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 Bee
- “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 Sherman
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!