Think it’s tough managing your grocery budget and making the most of family mealtime? Meet Kathryn Sansone, a St. Louis mother of 10 who, along with her husband, puts dinner on the table six nights a week. If anyone knows the value of stretching the dinner table dollar, it’s the woman who sets a table for 12 almost every night of the week.
“Cooking for my family is not just about feeding them — it’s another way my husband and I express love to our kids,” says Sansone. “We’ve always used our dinners as a special time for being together each day. The same is true even in today’s economy; we just have to get a little more creative.”
While most families don’t have a table full of 10 Sansone children, ages 3 to 20, they are still faced with the same challenge at dinnertime: finding something that everyone likes while not breaking the bank. Sansone says that her recipe for success isn’t really all that complicated.
“Everywhere you look, Americans are seeking value,” says Sansone. “As we dine out less and watch our pennies more, we’re becoming bargain shoppers who want our dollars to go as far as possible. But even in this new ‘food economy,’ it’s important that people understand they do not need to compromise on taste, quality or convenience when living on a budget.”
Sansone’s tips include:
* Plan Ahead –– Between the soccer practices and piano lessons, dinner is often an afterthought. Instead, schedule your family’s dinners just as you would your kids’ after school activities. You’ll save money by making just one trip to the grocery or club store, and when you go, try buying in bulk and take advantage of the many coupons available. Even at the regular supermarket, buy in larger quantities, like when there is a 10 for $10 sale on Rice-A-Roni or Pasta-Roni.
* Turn Sides Upside Down — Typical side dishes, such as rice and pasta, are ideal for stretching your grocery budget because you can quickly turn them into main courses. Use holiday leftovers such as chicken or turkey and combine with a pre-packaged dish and add leftover veggies. You’ll end up with a nice, well-rounded meal for a family of five that costs about an additional 64 cents per serving.
Here’s one of the Sansone family’s favorites using leftover turkey to make a delicious Wild Rice Risotto:
Turkey and Wild Rice Risotto
- 1 package (4.3 ounces) Rice-A-Roni Long Grain & Wild Rice
- 3/4 pound ground turkey
- 1 2/3 cup water
- 1 tablespoon margarine, butter or spread with no trans fat
- 1 can (10 3/4 ounces) condensed cream of mushroom soup
- 1 1/2 cups fresh mushroom slices
- 1 cup thinly sliced celery
- 1/2 cup chopped red bell pepper
1. In large skillet, brown ground turkey until thoroughly cooked; drain. In same skillet, combine 1 2/3 cups water, 1 Tbsp. margarine, rice mix, seasonings and turkey. Bring to a boil; reduce heat to low.
2. Cover; simmer 20 minutes. Stir in soup, mushrooms, celery and bell pepper; return to a simmer. Cover; simmer 5 to 10 minutes or until vegetables are crisp-tender. Let stand 3 minutes. Stir before serving.
Preparation Time: 10 Minutes
Cook Time: 30 Minutes
Time to Table: 40 Minutes
Recipe Yield: 6 people
Rely on a good source — Finding fun and unique dishes to prepare doesn’t mean starting from scratch. Sansone notes that a favorite Chipotle Rice and Chicken Chili recipe actually came from the Rice-A-Roni Web site. She often visits sites such as www.ricearoni.com to see what other meats and veggies can be combined to create a variety of dishes as well as find exclusive coupons.
Courtesy of ARAcontent
Saving Tips – I find it very difficult to save money. Last year, I tried something new, and I am having much success. When I balance my checkbook, in the debit column, I put the exact amount of the check. But, in the total column, I round off the figure to the next highest dollar. Since March of 2000, I have managed to save over $500 by doing this. My personal checkbook and the banks don’t match, but I can always check by looking in the debit column. When I look at my checkbook, it doesn’t look like I have that much in there, but in truth, I have more than ever! My checkbook always says I have less than what I actually have. Out of sight, out of mind. It works for me. Also, I no longer have to pay the minimum service charge each month, because my balance stays over $500. But, I deduct it anyway, and I just save a little more.
Building A Nest Egg – It may seem a small thing but if you will round up to the nearest dollar every time you write a check you would be pleasantly surprised just how fast you can build a nice little cushion in your checking account. If you want to take it a step further when you deposit your paycheck reduce the amount you put in your register by $25 to $50 a month. One important thing, you must keep either an up to date register that tallies with the bank or use a quicken program to keep everything straight it only takes a few minutes every month to reconcile your account to the banks records. You’ll be pleasantly surprised just how fast that nest egg will grow, and another benefit no bounced checks and all the fees that entails.
$ Saving Tips – I knew a family with 6 children and at Christmas this became a problem. The mom decided to give coupons that said one on one time with mommy to read a book, or some ideas like hot tea and a snack after all the other kids are in bed coupon, or stay up a half hour longer on a school night coupon, things like that meant a lot to the children seeing as how they almost never had one on one time with the parents.
Cutting down on paper towels is necessary for the environment, but of course we use them because they’re so handy. When I clean the kitchen appliances with Windex, etc. with paper towels, instead of tossing them in the trash, I place them in a bag that’s under my bathroom sink. I reuse these to clean the toilets, floor, etc. Saves a lot of paper towels. And since it’s only from cleaning kitchen appliances, they are safe for cleaning toilets.