We joke that Rancher’s Freudian nickname for me is “Budget” (I’m not sure if this is much better than the “Bridget the Midget” of my youth). Truth be told, being a super-saver is not a natural gift. So my better half acknowledging my ability to keep our finances in check and in line with our long term goals, is the highest of compliments. And compliments are romantic. Ergo, “Budget, I mean Bridget…” is some real romantic husband and wife stuff to me. Hashtag closet nerd alert!
When it comes to food in our budget, I’m always re-assessing whether or not I am spending the appropriate amount of our income to feed our family. What I always come back to is value. I’m more focused on the value of the items I buy, as opposed to just how “cheap” they are. Kirsten’s philosophy is top of mind once a week as I walk through the automatic glass doors, swing a metal cart around and pull up my list on my phone:
“Foods that deliver nutrients are the only true good bargains and the best use of our food dollars. The return on investment is better health, feeling better, achieving healthier goals, and avoiding chronic disease and negatives associated with obesity.”
This is big-picture stuff that keeps me focused on making good choices trip by trip. Here are the tactical ways I save money week by week on food:
+ PLAN. I plan the menu, incorporating which meals I am making from Chef Kirsten’s plan that week, and equally as important, buy ingredients for meals that work with the things I already have – in order of most perishable — the fridge, freezer, and pantry. Taking a gander in each area of my larder before heading to town is a must.
+ AVOID WASTE. My biggest focus is avoiding waste. Plain and simple. I buy it. I cook it. We eat it. We eat the leftovers. Or a fun twist I plan for those leftovers – like shredded beef tacos on pot roast night part deux.
+ EAT IN SEASON. When possible. And in times of the year certain types of produce are not so fresh and not so affordable, I go the frozen route. For many recipes, and particularly in the winter time when I am braising, slow-cooking and souping my way through life, packing the pot with frozen veggies (so many grown and packed right here in the northwest!) when the same item is at it’s peak price in the produce section.
+ EAT AT HOME. Okay, I kind of win on this one. We don’t have restaurants out in these parts. So we eat out maybe once a week, less in terms of actual dinners out. Most months, we don’t even come close to maxing the minor budget I plan for going out. I’m not sure what you need to do to limit this in your lifestyle, but I can’t say enough for how much this helps us stay on track with our budget. Maybe reserve this for invitations out with friends, or only trying new places and the few family favorites a few times a month.
But look, I get a lot of feedback from people about the price of beef. Beef is on the higher end of the price scale for meat protein. This provides some insight into why. We are in a real supply-demand scenario that is going to keep prices higher than average for awhile. This is where the cost-to-value assessment comes in. As far as nutrition goes, beef delivers more nutrients from a smaller amount than many other meat and non-meat sources. Like anything else, understanding what you’re really buying helps you determine whether or not it’s a good deal. These six tips are also great ways to work beef into your food budget, in ways that work for you.
And if you’re really pinching pennies, or even if you’re not, Chef Kirsten’s recipe for Sloppy Joes from scratch hearkens to previous generations’ attempts to “stretch” high-value foods like beef. Her Sofrito combined with American Heart Association certified heart-healthy 96% lean ground beef is the foundation of a nutritious and super kid-friendly meal for the entire family. You can even hide leafy greens up in there!
Healthy Homemade Sloppy Joes
This recipe hides so much nutrition in a family favorite made from scratch!
2 tsp healthy oil/fat of your choice
1lb lean ground beef
1 onion, chopped
1 carrot, chopped
1 bell pepper, seeded and chopped
1 tomato, core removed and chopped
1 cup fresh kale, tough stems removed and chopped
3 cloves garlic, peeled
2 Tb ketchup
1 Tb grainy mustard
1 Tb onion powder or granules
1 Tb garlic powder or granules
1 Tb Spanish paprika (use the smoked variety for the biggest flavor impact)
Salt and pepper to taste
4 oz tomato sauce
1 Tb agave syrup or honey
Whole grain buns
Make the sauce for the Sloppy Joes. Add to the blender: onion, carrot, bell pepper, tomato, kale, garlic, ketchup, mustard, seasoning, tomato sauce, lime juice and agave or honey. Puree until smooth and set aside. Preheat a large skillet over medium high heat. When hot add oil, swirl to coat. Add the ground beef and cook until browned. Add the sauce and cook until thick and rich. Serve on buns with coleslaw and enjoy!
What are some of your best budget-friendly eating tricks?
Remember! You have the chance to WIN A YEAR of Chef Kirsten’s Menus by Mesa De Vida service. That’s a menu plan each week for an entire year, each with a shopping list and helpful nutrition information about one of the delicious, seasonal ingredients used in the meals. Enter by any of the following (earning an entry each time):
+ Commenting on the After Baby Un-Diet blog posts (like this one!)
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The After Baby Un-Diet is a 6 week series focusing on health and deliciousness! It is a collaboration with Chef Kirsten Helle and Washington State Beef Commission. Information is not intended to diagnose any medical condition or to replace a medical professional’s orders. Information is for entertainment and informational purposes and Chef Kirsten Helle/Mesa de Vida/Washington State Beef Commission/Ranch Wife Life accept no responsibility for how you use it. Videos and recipes are copyright protected. Raw footage edited and produced by Frazer Loveman, 1Love Media.