Cooking at home can take a little getting used to. But you’ll save money and enjoy better health with home-cooked meals. Finances are a wedge of the wellness wheel because getting a handle on them is part of good health.
Your fitness journey won’t be complete without attention in this area. A huge way we waste money is by eating out. And honestly, there is not that much good to be said about the food we get out. Here are some easy ways to save money on groceries.
Especially fast food. Fast food is about the worst thing you can possibly eat for your health. There is virtually no nutrition in it at all. And for the price of a burger and fries or a bag of tacos, you can make a meal for your whole family at home. I love junk food myself, but it’s not the way to wellness. It’s a habit I’ve had to work on a lot.
My wife Christina is the cook in our house, so she’s going to share how cooking at home can transform your finances.
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Cooking at home can save you a substantial amount of money. You can save on grain-based meals, but you can REALLY save a ton of money on meat-based meals. You’ll spend more time sometimes getting dinner made at home, but the results will do wonders for your health. If you’re on a budget, check out these cheap nutritious foods to keep in your diet.
You can decide exactly what goes into your food and what nutrition your food will have.
Eating home vs eating out
According to a cost comparison of home cooking versus restaurant-delivered meals, on average, you can save around $16 per meal by cooking at home. That means if you cook just one meal at home a week that you would normally buy from a restaurant, you could save $832 a year! Food budgeting is imperative.
Wellio found that the average price of a meal delivered from a restaurant is $20.37, the cost of dinner made from a meal kit is $12.53, and a serving of a home-cooked meal is just $4.31. Based on their findings, a meal from a restaurant is almost five times more expensive than cooking dinner from scratch at home.
14 ways to save money cooking at home
Learn how to cook. Making food from scratch just takes a few cooking skills in the kitchen. Once you get the basics, you can go as simple or as complicated as makes you happy.
Cook what you have. Take a look at what you have on hand and pretend it’s an episode of chopped. You can come up with some creative ideas. But going to the store every time you want to make a meal gives the potential for impulse buying and wastes gas and time.
Buy what you need. Don’t just shop willy nilly. Make a menu, then a shopping list for it, and stick to it. Then you won’t have food going to waste that you didn’t use up. This is especially important with produce. If you don’t think you can use it in time, a lot of things will freeze for later. Try this healthy menu meal plan if you need inspiration. It has a shopping list already.
Buy what’s on sale. Use the grocery store ads when planning your menu out. This way you can plan meals that use items that are the best deal.
Make simple meals. You don’t have to go all seafood paella. You can just make a simple pan of sauteed cabbage and chicken breast. With fewer components, you need fewer expensive ingredients.
Cook from scratch. Making a vinaigrette with some olive oil and vinegar and a few seasonings is far less expensive than buying a bottle of store-bought dressing. Also, cutting up some potatoes is less expensive than buying premade frozen potato sides. The more things you learn how to make on your own, the better your budget will feel.
Stock the pantry. Have a few staple items always on hand so you can whip something up without going to the store. Pantry items store well and are usually inexpensive.
Buy in bulk. Your pantry items are all less expensive in larger quantities. So if you cook rice regularly, consider getting a storage container and buying a 10-pound bag at a time or even more if you use a lot. This makes it cheaper per serving and less shopping and time-wasting involved. I love to buy from bulkfoods.com to get a good price with cheap shipping.
Consider generics. I don’t like generic peanut butter, only jif for me, but there are so many things that are great quality in generics. Flour, sugar, salt, some fruits, and vegetables in cans or frozen, pickles, and so much more are just great in generics and I can save a little money.
Eat in season. Food is cheaper and tastes better in season. So don’t try to buy strawberries in the winter or oranges in the summer because you’ll be wasting money on stuff that isn’t awesome. Check out the end caps of the produce aisle, they are usually full of what’s most in season and plentiful.
Make bean and potato-based meals. Rice is cheap too. Find things that are inexpensive and use more of those.
Use less meat. When you make a meal, use less meat than you’re used to. Meat is really expensive. Can you substitute beans for some or all of the meat? If you make a stir fry, you can use more veggies and less meat. The same goes for soups and casseroles.
Make soups out of your scraps. You can save your skins and ends when you cut up produce for stocks. I like to save all my meat bones and ends in a gallon freezer bag. When it gets full, I dump them all in a pot and make homemade stock. I save a ton of money on stock AND I get the most nutritious product that I know all about what’s in it.
I also like to make soups out of all the leftover scraps in the fridge. At the end of the week, I round up all the leftover vegetables. Maybe we have some baby carrots left over from the kid’s daycare meals, I can slice those up. Maybe I have some leftover roasted vegetables from dinner last night. I can cook an onion in a pot, toss in the leftovers, raw ones first and cooked ones at the end, add a little meat and some of my homemade stock, and end up with a delicious soup. Basically, it was free or super cheap.
Shop at Aldi or other discount stores. Aldi has a lot of inexpensive healthy food. I can’t always get everything from there, but I can get a lot. So most of the time I shop there and supplement with Walmart or homeland to make up the rest on occasion. I save a ton of money in my budget this way.
Save time cooking at home
Remember, it does take time to go to a restaurant, wait for the meal, and eat it. So getting take out or eating a meal at a restaurant is still consuming some time. But there are tons of things you can do to save time when you cook at home.
We have a rule at our house that if you cook, you don’t have to clean up. It’s fair because cooking is a chore just like cleaning up the meal is. I clean a lot as I go so the kitchen isn’t totally destroyed. I rinse my bowls and utensils and toss them in the dishwasher.
Sometimes I even scrub up the pan I used to make the meal and put it away. So usually, the only things left are cleaning up the table and dishes we ate off of and putting the leftovers in the refrigerator, and then wiping everything down. Kent has a great deal if you ask me.
Cook in bulk. One of the best ways to save time is to cook bulk batches. Find something like lasagna that freezes great. Get out the stuff and make 4 instead of one. Eat one, freeze three and you have a ton of premade meals that are healthy and nutritious. This works for soups, stews, casseroles, chilis and so much more.
I saw the Pioneer Woman do this by lining her dishes with foil. Then after the item was frozen, she popped the whole lasagna out and put it in the freezer in a ziplock bag covered in the foil so she had her casserole dishes free to make other things. So smart.
Make simple meals. The easier the better. Make it simple so you won’t dread it. The crockpot is great for this. So is the instant pot. Sheet pan meals are a lifesaver. I love anything that you pop in something and walk away once it’s prepped.
Meal plan and prep items ahead. If you know what you’re making all week, you can cut up all the carrots you’ll need at once and not have to chop carrots 3 days that week. If you prep all your veggies at the beginning of the week, it will make your whole week go more smoothly.
Freeze leftovers for another meal. If you make a sheet pan meal of chicken and veggies, take the leftovers and portion them out into individual meals and freeze them. Then you can grab one for lunch or whenever you need one.
Have quick meals in your arsenal. Know a few 15-minute dinners that are done in a snap. Keep those recipes nearby for when you don’t want to cook anything.
Recook leftovers into something else. You can cook a big pork roast and once you’ve had it for a meal or two, portion it up and freeze it in serving sizes for your family. Reserve one for making into a soup, tacos, or whatever you want later in the week. Recreating leftovers is my favorite because you get much more done in far less time. I am the queen of leftover cooking.
How to enjoy cooking
Cooking can be a drag, but if you reframe it into something else in your mind, like saving your family’s health, it becomes more interesting. I also love to be creative with it. When I cook tacos over and over and over, I HATE being in the kitchen. And my husband likes to eat that way. Tacos, spaghetti, tacos, spaghetti. Yuck! I don’t like to cook or eat like that.
So be creative with what you are making. I never make the same things twice. I hardly use recipes any more. I like to go with what I feel. That makes cooking a creative art for me and I love that. I am a very creative person. And I like making new ideas. So look at cooking however it works best for you to make it less of a chore and more of an expression of love, and expression of yourself, and expression of your personality.
I hope these tips will help you on your way to saving a ton of dough on what you eat. You’ll get into a rhythm and it will become natural for you too.