I think the biggest trick I have in stretching my grocery budget is to never let things go to waste (or at least I try not to!). It’s like I’ve adopted the viewpoint of those from the Great Depression, but it works well for us, so no criticism please.
When planning and cooking my meals, it seems like there will invariably be a little extra leftover ingredients. Back in the days before my husband came along and I was entirely a recipe cook, I would just toss the little leftover bits from the packaging because I just wasn’t creative enough to incorporate them into another meal. My husband is the MacGyver of kitchen cooks; he taught me how to whip up a meal with random, seemingly unrelated ingredients into a tasty meal! Problem solved…..right?
Towards the end of the week, there was always something trying to morph into a science experiment in the back of my refrigerator, so I started looking into crock pot freezer meals. I was in love! I could spend an hour cutting and bagging meals and sit back for the rest of the week without having to slave over a hot stove (and let me tell you, my tiny kitchen has no airflow, its like a sauna!). Well, the charm wore off and I got tired of having crock pot meals every night. I was back to cooking stove top again.
Eventually, I started reading up on how to make your own jelly and preserves at home. This was perfect because I still had an entire case of Ball jars sitting around from our wedding (decor – it was a backyard wedding). The homemade jellies were a hit and we have never turned back; store bought is just not appetizing anymore.
Back to how the jars saved my budget….. I started freezing leftovers in the jars or in freezer bags (depending on what it was). Chicken noodle soup, purees, bone broth, jelly, et cetera, would all end up stored in my freezer, neatly stacked in jars because I have a tiny freezer. This makes leftover day more enjoyable because you can choose when to enjoy them rather than being forced into it before they grow hair. Just remember to look through the fridge every couple of days and toss a few items into the freezer for safe keeping!