Don’t Eat Your Wallet! 10 easy steps to reducing grocery expenses – Step 4Know how to cook and keep learning more about how, including approaches like Once a Month Cooking (OAMC) or freezer cooking. Raw materials usually cost much less than pre-made food and are MUCH healthier. Although I’ve been cooking for decades, I try to learn new techniques and recipes regularly. When several family members recently realized they have milk allergies, I was dismayed at the cost of alternative milks. Our Dollar Tree stocks shelf stable soymilk, which was a great deal but still pricey. I wanted to find ways to further reduce costs. After a fair bit of research, and some trial-and-error, we finally found recipes for rice, almond and coconut milk that my picky eaters enjoy. Almond milk is about $1.83/2 quarts (using Costco raw almonds), rice milk is pennies a quart and coconut is about .50/2 quarts thanks to finding a bunch of bags of coconut on clearance after Christmas and freezing them. Big savings.
Yes, it often (not always!) takes longer to cook from scratch, but there are ways to make it faster and easier. OAMC is one approach, but for me, it’s easier to double or quadruple a recipe when I’m making it–and then freeze the extra–than to try to do a huge OAMC session. Find what works for you! This post has other ideas for ways to get healthy meals on the table faster.
While gardening isn’t a cooking skill, it is definitely a skill (which needs lots of work here!) that we are learning as a help to health and wallet. Years ago, I learned to dehydrate fruits and vegetables. When we had a produce business, we dehydrated or froze surplus items. Having the dehydrated produce on hand has made it easy to prepare meals ahead. (I’ll blog about the Brown Bag Dinner system soon!)
As with so many things, the internet is a great source for learning cooking skills. Some places to check for tutorials: King Arthur Flour (www.kingarthurflour.com), YouTube, Bread Beckers (www.breadbeckers.com). Some of the sources I find most consistent for reliably good family recipes are Cooking Light, Southern Living and Betty Crocker. I also find many (too many!) good recipes on blogs. When we’ve tried a recipe and it’s made the cut around here, it goes into a recipe binder labelled “Family Favorites” which is sectioned by ethnic recipes (Indian, Asian, Mexican, etc), types of dishes (soups, sides, chicken, beef) and “how-to’s” (that would be the alternative milks, salad dressing charts and DIY spice mixes in huge quanities). It just makes life around here a little easier. 🙂