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5 Tips to Help You Save Money When Cooking for Cancer Patients

December 8th, 2015 |
Diet, Finances

by chef-ryan-callahan | Supporter: Breast Cancer    Connect


Nutrition is an integral part of cancer treatment, but it can be difficult to find a way to cook healthy food that doesn't break the bank.

When I started cooking for my mother during her chemotherapy treatments, I wanted to spend as little money as possible on the ingredients, since as we all know, cancer is expensive and we were already spending so much on treatment. But I also wanted the food that I cooked for her to be healthy, nutritious and tasty. I realized early on that I needed to make a plan that wouldn't force me to sacrifice good food for low cost. I developed the 5 steps below to help keep me on track.

1. Set a monetary budget and stick to it.

This is probably the hardest aspect of staying on target with your money, but if you work inside of your budget its amazing how your meals will change in quality and character very quickly. Setting a budget helps you control your food cost and forces you to learn how much each item costs. This makes it easier to make budget-mindful decisions while making your menu. The best way to help you stick to your budget is to keep track of how much you are spending while you are shopping. This will help keep you accountable and help you to learn how much everything actually costs.

2. Plan a menu for the week.

When you plan a menu, not only do you have a road map of what you are going to create, but it allows you to cook items of a similar theme. This reduces the need to purchase a lot of unique ingredients.

For example: Let's say you have something that requires carrots, onions, and celery. This mixture, typically known as mirepoix, forms the backbone of almost every classic western culinary dish. Just by using the mirepoix mixture, we can make things like soup, pot roast, and Shepard's pie. The variations are endless. Carrots, onions, and celery are also budget friendly, last a long time in the refrigerator, and are full of healthy fiber. So as you can see, using similarly themed ingredients can help you save money on a budget.

3. Don't impulse purchase.

One of the biggest expenses you will run into at the grocery store is the impulse purchase. I myself am extremely guilty of perusing the cheese area and selecting a few things that topple the budget right over. That's why I always send my wife with the exact list of what I need because she won't come back with extra things.

4. Prep and freeze perishable items.

Aside from impulse purchasing, food waste is the biggest way to blow your budget! If you are throwing away $20 worth of food every week, that's $20 of loss from your grocery budget that could have been better spent in other areas of your life. What I recommend doing (which we do in our home) is taking perishable items like fresh veggies, pre-slicing them, placing them into freezer bags, and simply freezing them for later use.

5. Use your leftovers to make other dishes.

A great thing about leftovers is that you can turn them into other things.

For example: Pot roast can be made into beef stew. Roasted chicken breast can be turned into chicken noodle soup. I like to play a game that I call "The Leftovers Game." This is where I try to recreate a dish of some kind while incorporating leftovers from a completely different dish. The trick to this is proper seasoning and of course incorporating new and fresh ingredients as well.

Do you have any tips for cooking while on a budget? Share yours in the comments below!


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Ryan Callahan is a classically trained as well as self-taught chef who acted as primary caregiver for his mother. During her chemotherapy, Chef Ryan developed the cooking techniques included in his book, Cooking for Chemo...and After!. For more information, you can visit cookingforchemo.org. You can find Chef Ryan on IHC under the username chef-ryan-callahan .

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