Need to cut down on your budget? Start with your grocery bill.
Food is often a big part of a family’s monthly budget — and it’s necessary. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, an average family spends about 10% percent of their annual income on food, which includes eating at home and eating out.
When you are trying to save money on food, one of the top recommendations is to cook more at home and eat out less. Often, that is easier said than done, which is why we find ourselves so frequently reaching for premade convenience products that are often full of preservatives and other not-so-healthy stuff.
But what if I told you there are a few staple products that are simple to make and store at home — that they will not only cost less, but taste better, too? These three recipes will help you make dozens of other dishes, and they’ll taste so good, you’ll never reach for the processed counterpart again.
Recipe No. 1: Tomato sauce
There is absolutely no reason to purchase jarred tomato sauce, which can range greatly in price, depending on the quality. At home, you can make high-quality sauce for pennies (about $1 per cup) at home. You can tweak it with spices to switch from a simple marinara sauce — great for spaghetti, lasagna, and casseroles of all kinds — to a fabulous pizza sauce in a snap.
The key? Big (28-ounce) cans of crushed tomatoes.
I like to start by heating up a small amount of oil in a saucepan. Add a grated garlic clove (one per 28-ounces of crushed tomatoes, but if you want more, it’s up to you) and a pinch of red pepper flakes (also optional) and let it bloom for just a few seconds. Then add the crushed tomatoes and season with salt and pepper to taste.
If you want marinara sauce, add either dried basil or Italian seasoning. If the sauce is headed for a pizza, add a little oregano to the mix. Let the sauce with the spices simmer for about 15 minutes, and then taste it. If it’s a little too sharp, add a bit of sugar. Once it tastes how you like it, you’re ready to go.
Homemade tomato sauce will last 2 to 3 days in your refrigerator, but it will maintain its quality in the freezer for four to six months. For true convenience, skip the giant storage container and freeze your sauce in ice cube trays instead. That way you can thaw exactly how many ounces you need and not waste any leftovers.
Recipe No. 2: Vegetable broth
Vegetable broth is essential for a variety of recipes, especially soups and stews. You can also use it to infuse more flavor into any savory recipe that calls for water. But the best news: You can make it using scraps you might normally throw away.
Start with a large, clean, freezer-safe bowl. Every time you use vegetables — such as onions, garlic, carrots, etc. — or herbs in a recipe, put your scraps (including root ends and skins) in the bowl and pop it back into the freezer. Once the bowl is full, you’re ready to make broth.
To make broth:
- Dump your scraps in a big pot and fill it with water.
- Add some salt and pepper to taste, and any additional seasonings you wish (totally optional).
- Boil everything for about an hour, or until the flavor develops.
- Strain the liquid, discard the solids, and you have broth!
Homemade broth will keep in the refrigerator for 2 to 3 days, but it stays tasty in the freezer for four to six months. I recommend storing your broth in smaller portions (1 to 3 cups) in zip-top freezer bags (laid flat for easier storage) or glass jars, so they are easier to thaw out and use. Remember to leave a little headspace in your jars, since the liquid will expand as it freezes.
Recipe No. 3: Pizza dough
Pizza dough sounds complicated, but it really isn’t. You don’t even need a stand mixer to knead it. All you need is a little elbow grease and a few hours to let the dough rise.
Since it does take some foresight to make pizza dough, it’s the perfect thing to whip up on your day off. Since most of your time will be spent waiting, you can complete other tasks in the downtime.
If you use Good and Cheap’s recipe, one batch (enough for four pizzas) only costs about 80 cents. Compare that to the premade crusts at the grocery store the next time you visit.
BudgetByte’s recipe also provides instructions for how to freeze your dough, so you’ll always have crust ready for pizza, calzones, and other stuffed-dough treats. It will keep for about three months. Just make sure you remember to thaw it in the fridge for several hours before using.
What to do with your savings
If you are able to save money each month on your grocery bill, you will have more money left over to pay down debt or put into an emergency fund. Even if it’s only a few dollars here and there, every bit helps and gets you closer to financial security.
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