10 Tips for Cooking on a Budget
1. Plan and Create a Game PlanPlan, plan, plan - this may be the most important tip. If you write down exactly what you need - and stick to the list - you'll find you are less prone to grab items you won't use or need. You'll cook smarter and ultimately faster. Create a meal around what's on sale in your local circular and you'll maximize your savings.
2. Loyalty Card ProgramsPretty much every grocery store chain offers a bonus card. Sign up for one and you'll score discounts only available if you present the card. If your local store has a gas rewards program, you can even earn money off a gallon of gas by food shopping. Check out your grocer's website. Many times you'll find coupons you can digitally load to your card for extra savings.
3. Cook Locally and SeasonallyCreate a meal using items that are in season. Don't try to make a fresh blueberry tart in November or you'll find yourself spending way too much on those berries. Head to a local farmer's market or talk to someone in the produce area. They can direct you to what's in season and at its freshest.
4. Use Your FreezerIf you see a great sale on meat at the market, stock up! If packaged properly, they'll last for months. Unopened ground beef is good for three - four months, steaks could last up to a year and chicken up to nine months. Not sure how long something will last? We found this refrigerator and freezer tip cheat sheet you'll want to check out. Watch this Pinch Tip on how to easily freeze your fish, meat, and poultry
5. Become Best Friends With Your Slow-CookerSlow-cooker (aka a Crock Pot) are essential to a kitchen and you can find an inexpensive slow-cooker easily these days. A slow-cooker let you buy those inexpensive, tougher cuts of meat and turn them into something juicy and delicious. Plus, they make creating the meal super easy. Start it in the morning, go about your day and at night you have an amazing dinner (and probably leftovers!).
6. Keep an Organized Fridge and PantryA clean fridge is a budget-friendly fridge. Make sure those leftovers don't get lost, by keeping everything organized. A great way to stay organized is to weekly look through the entire fridge and make sure nothing has gotten lost behind the milk and eggs. If you're freezing items, using a permanent market mark the packaging with that day's date. Then you'll know exactly how long you have to use it.
7. Buy Frozen Fruits and VeggiesFrozen fruits and veggies get a bad wrap. They're picked when at their freshest and quickly frozen which maximize their nutritional value. Keep an eye on sales at your local grocery store. Many times they'll run a 10 for $10 sale. If you buy bulk, repackage the fruits and veggies into servings you'll need. Then you'll never cook more than needed.
8. Prep Your MealsYou'd think prepping your meals is the same as planning, but they are actually two completely different things. By spending an afternoon prepping and preparing your meals for the week, you'll save yourself time when you go to cook the meal. You'll also find yourself using the "let's get takeout I'm tired excuse" less because a bunch of your work is already done. Make an event of it and have the kids get involved.
9. Don't Buy Pre-Packaged ItemsIs it convenient to just grab a bag of shredded mozzarella pizza for the lasagna? Yes. Is it cost-effective... not so much. Buy a block of cheese, shred it yourself and put it in labeled resealable plastic bags. Same goes for yogurt. 10 for $10 sounds like a steal, but if you buy a larger package of yogurt and create individual servings, in the long run, you'll save money. You can easily make your own salad dressings and spice blends at home too.
10. Repurpose LeftoversLeftovers are your friend! You can pack a lunch the next day with the extras, or reinvent them to create a whole new meal. For example, roast a whole chicken for dinner. Then, create a chicken salad for lunch the next day and make chicken stock from the bones. Or, once a week see what you have leftover and turn it into a great pizza. Bbq pizza anyone? Here are a few recipes to reinvent leftovers.
Open Faced BBQ Beef Brisket and Cheese Melts
Recycled Pasta Patties
Pulled Pork and Apple Grilled Cheese Sandwiches
Chili Cheese-Dog Casserole
"Leftover Chicken" Stuffed Shells