This post started out as a comment on a blog, and since it grew so big I thought I would just make it a blog post. I love to look at the food budget as a good creative challenge. Anyone can make good food with lots of money. I think tight permatiers really help me to cook more creatively, especially since I want our family to eat whole foods. I guess my best tips would be:
1. Waste NOTHING- (this one is really hard for me). Stay on top of your fridge (noooo, not literally). Know when things are about to good bad and freeze or rework leftovers. I save my carrot peals and onion skins and such in a container in the freezer and use it with the bones of two leftover roasted chickens to make bone broth, and it's delicious btw. It's hard for us to think this way as Americans. It helps me to read books on ethnic food or really old (we're talking hundred +years) cook books to understand how other people make the most out of things. Look for recipies like this one I ran across for lettuce soup, which sounded surprisingly good, and gives you a use for wilted greens.
2. Stretch your meats as far as you can. Beans are a huge blessing. You can even buy some that are a little different (like my favorite, green french lentils). And of course there is brown rice and pasta and some many other things. Try a meatless night or week and cook all ethic foods, like Indian. I'm a meat eater, but Indian food has so much flavour you don't even miss the meat, which brings to another area to help your meats go farther, cook with lots of flavor.
3. Bake your own bread...huge mark-ups on bread and you can make much healthier tastier stuff as home. Artisan bread in 5 minutes a day is a good recipe to check out if you don't have much time.
4. Look for creative sources of food. I can get raw milk from a local Amish family for half the cost of organic milk. Get to know your local resources. Often you can get fresh veggies for less at a smaller family stand than you can at the farmer's market. Learn to forage. Plant blueberry bushes as hedges in your front yard. Grow your own herbs in pots. Go fishing. Look for sources to buy bulk from, but make sure it's food you eat. Oh yes, and ethic food stores, don't forget about them, especially for great deals on spices, which make cooking on a budget some much easier.
Just a few ideas. Please share any you might have! BLESSINGSc