Sweet Maple Balsamic Vinaigrette
I am not wealthy. I am not even on the upswing of wealthy. My husband and I work hard in our careers and make a good living, but with two kids active in everything under the sun, a zoo of well-loved pets, and the never-ending pile of bills, we’re just like the rest of the working middle-class: making ends meet the best we can.
Saving money is my happy place. I guess maybe it’s because people think I can’t do it. How can I possibly feed a family of four healthy food on a tight budget (plus there is always a random kid – or six – in the house)? While I admit, it takes a little extra work, it is by far not impossible.
Because I have so much to share with you on how to eat real food on a real-life budget, this will be broken into two parts. The first will contain a few tips and easy recipes for things you can use every day. These recipes savemoney by showing you how to maketraditionally store-bought items from scratch, which is also healthier! The second part in a future issue will show you how to create and make affordable real food meals, including meal plans, gardening tips, and cost breakdown!
Buy in bulk. When possible, me and my husband try to set aside a larger sum of money to buy meat in bulk every month or so. Typically, the more you buy, the cheaper the cost. Most of the best deals will be on “case prices” at your local warehouse club (yes, the $40 yearly membership fee pays for itself almost immediately). Here are some cost differences: Chicken breast averages nationally for $3.70/lb. If you buy at a case price (between 38 and 65 pounds), it will cost you $1.59/lb. Does that initial bill of $103.35 for chicken sting a bit? Sure, but having a freezer full of meat for more than $2/lb less is worth it. Ground beef nationally is $3.69/lb ($5.61 for extra lean), whereas the case price is $2.37/lb when you buy 75 to 85 pounds. We alternate which meats we buy so our freezer is always stocked with a good variety. If you can’t afford the case price, most warehouse stores also have regular-sized packages of meat marked way below the average grocery store price.
Meat isn’t the only item you can buy in bulk to save money. Consider these items in bulk: nuts, spices, honey, maple syrup, olive oil, orcoconut oil (Tropical Traditions online often has huge sales; for instance, I just purchased a two-pack of 2 quarts for $40 and got another two-pack free! That’s $0.31/oz!). Especially if you have a FoodSaver vacuum sealer (a great purchase for saving money long-term!), buying items in bulk and separating/storing them properly saves you hundreds of dollars each year.
Let go and go easy. Not everything has to be organic, pasture-raised, and sang to by magical unicorns as it grazed in the field. You are still a good mom or dad if you buy meat at the warehouse club instead of the farm. Is it amazing to shop local and support farmers when you can? Absolutely. But if your third kid needs braces or your first kid lost his trombone, getting whole, real food in their bodies at a price you can afford matters more in my opinion. Go easy on yourself. Don’t choose recipes that take up too much of your schedule and find the simplest ways to maximize your time and budget.
Make your own. You don’t have to be Julia Child to make your own condiments, salad dressings, or spice blends, plus this will save you a ton of money. Here are a few recipes for things you probably use quite often and don’t even realize the cost savings of making your own.
This recipe will stop you from buying store-bought dressing! This is one of my favorite go-to dressings and it can also be used as a marinade for almost all meats. I’ve used bulk store prices and sizes, bought at my local warehouse club.
Sweet Maple Balsamic Vinaigrette
¼ cup balsamic vinegar ($3.48/16 oz), 2 oz = $0.43
½ cup extra-virgin olive oil ($9.98/50 oz), 4 oz = $0.80
1 teaspoon pure maple syrup ($9.98/32 oz), 0.17 oz, = $0.05
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard ($1.88/12 oz), 0.5 oz = $0.08
1 teaspoon minced garlic ($4.48/48 oz), 0.17oz = $0.02
Kosher or fine sea salt, to taste (nominal cost)
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste (nominal cost)
Mix/shake all together.
Total amount made = 1 cup (8 oz), enough for 4 large salads (2 oz each).
Total cost of recipe = $1.38
Total cost per serving = $0.35
Compare to store-bought all-natural balsamic vinaigrette = $3.99/12 oz; $0.67 per serving
Although the savings here won’t make or break the bank, when you can make this again and again or double/triple the recipe with the ingredients you’ve purchased, the savings continue. Plus, being able to make it on demand saves you time, energy, and the cost of all the other impulse purchases you may make when making multiple trips to the store! You can make this recipe 8 times (the vinegar will run out first). That is a total cost of $12.08 for 32 servings!
Written by AndreAnna McLean