Eleri's Cooking on the Cheap Tips
1. Find a Grocery Outlet. These are like the second hand stores of the food world. When a company test markets a product, or has a seasonal design, or changes packaging, they get pulled off of regular grocery store shelves. Often, they'll end up here. You'll be amazed at what you can get on the cheap (I got a pint of Godiva Hazlenut Icecream once for $1.25) I used to be able to fill two carts (for a family of 6) for under $200
2. Ground turkey. Cheap, low-fat, takes seasonings well. Use it on its own, or mix halfnhalf with ground hamburger.
3. Speaking of ground hamburger, spend extra to buy low-fat versions (less than 15% fat.), you get more milage per pound. Meat is one of those areas that I will spend a bit more by going to a local butcher. I know the meat is fresh and it's less likely to be full of the chemicals that commercially processed meat is.
4. Find someplace that sells bulk foods (bulk as in 'loose in bins', not 'in large packages' like Costco. Costco is nice if you know you need a large amount of something.) 2lbs of bulk crutons are around $2.50, where a box of crutons for the same price may only be 12-16oz. Spices are great to but bulk, especially if it's something unusual for a recipe. Why buy an entire jar of curry powder, when you only need a tablespoon now, and you won't use it again for months and months? Spices you use alot are usually cheaper this way, too.
5. Never Underestimate the Power of Commercial Condiments. Hitting the local Taco Bell? Arbys? Grab a few handfulls extra sauce. Chinese takeout tonight? Toss a few extra soy sauces and Chinese mustards into your bag. They're great to have around when you really need to season something.
6. Freezer meals. If you know several people on a budget, consider sharing once-a-month bulk cooking. Frozen Assets is the best book on the subject. Basically, you buy all the ingredients at once, spend a weekend cooking, and then divide the results into individual meals to store in the freezer.