Meal planning is critical to making meals using recipes. It’s not always so critical for inventing fabulous creations. In fact, the most fantastic creations are made when you’re grasping at straws in the corners of your cupboards. That said one of the most frequently asked questions I see is how people on a budget can get creative with food.
Meal Planning Basics
The largest financial outlay takes place for specialty items and spices. If you’re just getting started meal planning, look for recipes that make use of ingredients you have on hand, so that you only need to purchase one or two specialty items or other ingredients at a time. Especially with spices. Once you have them, you will not need to purchase them often. If, however, you find that you go through a lot of a particular spice, it’s wise to find a place that sells them in bulk. There’s always Costco, but even better are the spices you get from a spice vendor… fresher, custom blends with fabulous flavors. If you don’t have a local spice shop that you frequent, I recommend a fantastic online vendor like Spices Inc. who has yummy tasty treats, and, who hosts a spice collection that I created – World Kitchen Connection. 🙂 You can buy spices from Spices Inc. in sets, individually or in bulk, based on how often you think you’ll use the spice. I also love buying Frontier brand spices, either in bulk or individually because of their ethic sourcing.
Buy fresh and local
When we lived in the Lower 48, we went to Farmer’s Markets as often as we could in the summer for the freshest and healthiest produce and the best prices. Sometimes you end up with a lot of one thing (jalapenos maybe?), but you can preserve almost anything by freezing, drying or canning. If you can find a local source for your dairy, eggs, meat, and/or produce, you’ll save money and get food that is loaded with more nutrients (plus you’re promoting sustainable practices).
Now that we’re in Alaska, we’ve subscribed to a service called Full Circle that delivers West Coast-sourced organic veggies and groceries. Knowing what’s coming every week helps the planning process… PLUS, we avoid the hungry shopping at the grocery store. You know, the kind, where everything looks good, and you grab that bag of Doritos, just because… No longer happens as often that we get groceries delivered.
We still love our local Farmers Markets here when they’re in season, too!