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How to Save Money Cooking at Home

Want to learn how to save money cooking at home? It’s not difficult. You’ll eat better, save money, and meet your budget.

fish tacos for book promotion

During our first year of marriage I spent more than $500/month to feed two of us. The year was 1994. If push came to shove, today, I could feel all eight of us for that same amount of money.

You might think that we ate out every meal, but we didn’t. We might do Carls Jr, and an occasional $40 dinner out, but I cooked at home a lot, often entertaining friends on a weekly basis. I grocery shopped often, made food from scratch, and shopped Costco (the store formerly known as Price Club) regularly.

My problem was that I didn’t know how to save money by cooking at home. And boy! did I learn the hard way.

How to Save Money Cooking at Home

So, instead of spending five times as much as you should, try these tips and learn how to save money cooking at home:

1. Cook what you have.

Build your meal plans based on what’s in your kitchen already. Don’t buy more; cook what you have. By regularly cooking what’s already on hand, you’ll save money and be a better steward of your resources.

And when you clean out the fridge, you won’t throw away three heads of yellowed broccoli, purchased on multiple shopping trips. Ahem.

2. Buy only what you need.

If you don’t cook much Asian food, then don’t buy the gallon jug of soy sauce. Ahem.

Bulk buying can save you money sometimes, but not always. It’s not a good deal if you end up throwing most of it away.

However, remember there are different kinds of “bulk buying” If you need just a bit of a spice you’ve never used, buy a small amount from the bulk bins at the health food store instead of the entire bulk container at Costco.

How to Save Money Cooking at Home

3. Buy what’s on sale.

Don’t buy $6/pound chicken breast because that’s what you feel like having tonight. (And yes, it really was $6/pound in 1994.) Instead, buy boneless, skinless chicken breast on sale! At about half the price. Buy an extra pack to freeze so that you’ll have some on hand next time the craving hits.

One of the struggles of our modern generation is that we want what we want and we want it now. We need to stop with the Veruca Salt, and learn that to save money, we can’t always have what we want in that instant.

4. Make your own.

Avoid bottled dressings, sauces, gravies, and salsas. Same goes for pancake, waffle, and muffin mixes. These things are easy to make from scratch, taste better, and cost less. Besides you learned how to measure in first grade math, so you can totally do this!

5. Enjoy simple meals.

While I am the first to choose prime rib or steak when it’s an option, I also know that a homemade burrito bowl can tastes just as good at a fraction of the price. Save steak (and other high ticket items) for special occasions — and buy them on sale.

I had more than one flashback of our newlywed cottage on Cambridge Drive while writing this. In case you hadn’t guessed, I made all those mistakes and more. Please learn from my failures, my young padawan.

Hungry for more delicious ways to act your wage? Grab a copy of my new cookbook, Get your copy of Good Cheap Eats Dinner in 30 Minutes or Less. Be sure to grab this month’s Month of Meals that will help you make the most of the book as well as this month’s free freezer cooking plan.

What’s YOUR favorite way to save money cooking at home?

How to Save Money Cooking at Home

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Comments

  1. If you have children you will have unplanned leftovers. One week they LOVE your homemade mac and cheese and the next week it’s yucky. Sigh. To use up those unplanned left overs we have a Penny Supper once a week. I pull all the odds and ends out of the fridge. Heat everything up and serve it buffet style. It’s an easy meal to prepare and it’s saves money and reduces waste.

  2. Great tips! We “buy in bulk” by going in on most purchases with our neighbors. That way we can divide those huge packages between us and each save money.

  3. My mom and I were just talking about how expensive chicken used to be. When I was growing up we had four chicken recipes that we ate and those were only for special occasions like birthdays.

    One way we save money by cooking at home is by eating at least one meatless meal a week. It’s normally some form of Mexican food because homemade bean burritos, refried bean quesadillas, or tostadas are favorites and super delicious.

  4. The bulk buying can trip me up. I have learned that sometimes less is more, even with food shopping. My other thing is that I can really be impulsive while grocery shopping, so I need a plan and a list and to make myself stick to the list for the most part.

  5. I use my vegetable scraps & make my own chicken broth and veggie broth from scraps I would normally have thrown away. I freeze chicken carcasses and simmer everything together when I have enough discards in the freezer. I freeze it into muffin tins to toss in noodle/rice dishes & quart containers to use in soups or stews etc. *I find I waste very little. I also have a vitamix blender that makes short work of fruits and vegetables that might not get used in a timely fashion. They go into smoothies, and sauces. I also keep a well stocked pantry. I’ve made a beautiful cheesecake from items that needed to be used up by a certain date. I use dried beans to make hummus and freeze the unused portion of beans for future use. I make salad dressings, marinades, dips and spreads instead of buying them saving $ and using up everything.

  6. Sharon Johnson says:

    I go buy all my at Sam’s. They seem to have the best prices. I buy ground chuck, BSChicken Breasts, a couple of small beef roasts (in a package) potatoes (they last longer in a brown bag) and milk. I only cook with milk and freeze. I buy all my trash bags at Sam’s and they last months and much cheaper than buying with coupons.

    I stockpile vegetables, tomatoes, noodles, baking products, toliet tiissue, paper towels and all I need including toothpaste, lotion, etc.

    I do not meal plan. When I did, I woke up NOT in the mood for what I had chosen that day. I cook for a month using what meat I have and think of something based on that. I always have eggs, vegetables and anything to go with it. I do the Publix BOGO’s with coupons.

    While I stockpile, I’m not extreme. I use mustard on all my sandwiches (I hate mayo) and keep maybe 3 to 4 on had and by the time I’m low, there is another sale and coupons. I keep a couple of jars of mayonnaise for potato salad and two to three bottles of ketchup. I make everything from scratch.

    And yes, I make a list and ONLY get what is on my list. I never move my eyes to the shelves.

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