I do not make New Year’s Resolutions each January; instead I make goals for myself to begin that year but also carry on long after the calendar has changed over. One of my goals for 2013 is to try new things. I want 2013 to be a year of firsts! The year is already a third of the way over and I think I have done pretty well so far. I went to my first art class ever (at Create), I have tried many new restaurants, we did our first walk for a cause, and I even mowed our yard for the first time. There have also been the unplanned firsts: I got in my first car accident, got my first rental car, and had the flu and bronchitis for the first time. Good or bad I welcome all the new experiences and the knowledge that I am able to gain from each one. So why would I not extend this goal into all areas of my life? Of course this has an application to saving money.
I have found that one of the easiest ways to save money on food costs is to be willing to try new foods. I’ve had many friends that want to learn how to use coupons to cut costs but later decide they don’t like it because they can’t find coupons for the items they want and they don’t want to try the foods that have a lot of coupons available. We instead love the fact that couponing has helped us to try so many new foods that we otherwise would not have bought. When we find a good deal on a new item we still buy it. Thus far we have not come across anything that we were not willing to try; and I would say that we have liked 95 percent of these new foods that we have tried. The few we haven’t liked (for example: shrimp flavored pasta cups) we donate to the NC Food Bank so that the items can benefit others. However, more than just trying a few new products here and there, trying new eating styles helps to further cut costs.
Shortly after we got married I went to an activity at church that talked about menu planning. One of the many topics discussed was how to save money on food. The main consensus was to plan a menu ahead of time so that you only buy the food you will need and nothing will go to waste. However a couple ladies mentioned that they like to make vegetarian meals one night a week in order to save money since meat is typically the most expensive part of the meal. When I thought about it I realized that we had been doing this for the few months we had been married without even realizing it. We have pet chickens so we get fresh eggs daily. Because our egg supply is so abundant we typically make breakfast for supper at least once a week. This includes scrambled eggs, French toast, fried eggs, quiche, omelets and more. The possibilities with eggs are limitless. We had been using the eggs as a way to make our food budget stretch further but this comment at church made me realize there were more ways to add vegetarian meals into our menu.
In the beginning we would simply replace our meat entrée with some type of egg or bean dish as these are frugal options that still provide the protein that can be lost when excluding meats. Then we began experimenting more with meatless meal options and we have found many favorites. In addition to all the breakfast options we already cooked we have come to love frittata with squash and other vegetables, vegetarian pizza loaded with peppers, onions, and mushrooms, bean burritos with veggies, and grilled mozzarella sandwiches with marina sauce for dipping. Our favorite is when my husband cooks Brasilian dishes that he learned to cook while living in Brasil for two years. Most of these dishes use rice and beans as the main ingredients which are both frugal and filling. We are always trying new foods as we both love to cook but now picking recipes without meat doesn’t seem strange; in fact we look forward to making vegetarian dishes just to see how they will turn out. Meal planning no longer has to begin with choosing a meat for the entrée and instead of feeling limited I now feel like the possibilities are endless!