Woman Doing Grocery Shopping

10 Smart Ways To Save Money When Cooking

If you have ever decided to cook a special recipe, you may have noticed that costs can add up pretty quickly, especially when you cook for a family or for a large group of people.

Everyone wants to use high-quality ingredients as they make the recipe taste better and also are more healthy.

Actually, based on different researchers, it is shown that about 13% of our annual expenditures goes to food alone. It may not seem like a big number but if you consider that 50% of our total annual expenditures goes to housing and transportation altogether, food seems to be a huge chunk of our expenses.

So, if you are looking to save some money, food can be the easiest place to start.

Luckily for you, there are some awesome and very useful tips and habits that you can try, which will make you save a good amount of money.

10 Smart Ways To Save Money When Cooking

10 Smart Ways to Save Money When Cooking

1. Eat Less Meat

Let’s start this list with a tip which you may have thought of; Try to eat less meat. If you compare the price of the meat with the most of other cooking ingredients, you will notice that the meat is probably the most expensive one.

So, one best way to cut off your cooking costs is to start cooking recipes with less meat or no meat at all.

I know what you may think: “Meat is rich in protein!”. Well, I am not saying to remove the meat from your diet completely. Try to use it less. Instead, you can use a cheaper vegetable-based protein source such as peanut butter, nuts, tofu, beans etc. Or just use eggs instead. They are the best-for-the-price food which you can get.

Herbs In Pots

2. Plant Your Own Vegetables or Herb Garden

It doesn’t matter if you live in a mountain or a desert; there is always a way to grow your own vegetables or at least herb garden.

You can use flower pots out on the balcony or windowsill. Or you can work with your neighbor to borrow a little yard space in exchange for a few fresh, healthy vegetables at the end.

Just make sure to only plant vegetables and herbs that you know that you will eat a lot of.

3. Repurpose Leftovers and Food Scraps

I know that It can be difficult to make your family eat the same old meal two or more times in a row. So, the best option is to use leftovers to make other alternative meals. Instead of eating them for the upcoming meal, you can freeze them for another day or combine them with other ingredients for a completely new recipe.

For example, after I finish using my offset smoker, I scrape and collect all the meat leftovers to make delicious omelets and leftover vegetables taste great as soup too.

4. Always Keep Stock

If you keep a well-stocked and organized pantry, you will reduce the times needed to go to a grocery store as often. So, you will end up spending less on food each month. The trick here is to buy a couple of extra dried or canned goods each time that you go. For more savings, you can check out the weekly ads on the grocery store sale list. Doing so, you can tailor your shopping list and cooking schedule based on what they have on sale.

5. Use Store Brands

You may have noticed that Name-Brand items costs a lot more than a just regular store-brand version. Usually, for most of the items, there is no difference in quality or ingredients. If you want to make sure, you can compare them side-by-side and read the label. You will see that the ingredients are usually almost identical.

6. Forage for Fruits and Nuts

A huge portion of the fruits and nuts that the local trees produce end up damaged or going to waste because no one picks them up off the ground. Don’t buy everything at the store all the time. If you happen to have a local park nearby with lots of fruits trees, try to pick some. Just make sure to first read the city regulations first about picking up fruits from park trees.

Grocery store special

7. Buy in Bulk

A lot of stores sell foods with bulk packages, especially long life shelf foods, such as flour, pasta, salt etc.

By buying in bulk, you will end up saving a couple of dollars per product, which in the end can add a lot to the budget.

Make sure to compare the price of the single unit with the bulk package to calculate how much you actually save. There are some stores that don’t reduce the cost of bulk packages but just sell them in a larger size container.

8. Don’t Shop When You Are Hungry

Probably one of the most popular cooking saving tip out there. Never got to store if you haven’t eaten in a while. It will make you purchase snacks and product which are not necessary and don’t really need. Try to always go shopping after you finish eating a meal. This way, you will only purchase what you really need.

One other cool tip here is to go grocery shopping just after you eat a healthy meal. That way, your brain will be more focused on choosing more healthy items.

9. Buy Frozen Foods

I know that fresh food is the best because of its high nutritional quality but unless you have to cook for a large group of people, you can exchange some items with frozen foods instead. Also, if you buy a lot of fresh products, they may end up going bad before you have a chance to eat it. That’s one good reason why frozen foods may be a better option.

Also, there are a lot of techniques and recipes which can make the frozen food taste as good as the fresh one.

Plan Meals and Shopping

10. Always Plan Your Meals

If you want to save some money when cooking, then you always have to have a meal plan. Doing so will make you save money easier. It doesn’t have to be an exact amount or price. Just put an estimate, so you can see in average which recipes/meals make you spend more money.

Final Thoughts

So, in conclusion, if you are a cooking enthusiast, just like me, but don’t want to most of your money on expensive ingredients, there are a lot of other alternative ways you can try.

I hope that these 10 smart tips will help you a lot to manage your cooking budget better and actually spend less money while in the kitchen.

About The Author

Kendrick is an outdoor cooking enthusiast who loves to share his experiences and knowledge about food with everyone. He shares more recipes, food tips and tricks and guides on FuriousGrill


Also published on Medium.

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  1. Wonderful tips! I have used quite alot of them, like earing less meat and eating more yogurt and fruits etc. The other thing that does really help is buying in bulk and yes never going to buy food when you are hungry. And it has definitly helped planning the meals, and buying only what you want to make. We have saved a lort of money with these tips

  2. What an interesting article. I recently decided that I need to eat a little bit more healthier because I’m constantly tired and when I’m tired and hungry I tend to reach for the bread. With me trying to eat healthier, which is a little more expensive, I can definitely feel a difference in my body. Not just loosing kilos but I do have more energy as well. I also don’t eat so much meat anymore and it is almost like my body feel lighter in the evening.

    Being said that eating healthier can be more expensive, I notice that my bank account still have money left because I don’t buy unnecessary sugary items. So buying healthy products, I’m actually saving money.

    the last point that you mention is so so true! Never shop when you’re hungry. O goodness that I’ve done on a regular basis and the more hungrier you are, the more food you buy.

    Thanks for a brilliant article.

  3. I always seem to find myself doing grocery shopping when I am hungry or with the kids. They distract you and you end up leaving the store either with the wrong stuff or stuff that you just couldnt get. When you are hungry you tend to purchase unnecessary goods. Happens to me all the time and it is such a waste of money to shop like that. What I try to do now is to go to the shops alone and eat a good meal before leaving the house.

  4. For the hungry kids….I stopped at the shop before I pick them up. Over weekend my hubby needs to go with not just because he must pay, but also to help with the kids.

  5. Meal planning is the hardest for me because ideally one would like to buy ingredients that you will use. Often I find myself throwing stuff out that I haven’t used. Also buying the exact amounts for each meal is tricky

  6. Great tips and I am happy to see that I am implementing some of them. We have just planted our first vegetable garden with green beans, onions, tomatoes, beets & carrots. I can’t wait to hand pick from our own garden. I would also love to plant a herb garden in one of those long flower pots that you can put on a window sill. I regularly buy frozen vegetables, but I sometimes buy bulk vegetables at Foodlovers which I cut and dice myself and freezes. I can definitely speak from experience when I say avoid shops when you’re hungry. Everything just look so good and you end up buying a whole lot of unnecessary items that will make a dent in your purse.

  7. Very guilty in shopping when Im hungry. We usually leave the house early mornings to go do our shopping, so chips, sweets etc. gets added to the list, and its unnecessary.

  8. I know all to well about the don’ts it’s pretty apparent that I have been making some mistakes. The article was really an eye opener.I will be adapting these helpful ideas to our lifestyle .Like not going shopping on an empty stomach I swear I have wasted such allot of money on just a quick lunch.I definitely will start to plan my daily meals in order to keep record of the things I use.Very helpful thanks

  9. Such an insightful article, thank you! I especially love the tip about not going shopping when hungry. πŸ™‚

    As we are a single income home (we are South Africans living in Nambia, so, unfortunately, I am unable to work) I am always looking for ways to save money.

    Fresh vegetables and dairy products are pretty expensive here, so using frozen vegetables and planning meals around using too much dairy has become part of our daily routine.

    I’m sure I will be able to use these tips to save even more money.

  10. Great article with helpful advice. If I may add one, another way of saving is also by cutting your portions. Healthy too but, by cutting portion size you tend to make less food and nothing goes to waste. Having to cook 2 different meals for my family every night because of High Cholesterol, we have managed to lesson our monthly grocery total by just cutting portion size for the 2 meals. Hope it will help someone else too.

  11. Thank you for all the helpfull tips.I think that we all knew about a few of these tips,but we forget to practise the things we aught to do. Something I would like to add – maybe you are like me in the sense that you also tend to eat when you are actually thirsty and not really hungry. So be sure to drink enough water.Maybe this is more off a weightloss tip,buy you surely will also save money.

  12. Lately I make sure to shop just after I had lunch. I also prefer to go to the shop alone, as my child always seems to want things that we don’t really need. Not that I have a problem with that, but usually he is after unhealthy thins to eat and drink. I have noticed that having unhealthy foods around, cause one to eat it. Thus, I have stopped buying gassy cooldrinks and snacks. I used to buy these as a habit. Now we have to enjoy what we have at home. saves money and is definitely healthier.

  13. These tips are truly smart and savvy. I have personally tried out a few of them. Planning meals sounds like a good idea and it doesn’t just help out with the pocket but it also helps prevent those days where “what to cook” seems to be a major problem. We personally have our own vegetable and herb garden where we grow thyme, mint, butternuts, baby marrows, lettuces and some strawberries! It’s definitely helped out with cutting down the costs. I found shopping around and checking the specials in different stores always helps out with saving some money and bulk buying on those specials. Don’t forget to store the groceries appropriately so they don’t go bad too soon. Thanks for the tips. They were truly helpful! πŸ˜€

  14. Great tips! I’d love to grow my own veggies, especially tomatoes and salads but living in a current drought stricken area makes this a challenge but I do find that one can save if you can get a local fresh produce supplier for fruit and vegetables as well as for eggs. That way you support a local business as well as stretching your cash. Another option is to invest in a good mixer and/or bread machine – buying flour in bulk directly from mills works out much cheaper and you get a much healthier (and tastier) bread too. Home baking instead of buying pre-mixed cake mixtures or ready-made cakes also contribute to saving and is very rewarding in itself. AND (in our sweet-tooth family especially!) snacks and sweets can seriously damage your grocery budget! πŸ™‚

  15. I like reading articles on how to save money. I’m at a stage in my life where i want to reduce my carbon print and live my life very simple. it is not always easy when it comes to food. I, unfortunately love to eat and going to the shops on an empty tummy is not always a good idea. I try to recycle as much as i can. We recently started our own little garden and round about the same time got ourselves a dog. You can imagine what happened… all our efforts were dug up! But it is well on its way again of being fruitful. Fencing did not help at all and the fact that i grew onions was a total no, no, for the new puppy. As you know it is poisonous for the four legged friend. Anyways, i’ve also started growing my own herbs in pots on the window sill. That helps as well and it saves quite a bit of money. You can just pick the amount that you wish to use. Usually when i buy a bunch of herbs i end up discarding the rest of it a week later because it does not stay fresh for very long. Even if you try to freeze it, its not the same. For example Basil, it is such an amazing herb in a tomotoe dish but you can’t use too much of it otherwise it will make the food bitter. When you have your own herb garden, you can pick just the correct amount that you need. Using herbs enriches the food, and it replaces the huge amount of salt you use for the food. It is a healthier option as well. We generally don’t eat red meat instead we eat mainly chicken. The other item that is very cost effective is the tin fish. I make a mean fishcake and it is super healthy, loaded with Omega 3’s. I always find that if i buy too much fresh veggies i end up throwing them away so i make sure to stock up on the frozen veggies and lots of tinned beans. I always keep the necessary tinned tomatoes and tomatoe paste. My kids hate going to the shops with me so i wait until dad’s home or i going when they are at school. I will take forever to shop because i will look carefully at all the prices and the ingredients. Like the article says the no-name brands are just as good as the branded items. I’m very picky but i can promise you the no-name brands are sometimes better. I’ve recently tried the ostrich mince. At first it freaked me out but since trying it i wont really go back to any other. Plus Ostrich apparently has less fat than the steak and beef mince. So there are lots of ways to save money on food. Food is very expensive and we don’t always feel like cooking but home cooked meals are the best for our families and it doesn’t have to cost and arm and a leg if we plan our meals, plan our shopping lists and most importantly… eat before you hit the stores.

  16. Point 11 Dont shop with a toddler πŸ˜‰
    My 3 year old boy usually thinks we are on a shopping spree when going to the grocery store. He will just put everything HE wants in the trolley. Im also quilty of going to the shops when I am hungry.

  17. I so needed this.

    We need to work on our budget and this seems like a perfectly good place to start.

    Where we stay ostrich meat is much cheaper than beef etc. So we have already started to use that as an alternative.

    I also want to work on a herb garden. I currently have mint growing! It is so refreshing to infuse mint with water.

  18. I have always bought bulk whenever there are good specials on. Even on washing powder. It makes a big difference when you can buy bulk and with the rewards programs so many stores now offer, it also helps a fair bit.

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