On the Cheap

23 Money-Saving Cooking Tips You’ll Actually Use, From Our Community

August 17, 2018

It’s pretty simple: no matter who you are or where you live, saving money is a good thing. But then why does sticking to a budget or figuring out where to cut costs feel so hard? Especially when it comes to food. We have to eat, right?

And sure, serving up beans for every meal definitely saves some dough. But variety is the spice of life, and we were curious to learn all the other thrifty tricks cooks in our community actually use every day. So, we asked our Instagram followers to share their best money-saving kitchen tips, and got hundreds and hundreds of answers. Below, we’ve picked 23 of our favorite thrifty tricks to keep us (and our wallets) full.


My best money-saving tip in the kitchen is:

It Pays to DIY

  • Skip buying things like salad dressing that you can make for less! And they’re WAY better. -aekiefer
  • Don’t buy pre-chopped veggies, buy them whole then wash, cut, store for whatever! -the_bees_baronessa
  • Make your own spice blends with whole spices -redinnyc

Recycle and Reuse

  • Regrowing scallions by putting the roots in water on a windowsill. -joyosity
  • Saving all my bacon grease and using it for pancakes, eggs, etc. -5boysandakatie
  • Use leftovers in new ways! Potato wedges night 1, chorizo and potato tacos night 2. -amcneillm
  • Sunday-leftovers... every Sunday dinner is made from all the leftovers make from the week. -chamal
  • Mixing cooked lentils into ground beef for meatballs or lasagna or patties. - leeleighleah
  • Taking leftover biscuits and making bread pudding. -chef_jim
  • Yogurt approaching its expiration date goes into the freezer to become ice cream pops! -little_kosher_lunch

Rethink Your Shopping Routine

  • I like organic, but… 💵. So I got an organic CSA box Jun-Nov for what I’d spend in a month! -a2minella
  • Shopping on Wednesdays because that is most grocery stores’ double ad days. -mrsmeganmiller
  • I’ve been grocery shopping online! It keeps me focused on what I what to have on hand. -kendra_limback
  • I only eat meat when I go out, and I love Imperfect Produce, which is a great company! -helen.america

Freezer-Friendly Advice

Better in Bulk

  • I buy beef local and in bulk! 1/4 steer its in my freezer, costs less, and has a better taste! -gabrihab
  • Buying bulk coffee beans on Amazon = cheap cold brew every day. -monikattt
  • Bulk up meals using less expensive ingredients like frozen peas or couscous. -lisasdima
  • Always check the price by weight, instead of comparing sticker prices! -sarallin
  • Buying in bulk and prepping religiously. -kristinemahan
  • Buying bulk and sharing with friends! -twolittlebites

Another dollar-saving dish

What are your best money-saving tip in the kitchen? Share your favorites in the comments below!

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56 Comments

Rosalind P. September 6, 2018
if you use aluminum foil, re-use it until it falls apart. Wash it of course as you would a dish, gently. I also reuse plastic bags, washing them, until they give up the ghost And I use them all sparingly in the first place.
 
Pity P. August 27, 2018
Plan your menu for the week, buy only what you need, and substitute meat and fish on sale for what you originally planned if there are deals to be had.
 
BakerMary August 26, 2018
Ice cube trays! Freeze leftover stock, sauce, lemon juice then pop out and put in freezer bags. I have regular trays and a couple silicone ones that make 1/4 c. cubes. Very handy!
 
Author Comment
Katie M. August 27, 2018
So smart to save lemon juice! Thanks for sharing!
 
catalinalacruz August 26, 2018
Another great reason for DIY -- beside saving money -- is the impact on the environment. Every time you make your own jam, yogurt, salad dressing, hummus, dips and spreads, is one less plastic or glass container that will end up in the dump. By the year 2050, there will be more garbage in the oceans than marine life. DIY!
 
Author Comment
Katie M. August 27, 2018
Great point, catalinalacruz 🌎!
 
William M. August 26, 2018
I love lemon and orange pepper. The only problem, most blends you find in the markets contain a lot of salt, in fact it's often the first ingredient, why, it's cheap. Look at a lot of other spice blends, and sure enough salt is one of the first ingredients listed. I make my own lemon or orange pepper this way. Before I'll use a lemon or orange, I'll peel off the yellow or orange rind, just the colored part, try not to get any of the white part, it's bitter. I'll take these peelings and dry them for a few days on a small dish on my kitchen counter. When thoroughly dried, they'll be brittle, I crush them a bit with my mortar and pestle, toss 'em in my pepper grinder with the whole peppercorns, and voila, lemon-orange pepper. Thrifty and salt free
 
Jonny August 26, 2018
Thank you so much for that tip. I like.
 
Author Comment
Katie M. August 27, 2018
Same!
 
William M. August 26, 2018
I like to buy my parmesan cheese in a large chunk, preferably with the rind attached. When i grate it and it gets down to the rind, I'll save it in a zip lock bag in my freezer. I'll use a piece in a pot of soup or a pot of beans. FYI: A hard rind will destroy a grater so this is a thrifty way to use all of your Parm.
 
foodyjudy August 26, 2018
I grate lemon & lime peel, squeeze juice and freeze in tiny jars so I always have it available. I also grate orange peel and freeze that. I keep nobs of ginger in freezer as it is easier to grate when frozen.
 
Nicole S. August 26, 2018
Buy in bulk, cook from scratch, eat mostly plants.<br />Drink water and tea.<br />Last but not least, buy at Aldi and in season.
 
Carole D. August 26, 2018
I live in Canada, province of Quebec. There is an app that is called SOS Cuisine. You get to select the ''real'' specials at grocery stores. The app also creates receipes with stuff on special. Game changer, check it out
 
Author Comment
Katie M. August 27, 2018
This is great! Thank you!
 
Sara August 26, 2018
Great tips y'all !!!! Quick question I live in Canada which is cold most of the year how do I freeze veggies ? I read that you can't freeze corn zucchini tomatoes etc ? Please help ....
 
J-Mag August 26, 2018
I grew up on the Dakota prairie. It has long winters. I hear you. My mama would freeze corn. You blanch it on-the-cob then cool it and put it in freezer bags and freeze it. it's bulky but it's how I've done it. You probably could cut the kernels off but I've never tried it. Hope this helps.
 
Jonny August 26, 2018
Yes, I buy lots of corn for freezing. I blanch whole cobs but strip kernels off others. Both freeze very well and retain their sweetness. Would be good to use a corn kernel remover as things go faster & it's less waste. These are available on Amazon & are not very expensive.
 
Emily August 26, 2018
I cut everything to the size I want and then lay it all in a single layer on a parchment lined baking sheet and leave it in the freezer overnight. Then next day, I put the frozen veggies in ziploc bags. I’m not sure about tomatoes, however. I always can those.
 
Ruth M. August 26, 2018
I roast tomatoes with a bit of olive oil, toss with fresh herbs and freeze in ziplock freezer bags. Easy!
 
Kim W. August 26, 2018
Love this idea, and I have a ton of fresh tomatoes right now!
 
Rosalind P. September 6, 2018
you can freeze tomatoes as is. Not to eat the way you eat fresh ones, but great for any cooking. They will be watery, but that's all good tomato water. you can concentrate them down if you need to. To freeze: cut them in chunks, put them in bags or containers. Zucchini would be watery too, so best to cook it before you freeze it Steam, saute, micro-wave, until most of the water is evaporated.
 
Sierra August 26, 2018
It's really fun to pick out a recipe, go to the store, and pick up everything you need to make it, but sometimes that can be expensive. It can be equally fun to go to the store and see what's on sale and think of what you have at home in your fridge/pantry and come up with something to make. It's like playing the game show Chopped!
 
Kristen August 26, 2018
I rarely throw any scrap of food away. That those two tablespoons of peas, half slice of pizza (cut into bite sized pieces) and single pickled beet turn a handful of greens into a remarkable salad!
 
Leslie E. August 26, 2018
I tend to ignore expiration dates on foods. They are not standardized and in my experience not an indicator of whether something is "bad" or safe to eat. Instead of tossing things out if the expiration date is past, I use my senses. More often than not, if it looks, smells, and tastes OK, it is!
 
GigiR August 26, 2018
Yes to this! Our bodies are really good at recognizing what’s good or bad, so it’s better to rely on our senses than a meaningless date. No foods just “go bad” after a certain date, though they may begin to lose flavor. Even then, a lot of foods can still be used in an alternative way when they start to lose their peak freshness (e.g. stale crackers or sour milk) or frozen to preserve them for future use (e.g. butter or meat)
 
Jonny August 26, 2018
Exactly. For veggies if they can't be eaten they go to my compost bin or pile.
 
Kim W. August 26, 2018
Agreed!
 
Author Comment
Katie M. August 27, 2018
Great minds, Leslie 💆💆 https://food52.com/blog/22563-the-difference-between-expiration-and-best-by-date
 
Leslie E. August 29, 2018
Ha! Yes! Thanks for pointing to that great article!
 
Rosalind P. September 6, 2018
i do that too. I will say the next generation is terrified of "expiration dates" and makes huge fun of me. Some condiments last forever because of the vinegar. Other stuff also goes on and on. I agree: smell test first, that a gingerly taste if need be. By the way, those dates are a way to sell more product.
 
J-Mag August 26, 2018
When buying meat look for the specials -- "family" or "budget" or "value" size packs or the soon-to-expire meats can often be had at a discount. What isn't used right away can be frozen.
 
Laurence T. August 26, 2018
Its just the two of us now and having a small condo with no yard for vegs and just the regular freezer/frig, our biggest challenges are to: not have too many leftovers, throw away food (HATE that!), and not have to empty out the retirement account every time I go to the store. (lol). We have soup almost once a week, a “leftover extravaganza” once a week, make my own salad dressing ALWAYS! EVOO+ lemon juice, s&p let the flavors of the salads come through without gooping them up. Also, one homemade poppyseed dressing for greens & oranges in the winter (live in Florida), and finally...sharing excess with the neighbors ensures a steady stream of “return goodies”.
 
Helen K. August 27, 2018
I too am part of a family of two! For over 12 years I have been trading meals with a similar family; we deliver and only eat together if the meal doesn't travel well (steamed clams, bouillabess etc). Much easier to cooker 4 and we can take better advantage of "large" specials.<br />
 
Jonny August 26, 2018
I grow fresh herbs each season. Rhyme and save are a part of my perennial bed. Rosemary & oregano in pots. Rosemary moves into my kitchen in winter.<br /><br />Best purchase I ever made was getting a chest freezer. At the end of the growing season I head out to the farmstand to get tomatoes, corn & different peppers. All can be blanched and frozen for use over the winter and into the next growing season. Best part is no preservatives or excess sodium. It takes a weekend to do this but is so very worth it.<br /><br />I also buy bone-in, skin on chicken breasts and roast them. I usually keep at least 6 or more in my freezer. I use this to make enchiladas, chicken corn chowder, chicken salad, BBQ pulled chicken etc. <br /><br />I buy onions, celery and carrots but realized I could never eat all of it before spoiling. So when I'm home from the grocery I take 1/2 or more of each and process it and freeze it.<br /><br />But the absolute best decision I made was to marry a man who likes working as my skis chef and dishwasher. 🙂
 
Jonny August 26, 2018
Thyme & sage. Stupid autocorrect!!!
 
Jonny August 26, 2018
Geez Loueez sous chef. 😖
 
Jennifer August 26, 2018
I knew what you meant with rhyme and save but loved the typo--kind of perfect for the article!
 
Laurence T. August 26, 2018
LOL....mine fails miserably in the sous chef department but excels at dishwashing! (everyone has their “special gifts”)
 
Jonny August 26, 2018
One last item I had to drastically change my diet this year because of health issues so I make most foods at home now because it's too expensive to buy low sodium foods. I pre-cook bulk brown, wild & red rice and freeze it. I buy dry beans cook with minimal seasonings and freeze. I use fresh apples & peaches to make low sugar apple & peach butter then freeze in reasonable sized portions.<br /><br />Save all drippings from roasting chicken to use as stock. Save the safe vegetable scraps to use as pet friendly additions to my dog's food bowls. Carrots are great for keeping their teeth clean!! They love their watermelon "bowls."
 
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Katie M. August 27, 2018
hahaha I love this!
 
evec August 26, 2018
Plan menus and shop once weekly. Keeps you out of the store and prevents dining out. Also, leftover grilled chicken thighs freeze beautifully and defrost quickly for salads, sandwiches, cold supper.
 
J-Mag August 26, 2018
I do this on a blog--for accountability and for my family. I used to do it on the family wiki but ... why not share? I also use my store's weekly ad and their online shopabilty to make a list and stick to it when I go in.
 
Author Comment
Katie M. August 27, 2018
Great tip, evec! Is there a particular day of the week you recommend?
 
Emily August 20, 2018
I buy fresh fruit towards the end of its season when it’s on super sale, cut it up and freeze it. Perfect for pies or smoothies!
 
Author Comment
Katie M. August 21, 2018
This is great :) Thank you!
 
Sonja M. August 20, 2018
Fruit about to go bad? Infuse it with whatever booze you have on hand. It's a lot quicker than making jam and you'll impress the hell out of everyone on cocktail night.
 
Author Comment
Katie M. August 21, 2018
That sounds *amazing* -- I need to give that a try!
 
Sierra August 26, 2018
I can confirm thanks this world great! My grandma always has way more marionberries growing in her garden than people can eat, so I picked as many as I could and put them in a gallon jug with 1.75 L of vodka. Let it sit for a month and then strained out the berries and added sugar to taste. It came out amazingly good for how little effort I put into it. I drink it on the rocks with a squeeze of lemon.
 
Rosalind P. September 6, 2018
About fruit near the end of its edibility: wash, it, chunk it and microwave it. We love stewed fruit or compote. This method turns less-than-great stone fruit into juicy, delicious treats. Nothing added -- no sugar. Great over ice cream, or biscuits. Never throw a piece of fruit away
 
Rosalind P. September 6, 2018
more about fruit at the edge. i also slow-roast it if there's time and the oven is on. A delicious concentration of flavors. Again, makes a so-so piece of fruit a treat.
 
Gammy August 19, 2018
Turkey wings make a great gelatinous broth. Use immediately or strain and freeze. Don't forget to pick the meat from the 2 larger joints to add to soup or to make turkey salad.
 
Author Comment
Katie M. August 20, 2018
Great tip! I've done with chicken, but turkey is a good idea :)