Kitchen Savings

by W. Lomano


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Grocery Savings

As I was cooking dinner recently (okay, tonight, as I write this!), a thought occurred to me: What ways can/do I save money in my kitchen?

This may seem a silly question, but when you get right down to it, you eat quite a bit of money every day! Think about what you eat, what you cook, and what you could do to change. Any ideas?

This morning, I made pancakes (on the new double-burner griddle I received for my birthday!). I made the batter from scratch. Do you purchase pre-made pancakes or pre-mixed batter? Are you aware that you save a lot of money by making your own batter? All it takes is flour, sugar, milk, oil, eggs, baking powder and a dash of salt. If you do any cooking at all, you should have these ingredients on hand anyway.

Along the lines of making your own batter, what about cookies? Cakes? Pies? Do you purchase boxed or bakery-made cookies, store-made or frozen pies and cakes? Frozen pies or cakes? Frozen pies (here) run about $6 for a 9-inch pie. I can make a pie, from scratch (even using a store-bought crust; I don't like making pastries), for about $2.50 or less. You can, too. Make your own cookie dough, your own cake batter... your own frosting.

What do you normally have for dinner? Do you buy pre-packaged convenience foods, such as chicken tenders, breaded fish, microwave or all-ready frozen dinner packages? Fresh chicken breasts, cut into strips, breaded in cornmeal and herbs and baked in the oven are almost as quick to fix and are much better for you (no preservatives and 30-letter-multi-syllabic words on the package!) than are their pre-packaged frozen counterparts. Likewise, fresh (or plain frozen) fish is much better for you and cooks quickly as well (depending on its thickness, that is). If you find yourself buying frozen packages of lasagna or pizzas or burritoes, you should try making them yourself. You have much more variety and choice if you make your own pizzas. If time is an issue, try making lasagna on the weekend and freezing the un-cooked dish. Then you just thaw it during the day in the fridge and cook it in the evening, as usual. Homemade burritoes are much yummier than frozen ones, and you can add all sorts of things the frozen burritoes don't have -- salsa, fresh onions, fresh green peppers, as much cheese or as little beans as you like, etc. And, again, there are no preservatives (or at least much fewer, depending on your ingredients!).

If you have become a habitual convenience shopper, you should try to look at your habits in a new light. The more "convenient" a product is, the more it is likely to cost you. Have you ever made "Hamburger Helper"? It takes what, about a half hour to make? How much does it cost? Do you know you can make your own versions of many of these dishes, in about the same amount of time? I use a "beef stroganoff" recipe, omit the beef strips and use browned hamburger. Guess what? It's done in 20 minutes, just like HH's version. Only, mine doesn't use dehydrated anything... all my ingredients are fresh.

So go dig out that old cook book. If you don't have one, the next time you're near a "used" book store, look around, see what they have. All you need is a basic cook book (I love my "Better Homes New Cook Book"); you don't have to get fancy!

Another way to save money "in the kitchen" actually takes place outside your home. Where do you buy your groceries?

There are many places that, for lack of a better term, I consider "discount" grocery stores. In our area, we have ALDI. Here is a good example of how much money you can save by purchasing groceries and other items at such stores:

Friday, December 3, 1999, I shopped at ALDI. I spent about $41. My "average" sized grocery cart was full to the top, and I had groceries on the rack below.

Monday, December 6, 1999, I made my usual "make-up" trip to Kroger, a large chain-store, to purchase items ALDI either was out of or normally does not carry. At Kroger, I spent $30. All my items fit on the bottom rack of the cart, in one layer (my kids were sitting in the cart).

Just what did I purchase, you might be asking? Of course, if I'd have bought, say, steaks at Kroger, that would explain the difference in the amounts I spent.... but no. Here is what I purchased at each store:

ALDI KROGER
24-pack cola Deli cheese
2 canned soups deli ham
premium mac&cheese oranges
2 cans tuna store-brand olive oil
2 packs bath tissue store-brand garlic toast
5# sugar 3 packs butter sticks
3 cans vegetables small margarine tub
flour sweetened condensed milk
5 frozen orange juice cans 5# sugar
spaghetti sauce sugar cubes
2 boxes facial tissues 1 tomato
2 paper towel rolls
2 gallons milk
vegetable shortening
celery
Flavorade 10-pack
chicken breast fillets
2 boxes cereal
2 packs corn muffin mix
4 packs pudding mix
2 dozen eggs
oatmeal
corn chips
75' aluminum foil
pretzels
Wrigley chewing gum
potato chips

W. Lomano is a stay-at-home mother of two boys. She maintains The Stay-At-Home Parents Page, as well as several other websites. In her "spare time" she reads, writes and attempts to tackle the pile of laundry in the basement.

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