You can find all sorts of big ways to cut back and save money, but some of my favorite ways to save are the little things we do, because they are often the old fashioned, tried-and-true methods that our mothers and grandmothers used in their kitchens. Here are just a few things I started doing that I remember these frugal ladies doing in their own kitchens in years gone by.
Cook a whole chicken. This is truly Economy 101 at its finest. So many recipes today call for chicken breasts, which is fine if you’re on a low-fat diet or no one in your family likes dark meat. However, if your family does not fit those two categories, why use chicken breasts exclusively? If you prefer the lower-fat white meat, you can certainly peel the skin off the breast and remove it from the bone for yourself. Even recipes that call for chicken breasts can normally be tweaked to work with a whole chicken. The cost difference is phenomenal. If you eat chicken several times a week, you’ll be amazed at what a budget-saving habit you’ve got going on now.
Boil the chicken bones and carcass. The added bonus of cooking a whole chicken is the bones. If you’re in the habit of throwing out the bones as you pick off the meat, just put a soup pot out on the counter, and a big note over the garbage can that says, “Don’t Throw Out The Bones.” You’ll make a quick detour over to the soup pot and dump those bones right in. If you’re concerned about germs because everyone has been eating off those bones, don’t worry. The water boils for many hours! I like to pluck all the meat off the carcass after dinner rather than stick the whole thing in the refrigerator as is. That way, the meat is nicely stored in containers ready for lunches or other meals, and I can immediately start my pot boiling.
Fry with a mixture of oil and butter. When a recipe calls for using butter to saute onions or garlic, replace the butter with cooking oil and just a touch of butter. You get the same great buttery taste that you were after, while skipping the expense. The bonus, of course, is the heart-healthy alternative you’ve just used. If you’re frying on low heat, like caramelizing onions, olive oil is a good choice. If you’re frying eggs at a little higher heat, canola oil is good.
Prep food when you bring it home. Don’t wait until you want to munch on celery to wash and cut it. Don’t wait until you want to make a ham and macaroni salad to cut up the ham. I have found that whenever I have thrown away food, it has been because, for whatever reason, the food remained untouched, unwashed, or uncut after it was put in the refrigerator. Maybe it’s pure laziness, but if my family wants a snack, they want something quick. That celery will get passed over every time, unless it’s washed, cut, and waiting in a container for them. I like this habit of prepping the groceries when I get home also for speeding up meal time, but have noticed the problem of wasting food is eliminated by this method, too. Both good reasons to develop a habit of getting your groceries in “ready to eat” mode right away.
Boiling water can do double-duty. Say you’re cooking broccoli and you’re making a pasta dish. Go ahead and cook the broccoli, but drain it through a colander into the pot for the pasta. Put that pot back on the stove and it will quickly come back to a boil for the pasta. Not only are you starting with boiling hot water, but you’ve got the added nutrients of the broccoli-water to boot! Truly a good habit to get into. Just ask yourself what else you can use that boiling water for every time you fill up your pot.
You’re probably doing something in your kitchen without thinking why you’re doing it that way. This week, as you plan and make dinner, pay attention to your routine. Can something be done a bit differently to save time or money? Involve the family and have fun developing some great new habits.