These 25 money saving tips in the kitchen will help your wallet while still allowing you to cook delicious meals for your family.
We all know that the kitchen is the heart of the home and serving up healthy delicious meals can get expensive. Currently prices are skyrocketing on just about everything and some things you can’t skimp on. Like gas. If you have to drive to work, you have to have gas for your car. But there are a number of things that can be done to save money in the kitchen and I am not talking eating boxed mac and cheese or ramen noodles (like I did my first year out of college!).
1. Meal Planning
Meal planning for the week really is key. If you haven’t checked out my meal planning (part 1, part 2, part 3) series, please do. I originally created the series to help with organization so weekly planning, prep and cooking would become an easy and time saving task. But It also has good tips to help you stay on track with your money. The number one tip I have to emphasize is to stick to your shopping list! It can be really easy to deviate especially if you shop while hungry or have the kiddoes in toe.
2. Buy Basics In Bulk
Become a shelf label reader. Those little tags give a lot of pertinent information. If you use a certain product often, but don’t necessarily need it right away, it may be cheaper to buy it in bulk. That being said, I am talking about non-perishable items like rice, dried beans, canned goods etc..
3. Stock Up With Sale Items
Know your grocery stores and read their flyers. Doing this on a regular basis will make you a savvy shopper by recognizing good deals. Some stores will have extra deals as well, like using double coupons, so don’t be afraid to ask. We have a local market that offers a rewards card, e-coupons, I-savings and more. Check out sale and clearance shelves too. Sometimes products are discontinued or a store has overstock from a recent sale. (just remember to check expiration dates!) Another great tool is the cash back app. There are several good ones for groceries like Ibotta, Fetch Rewards and Receipt Hog.
4. Purchase Store Brands
Did you know that store brand items are often made by their brand name counterpart? This is especially true with canned goods which can lead to big savings. For example my favorite peas are the little baby Le Sueur peas, BUT the store brand, located directly next to them on the shelf, taste exactly the same and are A LOT cheaper!
When your pantry and freezer get low, stock up with sale items and store brands. This will keep you from running to the store thus saving your expensive gas for other things.
5. Buy Seasonally
Items that are in season are cheaper than if they are not. Why? Well out of season produce in your area will need to be imported from elsewhere so the price gets jacked due to shipping, gas, as well as paying for a middle man.
6. Buy Local
Local foods are healthier because they are picked fresh at their peak of ripeness. Veggies and fruits start to lose their nutritious value within a day of picking. Foods may be a bit more costly at the local farmers market, but wouldn’t you rather support a local business that offers delicious fresh produce than a box store that is bringing it in from a foreign country?
7. Plant A Garden
It’s never too late to plant! Well, I should backtrack. It is too late for spring vegetables like peas, but there are all kinds of things you can plant for summer and fall harvests. You may have a vision of a farm in your mind right now, but unless you live on one, you won’t have the space for every fruit and vegetable. However, you do not need a lot of space to have a garden!
Start by deciding what produce you use the most or what you would like to grow. Then google it to find out how much space it needs, if it can grow vertically instead of horizontally and how much sun and water it needs. A small 4 foot by 6 foot plot is perfect for a small garden of 3-4 items. Container gardens on your deck are a great way to grow especially plants that can grow vertically. No deck? No problem! If you have a large window, you can place some pots on the floor or a table to get maximum sunlight. Herbs can be grown in pots on a windowsill for easy convenience of finishing off a dish!.
8. Re-Grow Your Own Produce!
Did you know there are certain veggies that can be regrown? There are many tutorials online of how to do this.
Basil and other herbs
If you are excited to really get into gardening, you can also retrieve your own seeds from tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, pumpkins and squash!
9. Berry Pick Locally
Not only is this a super fun activity to do with your kids, but it is cheaper, tastier and if you are like me I pop 1 berry in my mouth for every dozen I pick! Berries can be tricky though. They should not be washed until ready for use. I tend to over pick, but I freeze the bulk of them for smoothies.
When freezing, hull (remove the green stem), wash and dry. Place on a parchment lined tray and freeze. Then transfer to a baggie. This keeps the berries from freezing in a big clump! I also make some sauces: seedless raspberry as a dipping sauce, thick blueberry as a topping for banana pancakes and strawberries macerated in sugar for shortcake. This year I am trying my hand at making jams and no churn ice creams!!
10. Cook From Scratch
Skip going out to dinner, forget pre-made meals and cook from scratch. Grab your knife and cutting board and let out your inner chef! Especially now that summer is just around the corner, salads, grilled meats and vegetables are so easy to cook and are healthy to boot!
Some items you can make from scratch that will save you big $: stocks for soup, flour tortillas, breads, dried beans and grains (soak for use), pasta, yogurt (if you have an Instapot), seasoning mixes, dry rubs, BBQ sauce, mayo, flavored oils, guacamole, hummus, roasted red peppers, salad dressings and sauces.
11. Cook Once, Eat Twice
This works especially well for whole roaster chickens. Try my One Chicken, Five Meals for inspiration. Pastas also can be transformed. Leftover spaghetti makes a great Baked Spaghetti Casserole or a skillet spaghetti pie. Meats can be turned into shepherd’s pies or pot pies.
When cooking casseroles, double them and then freeze for another dinner.
12. Use EVERYTHING!
As you cut vegetables, throw the scraps into a large stock pot. Throw in some aromatics and spices then cover with water. Simmer to create a vegetable stock that can be used for soups or stews. Adding bones from from meat to the pot will create chicken, turkey or beef stock. Store in quart sized containers and freeze for future use. If your freezer is full, simmer the veggies in water, cool completely and use that to water your plants! They will gain extra nutrients.
For those of you that have herbivore pet like bunnies, don’t forget them. Celery tops, lettuce that is about to turn, radish leaves are all great things for them to munch on!
13. Are You A Meat Lover?
I’m sure you are shocked at the prices of meat these days. If you enjoy all cuts of meat, it may be cheaper to purchase an entire animal and have it processed. Dividing the meat with a relative or neighbor will also cut the down on the cost. This is something you would have to research locally where you live.
Chickens are another great animal to invest in. Who wouldn’t want to walk out the back door and grab some fresh eggs for breakfast or to bake with? Did you know that fresh eggs can be stored for up to a year? Place unwashed eggs in a pickling bath. They can also be frozen. freeze dried, dehydrated and pickled. Of course you could always do a lot of baking and freeze your goods or give to friends and family!
14. Add A Meatless Night
There are so many meals that don’t include meat, you won’t even miss it! Large salads, grains with vegetables, pasta, beans and soups are all great items to work into your meal planning. Italian night with pasta and marinara sauce, Taco Tuesday with refried beans, pickled onions, avocados, cabbage and a mango salsa or Asian vegetable dumplings would all be fun foods to incorporate into themed meatless meal nights.
15. Eat Your Leftovers
I’m not always a fan of leftovers and I have been known to pack them for other members of the family (my bad lol). I think we have all heard the old adage “Waste not, want not” and it could not be more true in this day and age. We have turned into a society of “just throw it away”, but the truth is, food is too critical an item to be thrown out.
So lunch is a great use for leftovers. Bento boxes have divided compartments so foods won’t get mixed up. A personal crockpot is so convenient especially in winter months. Just plug it in an hour before lunch and you will have a hot meal waiting!
16. Preserving Food
For the person that has all the equipment, canning vegetables, fruits, jellies, and jams is not only economical, but preserves the best quality of the produce. For those of you that don’t have the equipment, it is a one time investment that can be advantageous especially if you are growing your own produce, or in my case, love to berry pick.
Pickling is another way to preserve produce and is healthy to boot. Fermented foods are known to promote a healthy gut by aiding in digestion, helping to ease muscle cramps and curbing sugar spikes. Everyone automatically thinks of the cucumber pickle, but all veggies and some fruits can be pickled.
Dehydrating foods is another thing to consider. This is a great way to use fruit that is about to turn. I mean how many fruits can you store in the freezer for smoothies or no churned ice cream?! Kids love dried fruit and so do bunnies! If you end up with an over abundance of herbs from your garden, these can be placed in the dehydrator for use all year. And let’s not forget meat… a jerky lover’s dream.
17. Eat Simple
Cook recipes that use 5-10 simple inexpensive ingredients. It is ok to have a day or two of indulgence in foods that may not be so healthy. After all, there’s nothing like a hot dog cooked over a campfire in the summer!
18. Cleaning Products
This always gives me a headache. Literally. I have several cabinets (2 upstairs bathrooms, under my kitchen sink and 2 in the laundry room) that contain a multitude of cleaning products. Some of which smell awful, cost a lot, don’t really work and who really knows what is in them.
There are many cleaning products, especially all purpose, that can be made at home. Laura from Our Oily House has some great recipes using essential oils for cleaning products, laundry products and pest control. Pinterest has a plethora of ideas as well. After all, our ancestors used vinegar and newspaper to clean windows, why not go back to basics?!
19. Shop Discount
Normally I would tell you to shop at multiple stores in order to take advantage of each of their weekly sales, but unless the stores are nearby, don’t waste your gas. Choose the store that has the best offers for what you need.
However, I like to make a practice of hitting up the Dollar Tree every 4-6 weeks. I love it for items like sponges, disposable tins (for cooking in batches.), cleaning cloths, litter boxes and sometimes food items. The latter you do need to be careful with because although it may be a dollar, or I should say $1.25, sometimes the packaging is smaller.
Visit your local thrift stores for kitchen supplies like corning ware casseroles, mixing bowls, covered dishes, napkins, table linens etc… It is a great resource and you are giving back to your community. (on that note, don’t forget to purge what is not needed in your home and donate it on your trip there).
20. Portion Snacks
It can be so easy to sit down with a bag of pretzels or potato chips and next thing you know half the bag is gone! As soon as you get home from the market, portion out snacks into reusable bags or containers. You can even hide some away in upper cabinets to control your little ones intake. Don’t forget to prepare healthy snacks too like celery sticks, carrots, peppers and fruit and place on accessible shelves in the fridge maybe next to yogurt tubes and individual cheese sticks.
21. Don’t Buy Prepared Produce
Onions, carrots, celery, garlic and fruit can all cost a pretty penny to buy pre-cut. Plus it is not as fresh. Who knows exactly when it was prepared and how long it was sitting on the shelf. Grab your knife, buy your kids child safe knives, and let the whole family spend some time prepping.
Bagged cut lettuce blends are another expensive item. Invest in a salad spinner so you can wash and dry fresh lettuce, kale, spinach and arugula thoroughly.
22. Buy Reusable
Don’t grab the paper and plastic items at the store. Instead use everyday dishes that can be washed, cloth napkins that can be laundered, beeswax sheets instead of cling wrap. microfiber or chamois cloths in place of paper towels and invest in sturdy glass containers with lids and mason jars for leftovers, food prep and storage.
23. Recycle Bottles And Cans
Every nickel counts! Better yet donate them to those in greater need than yourself or a non-profit organization like Hop on Home Rabbit Sanctuary that relies on bottle returns to help take care of the ever growing population of abandoned, neglected and abused bunnies throughout New York State.
24. Use Small Appliances
Using items that output less energy like a crockpot, Instapot, and air fryer can help on your utility bills. Use the dishwasher if you have one, especially if it has an energy star rating. Dishwashers use less water than washing by hand.
No dishwasher? Try this water saving tip. Place 2 wash basins in your sink. Fill one with hot soapy water and the other with clean warm water. Wash, then dip to rinse. Don’t run the water as that can be costly to your water bill.
Buying new appliances can be a cost you are not ready to invest in, but if you have older appliances that can be upgraded, try to find the money and purchase energy star rated items. These will help save money in the long run. Also think about adding a second freezer if you have the room. This will give you plenty of space for frozen meals, pre-cooked items, stocks, soups, etc…
25. Brew At Home!
Skip those convenient coffee drive thru’s and brew at home. Before you go to bed, fill the water reservoir in the coffee pot, get your coffee pod ready and place sugar in your to go travel mug. Everything will be ready for you first thing in the morning. Just brew, add your creamer and go! (plus you won’t be apt to add that doughnut to your order!)
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