As the fearless leader of the budgeteer army, it is my duty to find silver linings in moments of complete misery. This week happens to be one of those moments, because as I’m sure you are aware, the government has shut down. If you are not aware, then trust me, the breakdown of American civilization is the least of your problems because I’m pretty sure you’re either illiterate or busy watching non-stop re-runs of “Keeping Up With the Kardashians” ... In which case, this means that you won’t be reading this now. So if you are reading this, congratulations, life could be worse. See, what did I tell you? Silver lining.
Many of you reading this are being affected by the government’s hissy fit (let’s be honest, that’s really what it is). Some of you are aren’t working or being paid until further notice, and several military families will have their grocery bills doubled because they are unable to grocery shop on base. I am being mildly affected by the shutdown and as a result, I have to tighten the reins on my grocery budget. Evaluating the money you spend on food is my first piece of advice to those of you having to find some wiggle room in your budget. Aside from discontinuing those fast-food drive-throughs, here is a list of some cheap meals I will be eating for the next two weeks.
Spaghetti: 1 box of pasta, 1 can of marinara sauce, 1/2 a pack of ground beef.
I like eating a lot of pasta when I’m trying to save money because I can actually get two meals out of one pack of ground beef. When I get the beef home, I cut it in half and put the two halves in Ziploc bags, which then go in the freezer. After I cook the pack of beef, I drain the meat and pour the marinara sauce into the beef. You then spoon the sauce over the pasta. Two people can eat off this for two days, or it can feed four people for one dinner.
Manwich: 1 can of Manwich, 1/2 a pack of ground beef, hamburger buns.
You can take the other of your beef and use it to cook Manwich. It is a cheap meal that two people can eat off of for two days, or can feed four to five people for one meal.
Chicken Salad: 1 pack of boneless chicken tenders, celery, 1 red onion, mayonnaise, lemon juice, salt and pepper.
Cook the chicken in a skillet and season only with salt and pepper. Dice the cooked chicken and mix in a bowl with mayonnaise, 1 stick of chopped celery and some chopped onion. Mix in just a little bit of lemon juice. You can eat the chicken salad on a sandwich or with saltine crackers. Two people can get two lunches and two dinners each out of one batch of chicken salad. If you buy another pack of chicken, you can make another batch with the remainder of your ingredients because one batch does not use an entire onion or an entire bundle of celery.
Hamburger Helper: Ingredients vary by type.
If you use the hamburger helper that calls for ground beef, you can get away with using only half a pack here as well. The other ingredients usually consist of milk, water and butter; so really, you get more bang for your buck when you buy one pack of meat that you split and two boxes of Hamburger Helper.
Grilled Cheese and Campbell’s Tomato Soup: Bread, mayonnaise, butter, milk American cheese and tomato soup.
If you buy the large can of Campbell’s Tomato Soup, it is enough for two to three people. I like this meal because milk, bread, mayonnaise and American cheese are things that I always have in my pantry anyway. That’s important to keep in mind. You don’t want to buy an ingredient so specific to one meal, that once you use it, you’ll never use it again. For example, from this meal list, I am already using mayonnaise in my chicken salad and milk in my Hamburger Helper.
Biscuits & Gravy: 1 can of Pillsbury biscuits, 1 pack of instant gravy mix, 1/2 a pack of ground sausage.
For this meal, you will need to buy one pack (or tube) of ground sausage and cut it in half like the beef. Cook only half. I chop up my sausage like I do when I cook ground beef for Hamburger Helper. Once the sausage is cooked, you mix it in with the instant gravy you cooked and you pour it over an open-halved biscuit. If you double up on your gravy mix and biscuits, you really have two meals because you’re not using the entire pack of sausage. This meal also calls for no “fancy” ingredients; you just use milk in your gravy, which you’re already using in two other meals from this list.
Those are just some of the meals in my arsenal of budget eating. The point is to buy ingredients that you can recycle into other recipes. I try to stay away from fresh fruits and veggies when I’m trying to save money because they are perishable.
You will get more servings and better longevity out of frozen vegetable sides.
Also, I know I don’t need to go on and on about how important couponing is. Many of you already clip coupons, but in case you need a refresher course, here is a link to my coupon article: http://valdostadailytimes.com/business/x1888226109/How-to-clip-coupons-like-a-normal-person
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