Article By Valerie Spencer
Valerie is the creator of Tiny Kitchen Cuisine. As a former professional baker and avid foodie, she took her love for home-cooked foods on the road when she began traveling full-time in her tiny RV. With mouthwatering recipes and useful techniques, Valerie addresses the unique concerns of those who want to make delicious food in their tiny kitchen. You can follow her journey on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
How would you like to eat delicious, healthy, gourmet food every day and save money while you do it? It’s not as much of a pipe-dream as you might think. We can all agree that the better you eat, the healthier (and happier) you are. However, it seems that many of us think that the quality of food is directly related to its price.
Wouldn’t it be great if eating cheaply could be high quality, convenient, and good for you?
It is! (If you know what you’re doing.) Don’t fall for the myth that the quality of your food is somehow related to the size of your bank account. You can still eat like a king on a tight budget. Just put these practical frugal cooking tips into play and you’ll save money just by putting amazing food on your dinner plate!
How To Save Money and Eat Gourmet Every Day!
- Save Money By Cooking From Scratch
- Plan Meals Around Sales and Rebates
- Stock Up and Save
Learn To Cook Meals From Scratch
The type of food you buy from the grocery store is the single most important factor in both how you save money and how well you eat.
At the core of frugal cooking you are faced with two options. Both paths will save you money. However, only one path will make sure you keep the money you saved. You can:
- Buy cheap foods on sale that are conveniently packaged and filled with who knows what. ..
- Buy wholesome, healthy, raw ingredients and learn how to cook the foods you love.
Option #1: Convenience Foods
Many of us think of convenience foods as frozen all-in-one dinners or that junk you get from fast food restaurants. It’s a lot bigger than that. Convenience foods are all over the grocery store. They include pre-cut and frozen vegetables, canned soups, boxed or canned broths, bakery items, breads, cookies, ready-to-use dough in pressurized tubes… the list goes on.
These convenience food items are often inexpensive. They are the most common type of item to go on sale and they can easily be found in “Buy One, Get One” displays. By the price, you would think that they are the ultimate way to save money at the grocery store. You’d be wrong.
When you eat these types of convenience foods long enough and in great enough quantity, you put your health at risk. Whether it’s from poorly sourced ingredients, excess sodium, unhealthy levels of sugar, or simply contamination from manufacturing… you will end up sick. When that happens, the savings that you gained at the store will be lost to the doctor. In some cases, it could lead to a lifelong condition that will result in paying medical bills for the rest of your life.
Options #2: Raw Ingredients
Most convenience food items are not hard to make from scratch. The price of the raw ingredients is a fraction of the cost of these convenience items. If you were to prepare the same item at home, you can guarantee that you’ll get a higher quality of food and you can typically triple the quantity for the same price.
Additionally, if you learn how to cook food from raw ingredients, you still get the benefit of all of those savings plus… you can be in charge of your health! When you cook from scratch, you can monitor the quality of your food, control how much sodium and sugar you ingest, and how your food is handled during preparation.
So stop buying convenience foods and cook!
Okay, let me level with you… the biggest problem with cooking from scratch is time. I get it. It’s hard to come home after a long day and be expected to cook an extravagant meal. However, if done right, it could actually give you the chance to use that time as a priceless bonding experience spent with your children, spouse, and/or friends. It’s all in how you apply yourself.
Don’t know how to cook? That’s okay!
Only know how to cook one or two meals? That’s okay too!
There are so many free and easy to make recipes available at your fingertips. Spend some time on YouTube, Pinterest, Facebook, or Google to discover what you like. Tune your TV to a cooking channel while other things are happening around the house. You’d be surprised how much you will absorb. Between the Food Network on cable and the Create Channel on free over-the-air TV, you could have access to countless hours of a culinary education piped into your home.
Don’t forget to get creative! Remember that just because you’re cooking budget meals doesn’t mean you have to cook tasteless budget meals.
Make Meal Plans around Grocery Store Sales and Rebates
Making a weekly meal plan before you go to the grocery store is an easy way to save money and time in the kitchen.
I highly recommend it! A meal plan is a list of all the food that you plan on making over the next few days, week, or month. By writing out what you plan on making, you eliminate the time spent thinking about what’s for dinner. You become aware of and can prepare ingredients (or even entire meals) in advance. If you’re really clever you can also save a lot of money by buying in bulk and reusing the same ingredients for several different meals.
When I make my weekly meal plan, I usually start with the grocery store circular. Not only are these flyers packed with discounts and coupons, I actually find that they are a great resource for meal planning. You get a sense of which fruits and vegetables are in season, what’s on sale, and roughly how much your shopping trip is going to cost. Additionally, sometimes just looking at food can give you inspiration for what you want to eat that week.
That’s not the only place I look either. Did you know that there are also cash back apps that can double and even triple your savings? These cash back rebate services are free to sign up and the money you get back adds to up to some significant cash over time. Actually, I probably save more money at the grocery store using these apps than I do with store coupons.
While you’re meal planning, open up the apps and check out what rebates are being offered. Add anything that applies to your meal plan and you’re all set! However, when using coupons or rebates, never forget the golden rule: don’t buy something that you don’t need just because it’s cheap.
“Everything is 100% off when you don’t buy it!”
— Joshua Fields Millburn of The Minimalists
If you’re interested learning more about this topic, check out some more of my ways to save money at the grocery store.
Buy Low, Stock Up, and Freeze Often!
Everyone knows you get the best prices on food if you buy in bulk, buy on sale, or buy in-season. What often gets forgotten is that keeping those savings is incredibly easy if you know what to buy and if you regularly use your freezer.
Why pay to eat from the freezer section, when it’s cheaper and tastier to make your own freezer section?
Get The Most Bang For Your Buck
The cheapest and best items to buy in bulk are dry goods (such as beans, rice, pasta, and grains) and root vegetables. They have a long shelf life, take a minimal amount of space in the pantry, and are pound for pound the least expensive items in the grocery store. When they are on sale, the savings are astronomical. No matter what size your kitchen or pantry, I recommending reserving at least two shelves for beans, rice, pasta, and grains.
Dry goods are packed with nutrients. They generally have a neutral taste that adopts the flavors of spices very well. When they are rehydrated, they expand. This makes them a great filler in nearly any meal. Because of all these reasons, you can apply the flavor profile of nearly any cuisine (Mexican, Italian, Chinese, Indian, etc.) to the same ingredients. That will give you the most variety in your meal plans.
Pick The Cream of the Crop
In-season vegetables are also dirt cheap. Groceries stores sell in-season fruits and vegetables at deep discounts because the market is flooded with them. Farmers are harvesting their crops and because, food is perishable, they have to move quickly. Because of this, you get to save money! But fruits and vegetables don’t magically stop being perishable when you take them home. Sure, you could dedicate several weeks to eating nothing but one ingredient… but why?
Save your in-season fruits and vegetables by cutting them up and storing them in the freezer. You’re essentially making your own convenience foods, except you’re doing it with fresh, delicious, ripe, quality produce. You can even go as far as making your own mixed packs—for example, combine your own stir-fry ingredients or freeze different fruits together to make quick smoothies.
Customize Your Own Convenience
Speaking of freezing… use your freezer for more than ice cream. Cooking from scratch takes time. Prepare double or even triple the amount of food and freeze what you don’t eat. This will actually result in saving you a lot of time. Again, you’re creating your own convenience.
Some days are just more exhausting than others. Freezing meals and saving leftovers is a great way to avoid the temptation of eating out, buying fast food, and buying other convenience food products. When life get hectic and you just want something quick to eat, you’ll have a delicious home-cooked dinner ready!
The Benefit of Frugal Cooking:
Save Money and Eat Gourmet Every Day
There are so many ways you can save money on your grocery budget without sacrificing the quality of your food. But between hunting for deals, planning out meals, and actual cooking… frugal cooking does takes time. After first it will seem daunting. Keep with it!
Once you make these ideas a habit in your daily life, you’ll find it as easy as breathing. Soon, you will even start to work out ways that are specific to your household. That’s when the magic really happens. Before you know it, you’ll be saving money and eating like royalty without giving it a second thought.
If you have any other frugal cooking ideas or have found this article useful, leave a comment!