5 More Tips on the Road to Eating Well and on Budget

putting together various items in fridge with pasta makes a budget friendly meal. Cooking Chat tips.

So January has come to a close and it’s time to tally the numbers. As I noted, we started the New Year off well by coming in well under our weekly buget of $150 for our groceries. On a monthly basis, we are also tracking a “food and dining” target which adds up all of our food and beverage costs, which in addition to our grocery tab, includes: eating out and take-out (we don’t do much in this category), beer and wine (you don’t have to read this blog long to figure out we appreciate good wine with many of our meals!), coffees and lunches purchased out during the work week. Adding this all up, I’m pleased to report we were $40 under our spending target for the month! Ten days out I thought we’d be under by more, and probably got a bit too relaxed. Splurged a bit on a nice Pinot Noir from the Willamette Valley the last weekend of the month, seeing we were doing well. But I also stocked up a bit on some meat specials that ought to help our February numbers. OK, enough about me, let’s talk about how you can save and well, too!

I recently shared 8 Planning Steps to Feed Your Family Well and Under Budget. Thinking about the ingredients for our food budget success in January, I’ve identified 5 more tips to help you eat well without breaking the bank. What tips would you add?

wild salmon on sale a tasty way to save money. Cooking Chat post.
wild salmon on sale? yes, please!

1) See a sale, make it: Good planning is certainly essential to eating will and under budget.  But one must have a pinch of flexibility to go with the planning, particularly to take advantage of good specials. For instance, one Friday this month I’d planned to do tacos or something like that, but then I saw on the local Whole Foods Facebook page that there was a one-day sale coming up that day wild salmon. I could easily hold the taco ingredients for a meal the next week, and grab some of that salmon while the price was right. Stay tuned for the recipe I made with it this time, but if you can’t wait,

every bit of this Mahi Mahi is good eating! Cooking Chat eat well for less tips

2) Don’t fear the fish: At a glance, fish might seem too expensive for those of us that are very budget conscious, especially if you favor “meatier” fish like wild salmon and swordfish as we do. The regular prices on these fish can run from $15 to $25 per pound. First, I mostly get these favorites when there on sale (see above), which will often bring it down closer to $10/lb or so. But the second key point is that a good piece of fish, virtually all that your buying is going to get eaten–there’s not the fat or bone that gets tossed out as there is with many meats. So I find for the three of us (one child), I can usually get about 10 ozs or so of fish and it’s plenty. Purchased on sale, the actual cost for the night’s protein is on par with meats like pork chops or chicken breasts, if not cheaper. Final point–my goal is to eat healthy as well as manage the budget, so fish as part of the mix is important! See for instance this recipe for Pan-Seared Mahi Mahi with Orange-Soy Marinade I came up in response to a recent sale.

3) Learn to how love the tough stuff What I mean here is to learn how to appreciate the inexpensive cuts of meat that can be tough if not cooked properly. But learning how to cook cuts like pork shoulder and beef chuck low and slow is a great way to save money while cooking up some great cold weather comfort food. Here’s a I recipe I go for regularly–Beef Daube Provencal— especially when I see stew beef on sale:

planning a meal around a bottle of wine you have on hand can save money! Cooking Chat tips.

4) Cook for the wine: Sure, wine is a good incentive to get people to cook–but that’s not exactly what I had in mind here! Of course, strictly speaking, not having wine would be one way to reduce spending. But if like me, you see enjoying good wine along with the meal you worked hard to prepare as part of the process, you’ll want to figure out how wine fits into the budget. With that in mind, one recent week, I decided to plan a couple meals around bottles of wine I had on hand that I wanted to try. This saved on the wine bill, while leading to some good pairings: Enkidu Humbaba (Syrah/Petite Sirah blend) with Bee Bim Bop and a Portuguese red I was eager to try, the 2010 Twister Duoro was a natural with Portuguese Kale Soup from Thoughtful Eating.

5) Make it a Frugal Friday If you’re like me, the energy for cooking and the food on hand have a tendency to diminish a bit by week’s end. It’s a time when take-out or that budget-busting unplanned night dining out can creep into the mix. But if you can summon a little creativity and energy, you can make some tasty dishes with what’s on hand, and work wonders on your food budget (or at least stay on course!). But you don’t need to come up with the ideas from scratch! Check out one of my Frugal Friday dishes for inspiration: there’s the Pasta with Bacon and Sauteed Spinach I made recently or Pasta with Turkey, Chickpeas and Tomatoes.

OK, there you go, five more tips to eat well and spend less! What would you add to the list?

Frugal Friday pasta via Cooking Chat, tasty and budget-friendly
a tasty Frugal Friday pasta dish!

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