15 Tips to Becoming Frugal and Creative in the Kitchen
I don’t like to cook. Never have. Even as a young girl is was not my thing and it’s still not my thing today and now I am in my 40’s. However, because I want to honor the Lord in all that I do, I cook for my family regardless of how I feel.
When I was newly married, I had a rude awakening seeing how I did not know how to cook and yet that was my role. I managed to get by with preparing the basics like pasta or food in a box, but that was about all I knew how to do and quite frankly, that was all I was really interested in doing. But then I became ill and my Clinical Nutritionist put me on a strict diet of just protein (meat) and veggies. Say what, Doc? Um, I don’t know how to cook meat! And where’s the sugar and carbs? But, I didn’t have much of a choice seeing how this was for my health. So I learned and taught myself…. and there where many, many meals of undercooked chicken and overcooked, dry pot roast!
After 1 1/2 years of a diet like that, I moved into the organic-whole foods way of life. There I had to learn to purchase and cook new and unusual types of foods still because of my health. Spelt flour? What is it? Will it work in chocolate chip cookies?
Where do I find these unique foods? What do you mean I have to drive to a store that is 30 minutes from my home? You mean to tell me these foods are not sold in the market right around the corner from my house?
So I drove the distance so I could prepare
nasty, disgusting dishes, nutritious whole foods for my family. I even learned how and why to sprout grains and nuts. I felt like a regular pioneer woman!
A few years later I learned that I needed to eat gluten-free. You have got to be kidding me! I was never going to get out of the kitchen. You might as well just chain me to the stinkin’ stove!
But eating gluten-free made me feel so much better so I was willing to cook and eat the dense, dry, and tasteless breads that you could choke on.
My trappings in the kitchen went on for years. It just became part of my life that I couldn’t get away from so I learned how to make all these various types of foods in the quickest way possible so I could get out of prison as fast as I could! All the while I’m preparing alternate dishes so the rest of my family (husband) didn’t have to eat that stuff! (Nor did he need to.)
Even though my journey with preparing foods has not been easy nor enjoyable, the Lord has been with me every step of ‘I can’t believe this is my life’ sorta way, and I believe because of what I have gone through in my past, it has helped me with my present, anemic financial situation. After all, I am used to eating
unappetizing meals, foods that I don’t care for, so I guess it’s all in one’s perspective. 🙂
When our finances became an issue, I had to figure out how to prepare some of these foods as inexpensively as possible. Once again, I needed to learn how to be a creative homemaker for a new stage in our life.
So here are some basic cost saving tips for you and your situation. Pick and choose what might help you and apply a few tips at a time so you don’t get overwhelmed. For some, this list may seem very basic because you have been doing these things for years. If that is the case and you have more ideas, please leave me a comment so we can glean from your experience.
- Have a budget and stick to it. For those of you that have a husband that is self-employed, I know having a budget is hard because you never know how much money he’ll bring in that month (if any!) I understand and I’m in the same boat, but we still have a set amount and if there is a time when the electricity might get turned off because a bill needs to be paid that day 🙂 hmmm, I have been there as well, I find what I can in the cupboard, and we pay the bill. And when there is money, I spend as little as possible to feed our family until the Lord provides more work for my man. Which He always does by the way. I have yet to lose weight because we did not have enough food in our house! It may have not been our favorite food, but it is food nonetheless.
- Plan your menus in advance. I usually plan mine once a week and get everything I need so I am not wasting my time and gas heading out the door over and over again. Plus, it prevents the tendency of grabbing expensive fast food because you were unprepared to feed your family, (if that is even an option for your family).
- Cut out boxed meals and prepared sauces and learn to make a lot of recipes from scratch. This will usually save you money plus it’s a lot healthier for you.
- Re-purpose leftovers as much as you can. In other words, try not to let any food go to waste. For example, I had a recipe that called for heavy cream the other day (which is quite pricey), but I didn’t need to use the full amount in the carton. So instead of it going bad as it sat in the back of the fridge without a purpose for it, I designated the rest of it to be used for fresh whip cream to go with waffles. That was a treat for my family!
- Reduce your amount of meat consumption. We buy some meat, but not a lot because meat is expensive. Many of our meals consist of beans and rice which is a complete protein.
- Start to incorporate soups made from scratch into your menu. They are nutritious and affordable.
- Cut out or limit juices and serve your family water instead. Our children don’t need the extra sugar anyways and our bodies probably need more water intake as it is.
- Cut out or limit sweets and junk food. This is such a difficult one for us because we LOVE our desserts! It all depends on how much money we have as to whether there are sweets in our house or not.
- Portion out your food for your meals. For example, I usually buy 1 pkg. of turkey bacon per week and with that package I utilize the meat for a morning breakfast or two, and then I save a portion to make BLT’s one day for either lunch or dinner. My family has learned to not consume all of the meat in one sitting because I re-portion the leftovers. And, no, they have never left the table hungry. 🙂
- When it’s gone, it’s gone-don’t buy more. This can be milk, bread, fruit, etc. We do without and wait until the following week to buy more. We have never been in a situation where we had absolutely no food in the house. On many occasions we’ve had eggs for dinner and no one has died from this!
- It’s not a big deal if you don’t have enough money for a side dish or a salad to go with dinner. We’ve had meals absent of these things often!
- Use coupons as much as you can or shop at bargain discount stores. I know in my area a few of the large discount stores such as Target and Wal-Mart are now offering a grocery section in their stores and many times their items are cheaper than a regular grocery store. Know your products and know their prices so when you are out you can make wise, low-cost choices. But also keep in mind the rising fuel costs, in other words, don’t just drive there so you can save $0.20 on tomato sauce. In my neck of the woods, the price of fuel is well over $4.00 per gallon so I don’t drive around town from store to store like I used to because of the additional costs I would incur.
- Start your own garden. We have had a few herb plants in the past, but we have moved too often for us to have a large garden. This is something that I have been wanting to do and hopefully this year we can start one if we have the extra funds. Having a garden will help you save money on your produce. Check out Deep Roots at Home: Planning the Family Garden who has great ideas for starting one.
- Don’t be afraid to fail. Over the years I have thrown out many inedible meals. Remember that part of your calling is to care for your family and many women in our society have not been taught the basics of homemaking- let alone how to cook frugally. Have fun learning and get over your fears.
- Here’s the best tip that I can give you and the one you need to remember the most! The Lord is with you. He knows your needs. He will not forsake you. He is strengthening you and growing your faith. Keep your eyes turned towards heaven; this will help you have a grateful spirit, rather than a discontented heart. Be mindful of the fact that your situation can always be worse, and don’t forget to thank Him for the food He has provided for you!
Even though I spent many years in the kitchen as I learned to become a creative homemaker, it is not something that I am passionate in sharing with others. However, I wanted to address one of my readers questions about keeping our food costs down based on my recent post, A Working Wife, Welfare, or a Wild Faith? I am passionate about writing on faith, marriage, and deepening your walk with the Lord, and I won’t do as nearly a good of job of some others who have a passion for homemaking, so I have included some wonderful sites below that I think you can benefit from. These are all godly woman who have a heart for what they share, and they’ll go much deeper on being a creative homemaking than I will!
Stacy Makes Cents: 8 Ways to Use Up Leftover Produce (This post is written from a guest blogger, The Humbled Homemaker who writes on various homemaking topics. You can find some good saving tips on her site as well, especially if you have younger children.
Heavenly Homemakers: Very Limited Income for Real Food Purchases Being that I have health issues that require me to eat healthier, I highly recommend this site! Even if you don’t have health issues today and you can eat a lot of processed food…..just be careful to not take your health for granted. I realize that whole foods can sometimes be more expensive than processed, but there’s a saying and it goes like this: “You can either pay the farmer now or the doctor later.”
I hope what I have shared will help you in your journey!
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Thanks, Jolene. Needing to work on this area for our family following my hubby’s cancer treatment. And I’ve had a high blood pressure the past couple trips to the Dr. Some stress related to those trips as I was having some things tested, but want to keep that in check to avoid medication. And yes, another bill from the hospital sets us back financially AGAIN! So frugality is a must in our home as well. Will check out the sites you listed as well.
This is a comprehensive list – I think you have it pretty well covered Jolene. All of these tips are useful even if you’re not on a low budget just because boxed/prepared foods are, for the most part, so bad for all of us.
I would add, making stock with chicken bones, feet, etc. The feet are cheap and full of gelatin, very good for you. Also we don’t buy flavored yogurt, just plain and then we put honey on top if we want to. And my kids and I love frozen banana shakes – we mix frozen bananas, milk, cream(if we have it), and anything else we feel like (blueberries, cocoa powder, peanut butter, vanilla, etc.) It’s a nutritious, inexpensive smoothie.
Beans and rice is the best cheap meal ever! Or, beans and tortillas (enchiladas), beans and homemade tortilla chips with guacamole and salsa, beans and tortillas with slow roasted pork, etc. We have some form of beans and somethin’ else AT LEAST once a week. If I have extra time to make it even better, I make enchilada sauce – the chiles are not expensive. I layer the enchiladas in a stack rather than rolling them up, and put a fried egg on top. It’s cheap and it’s one of my favorite meals ever.
Every once in a while we roast a duck. My kids love it. They are full of fat. I save the fat in a jar. I’m telling you, corn tortilla chips fried in duck fat are the best ever! And then we make stock with the bones.
I also make my own flour tortillas. It’s really easy. I use the recipe in “The Joy of Cooking”.
Thanks for all the tips!
You are welcome Carolyn. He’ll provide what you need. I’ll keep you in my prayers.
Yes, I was going to add the chicken stock as well, but I felt the post was long enough. Plus, I had to eat chicken soup with chicken feet in it (for health reasons) for a week for all three meals. Guess it’s a bad memory of mine. 🙂
In the past, lot’s of our breakfasts consisted of smoothies with coconut oil and flaxseed oil in them with frozen fruit.
Hmmmm, I have never had duck.
I was going to start making my own tortillas! I can have them now but again, the additives are a big issue for my body. Thanks for all of your additional tips, friend!
Thanks so much for linking up at Thrifty Thursday… and for being so frank about you dislike of the being in the kitchen. I think sometimes people assume homemakers naturally love all aspects of their jobs—we don’t. But, like you said, if a task is part of our calling we should learn to do it.
What a wonderful list! We do most of the things, but I almost always serve some sort of vegetable side. You’re right though, it’s not absolutely necessary!
Whenever a type of food is in season, I buy a whole bunch to freeze for the coming year. I just got a big box of sweet potatoes for (almost) dirt cheap and pureed and flash froze little portions. They’ll be great for baby food or sweet potato dishes. I also tried making “pumpkin” muffins with it and they turned out great. You could hardly tell a difference!
Thanks again for the great list and for linking up at Thrifty Thursday! 🙂
I am very honored to be mentioned. 🙂 Thanks!
Thank you for writing this post, Jolene! I especially appreciate it because I know that cooking/homemaking is not as much your passion as marriage/ministering to other women. But that is particularly why I was so interested in hearing what you had to say on this. While I so appreciate women who devote thier blogs/passions to homemaking, I often feel that reading their posts only further highlights my own weakness/apathy in the area of homemaking. This post gave me some real and tangible things I can do that don’t overwhelm me, or make me feel insufficient. And it reminded me of one of my favorite scriptures:
-“But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” 2 Corinthians 12:9-
Thanks for stopping by! Love your veggie/fruit in season tip. I need to learn how to do some of that. Thanks for hosting on Thursday. I have a linkup on Monday and would love for you to join me!
You are welcome Felicity. I am glad it helped you. 🙂
Thank you for all these tips, Jolene! They are great reminders, especially on limiting desserts (note to self: must stop making so many cookies) 🙂 We like to combine sales with coupons if we can to get more bang for our buck at the grocery store, although we have to drive 30 miles to Target, so it’s not as easy anymore! Thanks for linking up with Thrifty Thursday too…hope you’ll join us again and looking forward to reading more of your blog as well.
These are great tips. My husband has been recently diagnosed with Celiac’s disease, so I am now exploring gluten-free cooking. Thank you for discussing a timely topic for me!
Happy to hear it has helped you!
Thanks for the link love! 🙂
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