A few weeks ago, we asked readers to share their tips for stretching the family food budget. We had some great responses. The winner of the $25 gift card to Sprouts Farmers Market is Deirdre Lannon. She shared a fantastic recipe for Pasta e Fagioli (see below).
We asked for easy tips on cutting back at the grocery store. Franciell said, “We have learned to really plan out our menu for the week, re-create the dishes to spruce up the leftovers (i.e., Rotisserie Chicken>>Chicken Tacos>>Chicken Pasta), added more beans/rice, fruits and veggies, and decreased the processed food and dining out. Lastly, we have switched from mostly expensive brands to HEB or Hill Country Fare.”
She also shared a fantastic dish from Cooking Light, One-Dish Rosemary Chicken and White Beans. (LiveMom tested it at the same time as Deirdre’s Pasta e Fagioli and ended up serving them together – totally delicious and a good way to feed a crowd!)
Brittaney said, “Buy in bulk! Last year we started buying in bulk as much as possible. Not so much the Costco bulk, but at the grocery store. We buy rice, beans, spices, teas, dried fruits and nut butters all in bulk. It’s also easier to go organic if you buy in bulk since organic bulk is sometimes cheaper than the same conventional non-bulk items. Spices surprised me the most! You can purchase most day-to-day spices for less than $1 vs the up to $5 bottle you might have spent (mostly on packaging). Last, Amazon.com will ship for free if you sign up for their Subscribe & Save. We buy our dishwasher and laundry detergents, diapers, wipes, baby soap and coffee from Amazon. Plus, with SAS, you get an extra 15% case discount. Cheers to savings!”
Mary Kate shared, “I really stick to shopping the store sales, especially on meat. I buy the bulk value pack, and then repack it in meal size freezer bags. Recently at my usually expensive Randall’s, I’ve gotten $1/lb boneless skinless chicken thighs that I made into a great stir fry, and $2.50/lb pork sirloin chops.”
Julie told us, “I buy the HEB marinated fajita chicken thighs when they are on sale for $1/lb. I usually buy about 5 lbs. and grill it all at once. This can last us for up to a week. We make fajitas, enchiladas, chalupas, put it on Caesar salad, Cobb salad, or any salad. I like to use it on spaghetti, or any pasta dish (hot or cold). You can serve it in strips all by itself, too. Sometimes I make a Vietnamese dish called bun which is delicious and filling, and can really stretch your dollars!”
Suzanne said, “Couponing! This has cut my grocery bill in half and allows me to get much better products because I can usually get them for less than the store brand. The secret is cutting every coupon in every paper every week and then just hold on until there is a good sale on the item. There are many sites that give you match ups each week so you do not have to do all the work yourself. One of my favorites is CouponDiva.com.”
“Freeze bread,” suggests Deirdre. “We enjoy natural, whole grain bread that is pre-sliced and soft and fresh. It is expensive, and often we would lose 3-4 slices (or more) from mold before we were able to eat it. By freezing it, you can take it out slice by slice—individual slices take no time to defrost, and you can pop them straight into the toaster if that’s your preference.”
Here’s her cost-cutting recipe for Pasta e Fagioli, “pasta and beans in the style of my Italian grandfather Anselmo Vetere and his family.”
Pasta e Fagioli alla Vetere
1 lb whole wheat short pasta (gemelle, cavatappi, farfalle, rotini)
1 can cannellini beans (garbanzos work fine)
4 large cloves garlic, finely diced
2 large cloves, garlic, coarsely diced
1 large bell pepper, diced
1 large zucchini, diced
4-6 eggsOlive oil
Your favorite dried or fresh herbs (oregano, basil, rosemary, thyme, parsley)
Boil water and cook your pasta. In a large sauté pan, add some oil over medium heat. Add the onions—sweat for 2 minutes; add the finely diced garlic, cook for 1 more minute; add the bell pepper—cook for 3 more minutes; add the zucchini—cook for 2 more minutes; add the can of beans; add the herbs.
Keep on simmer. When the pasta is done, use a slotted spoon to transfer it into the large pan with the beans and veggies. Don’t worry about letting a little water in, the heat is on the pan. Mix well, and when completely integrated, turn the heat off.
In a separate pan, heat some olive oil to almost smoking. Crack each egg into the oil and use a spatula to make sure they don’t run into each other. Cook until each egg has a firm white with crispy edges (yolk should still be runny).
Portion the pasta e fagioli into 4-6 shallow bowls, and place a crispy edged, runny yolk egg on top of each. Quickly, toss the roughly chopped garlic into the egg oil, and let them get crispy. Sprinkle crispy garlic over each bowl and then serve with great fanfare.
Sarah said, “ Buy veggies that are in season and cheap and then get creative: to use veggies before they go bad cut them all on Sunday and use them all week; cook a bunch of veggies one day and freeze them for recipes later:
-Make a sauté or stir-fry one day with extra servings and then turn it into soup the next day.
-Bread and butter can stretch a meal with a decent nutritional boost.
-Meatless meals or meat as the side item.
-Feed more than one family at a time: Make extra and freeze it for yourself or swap meals with another family. Cooking in bulk saves money.
-Buy organic when it really matters, buy all-natural for everything else.
-Be a farm volunteer and work for free veggies. Barter for meals/food when possible—if your friend has a growing garden, offer to do a chore for them in exchange for some tomatoes, greens, etc.”
Lastly, here are some of our readers’ favorite websites for helping them stretch the family budget:
Written by: Shannon Oelrich