We are all feeling the pinch of rising prices these days and you may feel your budget is stretched to the max.
But, if you are up for a challenge, there is a way to free up some money this month to divert to your bills or savings.
And you can do it without ever leaving your kitchen.
"There are some ingredients that I love keeping on hand in my pantry because they do all the work for me and a little goes a long way," said Anna Rossi, a chef and host of Chef’s Pantry on NBC10’s The Hub Today.
Rossi recently whipped up a Pork Verde Stew, an easy recipe with a handful of ingredients that gets a lot of flavor from a jar of salsa. Whether you have salsa on hand, or a marinade or cans of soup, taking The Pantry Challenge and using them can free up money in your monthly budget.
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“Look in your fridge, freezer, pantry, see where you can use items that you already have to shrink your grocery bill over the next month or two to be able to catch up on savings for other things,” said Nicole Morong of Peterkin Financial.
To start, take inventory of what you have.
The ingredients you bought for a recipe you never made, items from holiday gift baskets, food you stocked up on during the pandemic, partial bags of rice, grains, even pancake mix, and all that stuff in the fridge and freezer --- turn it into dinner.
"It’s like the mystery box challenge," said Rossi. "It feels really good to use what I have in the pantry because food waste, if it’s something I can control, I’m already saving money. So things like quiche, frittatas, lasagnas, casseroles, pastas, soups, those are great catch-alls for a lot of odds and ends that we might have in our refrigerator."
Websites like MyFridgeFood.com can help. There you can plug in the items you have and it finds recipes to incorporate them.
"If you’re looking at what you think is a hopeless fridge, it’s not. There is definitely hope in your fridge," said Nick Dopuch, who created MyFridgeFood.com. "You have chicken cheese and garlic? You can make cheesy garlic chicken. You can filter the database very, very quickly and all the recipes are really doable, really easy."
"You can make something really delicious for so little," said Rossi. "Take bouillon cubes, reconstitute them, turn them into a beautiful soup base, add some ramen noodles, fry an egg make sure that yoke is nice and oozy. Throw that on top and all of a sudden you’re at a gourmet ramen bar with three ingredients!"
She made some chocolate chip cookies substituting ingredients for what she had on hand.
"I didn’t have chocolate chips, so guess what? I chopped up old holiday candy and it’s just as satisfying."
Buy only the fresh essentials that you need weekly and you can aim to slash your grocery bill in half.
"Keep your expectations low and be prepared to impress yourself," said Rossi. "It’s pretty remarkable what we can do when we’re motivated by a hungry family and incentivized by this is making a big impact in our family finances."
Some money-saving grocery tips moving forward -- sign up for your store’s rewards program, plan your meals around the weekly sale items, stock up on items you routinely purchase when they go on sale, try generic brands, and freeze fruit, veggies and leftovers before they go bad to use another day.