Eating at restaurants and grabbing snacks to consume on the go can be fun and convenient, especially when you’re hanging out with friends, or lack the time to prepare a wholesome meal at home. Unfortunately, dining out on a regular basis can become quite costly and have adverse effects on your health — not to mention your pocketbook.
Interested in becoming healthier while saving money in the process? Here are 10 ideal ways to save money by cooking at home:
1. Work With What You Have
Before rushing out to the grocery store, take a full inventory of what you already have in your kitchen and pantry. Then, plan meals using ingredients you already have on hand.
If you’re not quite sure what to make, plug ingredients into apps such as Supercook or MyFridgeFood, which recommend recipes based on what you have at home.
2. Load Up On Fresh Produce
Fruits and vegetables are packed with vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients that contribute to a lasting feeling of fullness. Fresh produce is also relatively inexpensive, especially when in season.
Buy fresh produce from your local farmer’s market or when it goes on sale at the grocery store, and forgo boxed and canned versions.
3. Eat Before You Shop
Leave home with a full, satisfied belly before going to the supermarket. Shopping for groceries on an empty stomach can lead to impulse buying and unhealthy decisions, thanks to hunger hormones that can make even the most unappetizing meals look appealing.
4. Avoid Buying in Bulk
Unless you’re throwing a party or shopping for a large family, avoid buying food in bulk — especially if it’s an item or ingredient you rarely use. Grocery stores can trick you into buying more for less, but the end deal isn’t worth it if you’re not going to use it in a timely manner.
For example, unless you’re cooking Indian cuisine several times per week, avoid buying a gallon jug of curry seasoning. The exception to this rule is buying fresh meats that can be portioned into individual serving sizes and tossed in the freezer for later.
5. Make Your Own Sauces and Seasonings
Buying commercial brands of barbecue sauce, ranch dressing, and chili powder might be convenient, but you’ll be amazed at how much you can save making these simple recipes at home. In many cases, you can make up to 10 times the amount at home for the same price as one bottle from the store.
6. Shop Multiple Venues
Instead of buying all your groceries from one supermarket, explore farmer’s markets and international grocers for the best deals. For instance, you might get better deals on fresh deli meats from the local butcher, or find inexpensive jars of fresh, high-quality kimchi from the Asian market.
7. Do Meal Prep on Weekends
If your busy schedule rarely leaves time for cooking during the week, spend a few hours cooking and doing meal prep on weekends. When you’re too tired or pressed for time to cook, you’ll have a healthy meal at the ready.
Cooking in bulk is easier than it sounds; simply divide large meals into small portions and place into separate containers you can take to work and reheat at your convenience.
8. Use the Slow Cooker
The benefit to using a slow cooker is being able to throw all the ingredients into the pot, and let the appliance do all the hard work.
Buy healthy meats and vegetables, season to taste, and let the slow cooker do its job for between 2 to 8 hours, depending on the recipe. Slow cookers can produce the tastiest gourmet meals with minimal effort on your part.
9. Become a Store Member
Sign up for the grocery store membership cards offered at most major supermarket chains. Having a store membership gives you access to exclusive sales and deals reserved for members only.
10. Repurpose Food Scraps
Bread crusts and ends can be saved and used later to make stuffing and bread crumbs, while vegetable trimmings such as the ends of carrots and onions can be used to make vegetable stock.
You can save up to hundreds or thousands of dollars per year cooking from home, so don’t put it off any longer. Start implementing the above tips and tricks, and enjoy watching savings pile up!