Simplify...Use It Up

The concept that Less can be more can be applied to groceries and menus to help cut food costs and keep your kitchen organized too.  Here are a few ideas to try.
  1. Select one dry cereal everyone in the family likes. Think of how much more cupboard space you would have and the cereal will be fresher because it turns over faster. No more partial stale boxes.  I simply make our favorite granola and keep the ingredients on hand.  Try one favorite cooked cereal for winter (they can often be microwaved right in the bowl without buying expensive little packages - read the box directions).  Remember, you can have the same simple breakfast every don't have to plan it, and you eliminate decision-making in the morning rush.  Everyone can learn to make their own as they are able.
  2. Keep your menus simple, 3 items are all that are necessary: for example, main dish, salad and vegetable, or soup, salad and bread, or soup or salad with a sandwich, etc. Desserts can be fresh fruit in season or home-canned fruit or a dessert on Sunday only; as our grandparents served. In most cultures, people don't eat "celebration" food every day as we seem to in this country.  For guests, add some home-made pickles or relishes, homemade bread of some sort with homemade jam - a country company meal.
  3. Choose 6 to 10 favorite protein items and serve them often. Then you can benefit from bulk purchasing if you don't raise your own.  I also don't have any trouble finding stuff in my freezer.  Our grocery meat counter will cut and wrap our purchases in freezer paper for free, a real benefit. 
    • For example, in my community, I can buy a whole pork loin for 30-40 cents less per pound than the cheapest on-sale pork chops or roast. The catch is that I must buy an 8-10# roast. I have half or 2/3 cut into chops and the rest as a roast that I can roast and then use the cold leftovers in a casserole or as lunch meat. I only purchase pork roast instead of roast and chops and lunch meat. Myrna likes pork shoulder - she also makes several dishes from it.  Here's a recipe to make your own breakfast can grind the pork loin for this.  Homemade Breakfast Sausage
    • I buy two cuts of beef only when they are on sale; whole beef sirloin I have cut up for steaks; (I use the less attractive pieces for stir fry, casseroles, etc.) and that one sirloin lasts our family of two for a year, and rump or arm roast that I can or slow-cook, as well as to grind for hamburger and meat balls.  Grind Your Own Beef
    • I only buy chicken breasts on sale - Myrna likes skin-on ones. I use them to grill, fry, and I poach them for cooked chicken for other dishes or sandwiches. Myrna roasts hers and I do too, depending on how hot I want my kitchen.  Your family may prefer thighs and breasts or whole chickens - buy what they will eat.
    • I buy large on-sale bags of our favorite fish - easy to grill, fry etc. By only buying a few of these choices, I never run out and always buy on sale.
    • I have several egg dishes I can make quickly for suppers or lunches as well. No thawing required for eggs! and they are rich in protein and iron at a good price.  Farm fresh eggs are even better.
    • I do keep a variety of dry and home-canned beans, peas and lentils on hand - it makes it easy to make a nutritious but less expensive main dish several times a week.
    • Remember that a slab of meat that serves one person can serve several if extended in casseroles, salads, soups, mixed with crumbs or grains, or simply sliced thinly, as for stir-fries.  
  4. Researchers say most families use only a few recipes regularly - decide what these are for you and rotate them, keeping what you use for them on hand. There will be less waste and less thrown away because it stayed in the back of the freezer, and you won’t eat out as much because you will have a smaller repertoire of dishes you can make more quickly because you make them often.
  5. You will spend less the time shopping because you are not looking for “something different”. Most husbands and kids don’t really like something too “different” anyway.  You also won't be in a crowded market  after work looking for something for supper.
  6. Mixes are something that I avoid for the “less” reason too. It takes less space to store flour, shortening, salt and baking powder, etc. to make my own muffins, biscuits, cakes, etc.  I use these items anyway and they don’t get old when I use them more frequently instead of an assortment of mixes. My cupboards are more spacious and I never get bugs, etc., because turnover is quicker. I don’t have to worry about what to do with all those little packages and envelopes.
    To sum it up:
    -Buy less, especially of items you don't use regularly or that are perishable
    -Limit your choices so everything can be used up
    -Keep your inventory turned over
    -Don't buy what your family won't eat
    -Clean out and use your perishables before shopping day
    -Eat your most perishable groceries first
    -Keep a grocery list
    -Have a few meals planned before you shop
    -Organize your storage areas so you know what you have.
                      The best reason to try new recipes is to make sure you’re using up any available ingredients so you don’t waste them or when they contain ingredients you already have on hand, so you get some variety. When you get a windfall of in-season ingredients, try something new with them.  The best reason to try new foods is if they are regularly cheaper and/or more nutritious than what you usually buy.


                      1. It's surprising how many people don't use that trick on pork loin. I started doing that because I had someone who hated to work around bones (I've dealt with THAT situation!) A friend was laid off a few years ago and I mentioned this....could't imagine why you would....but they went out and bought a couple of them. Good chops and for cheap!

                        That said, I've never thought of doing the same thing with beef. (Had a non steak eater here as well..imagine that!) I'm many steaks are on a sirloin?

                        And another odd question....I like the idea of grinding your own burger. I'm always a bit leery of grocery store packs and try to buy at a butcher instead when I can. Do you buy up a few and grind for the freezer when its one sale so you have "quick" hamburg? We've always eaten more burger than roasts, maybe a ratio of 4 to 1. What kind of grinder are you using?

                        Love you tips!

                        1. Here's where we grind our own beef...Grind your own beef and a recipe to make your own breakfast sausage...Homemade Breakfast Sausage

                        2. To answer your other questions...I have a smaller electric grinder and also an attachment for my kitchenaide. I usually buy some extra on sale and pack the ground beef for the freezer.
                          The number of steaks from a sirloin depends on the size of your steaks and the size of the loin; here they range from 10-15 pounds whole. Occasionally our market offers whole ribeye too.

                        3. I appreciate your answers! I see more steak in my future! :)

                      2. Having a meat cutter on our farm has been such a blessing. When we were first married he worked in a Kroger meat department and even given some equipment that was being replaced for bigger and better. We eat a lot of wild meat and keep the freezer stocked with all kinds of cuts. I used to buy a good bit of chicken but the cost here in Virginia is unreal and almost as high as beef. I'll stick with wild turkey and grouse which you can't beat for the flavor!! Great blog on economizing!!!

                      3. Seeing this picture of the kitchen warms my heart. This is the exact kitchen from my grandparents lake house in northern Indiana. My grandfather built the house and the kitchen must have been some plans that he purchased. So wonderful to have that picture!

                        1. How neat is that. This has always been one of my favorite kitchens. Love the cabinet layout and the green and white color scheme.


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