Everyone loves to save money, and one of the best ways to save money is when you cook at home, right? Well, not always. Sometimes cooking at home can be far more expensive than just eating out at your favorite restaurant, but that doesn’t mean you should go out. For seven years now, my husband and I and our best friends have been doing this thing where we go out to eat ever Wednesday night. But then about six years ago it went from out to home; because it was far easier for us to eat at one of our houses than go out with all the kids we had over the years. We are seven years and six kids into our weekly dinner, and it’s gone from out to our homes. We switch weeks and every other Wednesday we become responsible for making dinner for their family of four and them for our family of six. And sometimes that is a lot more expensive than just going out. Surf and turf night, for example. Filet night is another example. Spaghetti night is inexpensive. But we have a few ways you can make sure you cook for a lot less when you make the decision to cook at home. Believe me when I say we know what it is we are talking about. Here are 20 genius ways to save money when you cook at home.
Cooking Only What You Need Saves Big Time
Stretch your ingredients. Go ahead and make a whole chicken and turn what you don’t eat into what you eat tomorrow. For example, make chicken salad or a chicken sandwich or something of that nature.
Cook for the numbers. If you have two people eating diner, cook for two people. Some people cook more than they need and never eat the leftovers, which is just a huge waste of food and money.
Shop the sales only for the things you need. For example, if you know your family eats a lot of pasta, buy as much as you can when it’s on sale for buy one get one free and then don’t buy pasta when it is not on sale. You can save a ton of money this way.
Skip the meat every single day. It’s so much less expensive to skip eating meat every single day. You don’t need it, anyway. So why not try something like meatless Mondays to make a big difference in your grocery bill?
Planning Ahead Makes a Huge Difference
Make a list. It sounds a bit cliché and simple, but it really does work. You can get away with a lot if you just take a few minutes to go ahead and make a list of the things you need at the store before you go.
Make a menu for the week. If you can make a menu of all that you plan on cooking for the week, you can buy it all in one trip and save money on needless stuff and multiple trips in which you purchase needless stuff. It’s really quite simple.
Skip starches. It’s a lot of money and poor health wasted at each meal. Instead of having potatoes at every meal, why not have two greens instead? Try some roasted broccoli and a salad to go with your chicken instead of buying potatoes, too.
Serve smaller portions. You might be very surprised just how much money you can save when you buy smaller portions. Additionally, it’s good for your health to do this, too.
Skip the canned stuff. It’s filled with sodium you do not need in your diet. It’s not less expensive, but it is less hassle when you cook, but that does not make canned food the best. Go with the dried beans and rice and potatoes and veggies and you’ll find yourself feeling much better.
You can Do the Unexpected to Save a Bit
Skip the bread. Your kitchen is not a restaurant. You do not need a basket of bread with every meal, so skip it. You can do this easily by just not serving bread with all your meals so that you can go ahead and make sure all is well in your life.
Try breakfast for dinner once a week. Not only is it a lot of fun to make breakfast for dinner, it’s also very cost-effective, which is just one of the many reasons you can make this meal for dinner and not have to worry about spending too much money.
Go with the slow cooker. When you make meat in the slow cooker, you can make an entire meal in like no time at all of your own (the slow cooker does all the work, after all) but you can use cheap meat. In fact, it’s highly recommended that you use cheaper meat in here because it’s filled with flavor when cooked in something like this.
Buy the biggest package of meat you can find and divide it and freeze it. Instead of buying three or four small packages of meat and then using them each night, but the big one and divide and freeze. You get all the meat you need for about half the price.
Stock up and Save on Things You Love
Freeze things you don’t think you can keep. Did you know that you can freeze things like fruit that would otherwise go bad? You can then use this stuff to make smoothies and things of that nature that will help you eat a healthier diet and a more cost-effective one at that.
Buy your produce when it’s in season. Haven’t you noticed how expensive things like blueberries and strawberries can be sometimes but not others? They’re always inexpensive and beautiful when they are in season, so buy them now and freeze them.
Always use coupons. Some people don’t feel that it’s worthwhile to use a $.25 coupon when shopping for food to cook at home, but it is. Think about it this way; you use four of these a week and you save $52 per year on your shopping. That’s nice savings.
Plan meals around sales. Do you love things that are expensive, but you don’t want to buy them because of the price? Why not plan your meals around the foods that are on sale so that you can eat what you want and not feel you’re spending too much on anything.
Plan for a Budget
Set a budget when you’re cooking at home. If your meal planning is over budget, see how you can fix it so that you can still eat well and not spend too much. For example, that meat and pasta dish might be just as good without the meat and far more cost-effective at that.
Buy spices and things of that nature in bulk. When things like olive oil and spices are on sale, pick up the biggest packages you can find and then use them to make your purchases. You need these things to cook most all your meals, so it makes sense to buy them in bulk since they last forever.
Shop in bulk. You can buy a lot of stuff in bulk and save a lot of money on your cooking. Even though you might not think you need 50 pounds of chicken just because it only costs $4, think again. Things that can be frozen and last a long time are always a smart deal.
Photo by Ian Waldie/Getty Images