Have you decided to cut corners anywhere you can in order to pay bills and save money? Do you need to feed your family this week with little or no money, or the ability to go grocery shopping? Don't panic! You might just have enough on hand to get through.
Here's how: Grab paper and pen.
Walk through your kitchen, taking inventory of everything you have in your pantry, refrigerator and freezer, organizing your list into categories, such as meats, vegetables, pasta, etc.
Sit down and think creatively. Consider what veggie and/or pasta you can team with which meat to make a meal. Broaden your normal menu; be brave enough to serve some things you maybe wouldn't normally serve. Think outside the box and serve breakfast for dinner!
Carefully write out your meal plan for the week, and be diligent to stick to it!
Here are a few kitchen budget-savers I've learned:
Eggs can really stretch a dollar! Breakfast casseroles, quiches, or just plain scrambled eggs with cheese are always hits. If you've got a handful of hash browns or a potato you can shred up, that will stretch them too. You'd be surprised how just a few slices of bacon, or a piece or two of ham that wouldn't be enough by themselves can work for a dish like this!
If you've saved small amounts of burger, sausage, chicken, pork or bacon and frozen them in baggies, you're really doing good! Even ½ - 1 lb can be stretched in many dishes to feed a family!
Bisquick (or generic baking mix) is a lifesaver – for pancakes, biscuits, potpies, dumplings, and crusts.
If you have staples on hand such as flour, sugar and oats, you can mix up your own muffins or granola bars for breakfast, sack lunches or snacks for after school or in the car when you're on the run (lots cheaper than stopping off for fast food!)
Use those lonely boxes of Jell-0 and pudding for desert or stretching lunch boxes. A can of fruit or a little sliced up fresh fruit can jazz up the Jell-O. If you find some Cool-Whip in your freezer, the kids will think you've gone all out for them!
Make a pot of soup or a potpie with the little bits of vegetables you have left in the frige or freezer.
Use that rice with some carrots, mushrooms and green pepper to make a stir-fry (almost anything goes!) If you don't have any meat, use a couple eggs instead.
Think you can't do anything with one small carton of yogurt? You can make smoothies using it plus a handful of frozen berries, or a banana (over-ripe works best) and a shot of juice or milk.
A can of cream of celery, mushroom, or chicken soup can stretch a little meat a long way! Use it in the crock-pot or for a casserole, serve with a vegetable and some noodles, rice or biscuits and you've got a delicious meal!
Think you've got nothing for desert? Just a few apples dipped in peanut butter, or some oranges scrubbed and quartered on a plate are great. How 'bout that lone cake mix – make it as is, or add a can of crushed pineapple and brown sugar on the bottom for a pineapple upside-down cake.
Odds and ends of bread, or the crusts you've saved in the freezer can now be used for French toast, homemade stuffing or croutons, or bread pudding.
Thinking to toss out the last of that potato chip or Doritos bag? Don't! Use those crumbs on top of a casserole for added crunch and flavor!
You've heard the saying, "Necessity is the mother of invention"? Being desperate in the kitchen is how I've come up with these tips. As you stroll through your own kitchen, you too, will concoct clever ways to put delicious meals on your table without breaking the bank.
About the Author: Sandra Jensen is a dollar stretching mother of four boys. She's learned a trick or two about feeding a hungry family on a budget. Grab her ebook, Freezing It and Loving It, today: