Soups, salads and sandwiches make budget-friendly lunches or dinners any time during the week. But sometimes the ingredients can seem expensive, especially if you have a large family to feed. However, if you enjoy soups, salads and sandwiches for simple meals, here a few easy hacks to stretch your food budget
- When you make soup, it’s easy to cook once and eat several times. Soup is the perfect freezer food, which means leftovers won’t go to waste. Soup will keep in the freezer for a couple months, so don’t be afraid to whip up extra large batches to enjoy now and later.
- Freeze leftover soup in small, single-serve lunch size containers to bring to work, so you can enjoy a hot lunch and save money instead of going out to eat. Make soup for lunch even better by bringing some seasoned crackers or a slice of French bread.
- Always cool soup overnight in your refrigerator before freezing it. Putting hot soup into your freezer can briefly increase the temperature of the freezer and affect other frozen items. Also remember that hot liquids can expand and pop lids off of containers in the freezer, so leave room in your storage bowls for expansion.
- Mirepoix is a combination of diced carrots, celery and onion used to add flavor to soups, stocks and broths. To save time and money, you can cut up these vegetables, and freeze them in portions to cook later on. Or, you can buy a canister of preservative-free, dehydrated soup mix vegetables to keep on hand in your pantry.
- When making soups or stews, sauté onions and garlic in olive oil first, until they are tender. This will release their flavors and enhance the taste of the soup without adding in extra spices like onion or garlic powder.
- Give your soup a chance to cool off before adding final seasonings. When soup is hot, it’s difficult to tell whether or not it actually needs more salt or other seasonings. If you do happen to over-salt your soup, you can add a raw potato to it to help soak up the saltiness.
- It’s important to thoroughly wash lettuce before eating it, but it can be challenging to get it dry enough. If you prepare and eat a lot of salad, a good salad spinner is worth the investment and will save time.
- When you make a salad, keep it crisper longer by making sure the lettuce is completely dry after rinsing. Blot sliced cucumbers and tomatoes on a paper towel before adding them to the salad, and don’t add dressing until right before it’s ready to serve.
- If you pack a salad for lunch, and want to keep it from wilting, layer the ingredients by putting tough vegetables like carrots and celery on the bottom of the container, followed by proteins, like chicken or sliced eggs. Then add the lettuce and greens to the top of the container and keep the dressing in a separate container.
- If you have extra tomatoes from your garden that you don’t want to waste, wash, slice and freeze them. They are perfect for soups, chili or stews, and will save you the cost of buying canned tomatoes. Plus, they will taste a whole lot better than canned ones.
- Don’t buy grated Parmesan cheese in a jar. Instead, buy a wedge of Parmigiano-Reggiano or Asiago cheese and grate it as you need it over salads and soups. It will cost less, taste fresher and not have the added preservatives or fillers that pre-grated cheese has.
- Grilled panini sandwiches are the perfect way to turn a cold sandwich into an easy, budget-friendly hot meal, paired with a soup or salad. You can pick up a good panini press maker for around $25 or you simply use a frying pan over your cooktop to grill up hot sandwiches for dinner.
- If your family goes through sandwich fixings fast and you hate standing in long deli lines, consider frozen sandwich ingredients. For breads, English muffins, flat breads and wraps all freeze well up to two months. For fillings, ham, salami, pastrami, and cheese slices are good options to keep on hand in your freezer, up to two weeks.
- If you are completely out of sandwich fixings, get creative with meal leftovers. Cooked chicken can be turned into a tasty chicken salad. While leftover meatballs can make a good Italian sub. Also try roast or leftover steak for sandwiches and wraps.
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