Cooking on a budget is a way of life for many families, particularly those who are retired or on a fixed income. Inflationary pressures are real and just about everyone has noticed higher prices on certain foods. The question becomes: how can you still eat well and stay within your budget?
Cooking on a budget should not mean the end of good meals. If you’re careful, you can maintain the quality of your meals, but you do have to do a little more planning. You may even have to sharpen your cooking skills but that can be a lot of fun. It becomes a challenge to maintain the quality of the meals you put on the table without breaking the bank. But let’s face it, you either find a way to increase your income to cover the cost of the food you’ve been eating, or you find a way to cut the costs of what you bring into your home to eat.
No matter what you do, you should not skimp on quality. It just doesn’t pay. You end up throwing out inedible food because you tried to save money. But there are ways to maintain quality and control spending when you’re cooking on a budget. In this case, research can be your best friend.
Brand name foods are top sellers for a reason, but did you know that you can get certain categories of food that are just as good or better for less? Do a search on the internet and look for a particular item such as “best ketchup” and see what comes up. Quite often you’ll see a store brand outperforming a leading brand. Many times, a store like Aldi’s, Trader Joe’s or even Walmart offers a brand at a savings that has won a taste test. Just be careful that it’s a legitimate taste test and not a sponsored link. We buy many items from Trader Joe’s for example because they are not only better, but they are far cheaper. This is especially true for their spices, produce and some of their frozen food offerings. Again, don’t sacrifice quality to save a few pennies – it just isn’t worth it. Even when you’re cooking on a budget, quality is key.
We’ve also learned to eat more chicken and pork. Those meats are generally cheaper than beef but, again, pay attention to quality. Remember, they also freeze well, so if you find a sale, don’t be afraid to buy double and freeze the other portion if you have room in the freezer. Watching for sale prices is a great way to save money when you’re cooking on a budget. There are applications that you can download that will highlight sales for your favorite items. Be aware of the oldest trick stores use, however, because advertisers know that if they get you into a store to buy an item on sale, you’ll probably buy other items while you’re there. It pays to be a disciplined shopper.
Many people think that because they are eating more chicken or pork, they’re going to be eating the same thing every day. Nothing could be further from the truth. If you’re cooking on a budget, learning new culinary skills might be the best thing you can do because you can make every meal an adventure and make the preparation of it more fun than ever before. You’ll be amazed at how a simple variation on a recipe can make it totally different. We love the internet to search out new recipes. I particularly like sauces, so chicken and pork lend themselves very well trying new things. Chicken with mushroom sauce, roasted tomatoes and pork with a mustard gravy are our new favorites and finding creative recipes for cooking potatoes or rice is always an adventure that I look forward to. When I’m forced to cook vegetables, I can even make broccoli and string beans edible! (Apologies to all you vegetable lovers, but I eat them only to have a balanced diet.)
If you’re cooking on a budget, new recipes and cooking techniques can be your best friend. It will add variety and increase your enjoyment. That’s a good way to make sure that you stay dedicated to the task at hand. It’s a great challenge and quite a sense of accomplishment when you find a great source of products at reasonable prices, new recipes to try and master a cooking technique, like slow roasting, that you’ve never tried before. Cooking on a budget can be fun and that’s what retirement is all about. Instead of being upset about having to watch your pennies, you can turn it into a challenge that might lead to some of the best meals that you’ve ever had. It’s time to Enjoy Retired Life!
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