If you’ve been finding yourself short of change lately and don’t know where your next meal is coming from, then perhaps you should look no farther than your own kitchen. By learning some simple shopping skills, you can bring home bagfuls of healthy, delicious food that can be parlayed into money-saving gourmet meals. With these home cooking money saving tips, a quick convenient meal is no longer throwing a frozen dinner into the microwave!
Home Cooking Money Saving tips
Buy in Bulk
Join a warehouse club such as Sam’s Club or Costco and buy food items in bulk. This can be very cost effective, as long as you can use everything before it spoils. Consider splitting the membership cost with friends or family and sharing the food for considerable savings.
Cook in Bulk
Cook double the amount of food that you need and freeze the rest in smaller portions for future meals. Although this may initially take a little longer, it saves money, eliminates leftovers and saves cooking time later. You’ll also save money by reducing the amount of energy you use. Consider swapping meals with friends to include more variety in your diet.
Use Cheap Ingredients
There are certain ingredients that are cheaper than others. Keep ingredients like potatoes, beans, whole chickens and eggs in mind when you do your food shopping.
Buy generic or store brand items instead of national brands. Most supermarket chains contract with national manufacturers to produce their own brands. All they do is change the label. When you buy generic, you are essentially getting an identical product.
Get in the habit of reading labels for nutritional content, calorie count, and ingredients. Ingredients are listed in order of weight, so be certain when you buy a product, the listed ingredient is that product, and not filler, additive or water.
Plan your meals around what’s on sale. Scour your weekly supermarket ads for bargains and stock up on items that are real deals. For example, if you see boneless, skinless chicken breasts on special for $1.99 a pound, grab as many as you can to freeze for later use and research recipes for that particular ingredient.
Clip coupons for products that you know you’ll use and match them up with the weekly sales fliers. Take advantage of promotions, such as “double or triple coupons” to maximize savings. This is one case when buying a national brand may make sense, if there is a high value coupon is available.
Buy seasonal produce
Take advantage of produce when it is at its peak. Buy asparagus in early spring when it’s abundant and inexpensive. Stock up on zucchini in early summer. Plan your menu around fresh tomatoes later in the season. Not only will you save money, but you’ll also be getting the freshest and most nutritious produce.
Buy Ugly at farmer’s markets
Buy local produce when you can. You’ll know that it’s fresh and you won’t be paying for exorbitant shipping costs. Plus, you’ll be helping keep your money in the local economy. They will often sell “ugly” produce cheaper too.
Use frozen, canned, dried or dehydrated
Although fresh is always best, it’s not always possible to have fresh ingredients for every recipe. Frozen, canned dried and dehydrated items are equally good substitutes. Most produce is processed at the peak of ripeness with little flavor or nutrient loss. Plan ahead when your local market offers can-can sales.
Think protein power
Substitute beans, eggs, cheese, tofu, legumes and nuts for the more expensive cuts of meat and fish. Try to incorporate a vegetarian meal into your schedule once or twice a week. Mixing your proteins with healthy grains and whole wheat pasta will open up an entirely new taste sensation, in addition to saving money.
Plant a garden
If you have space, consider planting a small garden, even if it’s just a few herbs on a windowsill or a container of cherry tomatoes on your fire escape or balcony. The benefits of growing your own vegetables go beyond saving money.
Love your leftovers
Today’s delicious dinner can be tomorrow’s luscious lunch. Leftovers are a perfect way to stretch your budget. In today’s economy, eating in is “in.”
Get into Meal Prep Sundays
Grab the family and make Sunday a meal prep day. Cook and package meals for school and work. It will save you time, money and create a fun family atmosphere. A good rule of thumb is to structure all your meals to have 1 carb, 1 protein & 1 vegetable. If you go with vegetable proteins like lentils, you can save a considerable amount of cash. Make sure that you get containers that are easily stackable so you can easily fit all these meals into your fridge.
Armed with some of these tips, you can turn your kitchen into a cooking paradise and save up to 40% or more on your weekly food budget, giving you a little extra money to spend on one of our favorite activities … eating out!