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Financial Wellness

Hacks for Cooking on a Budget

By Chris Phelan, July 11, 2021 6 min read

Have you noticed that your food budget is weighing you down? Not only is cooking meals at home cheaper – which your wallet will thank you for in the long run – it can also be healthier and just as delicious as the food from your favorite spots. If you’re skeptical, don’t worry, we here at Rain are going to throw a lot of great information and awesome tips your way in this article!

Ways to Cook Cheaply

Create a weekly meal plan

The single best way to eat healthier *and* save money while doing it is to create a weekly meal plan. If you’re not aware of what a weekly meal plan is, it’s essentially sitting down in the kitchen and preparing your meals for the rest of the week. The beauty of doing this is that you can make this as intensive (complex meals with a lot of ingredients) or as easy (throw some chicken, broccoli, and potatoes in the oven) as you wish! A few hours of cooking will save you a lot of money, not to mention time!

Use a discount grocery store

Gone are the days of full-priced supermarkets taking over our neighborhoods. Not only are smaller grocery chains popping up all the time, but so are discount grocery stores. These stores, often run by people who specifically want to make great food more accessible to everyone, are always cheaper than the big supermarket chains. Because they don’t spend a lot of money on advertising and marketing, they can pass on those savings to you, the customer! And needless to say, it’s a great way to eat cheaper.

Grocery Couponing

Grocery couponing has become so popular these days that there are even reality TV shows based around it! Even if you don’t want to do couponing to the extreme, couponing is still an extremely smart way to shop for food for the week. While you’re in the aisles grocery shopping, instead of looking for what your hungry stomach wants, you’re simply using the coupons you’ve already clipped to find these discounted items, which will add up to big savings at the register.

Buy and Cook in Bulk and Eat up Leftovers

Have you ever been at the grocery store and only bought enough food for a day or two? You may not realize it, but you’re probably spending more money by shopping that way. When you buy in bulk, you can take advantage of bulk discounts, PLUS you spend less time and gas going back and forth to the store. It’s better to go to the store once per week (or even less often) and stock up on non-perishables. Take advantage of discounts like “buy ten cans and get one free” and “two boxes for $5.”

You can use the same logic to cook in large quantities and save food for later. That’s a great way to combine meal prep and bulk buying. This method is perfect for pastas, chicken dishes, soups – anything that can be easily reheated over the course of a few days! Everybody knows how good Thanksgiving food is the day after – so why wait only once a year to eat amazing leftover food?

Buy ahead and freeze

As you’re buying in bulk, fill up your freezer! See a deal for two packages of chicken for the price of one, but don’t need two? Buy both anyway and stick one in the freezer for next week. These seemingly small savings will really add up over time and can cut your grocery budget by 20% or more.

Recycling ingredients

Don’t forget, food is extremely versatile – a large bag of spinach that you buy with the intention of sautéing with garlic and butter can also be used as a leafy green base for an amazing salad! Almost any vegetable can lend itself to a variety of dishes as well. Chicken, probably the most versatile protein available, can be prepared in a number of different ways.

Essentially, make sure none of the food you buy goes to waste. For example, if you’re making a pasta primavera (a very basic pasta dish with a variety of fresh vegetables) and you have extra veggies – use them to make a salad for lunch. The possibilities are endless. Think about it this way: any food that goes into your garbage can is money that is literally being thrown away.

Cheap Recipe Ideas

Now that we’ve given you some great food hacks to ensure that you can eat great without putting a lot of stress on your wallet, here are a handful of cheap recipes that you can get started with:

Cheap Homemade Breakfast

Our absolute favorite breakfast recipe is Tortilla Baked Eggs – and the best part, it uses a lot of leftover ingredients that you’ll always find yourself having in your fridge! Here’s the easy to follow recipe that allows for some great substitutions to best suit your needs: https://www.budgetbytes.com/tortilla-baked-eggs/

Cheap Homemade Lunch

There’s nothing like a lunch consisting of a salad that really hits the spot. And since we mention re-using spinach that was leftover in one of our examples earlier in this article, we thought it would fun to link to a great spinach salad recipe! It’s called a Turkey Spinach Salad with Maple Syrup, and it can be found here: https://www.tasteofhome.com/recipes/turkey-spinach-salad-with-maple-dressing/

Cheap Homemade Snacks

It’s no secret that deviled eggs are delicious and amazing. But they’re also a great source of vitamins and pack a lot of protein in each egg! Because of all this, they make for a great midday snack when you’re just a little hungry and don’t want to ruin your appetite for dinner. We’ve found a great classic deviled egg recipe here: https://downshiftology.com/recipes/deviled-eggs/

Cheap Homemade Dinner

We here at Rain are big fans of one-pot meals – meals that are prepared by literally throwing all the ingredients into a big pan and just letting it cook. The result is always a savory meal that will leave you happy and satisfied. This particular jambalaya recipe is delicious: https://www.homemadeinterest.com/one-pot-jambalaya/

Cheap Homemade Dessert

One of the great delights in the world is figuring out how to make your favorite desserts healthier while still tasting absolutely delicious. This particular recipe has done just that to ice cream sandwiches, and we understand if this immediately goes to the top of your “must-do” list: https://greatist.com/eat/recipes/healthier-ice-cream-sandwich

Tags:Cheap, Cooking, Saving

About the Author

Chris PhelanFinancial Wellness Copywriter

Chris Phelan is a copywriter who has taken his own credit score from a 580 to an 850. With a mixture of personal experience and thorough research, Chris can help anyone achieve their financial goals.

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