife and a few minutes of your time. This saves a surprising amount on your meat bill.
- Plan one or two vegetarian days into your weekly menu. Most people enjoy beans, which are easy to fix and incredibly cheap. A dish of polenta or pasta topped with tomatoes, garlic, herbs, and parmesan cheese is satisfying and cheap. Got a half a loaf of French bread that’s starting to go a bit stale? Run it under the tap, wet it with cold water, wring it out, cut it into cubes, add some cut-up tomatoes, garlic, little green onions, a few herbs, a bit of olive oil, and a dash of lemon juice or vinegar and voila! Italian soul food.
- Use your slow cooker to make a stew or roast that will last for several meals. Pot roast, chicken, or beans cook wonderfully in a slow cooker. The key to making meat or chicken taste like stovetop is to brown it before putting it into the cooker.
- Buy veggies and fruits at ethnic markets or farmer’s markets. In my part of the country, farmer’s markets are no bargain, but bloggers in other regions report they find good buys at these outdoor events. However, even though prices at ethnic markets have shot up, they’re still cheaper than mainstream supermarkets. Check out these stores for good buys on basic vegetables and fruits, and while you’re there, explore the offerings in herbs and spices.