budget talk

More Ways to Stretch Your Food Dollar (and some recipes)

Entering the Grocery Challenge contest? Here are some more ways to help stretch your food dollar along with some recipes.

Shop at the Drug Stores
Don’t just think of the supermarket when you’re buying groceries. Sometimes you can get better deals at places like Walgreens and CVS Pharmacy.

Friends with Memberships
You might not want to pay $50 for a membership to a warehouse club but for this challenge ask if friends, family or co-workers if they do and stock up some pantry essentials. When I had a membership to Costco I found things olives, sun dried tomatoes and most cheeses were great deals. And if you want to make some ready to eat meals, these stores have excellent prices on essentials like eggs and milk.

Low Cost Snacks
I’m assuming that the price of snacks is included in the challenge and one of my favorites that’s both healthy and low cost is cheese and crackers. Visit most coupon sites and some manufacturer always seems to offer a cheese coupon. Yogurt is another item that is often on sale and most times has a matching coupon. With produce in abundance, fruit kabobs are another quick and easy snack. And you can turn berries and peaches into smoothies.

National Dairy Month
Speaking of all these dairy products. June is National Dairy Month which means a lot of in store specials and coupons on the Internet.

Products with Coupons
While I was shopping this week, I couldn’t help notice how many products have coupons attached to them these days. Even if it’s not a brand you were thinking of buying, if it’s double coupon day it can save more money.

Buy Supermarket Brands
This goes without saying, most of the time you can save money by choosing supermarket brands over the major brand names. I’ve found there’s little difference in taste or quality.

Look High and Low
And I probably don’t have to tell you the most expensive items in the store are placed at eye level. Yep, they know we’re a lazy bunch of shoppers. Most bargains are placed on the top and bottom shelves and that’s the places to look first.

Substitute Ingredients
I sometimes make tuna instead of chicken pot pies not because of cost but just for some variety. Substituting a lower cost item can help stretch your dollar too.

Here are some of my favorite low cost recipes. The first one I came up with when I thought about the wonderful deep fried stuffed poblano peppers at a local restaurant. Delicious but I didn’t want to go to all the trouble of making the recipe myself so this was a quick and easy alternative.

Chile Rellano Casserole (Serves 4-6)•2 4 ½ ounce cans of chopped green chiles
•2 cups, shredded sharp cheddar cheese
•3 eggs, beaten
•3 tablespoons flour
•1 cup of salsa, your choice of mild or spicy
•1 small can (7 ½ ounces) evaporated milk
•To serve…more shredded cheese, salsa and sour cream

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a large casserole dish with cooking spray.
Place the chopped green chiles on the bottom of the dish, top with the cheese.
Mix together the eggs, milk and flour and pour over the cheese.
Pour the salsa on top
(Don’t Mix any of these layers together)
Bake for about 30 minutes or until the center is set and the top lightly golden brown

Blue Cheese Roasted Potatoes
This one I like because it can really add some pizzazz to plain hamburgers or it’s great just by itself.
(Serves 4 or 8 as an appetizer)

•2 pounds of potatoes Yukon Golds are great
•¼ cup oil, olive or vegetable
•salt and pepper
•½ cup of crumbled blue cheese

1.Wash and scrub the potatoes well, but don’t peel them. Cut them into wedges and place in a bowl. Add the oil and a generous sprinkling of salt and pepper. I sometimes use some Mrs. Dash seasoning too. Make sure all the potatoes get coated with the oil and seasonings.
2.Place the coated potatoes on a baking sheet and cook in a 350 degree oven until they’re golden brown…usually about 30-40 minutes. While they’re cooking tear off pieces of foil and make squares about 8 by 8 inches.
3.Take the potatoes out of the oven and place a serving size on each piece of foil and sprinkle them with blue cheese. Wrap them so they look like packages. Serve immediately.

I’ve also added herbs like oregano and substituted feta cheese for the blue cheese for a really Mediterranean flavor. And if you’re a vegetarian, they’re great all by themselves or pair perfectly with veggie burgers.

Vegetable Stuffed Poblano Peppers
A few years ago I was asked to write an article on low fat Mexican cooking and had to come up with three recipes, this was one of them. It makes the most of inexpensive beans and vegetables. If you can’t find poblano peppers, green peppers work too.
(Serves 4)

•4 poblano peppers, small to medium size
•1 tablespoon oil
•1 cup of chopped onion
•1 medium size carrot, grated
•2 small zucchini, cut into bite sized cubes
•1 15.5. can pinto beans
•1 10 oz can enchilada sauce, mild or spicy to your liking
•1 teaspoon chili powder
•1 teaspoon oregano
•1 teaspoon cumin
•Salt to taste
•1 cup shredded cheese, divided. I use a sharp cheddar because it has a strong flavor and you end up having to use less cheese.

1.Wash and cut open one side of the peppers, leave the stalk intact, but remove all the seeds and membranes, rinse and place in a large saucepan filled with water. Cook the peppers for about five minutes until they turn a deeper green color. *Make sure you put a lid on as I’ve found although poblano peppers aren’t that spicy, you can get some ‘pepper fumes’ that fill the kitchen. Drain and set aside.

2.Heat the oil in a medium size saucepan, add the onion and cook for about 2-3 minutes.

3.Add the zucchini and carrots and cook for about ten minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the chili powder, oregano and cumin and make sure all the vegetables are coated.

4.Add the pinto beans, stir and remove from the heat.

5.Add ½ cup of shredded cheese and stir until it’s melted.

6.Pour about half the can of enchilada sauce into a casserole dish.

7.Stuff each pepper with the vegetable mixture and place on top of the sauce. Pour the rest of the sauce over the peppers and cover the casserole dish with foil.

8.Place in a 375-degree oven for about 15 minutes. Remove the foil and sprinkle the rest of the cheese over the pepper and return them to the oven until the cheese has melted.

Serve with salsa and sour cream, or for a more substantial meal, you can serve them on top a bed of rice and warmed tortillas.

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