I am starting with ideas that have worked for me. Hopefully some will work for you. Or, at least spark other ideas.
- If you don't think your budget has any extra money in it for food storage, put on your thinking cap and find areas you can gain a couple of dollars. Put them aside in a special place. You'll be surprised how change can add up.
- With the extra money put aside you will get to the point where you can start to buy a few, several, or even a case, of something you regularly use when it is on sale, keeping you from having to buy it when it isn't on sale.
- Long ago I tried to create a menu for a month and I was overwhelmed trying to come up with 30 different main meals. Then I realized that in actuality we usually ate the same things over and over. One time it might be tacos and the next week burritos, and then maybe we'd have a taco casserole, etc. Not the same exact food, but basically the same ingredients prepared differently. That is when I started making up a weekly menu and basically multiplying the grocery list by four.
- Write down things you can do with a can of tuna.
- Write down things you can do with a pound of ground beef. (For ideas, see my post on making five meals from only two pounds of ground beef. http://thecreativecheapskate.blogspot.com/2011/08/make-5-great-meals-with-only-two-pounds.html)
- Write down what you can do with your "stand-bys."
- Our tight budget didn't allow us to properly balance every meal nutrition-wise, but I found I could balance the day's meals. If we had muffins for breakfast, I would try to serve a healthier lunch or dinner.
- With six kids it was hard to have something each day that everyone loved, so I tried to have something each week that each individual loved. On pizza days I made pizzas on cookie sheets, dividing each in half, so each had a half of pizza "made to order" with what they liked.
- I think it helps to pay attention to visual appeal. The following two meals contain food that cost the same and have the same nutritional value basically, but as you picture them, is there a difference in appeal?
macaroni and cheese, green beans, red gelatin
- Look over your menu and make a list of the items that you buy pre-made that you could make from scratch. It may take a little time and effort initially but in the long run you would save money, and it would be a product free from additives.
- Don't be overwhelmed by new ideas, instead view them as a challenge, set a goal to try one new thing each week, and see what works for you.