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Sep 14, 2022·edited Sep 14, 2022Liked by Caroline Chambers

Now that school has started back up I am encouraging my daughter to eat school breakfast and lunch regularly. We are very lucky to live in a district that provides wonderful food for students and she ends up with a bigger variety than I would typically have at home! We are very fortunate to live in a state that has made these meals free for all students!

We only ate out/had take out once a week even before but now it’s less. Restaurant prices are up dramatically near us and it is easily $40-60 for a take out meal.

We are utilizing a lot more frozen veggies and fruits, using less meat, buying way less “extras”, and most importantly meal planning around sales. Having a meal plan template also helps - one night is breakfast for dinner, one night is homemade pizza, one is crockpot meal, and the night before trash pickup is a clean out the fridge/random leftover night. Other nights are determined by sales.

Thanks to kid activities I spend 4ish hours cooking most of our meals on one day and we reheat for dinner. Makes us less likely to spend money elsewhere when it’s already cooked. This also allows me to pick recipes that use a lot of similar ingredients.

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One thing my husband started doing during the pandemic (partially due to boredom) was roasting our own coffee. Now that a bag costs nearly $17 for 12 oz. I am SO THANKFUL that we roast our own coffee. We can get 10 lbs of green coffee beans for $60, netting out to $5/12 oz. You can buy green beans at Sweet Maria's and start with a cheap AF popcorn popper.

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I’m at a red light, and can’t read through everyone’s comments just now, but I wanted to say that my local news did a reel on ways to save at the grocery store, and one HUGE way was to shop at ethic markets when possible. I haven’t tried it yet, but I’m hoping it helps. I also stretch ground meat by adding beans (white beans for turkey/chicken, red beans for ground beef).

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Bulking up meat with frozen cauliflower rice, cooking less often/being more disciplined with leftovers, using what is on hand vs. Going to get the exact right ingredient

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We meal plan at a monthly level, so we can be strategic about using ingredients do they don’t get wasted and make double batches of some things we can use on busy nights. It’s also been helpful in making sure we’re eating a good balance of foods over a week and month.

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I highly recommend looking into buying a quarter beef from your farming and ranching neighbors. Support the food system in your community, AND save money! When you buy meat at the grocery store, anywhere from 40 - 60% of the purchase price goes to cover the retailer margin. They have expenses too, I don't begrudge a grocery store needing to make money, but it isn't going into the product. Check out eatwild.com to find farmers and ranchers in your area selling local beef or go to the farmers market and ask producers there if they sell "halves or quarters."

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ALDI ALDI ALDI. I don't know what I'd do without Aldi. I supplement what I can't get there from Harris Teeter. At HT, I do try to shop the sales. I can spend equal amounts at both places and get 40 items from Aldi and like 10 from HT. It is WILD.

I, too, LOVED rent week recipes. Especially the egg salad recipe (https://www.bonappetit.com/story/rent-week-egg-salad).

We have been eating vegetarian skillet chili from NYT Cooking on the reg. All Hail Melissa Clark.(https://cooking.nytimes.com/recipes/1017704-vegetarian-skillet-chili)

Egg Roll in a Bowl is on the regular rotation.

Cauliflower Tikka Masala instead of chicken (https://www.sproutedkitchen.com/home/2020/4/1/cauli-tikka-masala).

Pasta with vegetable-based sauces (ie. https://alexandracooks.com/2011/08/25/chez-panisse-eggplant-caramelized-onion-and-tomato-pasta/ and https://ohsheglows.com/2011/01/31/15-minute-creamy-avocado-pasta/).

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I shop on Wednesdays which is when our local grocery store does Manager Special markdowns. I stock up on the meats on sale and utilize our freezer a lot more.

We’re also going to Costco 1x per month for bulkier/shelf-stable purchases and 1x per week for perishables (only getting what we need for that week’s meal plan).

The way your recipes are written with subs is so helpful in empowering cost savings and waste reduction!

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We continue to do a lot of Aldi grocery shopping because the cost is cheaper, we can get our basics there, and the lack of additional store extras (bakery, meat counter, lots of prepared foods) makes it much more likely I won’t impulse buy. We’re also considering a Whole30 next month - one, to feel a little better and two, because when I plan meals out, I’m more likely to stick to it and not just pick up something on a whim.

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My household is four adults, two are Autistic with high support needs and one (me - the grocery shopper/planner/cook) with ADHD and chronic pain issues, so as much as I’d love to do meal planning, it isn’t realistic for our lives. And we’ve always been on a fixed grocery budget set by the government, so I’ve been stretching recipes for ages. I will throw a fan of beans into just about anything to double. Repurposing leftovers, freezing leftovers flat in ziplocs so they lay easily in a stack, stock up when sales are going on, etc. It’s tough when we were already at this point of frugality and now it is just more intense, but it also means there hasn’t been a noticeable difference for the most part. I still find availability to be more of an issue than affordability.

But I’m not experimenting as much any more. I’m happy we’re heading into autumn because soups and stews and chilis are cheap and abundant. But I’m sticking to tried and true favorites that are filling and keep us coming back for leftovers.

As a well-practiced poor, I will add that there are some things worth the splurge. There are some items that the generic version works just fine and some that you have to spend a little more for. I stopped beating myself up a long time ago for spending twice as much for Heinz ketchup than store brand, but when the store brand ends up getting thrown out unused, where are the savings?

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Our issue wasn't the cost of food, but that we ate out 4-5 nights a week (a leftover from careers and long hours that encouraged it). Our specialties are Indian and Chinese, so we've always bought most of our groceries from the ethnic stores and didn't use huge quantities of meat and other expensive ingredients (one steak in a wok dish can easily feed four). So we always (but much too rarely) ate very inexpensively at home. But as soon as we mended our eating-out ways, we discovered grocery door delivery, which is ridiculously expensive. Now that's out too, and we're not really feeling the pinch of the prices. Everything looks like a bargain from where we were.

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I’m really been sticking to using my “Plan to Eat” subscription. I go through the weekly sales at Fred Meyer and plan around the proteins that are on sale. Having recipes logged in the app makes searching and planning them simple. It auto populates my grocery list and I’ve started going through my kitchen and pantry to not over purchase things we already have. Once I’ve made a meal it offers a “prep for freezer” option so you can go to your backlog of freezer options and know what you can plug into the calendar. It also puts an auto population for “pull XYZ from the freezer” so your meal is ready for the date planned. The app makes it easy to load recipes from websites and by hand. I will say that you have to loving hand load “What to cook” Substack recipes due to the formatting. Totally worth it. 😉

I’m really working mostly with freezer meats for grilling, lots of salads and trying to hold on for fall weather so we can do more hot pastas, soups and casseroles!

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I have switched to a once a month shop at Costco (organic meats/eggs/bread/cleaning stuff) with a weekly shop at Lidl for the things that run out (fresh fruits/veg/some dairy) for our family of 5 (3 kids, 2 of which are growing middle school boys & 2 adults). While there's rioting if mama doesn't offer some sort of meat at mealtime I do find myself eating less so I can stretch it more for my meat eaters. I'm doing less "stock up buying" - like you said I used to always have multiple cartons of soups/stocks/etc on my pantry shelves - less of that now - and just trying to be a bit more mindful around waste. Finally, I'm using up all the stuff I've had in my pantry/freezer for ages...

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Definitely buying meat that is on sale. Looking at buying half a cow from a local farmer, just need to get a bigger freezer first!Then meal planning with the meat I have in hand!

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Egg roll in a bowl is a great, cheaper meal.

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It’s cheaper for us to Postmates most nights (which is crazy). I think they know because they send us discounts all the time.

I’m trying to bulk up meat with beans (use half the ground beef and add black beans for taco night, more veggies in our chicken wraps, etc).

I’m buying our favorites when they’re on sale so we don’t have to go without too much.

Iced coffee from home - no more Starbucks.

Lots of frozen veggies. Thank god it’s basically soup season because those are always cheaper.

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We get a lot of our weekly groceries from Costco -- eggs, whole milk, fruit, Dave's Killer Bread. It's always been more economical, especially when we (family of 5) go through it all.

At the normal grocery store (Harris Teeter here in NC), I do find I'm buying less meat.... Instead, we're using up meat in the freezer (ie. frozen meatballs for spaghetti night, chicken tenders on top of a bagged salad).

Between the cost of groceries + the back to school crazy, my menu plan is all about keeping it VERY simple. And speaking of menu plan -- I map it out, buy for it, and we don't deviate. That goes for family dinners, what I pack for myself for lunch, and for the children.

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Sep 14, 2022·edited Sep 14, 2022

BA's Rent Week polenta w/ spinach and marinara is still one of my favorite go-to cheap meals! https://www.bonappetit.com/story/overdraft-protection-polenta

I'm low-dairy and carbs right now which makes a lot of recipes difficult, but ultimately I'm eating way more veggies and way less meat and cheese. I'm cooking a LOT more (partially because of diet) but also because eating out is so ridiculously expensive that it's not even worth it.

I used to almost exclusively shop at Raley's and Whole Foods, but now I'm absolutely obsessed with Grocery Outlet. I haven't run the numbers to compare but I know their prices are cheaper! I do still buy meat and fish at Whole Foods or other specialty stores.

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Dankest taco salad = Trader Joe's Beefless Beef.

At $2 a package, it's such a game changer for me.

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I’m making the chicken chile verde burgers tonight, and while I’m draining the salsa, I was wondering if I could use the liquid in another dish. I have extra skirt steak that I’m planning on using in fajitas this week to stretch it. Could I use it in that somehow? What do you all think?

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When I meal prep for the week, sometimes I will “theme” my meals for the week. Makes prep on Sunday easier, and saves money overall because I tend to buy less extras. For example, I would do a Greek week. I would make a big batch of Greek orzo salad as a side all week and cook up TJ’s chicken shawarma and make a batch of tzatziki. One night you can have chicken shawarma with pita, one night chicken shawarma salads, one night chicken shawarma bowls etc. I do variations of this, Italian, Tex mex, Indian etc. seems like I waste less because I’m using the same flavor profile, and things go well together.

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I live in Vancouver Canada with 2 teenage boys. We have started eating a lot more pasta/rice and ground meats. My family needs volume! I for sure have a weekly meal plan and stick to it 100% even if I don't feel like what I planned for.

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we've been eating more vegetarian meals and we subscribed to walmart+ that has free delivery and really good prices on organic goods! here are some recipes we've been making:

lentil curry, served with brown rice. we did this as a "clean the produce drawer out" meal... added peas, broccoli, sweet potatoes. https://pinchofyum.com/red-curry-lentils

pantry staple over here & husband gets two fried eggs: https://smittenkitchen.com/2015/02/spaghetti-pangrattato-with-fried-eggs/

lentil chili from the defined dish cookbook, "the comfortable kitchen"

love this too for a grain, protein and add in peas if we have them on hand too: https://smittenkitchen.com/2010/02/ginger-fried-rice/

i've also been remaking the chicken tinga bowl from Chopt at home to keep from eating out! using these recipes as guides. chicken tinga from https://pinchofyum.com/the-best-chicken-tinga-tacos & mexican green goddess dressing from https://www.eatingbirdfood.com/tomatillo-avocado-dressing/

i've also been making big batches of brown rice in my instant pot and freezing it in portions for ease for future meals instead of buying the premade ones from tj's which i loooove having on hand.

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I work as a nanny and have added in a weekly trip with my nanny kid to do personal grocery shopping - her parents are supportive of this and it helps me out! Also am able to shop sales better this way, or go to Aldi on Wednesdays when everything is freshest. Have also bought a lot of local produce this summer, realizing local veggies weren’t really any more expensive than grocery store veggies this year, and are far higher quality!

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Despite living in Japan, I was eating more "western" type of foods, but with the prices increasing, I focus now more on local products and changed my cooking ( learning how to cook roots mostly).

I started buying frozen avocados instead of fresh as their price doubled like crazy, same with citrus fruits..

I would order food delivery if not for wanting to cook and eat fresh products, so I basically make bigger batch of the same meal that I will eat for 3 days in a row haha

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RECIPE!!! this is cheap (canned tuna!) but feels fancy enough for date night in! i know tuna and pasta isn't always an appealing sell, but as anne helen petersen says, you just gotta trust me on this one.

https://food52.com/recipes/14030-first-night-in-florence-spaghetti

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We went in with friends and split a quarter side of beef three ways. I’m also releasing my low-carb phobia and making more pastas and meatless meals.

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I'm using meal planning extensively now to try to reign in my grocery budget. I make doubles of meals so we have some for the next night or several days of work lunches. I'm searching for more vegetarian recipes because meat is so expensive.

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Your one-pot cheesy rice and beans is a great cheap meal that my husband loves -me too

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A favorite meal choice is Ellie Krieger's Caribbean Chick Pea Curry Wrap. I always have canned chickpeas in the cupboard and frozen diced squash. Awesome and cheap!!

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I now shop at the cheaper store near me that I've always hated because it's pure chaos in there 24/7. But I do it through Instacart so that I can continue to avoid the chaos—it's still cheaper to pay the service fees than shopping in person at my usual store.

I've also been doubling up proteins during the week to get the most out of them. So rather than repeating full meals, I'll get twice as much of one protein (chicken thighs, ground beef, etc.) and then use that in two meals that week because it's usually cheaper to buy in bulk than to buy several different types of meat. Still figuring out how to appease my carnivore fiancee without spending half our income on groceries!

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I've cut down on my personal lunch costs by doing a protein type shake and adding a spoonful of nut butter and whatever greens need to be used (mainly from our garden, which helps keep costs down too). It ends up being about a $2 lunch and helps me control my calorie intake too. The nut butter keeps me feel full longer, I've found.

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I can see the door dashing situation. We’ve been getting coupons from some of our regular places. I like your newsletter because i can make this one meal for the week and i feel like at least for that day I did it. But for the rest of the week meal planning is HARD. We end up buying a lot of food and im embarrassed to say either eating easy stuff like scrambled eggs or even worse wasting a lot of food. Food waste is awful, and with prices rising its just criminal and sometimes it feels easier and less wasteful to order out. But i feel bad about continuously feeding the kids take out. I sat down at the table with my recipe binder earlier today and seriously said out loud What the F***?! There has to be an easier way

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1Whenever I have veggies that are needed to be use up I made ministrone in the instant pot then freeze it in souper cubes 2 cup portions so much easier to use up what I have then have 4 portions of dinner or lunch in freezer for when I need it.

2- pinch of yum has a whole section of sos meals quick not a lot of ingredients and some without meat but still awesome flavor

3-less big stock up trips but more often trips with only what I need at the time so I’m only buying what fresh stuff i know im gonna use that day or following rather then once a week shopping buying veggies etc that go bad before I use them due to a change in a plan for dinner that night

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Using eggs, beans and canned tuna more. I’m trying to do more vegetarian meals.

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My favorite trick right now is to make chicken tikka masala stew and then green chicken tortilla soup. I get the packs of chicken thighs from costco, freeze them, and use one pack per meal. It's slightly less meat than the recipes call for, but it still works. I do 1/2 bag of kale and 1/2 a bunch of cilantro for each (no weird leftovers). Just need to find a way to use the red curry paste in something else now...

Also a big fan of getting a rotisserie chicken and using it for chicken sandwiches throughout the week.

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