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Back to basics with food and saving money

Updated on November 29, 2012

Food and Common Sense

I guess it’s time to put my money where my mouth is – or in this case my knowledge of certain things that helps people out, put it to good use! I’ve spent quite a few hours writing Hubs telling people to use Commons Sense but not giving them a place to start. Here goes. This one is on food and just HOW to make that food dollar stretch well beyond what one could ever imagine.

We have modern conveniences which can make life a bit easier while still retaining that ‘homemade’ taste. This works for those who are on the tightest of budgets. I did the math it just makes more ‘cents’ to do it this way.

Taking an hour to plan your meals for the week saves not only time during the week but tons of money as well. Your facebook friends and games will wait that extra hour of free time you will be spending on this giving you more time during the week to play!


In order to make ‘homemade’ anything you will need what is called ‘staples’, no not the kind you put in a stapler! Staples are what you will find in most any good kitchen. Flour, sugar, salt, fat of some sort (butter, Crisco, margarine, lard) baking soda, baking powder, seasonings and spices, eggs, milk, whole potatoes, carrots, celery and onions. With these few ingredients you can make noodles, pie crust, cakes, breads (some require yeast) thickening for stews and gravy and a host of other things.

Looking at cost cutting

Let me give you a break down. Anything with bones still in it is going to be quite a bit less expensive, because of convenience of not having to remove those bones. So let’s examine chicken – skinless/boneless is going to be more expensive. You get fewer meals from what you buy at a higher cost. A whole ‘bone-in’ chicken runs around $1.00 per pound, generally you can get 2 (3 if you are creative) meals from this. Here is your math – 4 pounds of skinless boneless chicken on sale in my area is $1.99 per pound. So 4 pounds of skinless boneless is going to cost around $8.00 (that’s on sale!) A whole chicken (usually 4 pounds in size) so we are talking about $4.00. That’s HALF the cost!!

Chicken Noodle Soup

Broth from one chicken (if you have bits of chicken add to this, even better) about 3- 4 quarts.

Celery and onions (carrots are great in this too!)


If you’re using the stove top, bring your broth to a boil, add your veggies and cook until tender adding any seasonings that you desire, add your noodles and cook until they are done. For a crockpot – put the broth and veggies in, turn it on low this can cook for 8 hours or more, 20 minutes before dinner add the noodles. This paired with your fresh hot bread, what can be better?

This pot of soup can feed a family of 6 - 8 easily for well under $5.00.


Broth – Most folks now days believe that buying a can of broth and adding it to a pot of something is giving it flavor. Let’s start by making a homemade broth then showing what it can be used for.

Chicken/Turkey broth – I like rotisserie chicken and happen to have one of those neat little Baby George Rotisseries, but it is NOT necessary the oven works just fine. When serving the chicken to my family I don’t just cut or break off hunks of chicken, I cut it off the bone and save those bones! This is called the carcass. If I want a bit darker broth I roast the carcass a bit more.

In a large pot or crockpot I toss in the carcass (and any drippings), add a few carrots, celery and onion – cover it with water and let it cook for 3-4 hours to get every bit of flavor that I can from it. I use a bit of salt for added flavor. When it is complete I use a strainer to get all the bits of bone and such that I am not going to want in my broth. There may be chunks of meat so you will have to decide if you want that in your broth or save it in another container. To remove the fat – chill it, the fat floats to the top and can easily be skimmed off. This can be poured into plastic containers (yes, even Ziploc bags) and frozen until needed.

Pork – I buy a shoulder roast (bone in) and do the same. This will be extra greasy so chilling is a must to remove the fat!

Ham – When we are finished with eating it, I save the bone and broth that has been created in a couple different containers. A 5 pound bone-in ham can be used for several meals. In large stock pot or crock pot cover with water and cook for several hours.

Beef – I save the bones and any drippings, as well as fat that I have cut off in a plastic bag until I have what I feel is ‘enough’ then roast it all until it’s good and dark, put it in a pot add water and cook it down.

I don't always have the time to make the broth when dinner is finished, so I put my bones in a Ziploc bag and stick them in the freezer for when I do have the time.

Most folks are very busy these days with working and such, so an investment in a crock pot will be worth it’s weigh in gold for money saving meals.

Boiled dinner

Boiled dinner – Now this was something that we had quite often when I was a child it brings back fond memories of sitting around the table with my folks. Super easy!

1-2 pounds of ham hock or ham bone (or ham broth that you have saved -3 - 4 quarts)

6 medium potatoes – peeled and chopped

4 carrots – peeled and chopped

1 large onion – peeled and chopped

1 small head of cabbage cored and chopped

In large stock pot or crock pot place meat and all veggies except cabbage add water to inch above all. On stove cook on medium for about an hour – in crock pot put on low and cook for 8 hours. ½ hour before serving add cabbage. Seasoning as desired with salt and pepper.

This meal can be prepared for under $10.00 when buying the ham hocks, if using leftover broth can cut that cost in half.

Where to use broths

Now that you have your broth what can you do with it?

Where do I begin!!

Of course soups and stews are at the top of the list. These can be used to make gravy, add flavor to stuffing. If you choose you can cook potatoes in the broth to make flavored potatoes. Anything you need flavor for you can use this broth in.

Oven baked tuna noodle casserole is extra tasty with this broth added in!

Chicken soup, chicken and dumplings, chicken pot pie, beef soup, beef stew, beef pot pie, 15 bean soup, split pea soup, bean soup, potato soup, Spaetzle are all good things to make from broth as well as about 100 different others that I haven’t thought of. Why soups/stews? Most of them have everything that is needed for a meal all wrapped up in one bowl, meat and veggies all in one! Served with some homemade bread fresh from the oven, what could anyone ask for more? Ahhh yes, dessert!

On to the favorite - Dessert!

Now that we have our dinner in a crock pot and the fresh bread in the bread maker what to do with our time?

Here is a super quick and easy Dessert recipe! This is one of the times I will condone using ‘instant’, only because it is time and cost effective.

1 Box of frozen Puff Pastry

2- 2 oz chocolate bars (any brand you prefer)

Water, milk or egg

Thaw out the puff pastry according to package directions. Roll out on floured surface to 10 x 10 inches. Using sharp knife cut into 4 squares (you will do this twice because there are 2 sheets per box) Place chocolate to the side of the square leaving a good edge around all of it, using your finger or pastry brush, brush water, milk or whisked egg on the edges, fold over and place on a baking sheet. Using a fork, crimp down the edges. Brush (or use your fingers) milk or egg over the top and sprinkle with granulated sugar, if desired will give it that extra ‘pretty’ look. Bake at 375 degrees for 20 minutes or until golden brown. You can even drizzle chocolate syrup on this and serve it with a scoop of ice cream if you desire. Serves 8

The beauty of this recipe is the chocolate can be exchanged for fresh or canned fruit!

Cost effective – Store bought for 4 costs about $4.00 and is never warm. To make this takes about 10 minutes prep and costs about $6.00 for 8.

Fresh hot bread

At almost every Goodwill and yard sale I have stopped at I’ve seen those nifty bread makers I ended up with 2 - just because, both under $5 each. Other than not having any electricity there is no reason not to have homemade fresh bread which is so much tastier and cheaper than store bought! At my local store to buy a loaf of French bread is costs $1.99/8 oz. each. For less than the cost of 1 loaf I can make 2. If you don’t have the time to make it traditionally, putting it in the bread maker and letting it go doesn't get any easier.

For $10.00 you can buy up to 5 loaves of bread OR you can make 20 loaves of bread with the same $10.


I am a firm believer in tasting as I am cooking. When making broth (or anything) I like to take a clean spoon and taste it as it is cooking to see if I need to add more water or any seasonings. Would you really want to serve a food that has not been tasted?


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    • Sweetsusieg profile imageAUTHOR


      5 years ago from Michigan

      I love my cooking! I know that sounds sort of vain I guess, but dang it - I've put some good years and practice into making it taste good. I'd rather not go to a restaurant when I can make it better at home for less than 1/4 of the cost! Unless of course it's a good steak house - then heck let someone else do the cooking!!

      I have a dear friend who lives in New York - she came to visit me a few weeks ago. Poor thing doesn't cook, she eats out every day of the week - her work schedule prohibits a lot of home cooking (16-18 hour days) She did let me feed her once - my homemade chili. Being from a big city and having her favorite restaurants she was quite terrified of trying something that could be icky. She gave it a whirl and discovered that her sweetsusieg could cook!! She was quite disappointed to discover the bottom of her container!

      I keep trying to teach the young people of today how to cook and feed their growing families. I guess one must just have a 'want' to learn.

      Thanks so much for the votes up!!

    • Sweetsusieg profile imageAUTHOR


      5 years ago from Michigan

      @ fpherj48 - I have this neat outlook when it comes to shopping if I make homemade anything - I can have more money for those extras! I took my daughter shopping today and showed her the benefit of going to a local meat market, rather than a chain store.

      Normally ground meat of any kind is going to have a meat/fat ratio on the package (in chain stores) I've instructed my kids to NEVER buy anything less than 80/20 and that is to be done only in an emergency. Face it, the name on the package says it all you are getting 20% fat. So essentially for a pound of burger you are only getting 8/10 of a lb... Anywho - today we went to our local meat market and for 70 cents LESS (per pound) than our local chain store we got higher quality meat! There was no fat to drain off - at all!!

    • drbj profile image

      drbj and sherry 

      5 years ago from south Florida

      Outside of the rice, susie, I can't think of a single ingredient nor instruction that you left out. What a comprehensive article. It's foolish to buy store-bought when homemade which is even more healthful can replace it. Use common sense to save more cents should be your motto. Oh, wait, I think it already is! Brava, m'dear. Voted up of course.

    • fpherj48 profile image


      5 years ago from Beautiful Upstate New York

      Hi sweet.......Such valuable info and tips. I am a saver-frugal-shopper of everything. Always have been, always will be. I will also always be open to the ideas from other wise shoppers. There's always something new to learn. It is all so important and beneficial to our pockets! Thank you. UP++

    • Sweetsusieg profile imageAUTHOR


      5 years ago from Michigan

      Very true!! It would be difficult darn near impossible but for all of the modern conveniences that we have today. That is why I suggested the crock pots and bread machines, it makes it a LOT easier and tons less time of standing in the kitchen.

      I hear so many people say they can't do it, don't have time etc. so I gave a good options for those folks. I am hoping that at least one person gives this a try - like you I have discovered MUCH better taste, flavor and less of the things I don't want - preservatives.

      I love the fresh veggies from a garden!! We are lucky enough to have good transportation so most of us can get fresh all year long - if we choose!

    • chefsref profile image

      Lee Raynor 

      5 years ago from Citra Florida

      Hey Sweet, Good Hub

      The biggest savings I get is by growing my own veggies. I'm lucky enough to live in Florida so I can grow something all year long and it takes a big bite out of the grocery bill.

      Next comes bread, I'm still a purist, hate the bread machine but I have time to put into the art. Best of all I can make a more nutritious loaf for a fraction of the cost. I'm also making my own English muffins and save a bundle on homemade, store bought stuff is way over priced.

      Broth, I save bones in the freezer till I have enough for a big batch When it's done I might make some soup but most of it I boil down until it is thick and syrupy, then refrigerate and use it instead of bouillon cubes and soup bases. The result is that II have better tasting food with less salt and lower cost.

      I suppose that I am lucky to be retired so I have time to spend instead of money, what I do would be impossible for someone with a full time job

    • Sweetsusieg profile imageAUTHOR


      5 years ago from Michigan

      You know rice is one ingredient I left out!! Sheesh! It's probably because we don't use a lot of it in my home. I love all the home soups and stews I can make. My one daughter is an excellent cook and has taken my cooking to the next level with so many dishes!

    • WillStarr profile image


      5 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

      Chicken stock from a carcass makes great chicken and rice once the bones are removed. An easy, inexpensive, and delicious meal.

      I use the ham bone to make split pea soup in the crock pot. Just add some celery, some carrot slices, the peas and the ham, and you have great soup!

      Good Hub!


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