How do you save money on home food? Here’s a set of solid tips.
1. Invest in a good, basic cookbook. There are many cookbooks around which showcase many different ingredients. Focus on one that provides information on cooking using basic ingredients – those which aren’t expensive.
2. Invest in a set of good leftover containers and use them. Cooking in bulk gets you multiple meals. This makes cooking more efficient because it saves you time and effort. Many foods also freeze very well – this allows you to keep the food in storage for weeks. When you’re hungry, just open the container,pop them in the microwave and Viola! – Instant meal.
3. Find out how long ingredients last. Many fresh vegetables go bad relatively quickly but many other foods can be stored for months or years, so if you know you’re going to use them, stock up. For instance, sugar lasts nearly forever. Have a lot of it stocked up. Canned vegetables last for years, and most frozen items will last at least 6 months.
4. Discover recipes for new ingredients. You may find that foods you’re not used to cooking with are sometimes on sale, and thus worth buying (maybe turnips, Brussels sprouts, or some odd cut of pork will be insanely cheap). Know a lot of recipes and you’ll be able to figure out something tasty to make with the cheap food you buy.
5. Examine and monitor your meat expenses. Beef, pork, chicken, fish, shellfish – any type of meat is often expensive. To cut on meat expenses, try learning how to cook cheaper cuts of meat (e.g., chicken legs work just as well as chicken breasts in most recipes), avoiding recipes that call for expensive meat (e.g., scallops, prime cuts of beef) except as a special treat. Better yet try to reduce meat consumption. One of the easiest ways to reduce your meat consumption is to learn to cook non-Western cuisines: many of these dishes have no meat in them at all (e.g., Indian dals, pilafs, and yogurt salads), and others (e.g., curries and stir-fries) use meat as just one ingredient among many.
6. Realize that many recipes are flexible. Don’t treat recipes as though they are cast in stone. If your recipe calls for green bell peppers, and when you get to the store you find that they’re $5 each, consider alternatives. The end recipe will not be exactly the same as the one in the cookbook, but it can often taste just as good. This does require some cooking finesse as ingredients that serve a direct functional purpose in a recipe cannot be substituted out (e.g., you can’t substitute broccoli for peppers in a stuffed pepper recipe, and can’t substitute corn starch for flour in a bread recipe). If you’re a beginner, don’t worry too much about this, and instead just focus on finding recipes that use the ingredients you have.
7. Consider growing your own produce. While this is certainly not something everyone can do, consider growing your own fruits and vegetables at home. Things like herbs, tomatoes, berries, squash, and tree fruits (e.g., lemons, avocados, peaches) can be much cheaper and tastier when grown at home. You need to hone your gardening skills for this.
Eat heartily in your next meal but always watch your budget!