Shop and stock
• Try to stick to a regular grocery shopping schedule -- once or twice a week. Twice is better because it allows you to buy more fresh fruits and vegetables.
• Fill your freezer with frozen fruits, veggies, fish and meats. Portion out the meat and fish before freezing -- wrap up just what you need for one dinner, whether it’s a chicken breast for one or stewing beef for Wednesday-night chili for the whole gang.
• Buy large, bulk packs of foods then portion and package them at home. When looking at a store’s price label, take note of the unit price, not the price of the whole item. A two-pack of chicken breasts may cost less than $10, for example, while a family-size pack of 12 breasts may cost closer to $25. Still, that big pack is cheaper if you look at the unit price.
• Load the pantry up with pasta, rice and other grains, which can be made ahead and stored covered in the fridge (toss pasta with olive oil first) for up to four days.
Easy meal ideas
• Need dinner in a rush? Simply reheat precooked pasta, rice or grains with some sauce or herbs.
• Cook in bulk. Make a great big pot of stew, chili, pasta sauce or soup, serve some on Sunday night and freeze the rest in meal-size containers until you need a great dinner, fast.
• Roasts -- whole chickens, beef, pork or lamb -- are all gifts that keep on giving. One poached or roasted chicken dinner leads to soup, sandwiches, pastas, salads and many other dishes that call for cooked chicken. Likewise, pot roast is delicious served cold with a salad and mustard vinaigrette the next day. (Try this slow-cooker pot roast recipe to start with.)
• A ball of pizza dough (keep some in the freezer for emergencies), tin of pizza sauce and some cheese and mushrooms and you’ve got a freshly baked pizza -- it’ll be delicious, cost a fraction of the price of a typical delivery pizza, be healthier and -- as if that wasn’t enough -- your kitchen will smell glorious and the family will be impressed.
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• Shape and freeze burger patties. Place a bit of waxed paper between each and take out as many as you need when you’re pressed for time. And don’t eschew fat completely -- lean beef is more expensive, so blend some lean with some fatty beef for a better price and better flavour.
• Raw chicken wings are perhaps one of the least-expensive meats at the butcher counter, but once a manufacturer has parcooked, sauced, frozen and boxed them, they go way up in price. Making wings is easy and doing it at home in the oven is so much healthier -- like this recipe for Oven-Baked Sesame Wings.
• Potatoes can be cut and stored in cold water in the fridge until you’re ready to make fries. By making them yourself you save money and control the ingredients -- like in this recipe for Crispy Oven Fries. Think about this: a 10-pound bag of potatoes will run you two or three dollars, while a pound or so of precut frozen fries is more like four or five.
Avoid wasting food
• Is that bunch of kale starting to wilt? It’s not ready for the compost just yet: make soup, or simply blanch and freeze it for later.
• Grapes, berries, avocados or bananas looking less than their best? Throw them in the freezer -- they’ll be fantastic in smoothies.
• Transform leftover meats into casseroles, soups, salads and sandwich fillings.
Four essential habits
Schedule regular shopping days -- don’t wait until there’s a grocery emergency.
Shop and cook in bulk.
Fill that freezer wisely.
Prep and portion ahead.
Adopt these four easy habits and watch your trips to the corner store or fast-food joint drop and your savings rise -- just like the crust on that pizza you baked yourself.
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