How To Stretch A Meal
A pint of example is worth a gallon of advice.
One of my sisters once asked me for advice on how I save money on groceries. We compared notes, and she knocked down every one of my ideas. She wasn't being mean or belligerent. It was more about coloring inside the lines. There was comfort in what she knew her family (and dog) would eat. She prized convenience more than affordability.
For example she paid an exorbitant amount of money on 'special' dog food. The prices she quoted me were obscene. I countered with my own recipe for homemade dog food, but she felt it was too much work.
At the prices she paid, I'd make the time to make dog food. The prices they charge are highway robbery.
The same goes for organic products. If you're struggling to make ends meet, something has to give. No one is going to die if you switch to less expensive commercial foods. It doesn't have to be forever. You can always add one organic product back on the menu when times are less lean.
I have the advantage that I grow some of my food, so I know that not only is it organic, but safe. (That's not always the same thing.)
A regular rib eye steak can serve two meals, dinner and breakfast (or lunch). Chicken can last at least three meals or more. Greg gets tired of it the second time around so I'll freeze a part of it to make a quick chicken salad with the leftovers.
Legumes, quinoa, and rice are excellent fillers for lean wallets. Beans and quinoa are also a great source of protein.
Have you ever tried quinoa or barley? How about steel cut oats? They are surprisingly good and filling. And these are ancient grains which means big agricultural companies haven't tampered with them yet.
Do you need more cheap protein sources? Try eggs, peanut butter, tuna, salmon, and Greek yogurt.
Here are my top ways to stretch a meal.
- Add water. Take last night's chicken dinner and boil the bones to make a broth. You now have a soup base for lunch or dinner.Add rice, quinoa, or barley to any skillet dish. Toss in some veggies and a little meat (if available) then simmer until the flavors meld.
- Add beans. Make a near instant soup with the broth from above then add beans and a chunk of pork or bacon. Any beans will do. I make a white bean soup with broth, canned cannellini beans, and any greens I have in the garden (usually kale, chard, or bok choy). Season, cook and serve.
- Add pasta. Use any style noodles with cheese, meat, vegetable, or seafood. Pasta is very versatile.
- Go vegetarian. If you garden, nothing is easier than making dinner from whatever is ready to be harvested. In the summer, the bounty is endless with fresh greens, beans, radishes, and corn. In the winter, use your root vegetables, and cold tolerant greens.
- Canned and frozen food. Purists sometimes turn their noses on commercially preserved food, but in a pinch you can make a meal from canned food. Frozen vegetables are at their peak when they're frozen, while canned beans, tomatoes, and sauces are cheap and easy to store. I've made chili with nothing but canned goods.
- Bread. Yes. Bread. Make French Toast, Bread Pudding, Bread Stuffing, Sandwiches (of course), Meatloaf, and all manner of Stratas.
Whether money is tight or you're trying to keep to a budget, stretch your meals. It saves money and adds variety.
This post was updated on 2-20-20