On the Cheap

7 Budget-Friendly Weekend Kitchen Projects

January 15, 2014

Cooking on the cheap shouldn't mean minute rice and buttered pasta every night. With a little creativity and a little planning, Gabriella Paiella shows us how to make the most of a tight budget -- without sacrificing flavor or variety. 

Today: Fill your weekends with projects that'll keep your kitchen stocked all week long. 

You know those people who take pleasure in spending hours at a time crafting something beautiful or creating gorgeous, intricate desserts? I'm not one of them. I have a short attention span and a profound inability to be patient, which means that spending all day in my kitchen isn't usually in the cards.

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But it's winter, and the potential for cheap activities has decreased dramatically -- no more picnics, or free outdoor shows, or days at the beach. So here's a round up of projects to take on that'll keep your weekends busy, and your kitchen fully stocked during the week. Win-win, even for the most DIY-averse of us.

Make your own:

Bread: Because you need to carb-load for all the TV you'll be watching.

Pesto: Because it'll make everything you eat feel just a little bit fancier. 

Nut Butters:
Because you're so not about to spend $16 on a jar of almond butter.  


Chicken or Vegetable Stock: Because having soup broth on hand is one of the keys to having a fully grown-up kitchen. 


Salad Dressing: Because it'll making eating lunch at your desk less sad.

Green Goddess Dressing on Food52

Sriracha: Because you would literally eat your own hand if you put enough Sriracha on it.

Nutella: Seriously? This one should be obvious.

Tell us: What are your favorite weekend DIY food projects?

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • Sietske van Schaik
    Sietske van Schaik
  • LCpdx
  • Sofia
  • AntoniaJames
  • Kelly
Yes, my name rhymes.


Sietske V. January 18, 2014
Sweet chili sauce! I found this recipe when a friend unloaded their cayenne pepper plant on me. After taking the seeds out, they worked just fine for this recipe.

So sad we're out.. It made stir-fry that much better.

LCpdx January 17, 2014
Stock from bones. Long simmer in slow heat, lots of aromatics and veggies that may be past their prime. I freeze these in plastic tubs which makes weeknight meals of hearty soups so easy and flavorful.
Sofia January 15, 2014
Granola. Super-fast. Intutitive and flexible. Use what you have. Save a LOT of money for something yummy fresh.
Home-made pasta for lasagna. Not fast but worth the extra work and time. It's a different dish with home-made noodles.

Chicken broth from leftover carcass. It feels so thrifty.

Bitter almond ice cream from the pits of apricots. See above... Turning something you might just throw away into something delicious.
AntoniaJames January 15, 2014
Every weekend I do the following, usually within a two-hour period of "active cooking" followed up by a second half-hour (maximum) a bit later, of straining, putting into containers, cooling, etc.:
1 braise, 2 stocks, 3 soups, and 4 vegetables - advanced prep and/or cooking (e.g., roasting while bread bakes or while braise is in the oven). I often either get my bread dough started, or shape it for rising/baking, during this 2-hour stretch, as well. It's not that hard if you organize/combine activities (e.g., cut 5 onions at once for the braise + soups and/or for weeknight dinner advance prep of aromatics) and re-use bowls and pots without cleaning where it makes sense. You have to know exactly what you're going to do, and when, orchestrating carefully, in order to get in and out within 2 hours. This is how you serve a great dinner every night while practicing law full time, going to the gym at least 4 mornings per week and either swimming, or hiking in a nearby redwood forest, at least 5 evenings per week. And reading a lot. ;o)
Kelly March 28, 2014
Great suggestions! You're amazing. I aspire to be this proactive and efficient in the kitchen and still have time to manage other aspects of every day life.