My kitchen - where all the magic happens. Note cat on table.
Unfortunately, it wasn't someone I could directly help. But I could provide a list of websites with tips and strategies on how to save money on the grocery store and other ways to reduce your bills. We are cheap with a capital "CH" so its easy for us to do without fancy cell phones and cable TV. Some expenses you can't easy cut but I'm telling you, there are lots of ways to save money on food and still eat like kings.
Last nite for supper we had two-goat-cheese and bacon pasta. Tonite (Friday nite) we had nachos. Both meals cost me under $1 for both of us - and we'll get another meal (at least) out of the nachos. And both meals took me less than 15 minutes of standing up time - and it took me that long because I was fending off The Insane Cat Posse the entire time I was cooking. As far as cheap goes - I'm not entirely sure how to get cheaper than that.
Here is how we did it:
Two goat cheese & bacon pasta:
The other nite we had a tomato and meat sauce pasta. When I made that dinner I made the whole box of whole wheat pasta (on sale, 10 for $10) and saved half. Last nite I sauteed some bacon (cost = free because it pays to be nice to people) and a little onion. Then I made the sauce from home-canned chicken broth and a splash of cream. I finished the sauce with some of the hard cheese I made last summer and tossed in the pasta. When I served the pasta I put a big spoonful of fresh goat cheese in the bowl and gave a stir. It was spectacular. And easy peasy.
Remember when we got all those $4 turkeys on sale last fall? We ground up a bunch of turkey meat, cooked it in mexically spices and pepper, bagged it in about 1 pound portions and froze them. Tonite I nuked one of the portions until it was thawed. While that was going on I opened 2 cans of home canned pinto beans and heated them in a pan with a little homemade salsa. Then it was just a matter of mashing up the beans, pouring them into a pie plate, putting the meat on top, adding some blops of fresh goat cheese, shaking on some (on sale) bagged cheese from the store, and baking in at hot oven (425*) until lightly browned. And then we dug in with chips. Ok, I might have gone over the $1 if I include the chips - but we got them on sale and we didn't have the whole bag. And this can easily be served over rice. The leftover meat and beans can be used to make rancho huevos or in super quick tacos. Or just more nachos.
Sure these meals aren't fancy - altho I know for a fact I've paid $15 or more for a plate of the pasta at an Italian place - but they were hearty and delicious. And sure we aren't feeding a bunch of kids but even if you doubled the cost of these meals for the two of us - you're still under $5 for two meals! That is still a better deal than the dollar menu at drive thru any day.
I can't tell if these folks who were in such a tight spot did not know the value of cooking, or just didn't know how. But its a valuable skill that somehow has fallen out of favor. As far as I can tell a lot of people waste a lot of money because of this lack of knowledge. Sure a life of eating nothing but take out or frozen meals may sound like a good idea... until someone looses a job, or there is a medical crisis, or whatever crazy thing life throws at you happens.
If you are in a place where you can't make it to that next paycheck, go and have yourself a good cry. Then get up and march in there and teach yourself to cook with low cost, low stress, nutrient rich food. Plant a garden, go and make friends with people who you can trade with, come up with a plan, do your research before you go to the store, and work on making savings.
Remember when it was summer and everyone was canning?
I have to tell you. I got a certain amount of flak from people who made fun of my canning and cooking ways last summer. But now we are eating high on the hog because of our efforts. Which reminds me - I gotta go and set some pork chops out for grilling tomorrow. Cost of chops = free (just about).
Now get out there and get cooking! Happy Saturday!