Save Money on Groceries With Brave Cooking Techniques
Your definition of "dump" cooking and mine are probably different. My definition rarely has anything to do with crock pots or "one-pot" meals. I'm sure though, that "saving money" is a term we both like.
When I use the term "dump cook", it's just a term in my family for people who don't follow recipes or measure ingredients (or at least, do so rarely).
How on earth could that possibly save you money?
Doesn't the sound "dump" just sound like a waste of food?
Actually, I compared a month of cooking using exact recipes to a month of cooking "my way". I saved over $200 on food. Plus, I didn't waste as many ingredients.
Dump cooking saves me money, and if you are bold and willing to experiment, it might just help your grocery budget too!
So how does this work?
1. I Don't Stick to the List
I always keep a supply of staple ingredients in the pantry, fridge, and freezer. These are versatile goods, like frozen vegetables, tortillas, rice, noodles, beans, tuna and canned soup, eggs, cheese, and certain spices.
With everything else, I look for a good deal. Then I used what I find to make my meal "plan", instead of planning a meal first and hoping to find good deals on the ingredients.
Why pay more for what I "planned on", when I can get what's cheaper, and then make a plan around it?
2. I Never Make the Same Thing Twice...Exactly
The problem with buying what is on sale is that it is usually chicken. We love chicken, but it can be become boring if you eat it all the time, in the same handful of recipes.
I do repeat recipes. I just don't make them exactly the same twice.
For example, the other night I was sauteing some chicken. I got the idea to try sprinkling in a little ground clove. Then I literally threw in some mushrooms, onions and soy sauce. No idea how much of it I used. I measured by the handful.
I considered it a success because it tasted good. (Honestly). I know this because my husband is a plain food eater...(a fried chicken and potatoes guy), and he ate two huge helpings.
So if you can come up with some creative last minute "dumps", you can get by with cooking the same cheap food over and over again. Money in the bank, baby.
3. I Customize
One reason I hate recipes is that they will occasionally call for a spoonful of something we don't normally have. A spoonful. Then we are stuck with the rest.
Coming up with my own creations means I don't end up with a jarful of pickle relish or something else we will never touch again.
Because, hey! If a spoonful of relish is supposed to taste good in this, then a 1/2 cup of dill pickles, which we actually like, is better, right?
No money wasted on dabs of things we won't use.
4. I Use Up Leftovers
I use the dabs of salad dressing from the bottles in sauces and marinades. This probably isn't expert. But you will never believe how yummy pork chops are cooked in creamy Caesar dressing.
Using the leftovers also means using up things that are on the shelf in place of things I don't have. Like, say you were going to make a stroganoff. You find out too late that you don't have noodles.
But you do have a couple of cups of rice. Just cook it up. Is it enough? You won't know til you try it. If not, add some vegetables as filler.
Sure, you didn't end up with stroganoff. But you did get a strognanoff-flavored casserole that is probably better for you anyhow.
What Can You Learn From This Non-Method of Cooking?
I cannot tell you how to make cornbread. I make pans and pans of cornbread. I always use two eggs. That is the only true measurement I can give you.
I can make it with all-purpose or self-rising cornmeal. But there is no way I could write it down for you. I just adapt my ingredients based on the size of the pan.
I can't tell you how to make a huge roaster full of homemade cornbread dressing either. I learned from watching my grandmother make it.
But I can tell you that if you don't have celery to put in that dressing, it will also taste good with corn, or hominy, or mushrooms, or green onions, or even boiled eggs. Or maybe mushrooms and onions and eggs.
I can also tell you that a box of dressing mix can double as bread crumbs. If you break it down it will work as a spicy salad topping.
You can use it in place of rice or noodles in a casserole. Its a substitute for potatoes if you are making breakfast hash. And it taste good with beans if you can't make a pan of plain cornbread.
I can't tell you how I know how much flour to pour out for dumplings, or how much spice to shake into a pot.
But I can tell you that if you can figure it out, it will save you money. You will never be left wondering what to cook.
My number 1 tip for you, if you want to eat well and save money, is to not be afraid of your food. Cooking isn't like chemistry.
I promise...if you use the "wrong" sauce, nothing will explode. And the food police will not break down your door.
NOTE: If you've never tried creating your own recipe, then you probably will lose a little food in the beginning. I recommend starting small by changing favorite recipes. Eventually, you will develop a knack for knowing what works.
Also, when I post recipes on this site, I take notes as I am experimenting so that I can write down the recipes for my readers to use.
Even so, you will probably notice some "dump" moments, where I give a vague measurement. I try to do this only when it doesn't matter how much or how little of that item you use. Consider it all "to taste".