Cooking on a Budget Part 3: Cooking for Savings

Cook Smarts Guide to Produce Shelf Life

{To get a printable download of our Produce Shelf Life and Care Guide emailed to you, click here.}

By preparing your own home cooked meals, you’re already doing a whole lot to keep your food bill in check. However, in this last part of our Cooking on a Budget Series, I’ve got 4 more tips to help you save even more while cooking up those delicious meals.

  1. Cook perishable items first: Store more perishable items so that they’re easily accessible. That way you won’t forget to cook them first. If you’re unsure about the shelf-life of your produce, use our “Produce Shelf Life & Care Guide.” (infograhic below)

  2. Save the trimmings: Turn your carrot peels, roots of celery stalks or onions, corn cobs, mushroom stems, and bones into stock! Keep a stock bag in your freezer that you can constantly add to. Once you have a full bag, throw it into a huge pot of water with 2 bay leaves and boil and simmer for an hour. Drain the ingredients and you have homemade stock.

  3. Repurpose leftovers: In the Planning for Savings post, tip #5 tells you to plan for leftovers. You could easily save yourself $5 to $10 / per day by bringing your lunch vs. eating out, but don’t stop there. Leftovers can also play a part in the cooking process too. There is absolutely no reason why you should start from scratch every single time you cook. Extend the mileage of your leftovers (and time) by transforming them into different meals. This is exactly what a college dorm cook does: Monday’s pork tenderloin is Tuesday’s pork sandwiches and Wednesday’s pulled pork pozole. It takes some creative juices, but it can be a fun process. Our meal plans try to do this as often as possible.

  4. Freeze it: If you can’t get to something before it spoils, then freeze it. Leftovers, dairy, bread and other carbs all freeze very well for 6 months to a year. If you’re cooking for just 1 or 2, divide ingredients into weekly serving amounts and freeze what you won’t eat that week. Split a loaf of bread in half or a block of cheese into fourths. They’ll keep until you need them next. I also try to keep a few extra pre-made meals frozen. That way even on nights that I can’t find the energy to cook, I can pull something out of the freezer vs. going out for something that’s less healthy or is only going to be mediocre.

So now you have all my tips to start saving from planning to shopping to cooking. Now go out and make the best use of your dollars and time.

You can pin all the infographics from this series here and please, please do share the smarts!

Again, to get a printable download of our Produce Shelf Life and Care Guide emailed to you, click here.

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