how we save: practices on saving money in the kitchen

if you are new to this blog, i would recommend starting here on this topic. in my meal planning 101 post, i share how i meal plan from start to finish. it might help answer some of your questions on how we budget & follow our budget while eating healthy, whole foods. this blog post is also helpful with a great burrito recipe we make regularly.

yesterday on instagram (@nataliecreates) i posted the photo above of our empty fridge before heading out to the grocery store. the photo was flooded with questions, thoughts & frustrations on the topic. 

we spend $70 on groceries, including household items such as toilet paper & shampoo, a week. we eat three meals a day at home from that budget. it's become something i really enjoy doing for our little family- crunching numbers & finding freedom in what we have. we use every little bit of food in our fridge, from veggie scraps to sour milk. 

i'm certain this is how we make our budget work. there aren't any real secrets on how we save money- it just takes a bit of research & quite honestly, a lot of time. late last night as i was making yogurt, i thought i'd share with you some practices we use in the kitchen to make the most of what we have.

1. homemade yogurt: we make our own yogurt from local raw milk. raw milk isn't necessary to make yogurt, but i find it to be a bit more creamy. there are so many techniques on making yogurt & i especially like abby's recipe. we have a donvier yogurt maker that i picked up for $3 from a thrift shop & i just follow the recipe that comes with the maker. i usually make yogurt once every couple of weeks if we have a surplus of milk that is going sour. we purchase organic vanilla yogurt regularly for smoothies & granola. we eat a lot of yogurt around here.

2. put up: i talk about this a lot here on the blog, but it's something i think can make a great difference in your food budget. we put up a lot of food. this doesn't mean we grow all of the food we preserve, freeze & dry. this simply means we shop seasonally from local farms, farmers' market & even the grocery store. last night i made apple sauce for oatmeal from storage apples grown this past fall. we have bags of frozen berries in the freezer perfect for smoothies that we harvested from local farms this past summer. last week i purchased bananas that were at a great discount from the grocery store. i peeled, chopped & put them in a freezer bag for future muffins, pancakes & smoothies.

every year before purchasing fresh food from farms throughout the summer, i identify what we eat most. for example, we eat a lot of tomato sauce. what tomatoes i'm unable to grow i purchase in bulk from the farmers' market & can or freeze sauce. we also eat a lot of bell peppers so i make sure to grow more than enough plants in our garden. i chop surplus peppers & add them to freezer bags for fajitas during the winter.  

3. chicken broth: i usually buy a whole chicken once every month or two. i make my whole chickens in the crockpot using this recipe. i also want to add that purchasing whole chicken rather than cuts of meat is much more economical. once i have stripped the meat from the bone, i place all of the bones back into the crockpot & fill the crockpot up with water to almost the rim. i turn the crockpot on low & allow it to simmer for 12 hours or so until a rich, golden broth has been made. once my broth is finished, i allow it to cool & then strain it. i put the liquid in mason jars for the freezer. we eat a lot of soups & chilis so we save so much money making our own broth. it's delicious & much better for you, too.

4. veggie broth: save your vegetable scraps, friends! when i am cooking, i save all of my vegetable scraps, including onion skins, carrot tops, broccoli stems & more. i put them all in a big freezer bag & place it in the freezer until it's full. once i have filled up my freezer bag, i put all of the scraps in my crockpot, add some herb seasoning & fill up the crockpot with water until it's almost to the rim. just like the chicken broth, i allow it to cook on low for 12 hours until a rich vegetable broth is made. once the broth is cooked, i allow it to cool. i strain the vegetable scraps from the broth & then place the liquid broth in mason jars for the freezer. i love having veggie broth on hand for vegetarian meals with friends. 

i hope that some of our practices in the kitchen are helpful to you & your budget. if you'd like to learn more about the culture of food we embrace, i would recommend picking up tamar adler's book, "an everlasting meal: cooking with economy and grace." it's wonderful!

do you have any tips or practices on saving money in the kitchen? please share! i'd love for this space to be a resource for myself & others!


Holly said...

Food has become much more difficult with two young children. One is "not a smoothie girl", both are so picky about texture, and they won't even eat fresh applesauce I made for them out of their favorite organic apples. Drives me insane to put forth so much effort only for it to go to waste because they simply will not eat it. One of them is going to get dehydrated today because she doesn't like the juice we have today, doesn't want water, and doesn't want milk. UGH! When it comes to meal time I want to go back to life without kids.

shayna said...

love this post! trying to make it on one income with two littles can be very challenging. i get a little too excited for posts on saving money, especially when they include tasty recipes :)
thanks so much for sharing! looking forward to making the chicken, chicken broth and vegetable broth.

elizabeth said...

I love this post. I your blog is really making me look at all the excess in my life. Thank you

Unknown said...

Do you have a website or book you recommend on how to make and can/freeze tomato sauce?

Heidi Joe said...

Hi Natalie. I follow your Instagram feed and I think your photos are always lovely. I read your blog this week for the first time and it is now one of my favorites. Thank you for this post today. I try and practice similar food and money saving techniques at home, too. I always love seeing how other people do it, too. It would be great to see this topic as a regular feature. Off to read your meal planning post that you linked now!

Emily said...

Very helpful post! I have been meaning to try a couple of these ideas- esp. making yogurt and broth. Thanks for the nudge ;)

Julia said...

i always love your tips, natalie! i always do the veggie scrap broth you described. other things i do are doubling recipes for the freezer (soups, lasagne, chana masala, waffles, pancakes, corn tortillas, etc.) then you only have to make the dish once! i also almost always have a container of cooked beans (we love black) in the fridge for quick meals. this means i'm usually soaking/cooking dried beans almost every weekend (and we buy our beans in bulk to save money).

in fact, we recently joined a local natural foods buying club and have saved tons of money on produce, dried goods, and household/body care items. i HIGHLY recommend looking into this option if it's available. or start your own!

I'm Sara. said...

Thank-you so much for sharing these tips sweet Natalie! I will be pinning this article and starting some of these practices myself, most definitely. Appreciate you. XO :)

A said...

This is fantastic! Thank you. I love your helpful tips. Stretching the contents of our fridge to make the below savory tart on this snowy day.

Andrea @ The Long Way Home said...

An Everlasting Meal is on my list of books for 2014! I am so much more excited to dive into it now! I had never thought to keep veggie scraps to make vegetable broth - thanks!

Vanessa said...

I really loved this post -- we already employ most of these ideas in our own home. I *really*really*really love the veggie broth idea - ques. though -- what about the dirt? The pesticides, if not organic, etc -- do you worry about that? We mostly buy organic but not every item.

fullheartemptyhands said...

Lots of helpful tips. Thanks so much! :)

Danielle said...

My fridge looks about the same when it's time for me to go to the store. We spend about $130-150 on groceries a week, depending on if I'm buying meat or having guests over. We have a family of 5.

I also "put up" when we can and I make broth from chicken carcasses. I try to buy what's in season. That helps and of course watch sales.

I also make my own granola and no longer buy any cereal from the store. At one point I would have never believed I could do that, but my kids love granola and never tire of it. We eat it plain with milk, put it over yogurt, etc.

Caroline said...

Thank you for this informative post! To save grocery money, I buy grains and legumes in bulk, and I freeze soups, stock, and sauces. Because I have just moved into the area,I haven't tried it yet, but we have this awesome online service called Cropmobster. Basically, farmers and backyard gardeners post their excess crop which people then can pick up for little money or for free. I'm hoping to get most of my fruit for canning and drying from there this year.

Rachel said...

I love, love, love this post! Thank you so much Natalie. I've so enjoyed following your blog and all the farm life/ crafty/decorating goodness! :) Yogurt making is definitely something I need to try.
We also try and eat on a budget (nowhere near as well as you guys!)and we do care where our food is from! We live in Clarksville, AR and hoping to make it up to the Fayetteville Farmer's market come season.
Have a great day!

Anonymous said...

Hi Natalie.
Can you give any advice on cheap ways to freeze things? Meaning do you use freezer wrap, freezer bags, regular sandwich bags, buy this stuff in bulk? Sometimes I wonder if the cost of the bag that I put something in is almost as much as what I am freezing!? But I don't know. I guess it depends on what and how much you put in a bag. Thanks, G

Gaby said...

i'm so inspired by this post! here in australia, food prices are crazy and we live in an apartment so growing our own isn't a possibility. BUT, i still feel like we could do way better. i don't even want to think about how much we spend a week.

awbree caton said...

THIS IS AMAZING advice. Thank you so much for sharing!!! I LOVE your instagram feed so much. And you inspire me so much with you simplicity and frugality. We also shop on a usually tight budget for a family of four, plus two animals. We used to do $200 every two weeks, for food and EVERYTHING ELSE needed for the home. We just started going Gluten Free for my son and I have been spending $300-350 the past two trips to the store!!! If you have any other advice, please share. I love how you keep all your grains and staples in jars. Do you buy all your baking/rice etc in bulk? Thanks again :)

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