One of the best ways to save money is to learn to cook and learn to shop. These are skills that take some practice to learn, and you need to eat. If you find yourself in a bind, or if you are simply looking for some low-cost menu ideas, here are some suggestions:
- If you know nothing else, know this: your best bets for good, cheap, filling, and nutritious foods are potatoes, rice, beans, and peanut butter. You can live a long time on peanut butter sandwiches, or on baked potatoes served with canned beans on the side.
- The Greater Chicago Food Depository has a list of pantry programs all over Cook County. If you don’t know how you are going to feed your family, get to that web site ASAP and search for a food pantry near you.
- The Hillbilly Housewife has a menu for serving a family of four for about $45. The prices are a little old, so you’ll probably have to spend more. Still, the plan assumes you have absolutely nothing in the house. It includes a shopping list, recipes, and a schedule to help you with the cooking. Her site has a lot of great frugal tips, too.
- Leanne Brown prepared a cookbook using a SNAP budget (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly known as food stamps) for her final project in the food studies program at New York University. It has a little more flavor and variety than the Hillbilly Homemaker’s plan. The PDF version is free and will help give you some great ideas for inexpensive meals that are also easy to prepare.
- Casually mention how much you love zucchini to every gardener you know. Come late August, you will be rewarded with tons of zucchini, because it grows like crazy. Then, go to the Veggie Venture blog to find out how to use them.