One of the biggest drains on a family budget involves the kitchen! And that kitchen is also the “heart” of the home, the place we converge to share the events of our day and spend quality time together, creating healthy meals and just enjoying each others company. And with a little planning and organizing that kitchen can also work for us instead of against as a financial drain.
Here are a few suggestions, tips, and hints to help keep the kitchen your favorite room in the house.
1) Getting your family to agree and save too
As I mentioned our kitchens are a big money drain. Every time you buy items they won’t eat or don’t use food up before the expiration date, it’s like throwing money down that drain. You all need to agree to help out by using up or eating up whatever comes into the house. Kids tend to be influenced by commercials and ask for things they may not like and before long they must be discarded. Make a grocery list that all can contribute too but make sure they understand that food must not be wasted! They’ll soon get with the program when they see their contributions put to good use.
2) How to store bulk purchases
Buy when the price is right and you’ll save serious money over time. I buy most of my meats when the local store has their Massive Meat Sale, usually several times a year. Buy up steaks, wieners, ground beef, and roasts when they’re priced right and seal them up in freezer bags to store in the freezer. If you only have a small top freezer you might want to consider investing in an upright or chest type freezer. You can then buy when the price is right and have plenty on hand for months. Canned goods go on a shelf in a cupboard or if you’re lucky, the pantry. We converted a small room (that used to store the air conditioner) into a pantry by adding shelves and a light. Canned items tend to be on special at certain times of the year, in my area usually just before my coupons expire. Other items that can be bought in bulk include batteries, paper goods like toilet paper, paper towels, and napkins, and even onions and potatoes (store in a dry and dark place).
3) Saving Mom from overworking in her kitchen
Number one rule is don’t overwork mom, the chief cook and bottle washer of the home! Whether mom works outside the home or is lucky enough to be a stay at home, she always appreciates a little help. Kids can help out by washing dishes (even if that only means loading the dish washer), setting the table, and for older kids, prepping the food to be used. This is where learning about recycling comes in. Teach them when they’re young about putting items in the right recycle bins and making it a habit to save those cans, jars, and bottles. Start a compost bin and let them help plant a vegetable garden (or at least a few tomato plants and green beans). When they grow their own they seem to taste better somehow.
4) Organization is the key to a happy kitchen
When you know exactly where everything is everything runs smoother and faster. Keep your flatware together in a handy drawer, utensils like spatulas, large spoons and ladles, potato mashers, whisks, tongs, and ice cream scoopers can be designated to one larger drawer. Knives should be put into a knife block but if you don’t have one, a drawer will do, just make sure little fingers don’t get into that drawer.
5) Which knives do you really need?
Speaking of kitchen knives just how many do you really need? The manufacturers try to push large 15 to 30 piece sets of knives when all that is needed in the average kitchen are 3 or 4. Do you really need a huge knife block filled with dozens of assorted knives of every size? NO! Why spend hundreds of dollars on a bunch of cutting utensils you’ll most likely never use? The basics that most chefs recommend is a total of three knives including a good chef’s knife with blade of about 8” in length, a good serrated edged bread knife with about a 10” blade, and a 4” bladed paring knife. Just make sure they are quality precision forged blades of high carbon steel and you can keep them sharp for a lifetime by using a sharpening steel (hand held sharpener) daily and a good knife sharpener once or twice a year.
6) Choosing the most important small appliances
Wedding showers are the source for a wide variety of small appliances for the kitchen. I think all our friends felt I planned to spend a large amount of time in the kitchen and those handy gadgets would help me save time. Toasters, mixers, coffee makers, and electric skillets are all nice to have but which work best? What small appliances really do save money? Keeping in mind these items each take up valuable real estate on your counter top, you must decide what you’ll get the most use from.
Toasters are a staple but perhaps a toaster oven will be even more versatile and not take up much more space.
Coffee Makers are great to have if you make coffee every morning.
An electric skillet is great to have. Consider buying one that is large and rectangular in shape, like a griddle, but with taller sides to contain more food. It can do double duty for you.
Can Opener. Find one that hangs from the underside of a cupboard and you’ll free up counter space.
Mixer (hand or stand) is another “staple” of the kitchen. I’d suggest a stand mixer if you do much baking or mixing. Many models now come with a whisk as well as a dough hook attachment and are capable of really low speed stirring which comes in handy for many recipes. A hand mixer can be really affordable and may even fit into a drawer. Use them for everyday stirring and blending.
A blender is handy to have but if you have a good mixer you might pass on the blender unless you want to chop things up into very tiny particles. Same goes for a food processor. They are great if you want very small pieces or even elect to turn solids into liquids often.
An electric knife is great for slicing the Thanksgiving turkey but will you really use it the rest of the year?
Some small appliances you may never use include a bread maker, pasta maker, and deep fryer. You can use your stand mixer to knead bread. That mixer also can do the job of a pasta maker. Just roll out the dough and cut with a knife. Deep fried foods can be handled in a skillet or Dutch oven, using less oil, and scooping foods out with a “spider” which is a small flat strainer made for that purpose.
7) Store spices by date of purchase (or when to throw them out)
I looked in my spice cupboard and found some items I must have bought years ago but seldom or never use. Dates are never printed on spice jars for some unknown reason. And most spices are age sensitive! They lose their flavor or aroma usually within six months to a year. Buying large amounts or large size containers of Paprika, Cayenne pepper, Cumin, or Basil will only be wasteful because they’ll turn stale before you use them up. Buy smaller sized jars and stick a tiny label on the bottom or side of the jar with the date you bought them. Some spices will benefit from storing them in the refrigerator or even the freezer, ask the manufacturer what they recommend.
8) Save those leftovers for soup or stew
When you make Sunday dinner and have leftover veggies such as potatoes, peas, corn, green beans, celery, carrots, and onions just store them in the fridge for later in the week. Put the leftovers into a large pot or Dutch oven and add some chicken broth. Cook slow and low for several hours and you will have some really delicious home made soup! Add in more veggies and maybe the leftover roast beef or shredded chicken and it becomes a meal your family will appreciate when they come home on Wednesday night. In fact chefs call a few basic ingredients the “holy trinity” or mirepoix. Carrots, onions, and celery, also called the aromatic ingredients, are the beginning of many recipes as they form a base for anything from soup to stew to chicken dishes such as a roasted chicken. So beginning with but a few basic and very affordable ingredients you can then add on and end up with a super supper!
9) Use coupons only if they’ll work for you
Coupons are nice to have when checking out at the grocery store, right? Well some people clip every coupon and even use most of them just to save that 25 or 50 cents or one dollar off on items they may never actually use! Why throw money away just to save a few cents? Clip only the coupons you will actually use and keep the expiration date in mind as well. Organize your coupons according to expiration date and type of food so you won’t be disappointed when you check out and find they’ve already expired.
Also, don’t forget to use online coupons. Not only do you not have to clip physical coupons, but rather just search for coupon code sites online. Most vendors offer special coupon codes, and all you have to do is find these secret codes.
10) Plan ahead and shop with frugality in mind
Last tip involves a bit of planning ahead. Sit down with the weekly store ads from your newspaper and make a list based on meals you can plan out for weeks in advance. Say you want a meatloaf, baked potatoes, and corn for the next meal followed by fried chicken, mashed potatoes, and green beans for the next night. Plan meals as far ahead as you will be buying for. Maybe 10 pounds of ground chuck for several meals, a pork roast, a beef roast, 6 pork chops, 6 steaks, and two packages of wieners for the next two weeks worth of meals. Buy them and refrigerate or freeze for meals and you have saved time and perhaps an extra trip or two to the grocery store (who doesn’t spend at least an extra $20 or more on those unplanned grocery shopping trips?) Buy canned vegetables with 10 or more meals in mind and fresh produce like green beans, tomatoes, lettuce, celery, carrots, corn, and onions with a definite plan in mind that includes their use within the next week or so. Frozen veggies can be bought all at once when they’re on sale as can ice cream and even lunch meats. Double up when you cook those meals and you’ll not only save time and energy but use a bit less ingredients at the same time. Make cookies and freeze part of the dough for another day. Casseroles can be made in larger containers and keep half for another meal. By planning ahead you save plenty and that’s what being frugal is all about!
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