Budget saving tips.

Let’s face it, food prices are not going down no matter how much we wish they would. It just costs a lot these days to feed a family, even more so if you have to add in the expense of food sensitivities and the resulting limited food choices. What is a family to do? How do we make things a bit more affordable and cost effective? As hard as it may seem, it is possible.

I’ve been working to feed my family on one full time income for most of my twenty-plus years of marriage. It has not always been easy but we’ve never done without. Hard work and some creative cooking has fed my family pretty well. Sure, we don’t eat really fancy meals all the time, but we do eat a well balanced diet. There are many ways to stretch a meal, I think I’ve tried just about every one of them.

My grandmother was a huge inspiration in my cooking, she was always encouraging and really helped me to learn how to cook for a large family. I loved hearing her stories about how she fed her family of seven during tough economic times. Let me tell you, my grandma could cook! I believe she was one of the best cooks I’ve ever known.

Over the years it’s become a game at times to see how far I can make a whole chicken stretch. Some of the best meals come from having to stretch that chicken for two or more meals. While it may not always be easy, the results can be quite tasty.

If you have read my articles in the past you already know that planning makes for the best money saving and even time saving ingredient in any recipe or menu plan. There is much that can be done even by the busiest of cooks with a bit of planning ahead and carefully thought out prep work.

I have always tried to make my own rather than buy ready made. That is just the way I have always cooked. Feeding a family of six on one income was part of my motivation, the other was the fact that I found that much of what I could make on my own was better than any mix. It also helps that I love to cook.

Having a few time saving tools in my kitchen has been a huge help too. I would be hard pressed to get as much done in my kitchen without them. Sure, it could all be done without them, but it would take me much longer. One of the biggest time saving tools in my kitchen is my mixer. Having a good stand mixer is just about a must in any kitchen, gluten-free or not. From mixing up finicky bread dough or whipping the cream to top that cobbler, my mixer is used most every day.

There is one tool that is almost invaluable in the gluten free kitchen. It is something I don’t think many people ever considered being all that important. No matter how much from scratch cooking you do, this tool will save you money on those expensive mixes or flours that you need in your gluten-free cooking. I’ll bet many of you have this tool and didn’t even consider it being a gluten-free cooks budget saver!

How many of you have a vacuum sealer? They are amazing in preserving frozen meat, cheese, berries and vegetables. I’ve used mine for years for all of those items. Being able to buy in bulk and divide it out into more manageable portions allows me to save a lot of money when I find them on sale.

Until recently, I didn’t even consider how helpful it could be to my gluten-free food budget. The idea came to me when I was talking to a friend about buying gluten-free products in bulk. We were talking about the money that could be saved on everything from mixes, flours and other expensive ingredients if we were able to purchase them in bigger quantities and use them up before they went stale or spoiled. She was having a hard time finding ways to preserve these ingredients so none went to waste cooking only for two of her family members with the gluten-free ingredients.

During that conversation, I was reminded of another friend and a chat we had recently had about a “new” use she had discovered for her beloved vacuum sealer. She had started sealing flours, grains, dried fruit, nuts, oats, and many other items she purchased in bulk in glass canning jars using an attachment for her vacuum sealer. This attachment will remove the air from the jar, thus extending the shelf life of the item in the jar.

What a great solution for extending the shelf life of our expensive gluten-free mixes and ingredients. With this attachment, you use regular canning seals and rings that are found in just about any grocery store. They are completely reusable when used in this way!

Just think of how much you could save if you were able to purchase those expensive flours, baking mixes and cereals in bulk when they go on sale. While the initial investment might be big, the money saved from the bulk price and the fact that less would go to waste will pay for itself in no time.

There are many ways to save on your food budget, having to completely go without does not have to be the only option. Think outside of the box, find what will work for your family. Look at what you eat, how you eat and what you can do a bit differently to save a bit of time and money.

Everyone is in the same boat here, food prices are at an all time high and show no signs of going down. While that is extremely frustrating, there are things that you can do to help avoid some of those high costs. Take some time to plan out your meals, do a bit of cooking ahead and buying in bulk. Whatever you need to in order to keep your family well fed with a balanced diet.

My last tip is to buy local and buy in season. Right now, the produce markets are full of amazing produce. Today I visited a local produce market that is run by a family farm. They have a fun pumpkin patch and all of the fun that goes along with that. I wasn’t there for they hay ride or the corn maze, today I was in search of fresh squash. This time of year there are enough varieties of squash available to have a different kind each night of the week. The best part, aside from the fact that they are naturally gluten-free, but they are very inexpensive and so good for you! What a great budget stretcher.

Don’t let the high cost of food bring you down, just use it as motivation to get creative! There are many ways to save money and still enjoy the good food that your family needs to be well fed and healthy.

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