SAVE MONEY: Food & Cooking

Always eat your leftovers! Don't waste the things you've already made. If you can't bring yourself to eat it one more time, freeze it in single portions to heat up sometime when you don't feel like cooking!

Never let food spoil in the fridge, pantry, or fruit basket- use up the bananas and make banana bread, chop up your tomatoes and make a sauce or paste to use later, cook your meat before it goes bad and freeze it to use later, and make a white sauce with any extra milk you have so that you don't have to pitch it when it goes bad! This is HUGE for me, because when I'm pregnant and tired (read: RIGHT NOW), or if I buy too much at the store one week, and then I don't use it, it goes to waste. Then, I have wasted our money and we essentially have to pay double the next time we buy that item (because we've already bought it once).

Have a planned out menu and make a shopping list according to your plan. That way you don't overbuy when you go to the store.

At the same time, allow yourself the freedom to adjust your week's menu if you get to the store and find a great deal on something on sale that week!

Implement a baked potato or soup night every week!
Baked potatoes with all the fixins comes out to be a quite delicious and inexpensive meal. Soup (especially those made from scratch) with crackers or bread on the side is another great idea. Either way, if you do one a week, that will decrease your food bill by quite a bit!

Serve vegetables with your meals. People will eat less of the expensive stuff (meat, cheese, pasta, whatever) if you have a good selection of vegetables as sides.

COOK AT HOME! Invest the money you would spend in one trip to a restaurant in a classic, good quality cook book and commit to trying one new recipe a week. Or look on the internet and get some great ideas for free (even better-- just be sure to write them down!).

Learn to make basic things from scratch. White pasta sauce is so cheap to make from scratch, and you can make it in all varieties! Pancakes that are just as good as the Aunt Jemima mix you buy for nearly $3 a box are easy to make from scratch! The more you learn, the more you can make, and the cheaper you can make it! (If you have no idea how to do any of this, post a comment and I'll be glad to do a separate post about cooking from scratch!)

Learn to make your restaurant favorites at home. That way you don't have to spend an arm and a leg to get your favorite things! Take time to learn how to make a good, juicy bacon cheeseburger. Learn to grill a delicious steak. Teach yourself how to make specialty butters to flavor your meat, potatoes, and other foods in gourmet ways!

Just doing these frugal things in the way you EAT will save a lot of money, and it will add up over time!


Lori - The Simple Life at Home said...

Love these ideas, Jess! I've already implemented a couple - I have a soup or salad night once a week and a couple of months ago, I made an awesome P.F. Chang's dinner at home. It was delicious! I need work at not wasting though, so those ideas were really helpful. Thanks!

Mrs. Brigham said...

Great ideas! Also, if you cannot stand your leftovers in their current state, you can always remake them into an entirely new meal. Mexican rice or seasoned beans can be added to scrambled eggs for an interesting omelet. All sorts of leftovers can be added with cheese to a pizza crust or taco shells for an interesting twist. Brainstorming and seeing what you can come up with is a blast, even when those ideas occasionally do not taste so great. :o)

Jaime said...

all great ideas. the one i am worst about is remembering to recycle food into something before it goes bad. i am slowly improving, but part of it is just trying to plan what my kids' particular food whims will be that week, and i just can't seem to perfect the predictions!

the blackwells said...

Great tips! I have learned most of those (or have become better at them anyway) in this past year when we've been living in England. I think living internationally changes your views on using up your food...not to mention that we don't have pantry space so we shop more often but eat up everything we buy.

Anna S said...

I already use most of these tips, but thank you for reminding me to use leftovers and not waste good food!

Anonymous said...

Hi Jess! I'd love to read a cooking-from-scratch post! My biggest question is: How do you learn to do that when you have littles? And you're tired? How and where do you fit that into the day?

I know how to cook a few things from scratch. We are trying to drastically reduce the amount of times we eat out in a any sites or posts about cooking from scratch would be a blessing :)

-Lauren Hill

Anonymous said...

Yes, yes, & yes again! If only folks would give it a try. Cooking from scratch is not that hard. I tell my kids, "If I could learn how, anyone can." I was not a very promising candidate in the kitchen when I was growing up (o: But I really enjoy it now, & it's fun to stretch that dollar in the most creative way possible. My children have been raised on homecooked meals, treats, school lunches...& they know that homemade is almost always best. You also mentioned "the more you learn, the more you can make, and the cheaper you can make it..." This is a wonderful truth about making things oneself. It's a cummulative effect. Small successes will lead to bigger ones. Favorite recipes made a few times will become easy to make without the cookbook right there...& on it will go. You will feel in control of your own kitchen, it will be easier to budget, & food shopping will not seem intimidating or confusing. You will KNOW what you need in your pantry & refrigerator because you are using ingredients on a regular basis, & yes, there is less waste. As to cookbooks, specialty ones are fine, but I'd recommend that beginners get themselves a good, basic "hold your hand" one, like Fanny Farmer, Betty Crocker, one of the older Good Housekeeping versions, or Joy of Cooking. These are valuable books, because they will walk you through the various steps (with words & sometimes with pictures too).

Happy Cooking! Looking forward to reading more posts about this subject...Brenda

Mom said...

Jessica, that is very true. I really appreciate those words. They will save money and time in the longrun. Especially, when you take the time to learn and then put it to practice like you said in your article. I have been trying to do more of that (even with just the two of us), but like today, as I was running out the door (literally) to church, I threw some stuff in the oven, and believe me, I had to get creative. I just didn't want to HAVE to eat out because I didn't plan ahead. And you know what, Ty went on and on about that meal. You would have thought it was the best meal I had ever made. It did taste good, and we didn't have to go out, wait in a long line, be out in the hot sun, heavy traffic, and spend extra money. Great thoughts!

Christie said...

I like the idea of having a soup night or a baked potato night as money savers. It's amazing that you can buy 10lbs of potatoes for about a buck and a half. My husband is not much for soups and its hard to make baked potatoes that aren't super fattening, so I don't know about those, but my wheels are definitely turning on how I can have a cheap meal night that is both suitable to my husband and easy on my hips.

sharyn said...

I am a big from-scratch gal and I love that my boys are also getting healthier food without additives when I make it. The Joy of Cooking recipe for pancakes is a standard in our house -- I usually make a batch once a week and freeze the extras to reheat on another day or serve as a breakfast-for-dinner surprise (one of the ways we stretch our food dollars -- for some reason as soon as I bring out the bacon everyone is very happy about the breakfast-as-dinner prospect!).

Making a simple salad dressing from scratch is so easy and so much cheaper/better for you than the bottled stuff -- I just take a drinking glass, put in a few pinches of kosher salt and shakes of fresh-ground pepper, then mix in a bit of extra-virgin olive oila and some red-wine vinegar, then whisk it right in the glass. (as far as proportions go, it's best to test out -- we like a very vinegary salad dressing -- I usually dip a cherry tomato or a salad leaf in to taste before adjusting with more oil or vinegar) -- anyway it's the easiest thing and takes all of 5 minutes, tops. You can dress it up with herbs or a bit of mustard, or some chopped garlic or even some chopped shallots if you are feeling fancy.

When our bananas get brown and I don't have time to bake them up into muffins or breads, I just freeze them in the peels in a plastic bag. Then I set them out on the counter and let them thaw enough to mush them up and they work great.

I also read somewhere about there really being no need to buy bread crumbs when you can just store the heels and odds and ends of bread in the freezer, then whirl them up with some salt/pepper/spices as you need them. I've done that on occasion, and also used up the random pieces of not-quite-stale bread with French toast or taken them all out of the freezer and made a bread pudding out of it. (Both recipes were in fact originally ways to use up day-old bread and not waste it!)

Ah, the kitchen topics, how I can ramble on about them ... :)

sharyn said...

also, I meant to mention for Lauren Hill above -- cooking from scratch with littles is tough but not impossible. I do a lot of prep work when I can (i.e. naptime, while they're eating lunch or having snack or otherwise engaged and already in the kitchen) which helps. Sometimes I do a weekend cooking session for things that require time but not too much attention -- i.e. turkey chili, chicken corn chowder, spaghetti sauce, etc. and then freeze them -- this while hubby is around and playing with kiddos while I chop up the onion or box up the results. (I tend to not to like to cook lots on the weekend unless everybody's helping -- I like to enjoy our family time when Daddy's home. But it's great to get some faves in the freezer for Those Days to avoid the fast food or pizza run when desperate ...)

Also I don't know how little your littles are, but they can often help a lot -- my almost-4-year-old will crack all the eggs into a bowl to make scrambled eggs for breakfast tacos -- and he can help stuff and roll the tacos for wrapping and freezing.

Brenda said...

Please post about cooking from scratch! I need to know.

Anonymous said...

I love home-made soup. In the winter I make soup at least once a week. My best advice is to get a hand-powered food mill if you like potato soups, because the consistency is so much nicer. If you put a potato soup in the blender or food processor, it can come out gluey.

Just stop buying processed food (frozen dinners, rice pilaf in a box, etc). That will save you money right there.

Cooking more with beans and whole grains saves money too, even if you cheat like me and used canned beans most of the time. Soaking dried beans and cooking them yourself is even cheaper.

For instance, if you like chili with meat, try using only one-half or one-third as much meat as you would normally use, and add extra beans (I like a can of black beans and a can of black-eyed peas).

If you think you don't care for beans, try them in some kind of ethnic dish or with a flavorful sauce. I have a few Indian cookbooks--my favorite recipes for chick peas, lentils and black-eyed peas come from these. Very cheap meals, whether you serve with rice or tortillas.

Laurie B

Kim said...

BOY, have I learned my lesson about this, as an entire package of chicken and an entire package of greens are going to waste because I didn't use them in time - and it was bought on MY money! Thanks for these fabulous tips.