Everyone wants to eat well, but there’s no reason for you to blow your whole budget for weekday dinners with the family. There are many ways for you to save money and cook a great dinner at the same time. Not only are you being frugal, but you are also making your family eat healthy while avoiding food wastage all at the same time. In the next section, we will take a look at how you can save money while cooking then enjoying delicious dinner meals.
Top 15 Tips to Save Money & Cook a Great Dinner
Your goal is to save money, cook delicious dishes, save time, and eat healthier. Take a look at our top fifteen tips on how you can save money and cook a great dinner:
1. Minimize junk food.
If part of your dinner preparation is having a giant bottle of soda, cold cuts, and other processed food items, you are not doing your health – or your wallet – any favors. By cutting back on your junk food consumption, you can actually eat healthy while bring frugal.
There’s nothing wrong in having a bag of potato chips for snacks while catching up on the past season of Game of Thrones, but junk food should have no place on the dinner table. Learn how to prepare delicious, healthy meals and cut back on grocery bills.
2. Stop eating out.
Working moms might be too tired to prepare dinner from scratch, so they will usually cave into the calls of their kids to simply order pizza – or drive to the nearest restaurant and eat out. This will save you a great deal on clean-up, but frequently eating out will put a huge dent in your budget.
If your family loves trying out new restaurants, you can simply cut back on the number of times that you are eating out. If you used to eat almost every other day, cut back the frequency to one or two times per week. This will easily save you $15 to $25 – more if you usually go to the upscale restaurants.
3. Familiarize yourself with the prices of groceries at perimeter stores.
What is your best source of cheap food and grocery items? The establishments near where you live. You don’t need to drive over to the farthest superstores just so that you can save a few bucks on grocery items – unless you are buying in bulk.
Familiarize yourself with the prices of specific grocery items at the stores near your home.
Are fruits and veggies cheaper at the weekend farmer’s market, or do they have the same rates as the grocery store in town? What about canned goods and kitchen staples?
Where can you source the best fresh produce and meat? Make friends with a local butcher so that you can get the inside scoop on when certain cuts of meat will be sold for a cheaper price.
Doing this will help you save money on the raw ingredients needed for you to cook a sumptuous dinner. You can also use online vouchers or coupons clipped from magazines to save money when buying food from grocery or super stores.
4. Cook in large batches.
The best way to be frugal when preparing dinner is to cook once, eat twice. This means that you will cook a large batch of your favorite dishes, then freeze or include certain cooked items in your next dish. Let’s say that you have the ingredients for a rich chicken stew. You can cook a large batch, serve only half then freeze the rest.
You can have it for dinner a couple of days from now, and save a lot of money on cooking fuel, as well as the effort that it takes to prepare the dish from scratch. Or, you can cook brisket that’s barbecued in the oven. Again, prepare a large batch and serve only half. The rest, you can serve for dinner again as is – or combine with other cooked ingredients to make for an entirely different meal.
This is actually part of the previous tip which requires you to cook dishes in large batches. The next step is to serve only enough for one meal for the whole family, then freeze the rest. Soups and stews are the usual suspects, but you can actually freeze more than that. You can also cook in large batches pasta sauces, chili, meatloaf, meatballs or marinated meat.
The more steps that you can cut in the preparation of dinner meals, the more time and effort you will save. If you already have frozen pasta sauce, for example, all you need to do is reheat the sauce then boil some pasta, add cheese, then serve! If you have frozen chili, you simply need to buy bread, reheat the chili, then serve it with a fresh salad and a bag of tortillas. Aside from serving the same dishes more than one time, you can also pack frozen food for lunch at the office the next day.
6. Know which recipes are quick, cheap, and easy to make.
Celebrity chef Jamie Oliver has a portion on his website where you can download some of his thirty-minute meal recipes. These recipes are made with cheap ingredients but are definitely not lacking in nutritional value. What’s more is that they are so delicious, that your family will request that you cook the same dishes from time to time. Stock up on the necessary ingredients and prepare everything beforehand so that when it comes to the cooking time, you would only really need thirty minutes to finish everything.
7. Plan your menu around fruits and veggies which are in season.
If artichokes are in season, plan your menu around dishes which have them as the main ingredient. The same thing holds true for tomatoes, and a wide variety of fruits. If it’s apple picking season, you can make Waldorf salad in a pinch. Prepare apple pies and apple crumbles. Since the fruit is in season, the resulting taste will be absolutely divine, and your dinner will turn into a resounding success.
8. Enjoy the magic of slow-cooked and one-pot dishes.
One-pot dishes include stews, soups, and casseroles. Making these ahead of time and freezing them will save money, preparation, clean-up and even the unit cost of the individual ingredients. For slow-cooked dishes, you can easily use a slow cooker and cook inexpensive cuts of meat. Leave all the ingredients in a slow cooker in the morning, have the dish slowly bubbling away until it’s time to serve it for dinnertime and you will have a great-tasting dish to enjoy.
9. Go with less expensive cuts of meat.
Instead of buying fancy boneless chicken breast, you can save money by going with the tastier but less expensive cuts of meat like thighs, legs and wings. The same thing holds true for steaks. Instead of buying premium cut steak, go with the cheaper cuts of meat and marinade it overnight, or slow cook it. This gives you tastier dinner options while still being frugal with your food bills.
10. Roast it.
If you’re feeding a large number of people for dinner, bring out the roast. Again, you should go for the cheaper cuts of meat so that you can save money. Go with a leg of lamb, pork shoulder, turkey breast or other big but cheap meat cuts. Marinade and roast, then serve with cheap, plentiful but healthy side dishes. Your guests will never know that the meat portion of your meal only costs a few dollars per serving.
11. Purchase grains in bulk.
If your family loves to eat rice, purchase your grains in bulk. Brown rice, rolled oats, millet, and even cereals cost less when purchased in bulk instead of small packages. Store the grains in airtight containers and make sure to plan your meals around them. These grains are nutritious, filling and mostly inexpensive.
12. Make new dishes from leftovers.
To save money while still having a great-tasting dinner, make new dishes from leftovers. If you have cooked or barbecued meats, incorporate them in soups, stews or stir-fried dishes. For stews, all you have to do is sauté garlic and onion in some oil, then add the whole grains, meat and veggies. Cut the meat into small pieces to extract the utmost flavor, then add your favorite spices.
A vacuum-sealed pouch can be used to marinade meat, fish, chicken or veggies. Get rid of as much of the air from the container as possible, then freeze. Cook in a pre-heated oven inside a container filled with water, then cook as usual.
14. Group like with like.
To save money on cooking fuel, you can cook veggies, meat, and poultry together. Meat can be cooked at the same temperature in separate pouches while still preserving all the juices. White meat from chicken and turkey can be cooked together, along with tougher cuts of meat.
15. Add pasta or rice to your dinner menu.
If you have leftover meat or veggies, fix a light pasta, soup or noodle dish. Veggies can be stir-fried with leftover meat, then cooked with noodles. If you have leftover barbecued meat, cook it with the sauce and add rice for a hearty, money-saving meal.
As you can see, there are plenty of ways for you to cook a great-tasting dinner while saving money at the same time – so start preparing those mouth-watering dishes right now.