I have always thought that meals weren't complete without a fresh loaf of bread, a side of pasta, or a pan of biscuits. We are a big family, and a meal padded with wheat products went farther for cheaper. Then intolerance became apparent and life changes. Well, without gluten, baked goods aren't easy, or cheap, so rather than replace them I have started to appreciate them for the empty carb-laden fillers that they are. Now our plates are piled with meat and veggies, and if we need something extra, a pot of rice or potatoes fits the bill.
Going back to basics is still a bit of a challenge for me. Real food is more expensive than ever before, and it takes time and energy that I sometimes just don't have. But there are a few tricks that are helping me out:
- Shop the Markdowns: Most grocery stores have a section in the meat department for things that have reached their shelf limit. At my store, these items are scattered among the other meats with a giant yellow markdown sticker that someone slaps on once a week. I can pick up cuts that I normally couldn't afford, or larger quantities of the usual.
- Don't Get Fancy: Seriously, a roasted hunk of meat, a sauteed pan of whatever produce looked good, and some baked potatoes is just fine for most days. Sometimes I get overwhelmed thinking my cooking fancy enough and people are bored, but the basics will keep everyone fed and healthy and that is the important thing. If you don't have time for a roast chicken or beef roast, chuck it in the slow cooker or bake up some meatballs.
- The Freezer is Your Friend: I like to keep my stand up freezer stocked. I have several cuts of meat and a large selection of frozen veg on hand so I have a couple of choices for dinner. Having flexible options without hitting the store has saved my sanity on busy weeks.
- Menu Plan: I know, it's basic stuff, but a menu really does help. Every few days I look at our schedule, check the freezer and the bank account, and what we have eaten recently. Busy days are assigned slow cooker meals or 30 minute meals, and lazy weekends get something with more thought and energy involved. Once it is all written out I know what has to be thawed and what prep has to be done in the morning, and I know what I have to pick up from the store.
It is definitely more work. But in the long run, when you compare it to the price of alternative products, it is cheaper, and so very much healthier.