written by Michelle Kish
Last installment we spoke about growing food at home and using the most of those plants, as well as seasonal eating at stores and markets and purchasing whole vegetables. This installment of seasonal eating and your wallet focuses more on the preparation of your food and less on the purchasing/growing. How you plan and prepare your meals can really influence how much money you spend at the store or market, especially when you are making meals from scratch.
The first tip in this installment is to create or find recipes tailored to affordable vegetables, rather than deciding on your weekly recipes first and then purchasing all the ingredients for each. When you buy for specific recipes, you often waste food or buy expensive food in small, higher priced quantities. Instead, look at what is in season or on sale, and then create/find recipes that use those ingredients in a variety of meals. Take, for example, cabbage. Most recipes do not use a full head of cabbage, especially in-season when cabbage heads can be gigantic. But, you can plan your meals for the week to use the entire cabbage head with different flavors. One meal could be slow cooked cabbage rolls, another could be a cabbage and pork stew, or you could have sides of coleslaw or mix cabbage shreds into all your side salads. In the summer, when eggplant is in season and the size of your head, think of the different ways you can use it in multiple meals so you maximize the lower priced vegetables on your list and reduce your waste. You don’t have to stick to eggplant parmesan, you can throw it in a curry, grill it for a tasty side the next day and make some delicious baba ganoush for your lunches.
Another cost saving preparation tip is to either meal prep or make large dishes that you eat as leftovers throughout the week. Meal prepping is often looked upon as mainly a time saving measure, but it can also be a money saving measure. Both because planning out your meals gives you the time to consider the costs and make sound decisions beforehand, and because it often involves buying whole bulk ingredients which are more affordable. There are a lot of great blogs and tips online for meal prepping that can be found with a quick search if you need inspiration. As far as the second option, make a large pot of stew, a big casserole, or a crock pot of meat and veggies at the beginning of the week and just heat your left overs back up for later in the week. If you get tired of having the same thing, you can always freeze individual portions. Then in later weeks, you will have those portions as a meal option also. This is also a waste prevention measure as your veggies can be used all at once and you have less chance of them going bad in your fridge. If you’re into fruit smoothies, they also freeze well in individual portions, helping you use all your fruit before it goes bad.
Finally, canning, preserving or freezing excess fruits and veggies can be a helpful cost saving and waste reducing tip. A quick online search can yield instructions for freezing most fruits and veggies. You should do your research first if you’re not used to freezing whole fruits/veggies (some do better frozen in water, some need to be blanched first, etc). If you overbought or didn’t get to your fruits/veggies one week you can freeze them and have a ready to make side for another week.
If you’re growing at home, you often have harvests too big to eat all those cucumbers or beans or tomatoes at once. Look into how you can preserve them. Quick pickling, canning, creating sauces to freeze in individual portions, there are lots of options! There are even options for your scraps outside of the compost heap or trash can. You can freeze veggie scraps in a freezer bag, adding to it every time you have extra scraps, and make vegetable broth at home when you have enough material. Or with meat, you can make bone broth or chicken broth to freeze to use when you need it.
Hopefully these two installments gave you some ideas on how to eat seasonally while reducing the strain on your wallet. Let us know if you have any more ideas on how to reduce the cost of the good-for-you food in your life!