by Amy Hunt
A HUGE trick to staying on budget is really knowing and using the food that you have. It’s great to buy a whole cart full of produce, but a complete waste if you don’t stay on top of it. By sticking to a planned menu you will not only save money by efficiently using what you have purchased, but you will also save loads of time—then you will be able to scrub down that shower wall that has been calling your name.
One way to do this is called investment cooking. Essentially it is using prep time and food to your advantage. Just think, if you make twice as much of whatever you are cooking and freeze half, that's one less meal you will have to prepare. This works wonderfully with casseroles. It doesn't take much more time or energy to make two batches of lasagna, or a huge pan of tuna casserole, or a bigger pot of chili. Then all you'll have to do is thaw, heat, and serve. There are many things that you can do to stock up and prepare for your next meal.
Browning ground beef for dinner? Do extra to use in tacos later in the week.
Grate extra cheese and store it in a freezer bag in your freezer.
Cook extra rice or pasta and store it in a zip lock bag in the refrigerator. Leftover pasta and rice can be added to canned soups to make them more hearty or you can toss them with canned, seasoned tomatoes and vegetables for a quick meal.
Baking chicken breasts? Cook a few more, and cut up later to use in stir-fry.
Chop a whole onion, even if you only need half. Keep the rest handy to toss into any number of meals.
Wash, rinse, dry, and store enough salad for a few meals. Then at meal time all you need to do is toss it into a nice big bowl, add some dressing and voila!
When you get back from the grocery store take the time to cut up vegetables, fruits, etc. and put them in zip-lock bags. You will be so happy you did this later in the week.
Love Your Leftovers
Cooking so much extra of everything may sound a little scary. Leftovers tend to get pushed to the back of the refrigerator, found weeks later, and are unidentifiable because of the hairy stuff growing on them. Never again! Plan to use them with in a few days or freeze them as part of your investment cooking. Just a little leftover chicken or roast? Freeze it for sandwiches. If you plan your meals in advance you should already know where your leftovers are going. Use food to your advantage.
* DVO welcomes your kitchen hints and cooking or nutrition questions! Email us and we'll post your hints and Q/A's in upcoming newsletters! *