The Budget

I was reading a friend’s blog tonight and she was talking about budgeting, specifically the household food budget. I’ve been mostly out of the workforce for a couple of years now and, not bring in any money to the house, have felt it’s now my duty to stretch the dollars my husband makes. The best things I’ve done so far are in not throwing away the food we have because it expires (we’re talking mostly leftovers here) before anyone becomes desparate enough to eat it. Case in point: old, blackened, mooshy bananas. I know people who will use these to whip up a tasty batch of banana bread. The problem I have is that inspiration for baking doesn’t always strike when I notice the bananas on the counter starting to ooze through their skins. Solution: peel each banana and put into individual sandwich baggies to freeze. The will keep in the freezer nearly forever, and are the perfect base for slushy fruit smoothies. Another mostly wasted item? Bread heels. No one here seems to like them, so, unless I have the energy to toss them into the woods behind our house for the squirrels, into the garbage they go. Now I instead air dry them thorougly, run them through the blender and use the resulting crumbs in a couple of ways. First, I use them for homemade coating mix (Shake n Bake) by adding onion soup mix and/or other seasonings. Second, I have a falafel recipe that calls for a big dose of bread crumbs, so I’m always ready to fry up a batch. I usually splurg for the good, grainy, seedy bread so I’m pleased to have a use for the otherwise undesirable pieces too. Also, we very rarely take the kids out to restaurants anymore. This means, with most of our dinners prepared at home, we have a lot more leftovers in our fridge than we used to, both meat and dribs and drabs of vegetables. Once a week I used to round up this stuff from the fridge and throw it out, but then I found a recipe for Shepard’s Pie. I take a pound of ground beef and then grind up whatever leftover meat I have in the fridge with my mixer’s grinding attachment. This usually gives me a pound and a half of meat (which is what the recipe calls for). Then I can add whatever vegetables are at hand–fresh or leftovers–to make the base. Top that with a layer of shredded cheese and top the cheese with a layer of mashed potatoes and bake the hell out of it. It’s a little different everytime, but always a winner with the kids. And I don’t throw away nearly as much leftover food as I used to. For fresh vegetables in danger of exceeded their shelf life, I bought a wok and stir fry them all up with nuts, a bit of meat, and a pot of rice. In short, I’m making better use of the appliances that I already have to make better use of the food and finding key recipes here and there that make better use of the things we are otherwise reluctant to eat. If you have any advice found by stretching your own food dollars, I’d be pleased to hear it.

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7 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Margaret
    Dec 14, 2008 @ 11:01:00

    You are impressive. These dishes are mouthwatering. (except the banana smoothie, since I hate bananas in drinks) If my husband goes out of work, we'll have to think about a tight budget. It'll be tough.

    Reply

  2. Danger Panda
    Dec 14, 2008 @ 13:07:00

    Hi Margaret! I'm making some progress–should have been doing most of this years ago. Live and learn.

    Reply

  3. FirstNations
    Dec 14, 2008 @ 17:44:00

    we're doing the exact same things sideways here. bananas ick me out, but I'll chunk up other fruits and freeze them when they've been in the bowl a bit long. where you make shepards pie, I'll make either a meatloaf, knishes, or a brown stock to freeze. i feel like a big old doofus for having forgotten shepards pie; its so good and yet i don't make it myself; duh!

    Reply

  4. Danger Panda
    Dec 14, 2008 @ 23:32:00

    FN, I'd love to send a semester in your kitchen learning at the feet of the master. Making stocks would be the first item on the syllabus.

    Reply

  5. JoJo
    Dec 15, 2008 @ 09:53:00

    Good job! We just end up scrounging every night; usually Ramen soup or a pbj sammich. What I end up spending $$ on are Lean Cuisine or Weight Watchers meals that I take to work for lunch. I should get back into making the mondo batch of soup and eating that all week, but I have zero motivation. And FB takes up a lot of my time as well. lol

    Reply

  6. Danger Panda
    Dec 15, 2008 @ 14:51:00

    JoJo, Yes, those prepared foods can really add up. I know what you mean. And, after all these years, I've recently come down with a bit of a Starbucks habbit (those peppermint mochas this time of year–I can't resist them). I thought I was immune to falling for $4 cups of coffee, but I guess I'm vulnerable after all.

    Reply

  7. JenK
    Jan 10, 2009 @ 11:05:00

    I've developed this odd hobby since I've been single: bargain shopping and frugality. This website is one of my addictions. And yes, I've actually taken up "CVS-ing," believe it or not. It gives me an odd thrill not to have to pay for toothpaste and shampoo anymore. It's not like I've become cheap or anything, though. I'd just rather spend my money on other stuff than groceries and toiletries.And the banana freezing thing totally works.

    Reply

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