Frugal cooking

Food resources are finite so frugal cooking is something all of us should do.

Save money, save time and don't waste food by cooking frugally.

Saving money

Check for coupons and check your grocery stores websites for weekly specials before you plan your meals and make your grocery list.

Fresh vegetables always pack the most nutrition, but if you’re stocking up, frozen vegetables are much cheaper than canned.

Always look in your fridge to see how any leftover vegetables or meat can be incorporated into the next meal.

Slow cooking meats makes them very tender and soft, making it easier to choose low cost meats that taste just as good.

Having a designated grocery shopping day each week makes it easier to keep your budget under control.

Controlling portion sizes is not only good for you, it’s easy on the budget as well. Encourage family members to eat reasonably, use smaller plates and pre-portion treats and snacks.

Make your own oatmeal with cooked oats. You can top with brown sugar, honey, fruit and more for a tasty treat. Pre-packaged oatmeals are expensive and full of sugar.

When buying fresh fruits and vegetables, choose items that are in season. You will always pay a premium for out of season items.

Plan meals with common ingredients to save money. For example, if you’re using cheese in one meal, include it in another. Or if you’re using a certain vegetable, incorporate it into another meal too.

Shop the perimeter of the grocery store: produce, butcher, dairy and bakery. It’s healthier and it will save you money.

Saving time

Can’t open a jar? Put on some rubber kitchen gloves for extra grip.

Keep kitchen scissors handy. They’re perfect for pre-cutting ribs and pieces of chicken. They also work well on cutting many greens.

A pizza cutter is perfect for cutting herbs and other light greens.

Keep frozen fruit on hand for a quick smoothie.

Keep an inventory of your pantry, fridge and freezer stock, so you know what you have at all times.

Buy unpackaged bulk foods, where possible. These are often the cheapest.

When purchasing spices, don’t buy a new bottle each time. Buy the spices more cheaply in bags and fill up your old bottles instead.

A bread maker can save you time and money making bread. If you don’t like the density and texture of bread maker bread, you can still use the machine’s dough setting to prepare your dough and save plenty of time.

Save money by growing your own herb garden. If you’re low on garden space, you can even do it in your kitchen.

Generic brand foods can save a ton of money. Of course, they don’t always taste as good as their commercial counterparts. Test out new generic items regularly to see which you like and then put those on your regular grocery list.

Make a plan to repurpose meals. If you’re making roast beef one day, plan to make beef dip, soup and more in the following days.

Good cookware usually lasts longer and is a better investment than cheap ones. You won’t need to use as much oil on cleaning a quality cooking surface. Clean up is also usually easier, resulting in less need for detergents, further saving you money.

Precut vegetables, fruits and cheeses that you use frequently. Not only does it save you time, it encourages healthy eating.

Reduce your next day dinner preparation by prepping all your ingredients the night before. Cut meats, vegetables and pre-measure any ingredients.

A crock-pot, or slow cooker, helps you save time because it does the cooking for you…all you do is prepare the ingredients.

Busy tomorrow? Make your meal now and reheat it tomorrow.

If you don’t have time to cook a meal on Tuesday, load up your crock-pot, or slow cooker, dish the night before and place it in the refrigerator. Then on Tuesday morning, you can place the dish in the crock-pot, or slow cooker, and turn it on before you go to work. When you get back, dinner will be smelling delicious and ready for you.

One of the best time savers in the kitchen is to get other family members to help. Whether it’s chopping vegetables, setting the table, doing the dishes or even preparing meals, you don’t have to do it all yourself.

Pre-packaged meals can definitely save you plenty of time, but they can be expensive. Stock up on your favorites when they’re on sale.

If every minute counts, you can purchase pre-minced garlic, onions and other essential ingredients.

A well-organized kitchen is a great time saver. Keep frequently used items easily accessible and store like items together.

Keep an easily accessible grocery list on your fridge. Make sure other family members update it as items run low.

Stock up on items you use frequently. If you seem to make extra trips to the store for milk or eggs, stock up on those items on your regular grocery trip.

Have a designated cooking day each week where you prepare several meals or meal components at once.

Cook in batches and freeze extra meals for later.

Invest in a food chopper or food processor, to quickly chop foods. A hand-held food chopper usually has less clean up than a full-sized food processor.

Save time by creating easy “make-ahead” dishes. For example, lasagna or shepherd’s pie that fits in one dish can be pre-prepped and then just placed in the oven for baking when ready.

You don’t need to precook your lasagna noodles. If you have plenty of sauce in your lasagna, the noodles will cook during the baking process.

Clean as you cook and your job will go much faster from cooking to eating to clean up.

Baking for lunch bag snacks? Pre-portion cookies, muffins and more, so they’re ready to go when it’s time to add them to a lunch.

You can buy ready-to-pour soup stocks to save time. Or for less sodium and better flavor, make a large batch of your own soup stock. Then portion it into small portions (even ice cube trays for very small needs), so it’s ready when you are.

Trying to save time by pre-made cake and other baking mixes? Make them special by adding your own special touch like fresh blueberries, nuts or other favorite ingredient.

Meal planning

Meal planning saves money, reduces waste and lessens the need for last-minute unhealthy drive-thru runs.

If you grocery shop weekly, pick a day to plan your meals each week. Write down your plan for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

From your meal plan, write out your grocery list. Make sure to check your fridge and pantry, so you don’t buy items you already have.

When making your meal plan, think about how ingredients and leftovers from one meal can be used in the next. For example, if you roast a chicken, you can make soup stock from the carcass and chicken salad from the leftover meat.

Leftovers

Leftover roast chicken: soup stock, chicken salad, chicken pot-pie, chicken teriyaki.

Leftover pork roast: pulled pork, Chinese pork buns, fried rice, pork and vegetable soup.

Leftover beef roast: beef dip, a green salad with beef and blue cheese, stir fry, beef barley soup, beef stew.

Leftover boiled potatoes: roast them, mash them, fry them or use them in a shepherd’s pie.

Leftover steamed rice: stir fry, Mexican rice, add it to soup, use it as a wrap sandwich filling.

Leftover spaghetti sauce: chili, add it to nachos, lasagna, shepherd’s pie.

Leftover baked ham: add it to a pasta dish, sandwiches, split pea and ham soup, omelets, quiche and pizza.

Extra Bread? Make French toast, bread pudding, croutons, stuffing or breadcrumbs.

Turkey dinner leftovers: turkey sandwiches with dinner rolls, French toast dipped with pumpkin pie filling, turkey stock, turkey potpie.

Leftover ground beef: shepherd’s pie, tacos, taco salad, stuffed peppers or add to macaroni and cheese.

Leftover vegetables: pizza, soup, quiche, omelet, stir fry, roasted vegetable sandwich.

Bananas Going Brown? Turn them into banana bread, muffins or pancakes.

Overripe Fruit? Thrown them in a smoothie, milk shake or home-made ice cream.

Small chunks of leftover meat? It doesn’t matter what it is, it can be great in a quesadilla, stir fry or even soup.

Scaling recipes

To scale a recipe, calculate your “conversion factor”. This is the number of servings you want divided by the number of servings in the recipe. Once you have that number, you can multiply the ingredients in the recipe by that number.

Be careful when scaling a recipe, as some ingredients won’t come out to an easily measurable number. This is where your judgment comes in. When it comes to seasoning and flavorings, adjusting a recipe is easy. For an uneven number of eggs, you can always break an egg, beat it and estimate the portion you need. For important ingredients like baking soda or baking powder, try to be as precise as possible.

When scaling a recipe, be prepared to adjust cooking times where necessary.

If scaling a recipe doesn’t really work and the portion is too large, just package and freeze the rest for a ready-made meal later.

Avoid scaling most recipes multiple times over as it’s difficult to maintain the same consistency of the original recipe. Instead, cook in batches to ensure the best result possible.


Leftovers

Meal planning