Got Tax Return?
When spring is nigh, our thoughts turn to big televisions, shiny iGadgets, and new vehicles. The commercials have already started offering cars for "No Money Down!" as you sign away your future tax return. For those who might owe the government, tax season is a time for procrastination; for everyone else it is a mad rush to spend.
If your New Year's Resolutions included, "Eat Healthier," or "Save Money," consider these ideas for your spending spree:
Crock Pot. You may have one kicking around somewhere to dust off and rediscover. Otherwise, you will find this to be a wise purchase because it makes cooking from scratch so much easier. Soups, stocks, beans, and sauces can simmer away in your absence. A pot roast can await you after you get home from work. When it is too hot to think of using your oven, you can bake potatoes, bread, or even dessert in your crock pot. I have heard of people using theirs to make yogurt.
CSA Membership. Community Supported Agriculture is where you buy shares in a local farm or co-op's crop, generally for the whole season up front. We do not have a CSA in our area, but ones in the closest metro area offer memberships from $400- $565 for the year, including delivery. Buying a CSA membership seems like a lot of money, but will supply your family with produce for the year.
Chest Freezer. I don't know where we would be without one. Having a well-stocked stash of cooked meals is a great defence against the pizza delivery guy or deli foods from the grocery store. In the spring I bake enough bread to last a couple hot summer months . In the summer we make sauce from fresh ripe tomatoes to enjoy all winter long.
Local Meats. If you are an omniovore, you can save a lot of money on meats by buying straight from a farmer. Most of the time that means buying at least a quarter of beef or a whole hog. We do not eat enough meat to buy a quarter of beef but do buy a small hog once a year. After processing, we pay about $2 a pound for 150 pounds of lean pork that comes from a small, local farm. We cannot buy pork at our local grocery store at any price that does not come from a factory farm, and when I have seen it for sale at specialty markets it was far above our budget.
Bread Maker. Making your own bread not only saves money, but keeps a lot of strange chemicals out of your daily diet. I will level with you that I do not own a bread maker, and have no plans to get one, simply because I enjoy taking the time to hand-make our family's bread. If you have other plans for your time, there is no shame in owning a machine to mix, knead, and bake a loaf at a time. You still get the benefit of using higher quality ingredients and compared to store-bought, the cost of the machine would be recovered after, say, four dozen loaves.
A Few Good Pans. White Sales will be starting, and what better time for an upgrade? Newer stainless pots have lost the plastic handles, so they are oven proof and double as roasters, too. With just one large pot, a smaller sauce pot and a single sauté pan you are set. (My favourite pan is called an Ultimate Pan, which is rounded like a wok. It is our sauté pan and sauce pan in one, and we use it every day. It's a non-stick, but hopefully there will be a stainless version soon.)
Chef Knife. A good quality knife that is the right shape and fit for your hand is a powerful tool in the kitchen. It will be well-balanced to limit fatigue and and forged from a single piece of stainless steel to make cleaning a snap. Add a smaller utility knife and a bread knife, and your kitchen will be ready to go!
If you don't mind a superficial blemish, Zwilling has an online outlet. Many of the big names in cutlery have lower-quality lines sold in discount stores but I have never seen a decent knife sold anywhere that ends with "-Mart."
Pantry Staples. There are plenty of spices and shelf-or-fridge-stable ingredients I use only on occasion but regret not having on hand when we need it: horseradish, tahini, red wine vinegar, aminos, cardamon... Some of our oft-used staples are much more economical in bulk: olive oil, local honey, and maple syrup. Stocking the pantry as a planned, big-ticket purchase can set you up for the rest of the year.
Composter. Country folk and people with a decent sized yard can save a corner for composting kitchen scraps and leaves. Some people are handy and can make a neat compost tumbler or stack-style composter like on Pinterest. For the rest of us, well... we buy a ready-made system or two. Saving kitchen scraps and leaves for compost makes FREE fertilizer for your lawn or garden. For those who pay for trash service by the bag, composting can save as much money as recycling.
I could sit here all day and dream up ways to blow big bucks on food. Did I miss anything critical?
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