10 Smart Ways to Save Money When Cooking on a Tight Budget
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The cost of food has risen greatly ever since the 2008 recession. In fact, one study revealed that an average family spends around 13% of their annual expenditures for food! It placed third on overall shares of household expenditures after housing and transport.
However, the bright side is that there are plenty of money saving tips that will enable you to continue to cook plenty of delicious meals even when you’re on a tight budget. To help you, on this post, I’m sharing 10 smart ways to start saving money without sacrificing the quality of your meals:
1. Use Roasted Chicken
Compared to other types of meat, chicken is the least expensive. At Costco, for example, you can get a whole roasted chicken for just US$ 5! The leftovers of the chicken can be used to prepare many other meals or side dishes, such as burritos, tacos, soups, and sandwiches.
Also remember that even though chicken legs tend to be less costly than chicken breasts, they can be a tasty ingredient to many dishes, so try to use them more often.
2. Cook Less Meat
As I mentioned earlier, using meat in your dishes can really add up in terms of costs, so try to minimize meat in your diet. The great thing is that this can benefit your health too! Start by introducing ‘meatless Mondays’ as a part of your weekly diet. If you want to take it up a notch, you can also give a vegetarian diet a whirl!
Alternatively, you can eat smaller portions of meat during your meals. Beans or tofu make a great substitute for meat as they are high-energy foods rich in protein. Just using this tip alone can give you some noticeable savings each month.
3. Use Dry Beans Instead of Canned
Although it may be slightly less convenient, dried and fresh beans cost a whole lot less compared to canned beans. Not only you will save more money on beans, but your family will enjoy fresh homemade beans. Also, the leftovers can be used for many other meals (tacos etc.) for the rest of the week.
4. Use the Slow Cooker or Grill
Most people don't like the fat and gristle that comes with cheaper cut meats, hence lean meat tends to be more expensive. However, preparing your meals using a slow roaster or a gas grill can easily melt that fat right off into the roast, making it much tastier and easier to eat!
Meat sold by the pound is typically sold at a better rate than packaged meat. Slow cooking and grilling can turn just about any type of meat into a tender, delicious (and healthier) meal.
5. Shop at Specialized Stores
Popular stores, such as Walmart and Stater Brothers, are naturally going to have higher prices on some food items due to their high demand. On the other hand, local farmer's markets are bound to have significantly lower prices. The whole idea is to shop at a store that most people don't tend to flock to. At markets or specialized stores, many fresh food items (fruits and vegetables for example) can be purchased in bulk at very affordable prices.
6. Don't Impulsively Buy Groceries
Let's face it, we’re all guilty of this one – some of us more than others. It starts off with a hankering for a two-dollar chocolate bar and somehow we ended up leaving the store with 20 additional (and unnecessary) snack items. These are usually snacks that are not only unhealthy but they can really add up your total food spend. You would be surprised to find how much you’d save if you were to follow just this tip alone!
7. Shop Late in the Evening
Most stores do their best of getting rid of perishable foods in the evening by lowering their prices. Some shops, such as the French Baker, have half-off deals after 9 PM. Bread, fish, meat, fruits, and vegetables are just some of the perishable foods that can plummet in price at night. Bread items, in particular, are known to be heavily discounted in the evenings due to their short shelf life.
8. Avoid Fancy Packaging
Certain packaging, such as glass, heavy-duty plastic, fancy containers, and other things of the like, cost significantly more than items with generic packaging. So, why pay for packaging when you can't eat it? Besides, many store brands taste just as good, if not better, than the ‘fancy’ brands. Also, try to buy items with larger containers, as there's a much smaller package to food ratio.
9. Switch to Homemade Sauces, Dressing, and Other Seasonings
Some food items that can be prepared with ease such as salad dressings can cost a whole lot more when you purchase them in a store. Making homemade seasoning and dressing can save you quite a bit of money in the long run. Just a small bottle of salad dressing can cost over seven bucks, money that you could have better spent on other food items.
10. Buy in Bulk Online
Obviously, this is not recommended when it comes to buying perishable food items. However, dry or packaged foods, such as rice and beans, can be bought for a bargain online, especially if bought in bulk!
The above are just 10 smart ways you can implement to save some money when cooking. I know that there are a lot of other tricks out there, so don't stop looking for other ways to cut cost on food, as this list hardly scratches the surface!
That said, just following these ten simple tips will probably save you hundreds of dollars in groceries annually – possibly more if you are feeding a large family. I hope this article will help you better manage your food budget and spend your hard earned money wisely.
Want to learn more ways how you can save money on food without sacrificing on mouthwatering flavors? Why not join a budget culinary retreat? Learn the tricks of the trades without having to break the bank!