Cookbook Club

We Asked 26,000 Home Cooks for Their Best Money-Saving Tips

25 ways to save some dough.

January  7, 2019

If you’re looking for inspiration for the new year, just head over to our Cookbook Club. Only a week into 2019, and members have been busy cooking through January’s pick, Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone by Deborah Madison, as well as our year-long bonus book, Sunday Suppers at Lucques by Suzanne Goin with Teri Gelber. For some, it’s a month to highlight well-worn favorites from these classic cookbooks, while others discover for the first time the techniques and recipes that earned these books permanent spots on our shelves.

In this spirit of embracing challenges, I wondered what else the adventurous cooks could teach us for 2019. Settling on a classic New Year’s resolution, I asked the club to share their best money-saving tips and tricks in the kitchen. They chimed in with hundreds of responses—and we’re sharing 25 of our favorites to motivate you.

Our Best Money-Saving Tips

Rethink Meat as a Dinner Main

  • “Meatless meals save us hundreds if not thousands of dollars each year.” —Julie G.B.
  • “In times of extreme budgeting, I've been known to cut meat out almost entirely in favor of eggs as my main protein. Even fancy free-range or from the farmers market are pennies per egg.” —Delanie M.

The Freezer Is Your Friend

  • “I just soak all my dried beans at once, rinse, and portion them out into sandwich bags to freeze uncooked. Then, I put them into my rice cooker still frozen with raw rice to make rice and beans for my kids. Something about freezing the soaked raw beans makes them cook pretty fast.” —Huyen T.
  • “I freeze all veggie scraps and meat bones to make stock. I haven’t bought stock/broth from a store in over 6 months. I’ll also precook a bunch of chicken breasts or thighs, shred, and freeze so later I can do last-minute things like enchiladas, soups, etc.” —Kate G.J.
  • “Here’s a baking one: I prefer to use real buttermilk over powdered when a recipe calls for it, but do not want to waste what I do not use. I pour the rest into inexpensive 1/2-cup plastic bowl containers, put the lids on, and pop in the freezer. After they have frozen all the way through, I pop the blocks out of the containers and put several in a resealable freezer bag. Next time I have a recipe that calls for buttermilk, I’m all set.” —Helen B.
  • “Buying lemons and limes, zesting and juicing them into ice cube trays, and freezing them. Always have juice and zest for recipes.” —Kim S.
  • “Costco recently started selling frozen avocado chunks! I always end up wasting avocados because they go from not-ripe to overripe so quickly. Great for small-batch guacamole or avocado toast.” —Tammy W.
  • “The banana window of opportunity is brief, so if I buy a large bunch, then I always have a couple that miss the window and go into the freezer for banana bread or banana cake.” —Rica G. S.
  • “I freeze all kinds of leftover ingredients for future use! Egg yolks, egg whites, wine, milk, freshly squeezed juices, etc. I currently even have small portions of anchovies ready for the next recipe that calls for them 😅. I buy butter and cream cheese when it’s on sale and freeze those as well—they’re fine in baking.” —Bill Sue R.

Give Leftovers New Life

  • “We had a big pork roast the other night. We got three meals out of it. Did the initial meal, then a repeat of the same dish just reheated; and the night after that, we cut up the meat into cubes, mixed it with a can of enchilada sauce, beans, cheese, and had burritos. In the past, we've also saved the bones from a bone-in type cut of meat and made soup. It just depends what we make and how much is left over (how much it needs to be "stretched").” —Hannah B.
  • “When I was super broke (and single) I could stretch a rotisserie chicken to last most of the week. First day: chicken, rice, salad. Second day: chicken salad sandwich. Third day: chicken stir-fry. Fourth day: Cook the carcass into stock and make a chicken soup with dumplings.” —Stephanie S.

Start from Scratch

  • “Cooking from scratch is a game changer—I save a lot by avoiding salad dressings, pre-made marinades, and other items that can be whipped up quickly (and better tasting) with basic ingredients on hand.” —Patty P. L.
  • “I got really into making my own bread a few years ago, which has saved a ton. My sourdough has three ingredients: the starter, flour, and water. I bake two loaves at a time, slice them, and freeze them. It lasts for a while (and is so good).” —Heather N. W.
  • “I have also been making my own vanilla extract for a couple years, which has been huge. It’s super easy. You soak split vanilla beans in 80-proof vodka. I have done Madagascar Bourbon, Tahitian, and Mexican. You need to let it sit for a minimum of two months in a cool dark place, but the longer it sits the better. Shake it periodically and always make sure the beans are covered with alcohol.” —Nicole K.

Bulk Up With Bulk Bins

  • “The bulk bins are great for buying grains, nuts, and other pantry staples at almost half the cost! It’s also great if you only need a small amount of an ingredient for a recipe and don’t want to buy a whole bag. I bought some shredded coconut for $1.50! And farro for 85 cents! Whole Foods has an awesome selection with herbs and spices available, as well.” —Ashley F.
  • “Buy all your spices at Natural Grocers! They are organic and about 1/6th the price of the ones sold in the small jars in the grocery store. One bag of organic cinnamon refills my glass jars about five times and it costs me $2.95.” —Chrissy M.

Make Smart Substitutions

  • “When my husband and I were dating, we would have ‘cooking at home’ date nights at each other’s houses. We’d carry a cookbook (whichever one we were currently loving) into the grocery store together and head over to the ‘manager's special’ clearance proteins. We’d try to find a match and plan a fun meal around the close-dated item. It stretched our skills and palates as meats on clearance were not often the common cuts. Stretched our dollar and became a fun date night every time! We would grade, comment, and date the recipe pages for memories later on. I will occasionally stumble upon those pages today and it makes me so happy! 😊” —Taylor T.
  • “Oftentimes the 'store brand' is made by the name-brand company and is the same quality, but often much cheaper.” —Marissa S.

Knowledge Is Power

  • “We keep a running list of what's in the fridge and the date. So, for example: "Chicken Stir-Fry x2—12/30; Beet Salad—12/31; Pozole—1/1..." and then also label everything in the fridge with tape with the contents and date. That way, less food goes to waste and we know what's available. We've been using this notepad with a magnet (from the Dollar Store, honestly), but a whiteboard would also work really well, too! With the notepads, I like that they're long and narrow so they don't take up too much space. We actually have two notepads: one for groceries and one for fridge contents. With the grocery one, I like being able to tear off the sheet to take with me to the store.” —Christina C.
  • “I do meal planning weekly, keep a list of what we have on hand, and use the app AnyList to track all of that.” —Jaye B.
  • "Any time we go on an extended vacation, I don't (or minimally) grocery shop for the week (or two) leading up to it and instead, try to meal plan so that we eat everything fresh in our fridge, then from what we have in the freezer (since even frozen foods can go bad!), and finally the pantry. It helps fewer things go bad, serves as a semi-routine fridge/freezer/pantry clean-out, and prepares us for an extended period of eating out on vacation... It also gets me excited to grocery shop when I come back." —Bethany K.
  • “I make sure my veg and fruit drawers are empty every week before I shop for more. Personally, I think produce can really eat up a food budget, so I like to make sure it isn't wasted. Soup happens at least twice a week in the winter; it's easy and inexpensive, and uses up the produce.” —Maggie M.

Secondhand Shopping Works Wonders

  • "Everything turns up at the thrift store sooner or later. My bakeware, glassware, serving pieces, plates, linens, all came from trolling thrift stores. You would not BELIEVE what shows up there or how often I've walked in needing a particular thing and found that thing. Find one nearby and get in the habit of checking it out regularly. Also, Edward R Hamilton is a great source for finding remaindered or publishers' overstocked cookbooks at bargain prices. Again. It is surprising what turns up. I also buy a lot of used cookbooks from online vendors.” —Terry M.
  • "Found a great dehydrator at the thrift shop. Dried all the hot peppers from the garden, also dried herbs and made bouquet garni bunches in cheesecloth for use in soups. Always scouring thrift shops for kitchen treasures!" —Laurie M.
  • “To stock my kitchen and cookbook library, there are certain things I don't mind buying used. Bundt pans, cookbooks, Pyrex, serving dishes, food mill, etc. In some cases I prefer the quality.” —Janet F.

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

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A New Way to Dinner, co-authored by Food52's founders Amanda Hesser and Merrill Stubbs, is an indispensable playbook for stress-free meal-planning (hint: cook foundational dishes on the weekend and mix and match ‘em through the week).

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See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • lillyjordan199
  • Brooke Kuyumcu
    Brooke Kuyumcu
  • Erikar
  • Jonny
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    janet voris
Katie is a food writer and editor who loves cheesy puns and cheesy cheese.


lillyjordan199 February 13, 2023
The task of obtaining the best deal for your family and business is one that we take very seriously. As long as the borrower meets the credit requirements and criteria established by national mortgage brokers, the majority of financial institutions, including Regional Rural Finance at accept loan refinance. We are a team of experts who collaborate with the people of the country to offer the best loan alternative.
lillyjordan199 February 13, 2023
The task of obtaining the best deal for your family and business is one that we take very seriously. As long as the borrower meets the credit requirements and criteria established by national mortgage brokers, the majority of financial institutions, including Regional Rural Finance, accept loan refinance. We are a team of experts who collaborate with the people of the country to offer the best loan alternative.
Brooke K. January 7, 2021
MY best advice if you have a wider budget is to either install a tap filter or get spring water to your house. We do that, ours comes from Cedar Springs and its budget-friendly plus super healthy!
Erikar March 9, 2019
If you have grocery outlet (local PNW chain) that’s great for snagging deals. I also shop seasonally or on sale - checking ads and sometimes hitting up multiple stores.

When my husband and I were super broke, I would stretch a recipe by adding more water to a soup, using half an onion instead of a whole one, or less chicken than what was called for.

I also meal plan so if I buy something like cilantro, I’m using it for multiple uses.

I buy bulk grains and spices in small amounts, too.

And my final trick is “eat the fridge” night where I make a random meal out of whatever I found. In college, on a super budget, a friend and I made pasta with tomato soup mixed with cream cheese as a sauce. It actually wasn’t half bad...
Jonny January 14, 2019
Thanks for the info about freezing egg yolks. Never thought to do that. Will get to googling that. 🤓
janet V. January 14, 2019
To preserve fresh herbs and lettuce: Remove twist ties or paper bands. Shake out excess water from the automatic showers at the store. Cut off long stems of parsley and cilantro, keep headed of lettuce whole. Wrap entire head or bunch in paper towels and be sure everything is covered. Put in a ziploc bag, or a twist tie storage bag and remove as much air as possible. I find that these stay fresh for weeks. Every time I use the herb or lettuce, I remove any brown or soggy parts then re-wrap, if necessary in new paper towels.
FrigidBarrell January 16, 2019
I do this and it really works! My lettuce and spinach stay good for weeks (even though the spinach is not attached at the base). However, in order to not waste plastic, I use these large (think: sheet cake) size glass tupperwares lined with the damp paper towels / reusable kitchen cloths. Just wanted to suggest this environment-friendly tip!
janet V. January 17, 2019
Good reminder!
Susanna January 13, 2019
About avocados - my sister shared her method of keeping them fresh (but who doesn't eat a ripe avocado right away?). The minute they feel even slightly soft, put them in the refrigerator! They will not ripen as fast - good for several days. And even after using only one half, leave the pit in the other half, wrap it tightly in plastic wrap, and put it back in the refrigerator. This miracle method has allowed me to buy bags of avocados instead of one at a time.
janet V. January 14, 2019
So glad you commented about this. I've been doing this for years and know that it really works. Read my comment about preserving fresh herbs and lettuce.
FrigidBarrell January 16, 2019
Again, I second this method! Perhaps I am not as sensitive to eating over-ripe avocados as some people, but I find they last for around a week this way!
Jonny January 13, 2019
I'm very lucky to live in Chicagoland and I freecycle ( and thrift shop a lot. I've always done this because I was a very poor grad student living in New Orleans with no car. I learned to cook from scratch and not feel shame in accepting second hand, or buying flea market items. A lot of these items are still in use!!!

Also as I earned more I continued to recycle & thriftshop because it keeps waste out of the landfill. Often I find items that are better quality than what I find new.

I re-use glass jars for storage and to make vinaigrette.

Now that I have more time I'm shifting focus to growing some staple veggies (peppers & tomatoes) but would like to add more. Because I have dogs and voracious rabbits, I use five gallon buckets or recycled nursery pots. I place annual herbs or thuggish herbs (mint & oregano) in decorative pots. But I have perennial herbs as part of my garden beds as well. Thyme makes a wonderful edging plant and save is beautiful compact shrub for me. Rosemary I grow in pots and at the end of the season these come inside and I continue to use through winter. Even in Chicago's winter I am able to get small bits of thyme for cooking.

We are lucky that there are lots of farmstands in the region. In the past I wait until the very end of season and get corn & tomatoes to put in freezer.

I make my own sodium & preservative free spice mixes. There are lots of recipes online and I've had a blast exploring these. I use the smaller jars to store my mixes and label the jar using a sharpie.

Buy large containers of spices I use a lot of and shop Asian, Mexican, and Indian markets for spices. If all else fails use Amazon. Ask questions and save labels so it's easy to find the spice you want again if the labels are not in English.

Shop Amazon warehouse deals. I've gotten great bargains like vollrath half sheet pains for $6. Also Amazon & alibris for used cookbooks especially those out of print.

When I buy celery I often can't use it all so I run through my mini chopper and freeze. Also when I see bell peppers on sale I cut those into stir fry size and freeze for Kung pao night or dice for soup or corn bread. But double bagging & dating is a must to keep these items from imparting their flavors to the other foods in your freezer.

I've moved around a lot and early in my career was on assignment for long periods. So to get to know my coworkers, I'd ask about food prep of local or cultural foods and swap recipes. It's expanded my repertoire and I've made friends I wouldn't have otherwise and learned a lot.

Local & church cookbooks. Some of my favorites are the River Road cookbooks and the Cajun Wok. As I've learned more about the science of cooking and have changed how I cook to reflect a healthier lifestyle I still use the cookbooks for the basics for establishing flavor base.

Think longevity and buy the best quality cooking tools I can afford even if they come from yard sales or thrift stores. Read, read, read about different types of cookware brands or cookware types. Especially if you're buying second hand. After observing my parents aging, think practical about kitchen tools as well. Cast iron is wonderful stuff but as You get older its weight may no longer be practical or safe for arthritic hands and wrists.

Invest it cooking for two cookbooks since scaling down some recipes is not always workable. But experiment with freezing recipes that are larger amounts.

Frozen berries for muffins & breads, freezing overripe bananas, make apple pie apples with surplus apples.

Buy local butter when I can.

Invest in a sturdy chest freezer.

Horror of horrors to some cooks but I've been experimenting with liquid smoke to reduce costs, fat & sodium when making dishes that call for smoked meat to impart flavor. Great for producing vegan meals for southern classics like beans & greens. There are so many recipes available online so you're starting blind when making the switch.

Keep an open mind and learn to experiment. Don't get hung up on "authentic but what's healthy and doable for your region of the world. American cooking is such a hodge lodge of different cultures, just embrace it. Ask questions and visit the comment sections online as that's typically the best place to find answers and learn how others do things.
Jonny January 14, 2019
You're most welcome. That and Teresa Kennedy's American Pie cookbook were two of my very first cookbooks.

Good luck.
RisenWell January 13, 2019
I 'd encourage everyone to earn basic fermentation skills:making your own sauerkraut, kimchi, yogurt,sourdough can help your guts, enliven your meals and save you a lot of money. I grow most of my own vegetables (yes, I',m very fortunate to be able to do so), and recycle any scraps through my chickens into organic eggs. If a pineapple, or pears or apples get a bit too ripe for my taste, I slice and dehydrate them.
I make double batches of bran and /or corn muffins and freeze them--ready to nuke for 45 seconds on busy mornings.
I trade layer cakes (I love to bake) with a fisherman friend, thereby getting delicious halibut and ling cod which I could never afford. Barter is a great way to go!
Also, I make dog biscuits from squash, liver, a little oil,an egg or two , some whole grain flour....after baking, I dehydrate them too, to ensure dryness.....way cheaper than the $7 or 8 for pet store brands.
Jonny January 13, 2019
Oh I am so wanting to expand my world this way. It's a slow process but I'm taking steps to get there.
Marina D. January 14, 2019
Do my own sauerkraut - yey
Marika T. January 13, 2019
In order to extend the life of almost all produce, I put a piece of paper towel or cotton cloth in the bag. When it gets too damp I replace it. This trick extends my produce life by at least ten days depending on the vegetable.
Etta L. January 13, 2019
For about the last fifty years i add one item to my cart that I have never had before. It started out that the item cost no more than 25¢ it's no more than $3.00. I've found some interesting things that I've added to my table this way. Two of my favorites fruit and tomatillo. If my family didn't like it ....I didn't buy it again.
Back was SOOO exotic !
NotTheButcher January 13, 2019
Carrot greens are edible and delicious! We make pesto and dips with them, or add the leaves to tossed salads.
Jonny January 13, 2019
Never tried carrot tops but thanks for this tip. I have learned to use stems of cilantro and the leaves of celery. Celery leaves and lovage (perennial herb) are very similar.
Sharon January 14, 2019
Frugal me tried to make use of carrot greens years ago. I grew up cooking and enjoying just about every kind of greens, from mustards, collards, turnips, to radish tops, etc. Sorry, but carrot tops never made the cut. They taste like lawn clippings!
Margaret L. January 14, 2019
I agree that carrot tops don't make a good cooked vegetable, but they make wonderful pesto to serve on chicken, steak, or carrots or use as a dip for pita chips or crudites. Thin as needed -- for a sauce, use more water, oil, or lemon juice to taste, thicker for a dip. Here's the recipe from Rancho La Puerta:
NotTheButcher January 13, 2019
Canned beans are very expensive and high in sodium. I soak a pound at a time in salted water. When hydrated I put them into a Dutch oven with some chopped onion and garlic, herbs, etc. (you can add a ham bone or the like; I make all of our beans vegetarian), and cover with fresh water. Bring to a boil on the stove, skim off any foam, then cover and put the pot in a preheated 375F oven. Depending on the type and age of the beans, they will cook perfectly in 45-90 minutes. I portion into 1- and 2-cup containers with the “pot likker” and freeze to use as needed.
Jonny January 13, 2019
I do the same with rice. On week nights when I'm in a pinch to get something on the table having beans, rice, roasted chicken breasts in the freezer & a working microwave is a good thing.
cosmiccook January 13, 2019
The last comment, I swear! Suggest you find someone who has a Restaurant Depot account (its free if you have a business w tax ID) and see if they'd loan you yours. I get my DOP San Marzano tomato (5 lbs. 10 oz for $7.50) cans along w SO many other items. SO much cheaper than retail. I also split w my neighbors/family/friends items from Costco. I don't need huge amounts since its just the 2 of us. I also borrow items rather than buy. My neighbor has an ice-cream machine she loans me and I give her ice cream or make something else. We swapped some gorgeous Meyer lemons for tomato sauce from a big batch I just made. Swap around saves a LOT and its great sharing. Another neighbor loans me her Vitamix as needed and I let her dogs out when she works. Win-win for all of us!
Jonny January 13, 2019
I agree 100%. I missed this tremendously when I moved out of state and left the friends/family that were my swap/share buddies.
wik January 13, 2019
I love the Natural Grocers idea, also: your local Food Co-Op for all bulk, organic, non-GMO. and:, eBay, etsy, Ace hardware, etc...for canning jars and things you can use in your kitchen for storage (easy to run through the dishwasher if second-hand or vintage). why pay too much for anything if you can be patient and clever about where you buy? my pantry is virtually plastic-free, waste-free and after years of careful cultivation, extremely stylin'
cosmiccook January 13, 2019
most liquor bottles are 750 ml. You can use one cup (8 oz) of Vodka or grain alcohol (higher proof is fine) w 3-4 vanilla beans. split open but leave the bean undisturbed. If the beans are shriveled, old or marginal quality, you'll need more beans. I get my beans from Amadeus Beans in Cal. They aren't cheap (ANYWHERE) but a group of us go in on bulk. for $34-ish dollars--(I know a lot) I got 8-8inch beans. It's a deal compared to what you'd pay in a store--4-inch beans of 1 average $10 a pop--and the quality is superior to what you get in the store.
cosmiccook January 13, 2019
Farmer's markets where I live (New Orleans) are prohibitively expensive--nor do they necessarily mean organic. We also don't get the range and variety of produce as is often depicted on this and other websites. I do love tips and ideas offered in this post--THANK YOU 52 & contributors!
Vicki B. January 13, 2019
We have an ever changing bottle of white wine for cooking in the refrigerator, at the ready for adding a small amount of wine to deglaze or steam. "Ever changing" because whenever there is just a small amount remaining in the bottle, it's added to the "ever changing" bottle, in our case a former beer bottle with a hinged stopper. Also, tomato paste freezes well and most recipes call for very little. I freeze left over tomato paste in 1 Tablespoon portions.
Carol F. January 13, 2019
I have relatives and friends who live in very rural parts of the country and it has opened my eyes to the difficulty many people have finding access to good, affordable, nutritious food and there seems to be a sizable number who never learned, or don’t have the time, to garden or cook from scratch with the resulting increase in health problems that comes from eating a lot of processed food. The good news is the number of younger people who are moving back home and bringing new/old ideas back with them. My niece was instrumental in setting up a farmer’s market in her little town of 800, and teaches classes on budgeting and finances for families at their library. Many of these tips are universal but it’s important to keep in mind that not everyone has access to fresh food year round or even a nearby Goodwill, and that for some even the cost of buying all the set up for canning and freezing or an Amazon Prime membership can be prohibitive. I belong to my neighborhood Buy Nothing group and it is a wonderful way to share rather than buy and to pass along goods and even food that might otherwise go to waste.
Denise A. January 13, 2019
Love the Buy Nothing concept, for environmental as well as financial reasons. I will investigate, and initiate if necessary.
Chiara January 13, 2019
I just want to say that you are all "wicked smaht" and wonderful for sharing these tips. I heart y'all !