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Best Budget Picks

chicken-fried steak

This is a tough time for everyone.  We all want to keep our wallets in check, but that doesn't mean we have to sacrifice our dinner menu.  Here are the best budget picks to craft your meal plans and keep your costs down.

Best Budget Picks

When it comes to the main ingredient or flavoring in a recipe, it can help your wallet to take advantage of a few super-versatile items.  These Best Budget Picks are used in numerous recipes.  That means you can get a lot of mileage from a few foods.  To get the most value out of these items, buy them in bulk or large-quantity packages—and there are plenty of recipes to put that put your purchase to good use.

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  • Ground Beef: A mainstay in casseroles, pastas and more.  Look for ground beef in bulk or in “family-size” portions.  Ground beef freezes well, so when you get home, take what you need right away, and then divide the remainder into smaller portions, wrap tightly in plastic and store in the freezer for 3 to 4 months.

  • Chicken Breasts: Take advantage of the better price for a large-size package, then rewrap them individually and store in the freezer.  That way you can defrost just the amount you need.  For extra convenience, cook and cube the chicken before freezing.

  • Canned Soups: Canned soups come in handy for all sorts of uses, like making sauces in a jiffy, adding liquid and flavor to a casserole and rounding out a stew—not to mention an easy quick meal on their own!  Save more by buying them in bulk-size packages.

  • Bottled Dressing: Bottled salad dressings are more versatile than just for dressing salads.  Vinaigrette-type dressings are ideal for use as a quick marinade or baste for meat, chicken and fish.  And with a little imagination, many dressings can be turned into a sauces, dips or flavor-boosters for all sorts of recipes.

  • Canned Beans: These are endlessly useful in rounding out a meal—meat or meatless—quickly and inexpensively.  Make sure to rinse and drain the beans before using, then stir into a stew or toss with a salad or pasta to make the dish more substantial.

  • Canned Tomatoes: Canned tomatoes are called for in so many recipes—not just pasta—that you almost can’t have too many cans on hand.  Plus, they’re much cheaper than many brands of jarred pasta sauce.
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