As grocery prices continue to creep up I think all savvy household managers are looking for ways to stretch their grocery budget. Especially if they have, oh, a teenage male in the house!
In most grocery budgets meat and dairy take up a big chunk of the available funds. Many frugal living articles and books give the advice to use less meat, saying that meat should be a flavoring, or almost a garnish, rather than the bulk of the meal.
So how do you make up the difference in volume? That teenage boy I mentioned (or even my two voracious sprouts-I swear those kids could eat their weight in a day!) isn’t going to be happy with a tiny plate of food.
The answer is easy, if currently unpopular. Starches.
Yes, I know, carbohydrates and starches are supposed to be evil. And yes, if you are diabetic, have Celiac or some other type of intolerance you should be extremely careful. But overall carbohydrates are food–just that. You are the one who gets to make choices about what types and how much you consume!In times of financial strain grains and potatoes have always been used as a stretching agent. They are less expensive to purchase, typically easy to grow, and can be stored for long periods easily.The Great Depression gives us many examples of stretching meals using starches.
It was common to extend your meatloaf (or hamloaf), meatballs or “Salisbury Steak” by adding breadcrumbs, rice, or oats.
A bowl of soup was made more filling with rice, dumplings or wheat berries inside, or bread, biscuits or cornbread on the plate next to it. You could even add cornmeal to scrambled eggs.
Casseroles–where the bulk of the dish was a starch such as noodles, rice or potatoes and the meat, cheese and/or vegetables act as flavoring–also were extremely popular in this time period.
Another way to use starches to stretch you meals is just to increasing the serving size available of rice, potatoes, noodles, breads or biscuits at mealtime. This helps folks feel full when less meat and vegetables appear on the plate. It’s also a great trick to use when you have an unexpected extra mouth or two to feed at dinnertime!
Leftover starches can also be transformed into desserts–things like bread pudding and rice pudding were created as ways to use up day old starches!
I know here at the Frugal Upstate household we always have a starch with every meal. Unlike our Great Depression era grandmothers, I do try to switch it up a bit from the standard white flour noodles & breads or potatoes by including their healthier whole grain cousins. Don’t get me wrong-I still go through plenty of white flour. But I’ve also been branching out–for variety’s sake–into items like quinoa, wheat berries, and barley. Sure-they may cost a little more than their over-processed cousins, but they still cost less than meat!
Have you started using starches to stretch your meals? What are your favorite tricks?