Cooking on a budget is not my natural talent.
Saving money isn’t really either…until I see my budget getting tight.
Then I’m always scrambling to save money somehow— and saving money when you cook is a great way to do that.
The good thing is there is definitely more than one way to save money when you cook.
It’s true whether you’re single or you’re cooking for a family of seven.
This list helps me save lots of money whenever it comes time to go on the hunt and prepare food at home. Lots of these ways to save are absolutely ‘doable’ which is the best part.
Lots of these tips are also great if you’re a family that’s trying to live on one income to save money to pay off debt or build their savings.
You don’t necessarily have to eat your moldy leftovers just to save a cent. Which is always great because that way you aren’t tempted to eat out as much. Here is how you can go about it—
Cooking on A Budget: 13 Simple Ways to Save Money When You Cook (And Still Eat Well)
Make chicken stock out of leftover chicken bones
This is one of the most missed opportunities out there for people that have leftover chicken bones. It’s also great for the ones who like cooking from scratch to save money.
You can make your own chicken stock either from a rotisserie chicken or chicken leg quarters you’ve cooked. It’s healthy AND tasty, so don’t just throw away the precious bones!
Save them and boil them into chicken stock, so you have some homemade and all-natural stuff to use as seasoning and soups later. When you cook home cooked meals, there is nothing better than that natural flavor from leftover chicken stock that can be used in almost any dish.
Here is a quick rundown on how to make the best and tastiest stock to stay cooking on a budget like a pro:
- Use leftovers veggies to add flavor to the stock such as onions, garlic cloves, and celery.
- The secret is in boiling it: bring it to a boil with all the ingredients and then simmer on low for 4-5 hours (yes it’s a long process but worth it).
- Last, make sure you strain it and pick out any small pieces of veggies or bone that you don’t want mixed in.
- If you freeze the stock it can be good for about 3-4 months before it starts tasting funny.
How to get cheap healthy food deals when you don’t have the money
Thrive Market is the hub for getting healthy organic food for less that you can use to make healthy homemade meals.
They have all kinds of products that range from paleo to vegan to gluten-free that can help you cook on a budget while still being healthy. When you first sign up with them, you get a FREE 30-day trial and get FREE shipping on any orders over $49 bucks.
You also get 20% off your first three orders and can cancel anytime. Definitely a nice deal worth taking up if you’re trying to get introduced to healthier foods, new meals to cook and/or stick to a certain diet while still cooking on a budget.
Get cash back on your grocery receipts with Ibotta
One way to save on the food you cook is to get money back for the things on your receipt with Ibotta.
Ibotta will refund you a certain percentage of cash back when you scan your receipt after you’re done shopping. It’s almost like getting paid to shop.
Open your account here, so you can scan the items on your next receipt and save on your next home cooking adventure!
Become a master meal planner (it is easier than you think)
You seem to see this everywhere but its because it works. Meal planning is definitely the way to go when you don’t want to spend more than you have to on food for the week and you’re trying to master the art of cooking on a budget. Coming up with ideas of food to make at home can come as easy as a quick Google search or bookmarking this page for future reference.
Meal planning can absolutely change your budget if you learn to do it correctly and make it a habit.
Invest in a cheap cooker (they’re pretty cheap)
If you’re a lazy cook, then a crock pot is the best friend you haven’t met yet.
You can make an unthinkable amount of crock pot recipes ranging from vegan to ketogenic diet meals. It all depends on how savvy you get with using them.
For those that don’t know, you can set up a slow cooker in the morning, leave it simmering for a couple hours, and then have a nice hot meal waiting for you when you get home.
This means no stopping at Chipotle, ‘cus you got a nice juicy meal waiting for you after cooking on a budget.
If you’re wanting to buy a slow cooker, here is the best deal on a crock pot that you can get right now.
Take advantage of a few Costco hacks
Costco is notorious for awesome prices for certain bulk items.
For example, their Grey Goose brand of alcohol is made in the same place their Kirkland brand is manufactured. This means you can buy the Kirkland brand and have the exact same quality alcohol for much less than the brand name.
This is true for lots of other Kirkland brand items around the store, like foil paper, diapers, detergent, and batteries.
Bottom line? Don’t be fooled into buying a certain brand only because you think it’ll be better, when in reality its often the exact same thing (sometimes even better)! Cooking on a budget sometimes takes some marketing discernment. So take this tip and run with it!
Cook dried/canned NOT frozen
Another awesome way to help you cook on a budget is to always opt to look for dried beans and canned veggies to do your cooking.
Frozen or prepared always comes out to be more expensive, and they usually don’t last as long as dried or canned foods.
If you make it a habit, your food budget doesn’t have to keep expanding as much.
Buy in bulk at Amazon (and Costco)
Buying in bulk for non-perishable goods is a smart way to cook on a budget with the long run in mind.
The problem is you might have to shell out money upfront instead of a little at a time, but if you do the math bulk always comes out to be cheaper on certain items.
For example, Costco is a great place to buy in bulk, and if you can’t afford the membership fees (I hear ya) then you can always shop for items on their online page, which requires no membership (and they also offer FREE first-time grocery delivery).
Amazon is also a great place to buy in bulk, especially in the bulk items section that many of us miss.
Get in the habit of cooking staple foods and portion out
This is what I do: I cook a good batch of basmati rice, grab a couple of small Tupperware containers and portion it out before putting it away.
Next time I want a meal, I can just whip out some Tupperware, add some fresh lentils I just made, along with some sautéed chicken and veggies and call it a night. This can also be true for things like healthy snacks that you can take on the go that help you curve those cravings.
Nice and easy meal, doesn’t take long to prepare, and makes sure you end up nice and full on good stuff.
Portion out staple ingredients like rice, legumes or even pasta is a genius cooking on a budget strategy for food saving, time-saving, and energy-saving.
Use meat substitutes two to three days a week
For those of you who want to cut back on meat consumption all together and don’t really want to try sourcing fresh meat, then one way to do that is to find meat substitutes (that can taste pretty close to it).
For example, if you’re making a meatloaf, you can add some beans in the mix and add less meat to it.
If beans aren’t your thing, you can also learn to sautee mushrooms that taste just like meat (and they are SO delicious, not to mention healthy also).
Here is a recipe I found that tells you how to season and cook mushrooms that taste like chicken (seriously!).
Haggle at your local farmers market
Sometimes you can get items at the farmers market for a lot less when they are about to close because they want to get rid of inventory or produce that won’t stay fresh for long.
Take advantage of this and try your hand at negotiating or bartering. You’ll be amazed at what you can come home with. Cooking on a budget might sometimes take some haggling. Take it as a challenge to see how much you can save! 🙂
Create your own condiments
This is an easy one. And can be fun too if you get a little creative with it.
We’ve already covered creating your own chicken stock. But heck, you can also make your own ranch, yum yum sauce, and even vinegar.
Here is a list of recipes for condiments you can make at home.
Check them out and get busy in the kitchen!
Incorporate leftovers little by little
Usually, people will tell you to designate a day to cook your leftovers (me included), but I’m gonna go out on a limb with this one and say: incorporate your leftovers into each meal little by little.
Maybe you’ll cook two things fresh and a leftover can be a third addition that you sautéed and add in there.
That way you don’t have to suffer through a meal completely made out of leftovers. And there will be an array of flavors of different foods so it can still taste fresh for the most part. After all, you’re trying to eat well while still cooking on a budget, right? ?
Designate only one day for shopping/meal planning/ and cooking
Don’t leave for each day what you can do today (if that makes any sense) and that applies to cooking your meals more than anything.
It’s great when you can set aside Sunday afternoons for any shopping, meal planning, and cooking you can do ahead of time for the rest of the week. While it may seem like a lot of work upfront, it can actually be very therapeutic and don’t even get me started on how much time it saves you during the week. When you ask yourself what to eat for dinner takeout should be at the very bottom of the totem pole. This means having a list of meals to cook on a budget right at your disposal— whether this means cheap diet meals or otherwise.
Goes without saying it’ll make your workload easier each day, and you won’t be at a loss for home cooked food.
P.S. Make sure you download the meal planner mentioned earlier to help you with this task!
Grow your own veggies (even in an apartment)
Yes, you can grow your own veggies. It’s not that hard and all you need are some pots, soil, sunlight, and regular watering. If you’ve ever asked yourself how to save money on food, growing your own veggies is a no-brainer. And best of all your own homegrown garden can help you create cheap healthy meals that won’t break the bank.
Here is a clue or two on how to go about it: How to grow your own veggies at home
Did you know: You can regrow celery stalks from the ends? All you have to do is take the end, wash it and stick it in warm water in the sun. In about a week you’ll be able to see some regrowth. Then you can stick it in soil and make your own celery!
My neighbor grows her own oranges, avocados, celery, tomatoes, green peppers, lemons, and papayas. So she rarely if ever, has to go out and spend money on these essentials. Granted, she has a backyard to do all this but you can still create a smaller version of lost of different versions in an apartment.
Remember, cooking on a budget can also mean saving money on food if you know how to make simple home-cooked meals. Growing a ‘green thumb’ is one of the great ways to save money on food that people have been doing for centuries!
Cooking on a budget is the real deal
Cooking on a budget and enjoying good old home cooked meals CAN be done if you just learn a few money saving tips. My favorite are probably making chicken stock, getting money back with my receipts, and growing your own veggies.
It seems that the food part of the budget always takes up the most finances, especially with big families so looking for ways to save with foods is always a brilliant idea. Especially when it comes to big costs like the price of meat (which seems to never stop growing).
Saving money by cooking on a budget at home and finding money saving meals is an absolute must. Now it’s your turn. Are there any awesome food saving ideas to save your budget I missed listing here? Tell me about them below!