Thursday, June 25, 2009

Food Bill Reducing Tips Thursday

This week's tip: Do It Yourself!

We pay a very high price for convenience in this day and age. Every where we turn, we get the message that making our own food it old hat. So many foods are made to save us time, get out of the kitchen faster, move on to the next item on the agenda, much like a militaristic journey through life. We do have a choice, however, and can choose when we want or need to have the convenience of fast foods, and when we can slow down to make a more mindful meal. The price of convenience foods is nothing to laugh at, though. We certainly pay for the ease of popping something ready-made in the microwave or oven. Buying those deboned and skinned chicken breasts really do pack a punch at the checkout counter versus the whole chicken.

Here are some ideas for foods you can make on your own to save a bundle at the store:

1) Make your own pizza dough. At $1.62 per 2 12 inch crusts, it's alot better than around $5 per ready-made crust or $20 for 2 cheese pizzas at the pizza parlor.
2) Cut up your own chicken. At $5.50 per pound of boneless, skinned breasts or tenderloins, not to mention if those breasts were organic, you make out much better to buy the whole chicken at around $1.28 per pound.
3) Mince your own garlic. Here is where I fall short. I love using tons of garlic in my cooking. Yet I hate peeling it, always have. I typically buy the larger sized jar of minced garlic, and have no problem using it up quickly. However, at 14 cents per ounce, I am much better off buying the whole garlic and learning how to peel it quickly and efficiently, instead of the jared variety at 35 cents per ounce.
4) Freeze your own veggies. I don't buy frozen vegetables too often, not even the organic ones, preferring to eat fresh ones as much as possible. I also don't care for the slightly mushy texture that frozen veggies impart to cooked dishes. But, some of my culinary friends do use them with great success, and spend a whopping $3.50 per pound (for broccoli, for example) for them versus $1.50 a pound for fresh.
5) For those McDonald's fans, make your own egg muffin sandwich. Do you know how many $2.50's you could save by toasting an english muffin, adding a cooked egg and some nice cheese and perhaps some sausage or bacon? Not to mention how much better it would taste!
6) For your next birthday party, make your own cake. Forget the cake mix - making a cake from scratch is really not that scary if you have the right recipe. And at a mere $1.25 versus $3.65 per cake, it's a sweet savings to pocket.
7) And consider making your own coffee rather than purchasing it at a coffee shop. That $3 latte can be made at home for a few cents on the dollar - around 25 cents to be exact. Wow. How's that for putting things in perspective??

Making fresh food can be time consuming. Not many of us have the time we desire to dedicate to planning and making meals, and many of us can't stand to be in the kitchen longer than absolutely necessary to get the meal on the table. Making things from scratch takes time, organization and planning. The payoff is definitely worth it, if you consider how much money you can shave from your food bill. And learning some new skills can be fun (and entertaining to others). I shut down my microwave and put it in the basement about 5 years ago. I thought I could never live without it. I went to go find it for a craft project recently, and saw it was filled with rust from a wet basement issue. Tossed it out, and never looked back. You can learn new things, and you do get used to finding extra time for certain priorities.

Note: Some of the information listed in this post came from Ann Taylor Pittman's article in July 2009 Cooking Light.

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