Originally published October 30, 2014
I’m a stay at home, home schooling mom with a large family, so we’ve had to make some -completely worth it- financial sacrifices to make that happen. We rarely eat out, and lots of convenience and froo froo foods are crazy expensive. Consequently, I spend a lot of time in the kitchen, which I happen to love. Over the years, I’ve had a lot of fun finding creative ways to “beat the system” of spending too much money and wasting too much time. Here are my top ten favorite kitchen hacks:
1. Make your own “convenience” foods and items instead of buying them at the store.
It’s usually cheaper, often more healthful, and you can make larger or smaller batches than the store’s pre-packaged convenience size depending on your family’s needs. Here are three examples from the Satisfaction Through Christ blog: Haylee’s taco seasoning, Lauren’s home made cleaning products, and my copycat Chick-Fil-A recipe.
2. Baked goods just tend to be moister and better with a little fat in them.
If you use low fat or skim milk, mix in a dollop (1-2 tablespoons) of mayonnaise or sour cream when you’re baking brownies, cakes, biscuits, or instant mashed potatoes. (A little cream cheese in the mashed potatoes is also good!)
3. If possible, make friends with your store’s stockers, butcher, etc.
First of all, making friends is a great way to share the gospel with them. Second, they can often alert you as to when items will be marked down or go on clearance. My husband often shops for me and has made friends with employees at a couple of stores. One employee explained to him how and when his store marks down meat. The employee from another store actually calls him whenever they’ve got a good clearance deal.
4. What do you do with your bread ends, leftover dinner rolls, garlic bread, etc.?
I use them to make my own bread crumbs for breading pork chops or chicken, as filler for meatballs, and as garnish on top of baked pasta. Just put that bread through the food processor (I’ve found that it works better to freeze it first, so I save up a bunch of bread in the freezer until I’m ready to make a batch), and voila! You can also season it by adding powdered ranch dressing, garlic powder, onion powder, rosemary, or other spices. I like to mix in Italian seasonings and parmesan cheese and bread chicken breasts with it for chicken parmesan.
5. I have a bad habit of heading off to the store and forgetting my grocery list, so every time I update my list, I take a picture of it with my phone.
That way, it’s always with me, even if I decide to make an impromptu stop at the store while I’m out doing other errands. I also text the picture of the list to my husband to keep in his phone for when he stops by the store. There are several free grocery list apps available, too, if you like that method better.
6. Large families with lots of kids would be better off just buying a cow.
Unfortunately, my neighborhood is not zoned for that. I also don’t have time for frequent milk shopping, plus the store with the cheapest milk prices isn’t very close to my house. What to do? Every month or so, I go to the store with the lowest prices on milk, buy five or six gallons and freeze them. You have to pour a little off the top of each gallon so the jug doesn’t crack (water expands as it freezes), but it works beautifully.
7. Substitutions are your friend.
They’re often cheaper and create less waste than buying the ingredient the recipe calls for and having most of it go bad because you only need a smidge. My two favorite substitutes are for buttermilk (add 1 T. lemon juice or vinegar to 1 c. milk and let stand 5 minutes) and baking chocolate (3 T. baking cocoa plus 1 T. shortening or oil).
8. “Leftovers” is such an unimaginative way to think of extras. I “upcycle” my left over food.
Leftover pork roast, ribs, brisket, and barbecued chicken can be boned (if necessary), then cooked down into pulled pork (or chicken) sandwiches. Strain mushrooms and onions out of your extra gravy or sauce to use in casseroles and roasts. Leftover baked potatoes can be made into mashed potatoes or potato soup. Extra vegetables go great in soups, too. Leftover baked or grilled chicken can be used in pasta or casseroles. I save my ham bones to stew into my red beans and rice, and the bones from whole baked chickens to boil for chicken stock (much better than the canned stuff).
9. Buy in bulk (when the per unit price is lower- sometimes it’s not), then repackage and/or freeze.
Large packages of ground beef can be reapportioned into one pound bags and frozen. Pork chops, chicken breasts, and leg quarters can be individually frozen (side by side on a large baking sheet, and covered), then repackaged. Buy produce, such as onions, bell peppers, and carrots, when they’re on sale, then chop and freeze. We buy large bags of cereal instead of boxes, then put smaller portions into plastic containers that are easier to pour and keep closed.
10. Meat and other food items that are on clearance are not only a great way to save money, but they can really inspire you to cook imaginatively.
A clearance can of cheese soup “recipe starter” recently became a home made mac and cheese in my kitchen. Some thin sliced steak -which I’d never worked with before- led me to a recipe for steak sandwiches. Both were big hits with my family, and they always look forward to the next mystery meal. Also be aware of your store’s day old bread/bakery rack. Why make or buy expensive dinner rolls when you can get a loaf of french bread (or other great items) for a dollar or less?
First Corinthians 10:31 says:
So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.
All. That means kitchen hacks, too. But how can kitchen hacks glorify God? When we save money and time in the kitchen, we’re able to invest those resources into Kingdom purposes, whether it’s something as simple as a few extra minutes to pray with your child or something as far-reaching as giving more money to missions. God gives us lots of opportunities each day to steward every moment for His glory.