Feeding a family of six, with four of them being seemingly insatiable growing boys, our food budget can get out of control in a heartbeat. The budget is further stretched by the fact that I prefer to buy mainly local, organic, and whole foods. Food is our largest monthly expense, right after the mortgage. That’s a lot of chow. I try to keep the food budget in check by finding easy ways to save money for our household. The main way that I accomplish this goal is by avoiding convenience food by shopping the outer ring of the grocery store where the fresh food lies, and by making a lot of our pantry items.
That is not to say that I don’t indulge in modern conveniences. I just try to look at the convenience items that I use the most, and decide if making my own is worth the time and effort required the cost savings.
Making my own chicken and/or vegetable stock is a fast and easy way to save money because of the minimal time and effort involved. A quart of organic, low-sodium chicken or vegetable stock runs around $4 each.
I am able to make 4 quarts of stock at a time for free. Yep, you heard me…for free. My blogging pal Valerie has some good ideas on minimizing the cost of food. My favorite idea of hers is saving all of the fresh vegetable scraps leftover from meal prep, and freezing them later for use in stocks. Sheer genius!
So thanks to that tip, I am no longer wasting perfectly edible vegetables by boiling the life out of them for stock. Instead, I save my veggie scraps which would have been tossed in the trash, and re-purpose them. I do the same with chicken bones. When I have enough of both, I make 4 quarts of stock in about 30 minutes, for a savings of $16 per batch. Or a total savings of $32 when I make a batch each of chicken and of vegetable stock.
Can you say efficient use of time?
Here’s how to do it:
Freeze your leftover vegetable scraps from salads, stir-fry, etc. in a zip top freezer bag. I usually fill a quart sized bag to add to chicken stock, and a gallon sized bag for vegetable stock.
Then I remind myself to stop letting my 5 year old pick out my nail color. I think this particular color must be called Baby Puke.
Chicken bones with a bit of meat left on can also be frozen in zip top bags. I also freeze the carcasses from store-bought rotisserie chickens. Those are a valuable convenience item, because when they are on sale, I can feed our family dinner for around than $5.
For chicken stock, fill a stock pot with 4-5 quarts of water, and add the chicken bones or carcass.
Then dump in a quart size bag of veggie scraps. For straight vegetable stock, add the larger bag of veggie scraps to a pot full of water.
Heat the pot over high heat until it comes to a rolling boil. Reduce the heat to low, and simmer the stock for 20-30 minutes.
After the stock has simmered, turn off the heat, and scoop out all of the chunks of vegetables and/or chicken bones.
Then pour the stock into a large bowl or measuring cup, through the mesh strainer to get any residual debris.
Look at that beautiful golden color! Leaving the skin on yellow onion scraps helps to give the stock this rich color. At this point, you may taste the stock, and season with salt and pepper. I usually leave my stock unseasoned so that I can better control the seasoning in the recipes for which it is used.
Pour the stock into quart sized containers, and cool completely before freezing. I like to use the round, quart sized Ziploc brand containers with the screw on caps. I was out of those when I made this batch of stock, so I thought I would be slick and use some glass canning jars that I had laying around. I do not recommend using glass jars. Although I let the stock cool completely, and froze it in the jars without the caps on, 3 of the 4 jars cracked in the freezer. Moral of the story: stick with plastic freezer containers.
If you are tight on freezer space, pour a quart of the cooled stock into a gallon sized zip top freezer bag, squeeze all of the extra air out, and seal the bag. Repeat with the remaining stock. Freeze the bags flat, then once frozen, stand the bags on end, as you would file books on a shelf.