Saturday, December 8, 2007

Healthy Food On Budget?

As the family wage-earner/bill-payer/shopper, it's my job to keep us all fed. I actually enjoy finding ways to save money, so it's really not much of chore to shop and cook on a budget. Just what I like to do.

Healthy food costs more but our family shops carefully and stocks up on sale items. We also have a warehouse store membership for bulk items. And bulk items are also great for a game of stack 'em.

But saving money on healthy food requires careful planning and creative cooking. We have a few cookbooks and this pdf from the USDA with 40 thrifty recipes. It really helps to have our weekly meals planned out before making a shopping list and heading down the grocery aisles.

When we find a good sale or food coupon, it's time to ditch the meal plan and take advantage of cheap eats. Recently we found FOODPAIRING and started experimenting with new combinations of veggies and meats. It's fun to invent soups and main dishes! Wild animals make a good cheap meal, too. Really.

For example, we ate fried trout with rice and fresh green veggies yesterday. And this afternoon we used the leftover rice and made vegetarian stir fry with sweet-n-sour sauce. Tomorrow we'll be making a big crock pot full of moose stew. (I'm not much of an outdoorsman, but my wife knows a few hunters.)

Of course we eat processed foods, but only allow 4 such meals per month. Usually one at the kids' favorite burger place, one rotisserie chicken, one family restaurant, and one pizza night at home. We use coupons on those meals if possible. Once in a while, we try one of the free Top Secret Recipes.

When all is said and done, we spend about $800 per month on food, or about $3.76 per person per day. That's frugal, considering that the USDA averages for an Alaskan family of 7 is over $1100 per month.

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