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How to feed a family on pennies
Its tempting sometimes to live on fast foods with no nutritional value. Many people don't or won't cook at all! But it's worth the time and effort to cook at home, both in the money you save and in how healthy you feel. Here's some tips to help you eat well on a budget:
When using the oven, it is wise to prepare three or four different dishes at a time so you use less gas or electricity. Large, scrubbed potatoes can be slotted into any space on the oven racks; baked potatoes with almost any filling make a good meal with a little side salad. The meal planning for the week can be done on say a Saturday evening, with the bulk of the cooking done the next day. Most cooked dishes will last two days in the refrigerator; other meals can be frozen until needed.
A large fresh chicken, here in the Tampa Bay area will cost you approximately $8-$10 (depending on where you live). It's possible to make three or four meals from this one bird. Initially the chicken can be the Sunday roast. Don't put a lot of meat on each plate. Add plenty of vegetables and potatoes, the family won’t notice. Make gravy from the chicken pan juices. Pour off the fat, add a little flour and seasoning for a good, nutritional gravy. Next day you can remove all the meat off the carcass. It can be used cold with salad, in sandwiches, curried, stir fried or in omelets. Any remaining vegetables and potatoes can be transformed into a ‘cheese bake’ ...layer the vegetables in an oven proof dish, add a layer of cheese, a layer of potatoes and repeat. Bake until cheese is brown and bubbly. Or you can make 'bubble and squeak' (yes, I'm British). . chop left-over stuffing, veggies, potatoes and season. Add to olive oil and fry together - its delicious!
The carcass of the chicken can be boiled in a large pot (this makes a great stock for soup). Add a packet of lentils, split peas or pearl barley, chopped carrots, celery and four large onions, after an hour remove the carcass. Add any herbs you have access to. The lentils, split peas or pearl barley swell and you have a wholesome thick soup. Pour into large soup bowls, add a chunk of bread, and you have another meal.
Pasta is inexpensive and only needs garlic, herbs and tomatoes to add a tasty sauce. A small amount of grated cheese on top adds a good source of protein. For lunches, pack an apple, carrot or celery sticks rather than candy. Use whole-wheat bread for the sandwiches. Peanut butter is a good source of protein. Any old bread you have can be transformed into a tasty bread pudding. Cut the bread into quarters and butter it sparingly. Soak the bread in a mixture of 4 eggs, 2 cups milk and 1 cup sugar, add sultanas or apple slices. Put the mixture into an oven-proof bowl and bake until risen and golden brown. Add a blob of cream and it’s yummy! Look out for the fruits that are in season. They are cheaper in your local supermarket. Take the kids berry picking. Here in Florida the citrus is free for the picking! Apple or blackberry, blueberry, rhubarb, or most any berry can be made into a delicious pudding by adding crumble mix on top of the washed, prepared fruit. Bake in the oven and voila! You have another tasty, nutritional pudding.
Stay away from pre-packed, processed foods. They work out more expensive and have little nutritional value. Keep a sense of humor and see how creative you can be! Experiment with cheap cuts of meat. Use the vegetables that are in season. Remember, pulses, beans, wheat and grains may take a little more effort to prepare, but that time is worth the rewards in nutritional value and good healthy eating. And think of all the money you’ll save and lbs you'll lose!