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Preparing Food On A Budget

Here are some tips to help you save on the family food budget:

When making a meal, make extra amounts of the starch, protein source (meat/dry beans) or veggie and freeze these for later use. For example, while cooking rice for to-night’s stir-fry, cook up extra rice to be frozen for a soup later in the week. Are you slicing up chicken pieces for that stir-fry tonight? Slice and freeze extra for a stew or soup for the weekend. In other words, make extra of whatever you’re cooking, and freeze for later use. Label everything!

Start thinking of meat as a condiment or a side dish. Instead of having a meal revolve around meat, let the starches, veggies and fruits take on more of a central role. Use meat in soups, stews and casseroles, and bulk up these dishes with rice, pasta or veggies. Don’t forget the dry beans! They’re a great source of protein, carbohydrate and fibre.

Know your herbs and spices. You don’t need a lot of fancy spices to add a little variety to your dishes. Here are some basic spices that can be used in various cuisine:

Latin American/Southwest: Use cumin, chili pepper, oregano.

Chinese/Asian: Use cumin, black pepper, red chili pepper.

Italian: Use basil, parsley, oregano. Again, start slowly, adding a couple of new spices to your cupboard at a time. Many of these herbs and spices can be grown in windowsill containers to save you money.

Set aside time during the week for a “cook-athon.” Get the kids involved and start a family tradition. Choose some family meal favourites, gather the needed cooking equipment, foods and storage containers, assign fun tasks to the kids, and start making batches of food for the week. Lasagna, spaghetti, soups, casseroles and stews all freeze well. Make up several different meals for variety throughout the week.

Remember those dry beans I mentioned? Have you ever thought of using them, but hadn’t soaked them and knew they’d take too long to cook? Why not keep some canned beans in the cupboard to use in a quick meal? To use those dry beans, which are cheaper, leave a note on the fridge to remind yourself to soak them for later in the week.

– Connie Burns is a health and nutrition educator with

University of Minnesota Extension.

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