S-T-R-E-T-C-H what you have. I was born in 1967 and so was old enough to remember the high inflation, prices, and misery index of the late seventies. I remember bits and pieces of news reports about the oil embargo and pictures of cars lined up to get gas, the odd /even system in order to get gas, but I didn't have a concept of how that affected my parents until I was grown. I have spoken to my mom about it over the years. She once told me she was really scared at that time. She was a SAHM to 5 children in ages from 17 o 4. My dad worked for IBM but take that salary and spread it across 5 kids and it is thin indeed. My mom tells me that grocery prices went up over night. On day she says she could get ground beef for .25 (I think that was it) a lb and over night it went up to .99lb. Now you and I might look longingly at .99lb for ground beef, but that was alot back then. There were other things that jumped in price such as sugar, oil, etc. As a result of a rise in price like that my mom, in order to make ends meet, mastered the creative art of stretching what they did have. She used to make meat patties and gravy with chopped onion and slices of bread torn to bits. I loved it when she would make those. What I didn't know was it was a way to take a pound of ground beef and make enough to feed seven people. She tells me now that ground beef had more bread and onion than beef. That is one example of the type of things she did and we can do. Research WWII recipies and you will see how families got by with certain items being rationed. It is the same rational. Now I know you want to do right by your family nutritionally, and that can still be done, but to save money in really tight times you need to stretch what you have. Tonight the plan for our dinner is to make chicken pot pie, and I will stretch 1 chicken breast to make it. When my dd and her family were living with us, I had to make dinners that fed 6 adults and 1 toddler well. Money was an objet though and so I had to get creative. I learned to make a pot pie with very little chicken. That night I took 2 4 oz chicken breasts and made 2 9X13 full pans of chicken pot pie. I just doubled everything else; the potatoes, peas, carrots, onion, celery, broth/gravy. I made a 2 crust pie crust recipe and put one on the top of each pie. Now there were no left overs when I was done, mainly due to the fact that 4 of the adults in this conversation were full grown men. However, each ate their fill and I only used 8 oz of meat for 6.5 people. Meat is always going to be your most expensive ingredient. The great thing about meat though is it is easy to stretch. I have also taken 3 chicken breasts, cut them in half, pounded them flat, and double breaded them for fried chicken. Adding potatoes, green beans from the garden, and rolls and everyone had pleanty to eat and no one the wiser. I rarely fry chicken, although it is popular here. It is not the healthiest choice, but fine for a treat once in a while. Soups, casseroles, stews, and spaggetti sauces are great things to make to try and stretch the amount of meat you put in it.
Also along the lines of stretching what you have, is to not waste anything. If I make french toast for example, I will take the leftover egg/milk mixture and make up a batch of muffins. I may need to add a little extra milk, but usually not much and with the price of eggs being what they are, I get double duty out of that egg. Once the muffins are finished I put them in a freezer bag for a quick breakfast item or to eat along with a soup for dinner. Left over mashed potatoes are used to make potato soup. I just add some chicken broth, celery, and onion, cook it til the veggies are soft and then blend it up. Once blended up I will put it back in the pan and add some sour cream maybe, or chives, a little cheese Maybe a combination. Leftover veggies from dinners get put in a large container in the freeer to be made into veggies soup later.
As you can see there are ways to make each doller work its hardest for you at the grocery store. Yes it takes some creative juices, and maybe some elbow grease, but it is well worth it especially if you are having to make the most of what you have on hand. The past posts deal with ways to save when money is tight, and these do help, but these tips are good for when money isn't tight as well. They are just good money/home management. I hope these have helped in some small way. If I think of anything else I will certainly share.