Eating Well On a Budget: Part 8 – Staples & Spices
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Eating Well On a Budget: Part 8 – Staples & Spices

Posted on Monday, December 24th, 2012 at 8:00 am
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Eating Well On a Budget: Part 7 – Cooking Fats & Oils

Keeping your pantry well stocked with items you constantly use is a great way to ensure you cook fantastic, healthy meals at home instead of spending extra money on calorie loaded take-out. Purchasing perishable items like seasonal fruits and vegetables is necessary to keep you and your family healthy. However, you can also purchase a few less expensive staple items to keep your family fed, your pantry stocked, and your pocketbook happy. The Environmental Working Group has compiled a list of staples and spices that take your dishes to a whole new level without breaking the bank. For every $25 spent on your overall grocery bill, the EWG suggest you spend about $1 to $2 on staples and spices.

Staple items include anything you know you will be using frequently to bake or add flavor to your dishes. Since they last a long time, you can buy staple items in bulk when they are on sale. This will save you tons in the long run! Staples included on the Environmental Working Group’s list include honey or brown sugar, peanut butter, low-sodium soy sauce, vinegar, Dijon mustard, stock for soups, and whole wheat flour. Just about all of these items can be found in big warehouse stores like Costco, so consider stocking up! Be sure to read the label or do some research on how to properly store all of these items.

Herbs and spices offer an inexpensive way to take your dishes to the next level. Whether you’re using them to add a touch of flavor, or you’re planning on building your dish around a certain flavor, it’s no doubt that every kitchen needs to keep essential spices handy! Spices can go stale, so it’s best to buy them in small quantities or whole when you can find them. Once you bring your herbs and spices home, consider writing the date on the outside of the container with a permanent marker ensure you aren’t using stale ingredients. Grinding your spices with a mortar and pestle is a great way to keep your spices longer, and you’ll get a fresh taste! Ethnic markets often sell spices at great prices. You can also find herbs or spices that you might not find in traditional markets. However, the best way to save money is to grow your own. Herb gardens are easy to maintain and can be added to your home garden. You can also grow an herb garden in your kitchen window.

Herbs and spices that are used often include salt, pepper, onions, garlic, lemon juice, cinnamon, and cayenne pepper. Ingredients that are called for often in recipes and are handy to have around the kitchen include bay leaves, cumin, rosemary, thyme, vanilla extract, chili powder, dill, fennel, ginger, lime juice, dried oregano, paprika, and parsley.

The world of staples and spices truly makes cooking fun as you can experiment with new flavors to create an entirely new dish!

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Good Tip: Saving money is important – especially if you have a lot of expenses like bills to pay, loans to pay off, and all the other things that drain your bank account. Figuring out a way to save money can feel tedious to some, and like a punishment to others. U.S. News suggests that you try one of these money saving challenges. The “No Eating Out for a Month” Challenge This one is self-explanatory. The goal is to avoid eating out for an entire month. This might be super easy for people who enjoy making meals at home. People who really enjoy dining out, or ordering food to be sent to their home, may struggle with this one. It’s worth a try because spending money on take-out is more expensive than buying groceries. The Pantry Challenge This one is a variation of the “No Eating Out for a Month” challenge. The goal is to use up all of your groceries before you buy more. It forces you to try and remember why you bought a food or beverage that you don’t know what to do with, and gives you the opportunity to find a way to use it. The one exemption to this challenge is the foods that have expired. Don’t eat them! Throw them in the trash. The “No Spend” Challenge Make a goal to avoid spending money during an entire weekend. The only exemption in this challenge is that you are allowed to pay bills. This challenge is interesting because it requires creativity. You must be creative and find workarounds for problems that you would typically solve by spending money. You may have a different outlook on spending after finishing this challenge.