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How To Buy Food On A Budget

Updated on February 20, 2009
Easy on the fresh stuff
Easy on the fresh stuff

If it's on sale - buy more

The first thing to consider is whether or not you can consume the food before it goes bad so don't buy large quantities of fresh fruit and vegetables and meats that you won't use in a reasonable amount of time even after freezing.

Here are some basic foods that I buy. Some are bought in bulk because they keep and others are bought and broken down into more usable sizes and frozen and others are ingredients that get used im making things like soup and stew with more than one of the budget foods.

  1. Pasta - this can be eaten as a main course or used in making other interesting meals such as adding to soups, making a pasta salad with things liked leftover meats, a single slice of deli meat cut into small pieces or a small tin of tuna or salmon.
  2. Carrots - these keep for a period of time in the refrigerator vegetable bin and can be cut up to be used in stir fries, soups or as a side dish.
  3. Oatmeal - used first as porridge, but also added to breads, breadsticks, fruit, margarine and sugar (to make a dessert) and added to groud beef to make a meatloaf or a hamburger.
  4. Ground beef - make it go further by making a basic meat sauce by just adding to a prepared spaghetti sauce and microwaving on low for an hour or so.
  5. Spaghetti or tomato sauce. Use it as above, but also in dishes that need moistening like stir fries and scrambled eggs.
  6. Rice - add it to soups, use it as a side dish, add sugar cinnamon, milk and raisins and you have a dessert.
  7. Stewing beef - use most of it in a stew but cut some of it up a lot smaller and make soup. Freeze what you don't eat.
  8. Tomato Paste - one can in about 8 cups of water with stock cubes added is a good starter for any soup. You can make it thicker by adding a second can.
  9. Flour - learn how to make bread sticks and pizza dough. It's just water, flour, salt and a little baking soda works instead of yeast. You can use the meat sauce above as a spread on the pizza and add cheese and other items that you like.
  10. Frozen mixed vegetables. I prefer fresh but you can't buy large quantities of fresh vegetables unless you want to make a lot of soup and stew. Soup is where things like broccoli stalks and vegetables that will go bad soon get used up.
  11. Whole wheat soda crackers - I prefer the taste and they are somewhat healthier. I crumble some on eggs that I microwave, eat them as a snack, top them with other foods and microwave the whole works and eat them with soups and stews.
  12. Microwaveable freezer storage containers that do double duty as a server for soups and stews. They go in the top shelf of the dishwasher and get reused.
  13. Potatoes - my preference is for Yukon Gold. They are yellow in colour and seem to have a better taste. The peel is quite thin and I seldom peel them because that is the healthier part of the potato anyway.
  14. Other supplies include sugar, tea bags, coffee beans (freeze them and grind what you need for the morning coffee). Also a tub or two of margarine, milk and stuff to drink. The last one should be bought in quantity only when it is on sale. Bananas, apples, some fresh vegetables, a couple of really small packs of deli meat, almonds, and something different to try like dried beans or a different canned sauce get added to the cart. And every once in a while, I buy something as a treat if its on sale like ice cream, cookies, back ribs or a rainbow trout fillet.
  15. Buy meats when they are on sale and especially things like boneless chicken breasts that can be cut up into smaller portions and frozen to make stir fries, soups or added to pasta or rice. Sausages are good cooked in a crockpot in quantity. Freeze the rest and use them cut up in pasta and stir fries or reheated as a main course.
  16. Everyhting else, only buy what you can use in the next few days. If you have to throw it out, don't buy that again in such large quantities.

A lot of this will just be common sense to most folks but I would have liked to have known this stuff when I first moved into a university residence and also in my first apartment on my own. If i went back and could get the money that I threw away in the trash can because food went bad, I'm sure I would have more than enough for my next computer.

If you don't own one, get a crockpot aka slow cooker. You can buy cheaper cuts of meat like shoulder roasts and rib ends. The food is very tasty and very tender when done. Leftovers just get used up in smaller portions with some of the above staple foods.

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