Guest post from Kristie of Table-Talk
We all have those weeks: Low on cash and high on unexpected bills. We pilfer around like “Old Mother Hubbard,” searching for enough food to keep the family happy until the next pay check comes in.
As a mom of six, I know about those Mother Hubbard days. Over the years, my strategy has come to include a few “rescue foods” that help us get through the lean times when a broken-down vehicle steals from the grocery cash, or when a prescription takes precedence over food.
Although some of these ideas may not work for every family (especially those with special dietary needs or allergies) I hope my suggestions can help some of you get through bill-paying-seasons without feeling deprived.
Here are my go-to “Grocery Budget Rescue” foods:
Beans are a blessing to a lean budget. You remember the food pyramids from 4th grade Health Class? Well, beans manage to fill up three of the four tiers!
As a vegetable, they are also high in protein (able to sub in as a meat in your menu), carbs, and fiber. There is probably no food more versatile on the planet!
Dry beans make the most budget-friendly purchase of anything in your grocery cart, but remember: they do have to be pre-soaked. Once they are soaked and cooked, you can make them into hummus, soup, burritos, or a main meal.
Black beans are delicious and hearty — especially with some salt and a serving of rice. If you are fortunate enough to have sour cream or vegetables on hand, go for it.
My “cheat” recipe for hummus involves lentils and seasonings, since they do not require any soaking. It’s a great way to sneak in a vegetarian lunch on unsuspecting children. Use corn chips to go gluten-free. And best of all, they really are filling!
Just one word of caution: old beans don’t cook well. The outer shell remains hard while the inner bean cooks, resulting in a very unpleasant and barely edible mess. Eat beans within a few months of purchase, and be wary of dry beans from food banks where they may have been sitting too long.
Unless you live in the Sahara, you can’t go wrong with a food whose first ingredient is “water.” Right now, my monthly dinner menu includes 20 different soups (all dinner meals). And soup made with beans? It’s a win-win for the budget, and your family’s health will be the biggest winner of all.
My strategy with soup is simple: Variety!
Soup recipes abound on the web, and I’ve surveyed my friends for their favorite recipes. Not every soup recipe will be a family favorite, but eating the same recipe once a month isn’t so bad.
Again, the flexibility of soup is that you can throw in whatever you have on hand. Canned veggies you got half off because they were dented; last year’s peppers from the freezer; and those beans we’ve just been raving about.
Most soup recipes are not “set in stone” like other recipes that must be followed to the letter. It’s even possible to swap out meats — lower-priced bulk sausage in place of that $4.49/lb. hamburger, for example.
Whether they are steel-cut, old-fashioned, or rolled, oats are generally less expensive (and much more filling) than cereals, instant oatmeal, and all the sugary pop tarts that our kids would love to see us tossing into the grocery cart.
If you are fortunate enough (as I am) to live within driving distance of a store that sells oats in bulk, you are twice blessed. Our Mennonite shop sells them for $0.50 a pound! That’s about as close to “free” as it comes.
Oatmeal often has a reputation for being gooey and glumpy. Ick. Baked oatmeal can be made crispier (we like it “just this side” of burned), even without nuts.
For the weeks when the cash is low and the bills are high, there’s your menu. Soup, beans, and oats to the rescue! And a cheerful attitude to wash it all down.
What are your favorite “Grocery Budget Rescue” foods?
Kristie is a pastor’s wife and homeschooling mom of 6, living in rural Carrollton, Illinois. She blogs at Table-Talk, a practical blog to encourage women.
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