"On a weekly basis, a lot of the dishes that I cook use a lot of the same ingredients," Jo (as she's known) tells me. "I try and buy a lot of those ingredients in bulk so I'm not always going to the grocery store right before I'm set to cook."
Preparation, as always, is key. "I always do this on a Sunday night. I figure out what it is that everyone wants to eat and then I do the whole grocery list. And I think when you go with a plan, that alone is a big deal because you're not buying stuff you don't need. But also when you're buying those tried and true ingredients in bulk that you know you'll use, I think that helps as well."
Another helpful strategy in planning and stretching the family food budget: leftovers. "Finding a new way to spin leftovers is key, even though my kids aren't big on them unless you kind of tweak it a little bit."
Her trusted pantry staples include everything from:
Standard baking essentials like flours (unbleached all-purpose and self-rising), sugars, and cocoa powders;
Produce like bananas, lemons, white onions, and garlic (both fresh and the jarred, chopped variety);
Southern favorites like pecans and buttermilk;
Spices like kosher salt, parsley flakes, garlic salt, and garlic powder;
And of course, personal favorites like salted butter, refrigerated pie crust, organic chicken broth, and most importantly, dark chocolate-covered almonds. ("These aren't for cooking but for my sanity!" she divulges in the most relatable mom statement yet.)