How to Cook on a Budget

By TBSP Susan
Created March 7, 2017
Everyone is looking to trim a few corners these days. Fortunately you can still eat well while spending less. MORE+ LESS-

Still paying off those holiday credit cards? It's a great time of year to trim a bit of bulk out of your monthly spending.

Actually, learning how to the get the biggest culinary bang for your buck is a skill that will last a life time, no matter how much money you have in the bank. By making a few tweaks in your weekly planning and doing more with less, you can create healthy, filling meals without feeling like you’re permanently stuck in the poor house.

Get Schooled

Learn how to cook from scratch. This is one of the best ways to keep food costs down. When you buy your meat cut and seasoned from the butcher case, like chicken teriyaki skewers or a beef fajita mix, you are paying way more per pound than you would if you cut the steak and vegetables yourself. This goes for pre-cut fruit and veggies too. It only takes seconds to slice up a melon, will cost much less and be fresher when you do it yourself.

Browse through all the amazing contributions here at Tablespoon and practice making a few simple recipes from scratch, such as spaghetti and meatballs, burritos, roast chicken, stir-fries and casseroles. You don’t have to commit to this every night of the week at first, but try it once or twice just to see how truly easy it is.

Check out our Pasta Recipes collection for ideas.

Pack Your Lunch

Most people spend way too much money on their daily take-out lunches just out of habit, a habit that can cost five to 10 dollars every day or more. Try packing your lunch, from a simple sandwich to leftovers from the night before, and save big bucks. Eating this way is also much more nutritious, since you control the ingredients and the portion sizes.

For more ideas, try our Sandwich Recipe Favorites.

Use the Freezer

Once you get used to using the freezer for more than ice cubes, you can really start to see the savings add up. Check the meat counter for sale items you usually buy and pick up two or three packages at the lower price. Likewise, when you make food at home, such as soup, stew or even lasagna, make a little extra and store some away for another meal down the road. These extra servings can help when the food budget gets tight at the end of the month.

Check out our Soups and Chowders collection for more recipe ideas.

Don’t Throw That Away!

Save your bread-ends for croutons or bread crumbs, which are much less expensive than buying pre-made. Likewise, don’t toss out those onion and carrot ends. Place these types of items in a small plastic tub in the refrigerator and make vegetable stock when you’ve gathered a quart-full. If you have the carcass from a recent roast chicken, you can also make chicken stock with the bones and vegetable ends to save money on that expensive pre-packaged broth.

Want more info? Check out these articles on How to Make Croutons and How to Make Vegetable Stock.

Keep Staples Around

Always have flour, rice, bread, pasta, spices and some sort of protein and vegetable in the fridge or freezer if you can. Keep vegetables that tend to stay fresh longer, such as onions, carrots, potatoes, celery and mushrooms. It’s often the times when there is “nothing to eat,” that has the family dialing up the pizza delivery guy. But if you have spaghetti noodles, butter, a little garlic and dried oregano you can make a simple buttered noodle dish served with salad or steamed carrots on the side.

Pinching pennies doesn’t have to mean going hungry, but it may mean relaxing your standards a little and getting used to the simpler pleasures, such as home-cooked meals. In time, these “simple” pleasures will feel like real luxuries—once you’ve learned how to eat better without the help of a take-out menu.

Budget Friendly Recipes

What's your best tip for budget cooking?