POPSUGAR Food

How to Cook on a Budget

Jan 9 2012 - 4:04am

After a month's worth of entertaining and gift giving, I'm feeling more cash-strapped than I should. That's why I've vowed to start the New Year right by cooking meals for a fraction of the price that I pay when I dine out — and shopping smarter, too. I know I'm not the only one trying to eat in more often [1], so here, I'm sharing 10 mantras to live by that will have your bank account thanking you down the road.

Shop the farmers market smarter.

By changing just a few old habits — like when you choose to shop — you can save money and time (plus avoid crowds) at the greenmarket [2].

BYOB!

No, not your own beer (although if you find it on sale, you rock!) — bring your own bags when shopping at the supermarket. Being eco-upright is rewarding in itself, but supermarket chains often provide incentives, too. Each bag warrants a five-cent discount at Whole Foods [3], or a raffle entry to win free groceries at Trader Joe's [4].

Brew your own coffee.

I'm such a regular at my local Starbucks [5] that baristas know me by name. But once I realized I could save at least $400 a year by brewing my own coffee, I invested in a French press [6] to use in the office instead. It's not as glamorous, but I'll use the money I save to do something equally fabulous — like take a vacation to Mexico.

Make meals ahead, then freeze them.

Don't have time to prep dinner every night? You can avoid the high costs of delivery and takeout by making a week's worth of meals in one day, then freezing them [7] for the coming work week. Casseroles and bakes work best. They feed a crowd and can often be loaded directly into the oven from the icebox [8].

Bring your lunch to work every day.

Making the move from buying to bringing can be one of the hardest — but once you notice how much healthier your bank account and eating habits are, there'll be no turning back. Pack an easy-to-assemble sandwich or leftovers from last night's dinner, then get some time away from your desk by grabbing a friend to gab with on a walk.

Clip coupons.

There's no need to go off the deep end [9] with coupon clipping, but if you're looking for significant savings, coupons are where it's at. Scan the Sunday papers, or check out coupon sites [10] like SmartSource.com [11] or Coupons.com [12].

Use a slow cooker.

Before you reach for the delivery speed-dial, remember that punching that button on your slow cooker [13] is just as easy. Dump and stir the night before, and you've got dinner done for the following day. Here are some of our favorite basic slow cooker recipes [14].


Source: Flickr User sporkist [15]

Don't let anything go to waste.

What do cheese rinds, chicken necks, and beet and radish tops all have in common? They shouldn't go to waste! Use parmesan cheese rinds and chicken necks to flavor stock and soups [16] and transform what looks like a weed into radish-top soup [17]. If you have the skills, buy things like chicken whole, then break it down yourself.

Cook more vegetarian.

It goes without saying that you'll pay more for the likes of fish, beef, and lamb — so enjoy more meatless meals that take advantage of other protein sources like eggs, beans, lentils, and cheese. Case in point? These white beans with feta [18].

Get back to basics, and don't be afraid to improvise either.

Stick to simple, fast and easy recipes [19]. And improvise! Don't buy a giant bunch of expensive fresh herbs if you know you won't make the most of them. Don't have oregano? Try thyme. Let thinly sliced onions stand in for shallots. Use white wine vinegar instead of Champagne vinegar.

What are your tips for cooking, eating, and shopping on a budget? Do share them with all of us below.


Source URL
http://www.yumsugar.com/food/Cook-Shop-Smart-Budget-13095701