Budget cooking for families provides multiple challenges, including integrating healthful ingredients that children will eat, keeping dishes simple to prepare and using fresh and unprocessed foods. Frugal cooks begin as frugal shoppers, locating basics that help them stretch their grocery dollars. Establish a few key favorite recipes that you vary with whatever fruits and vegetables are in season and affordable to keep flavors fresh and interesting.
Frugal chefs have come a long way since serving a basic meat dish accompanied by a starch, vegetable and dessert. Family recipes may encompass vegetarian, vegan, raw, organic, wheat-free, ethnic and other diets. Your frugal cooking may have to accommodate food allergies, not to mention the notoriously picky eating habits of many children.
Many successful frugal family recipes have a customizable element to them. For example, you may serve a simple stack of heated tortillas and small bowls of whole black beans, rice, shredded lettuce, shredded cheese and sour cream, so that each person creates his own dish. Other favorite meals involving custom ingredients are crepes, pizzas with different toppings, club sandwiches, fruit or vegetable salads, baked potatoes, burgers and quesadillas.
Several cheap ingredients help you stick to your family food budget. Beans, dried peas, tuna fish, tortillas, rice and pasta are classics. If you buy these cheaply or in bulk, you can put the money saved toward buying the fresh fruits and vegetables that make these basic starches and proteins more healthful, not to mention more delicious. Finding produce on a budget may require visiting discount aisles in neighborhood produce markets, stopping at fruit stands, frequenting ethnic markets or going in with a friend on deliveries of organic produce from area farms.
Saving money by cooking on a budget is a reward in itself, but it also offers other benefits. Thoughtful shopping, consumption and cooking are positive acts that make mealtimes more meaningful. Spending more time and less money on cooking potentially involves your whole family in the process, which makes them value the results of their labor.
Many people assume they cannot eat organic on a budget. However, if you have room in your kitchen or outdoor area for a small container garden, you can try growing a small-space organic vegetable or two, and ask a friend to do the same so you can trade vegetables.
- beans image by chrisharvey from Fotolia.com