10 Tips To Save Money In The Kitchen
[We asked Nicole of For The Love of Food for money saving kitchen tips for this month's Monthly Mouthful. She didn't just give us one answer...she gave us 10! We loved her advice so much we decided to make a guest post out of it. Please give Nicole a warm welcome and enjoy these money saving tips.]
1. Buy your meats from a butcher, preferably local, and NOT from a store that only sells prepackaged containers of meat. This often leads to people having to buy more than they need and the quality is not always the best. When I was younger my mother used to drive out to a farm twice a year and buy our chicken, which was organic, and freeze it in small portions. This meant that she got a much better price per pound than in the grocery store even though she was buying organic. Many farms in the US even deliver to your home – check out <a href=”http://www.localharvest.org”>Local Harvest</a> to find a farm near you in the US.
2. Buy staples in bulk. Not only does this save driving time, but you will save money – most of the time. Always make sure you actually are saving money before buying in large quantities. The one staple I buy yearly is a 40 Lb. bag of rice from my local Asian store. It costs me €35 ($44.15) for Jasmine rice which is a huge savings because the local stores sell it for €3,50/kilo as opposed to the €1,92/kilo that I pay. I would love to have the space in my apartment to also buy flour and sugar in bulk. Huge blocks of cheese are another great item that you can save money on. I buy 2 a year and cut them into smaller blocks that I can easily hold to shred. Dry Mozzarella cheese is especially expensive here in Germany, but I can buy a 5 kilo block for €3,79 as opposed to a pre-shredded bag of 250 grams at my local grocery store for €1,50. If I bought 5 kilos in those pre-shredded bags it would cost me €30!!! (Note: 1 kilo = 2.20 lb., Find currency conversions here.)
3. Plant a garden / Plan your garden. Planting more expensive fruits and vegetables such as tomatoes, berries, and other exotic produce helps alleviate the budget in the warmer months. Planning your garden before you buy seeds or plants is extremely important so that you don’t end up with too much or too little of foods you like or don’t like so much. Measure your garden, draw it out on paper, decided what you want to plant, and then realistically positions them in your garden sketch so you know how many to buy. Then stick to your plan!
4. Learn to can and then do it. This is a time consuming process, but can all be accomplished in 1-2 days at the end of the summer. I like to can tomatoes and tomatillos from my garden because they all seem to show up at once. Other foods I like to can are: homemade pickle relish, homemade pickle slices, homemade, tomatillo salsa, homemade Rotel, homemade ketchup, homemade BBQ sauce, and homemade jellies. Not only does this ensure I will be eating my own delicious foods the whole year round, I save a pretty penny doing this too!
5. Make your own condiments and spice mixtures. As you may have picked-up in #4, I make most of my own condiments. The money I save is about 50% of what it would cost to buy in the grocery store and I have yet to find a ketchup that tastes better than mine – and anyone who tastes it agrees! In the summer I turn a few batches of ketchup into BBQ sauce with a minimal price increase and have a delicious flavor. I also mix my own season salt and Italian seasoning because, well, it’s cheaper!
6. Make your own salad dressings. Not only is this MUCH healthier than store-bought dressings, it’s cheaper, and I can make a new one every day/season for variety. This also ensures that you have tons of room that all those bottles take up in your refrigerator. My base ingredients are always: assorted flavors of vinegar, assorted flavors of oils, different dry or fresh herbs, salt, pepper, and often cheese like Parmesan or feta. For those of you who need to have that Ranch salad dressing, there are plenty of recipes and copycat recipes online to help guide you.
7. Wash your own lettuce. Bagged lettuce is EXPENSIVE!!! Yes, it is better for you who would otherwise not touch a vegetable, but the expense is enormous. A head of lettuce costs nothing in comparison to a bag of pre-washed/pre-torn lettuce. If you enjoy the ease of this and would still like to save some money, wash and tear and entire head of lettuce at once, dry it, and bag/tupperware it and take out what you need throughout the week. Tupperware will keep it crisp the longest.
8. Cook from scratch. Cooking food from basic elements is not only cheapest, but healthiest. For example, spaghetti sauce for a family of 4 costs €0,65 to make without meat, with meat €1,65. You can season it the way you wish, add whatever you like, and it only takes a few minutes to prepare too. My spaghetti sauce is always done before the spaghetti has even finished boiling! Alfredo sauce goes even quicker. If you don’t have time to cook everyday you can do what my mom does, cook on the weekends and freeze portions in the freezer, then defrost as you need them. You can even freeze homemade beans instead of buying canned beans.
9. Buy in season. Everything costs less when it’s in season and even less when it’s local. The less distance it has to travel, the less money that has to be added to the base price of the item. Fruits and vegetables also taste much much better in season. Have you even noticed that tomatoes taste grainy in winter and juicy and flavorful in the summer? Or, how strawberries taste like water in the winter and like candy in the spring/summer? When they’re not in season, they’re not meant to be eaten. If you still have a craving for a strawberry in the dead of winter, buy them frozen. They are less expensive and bagged and frozen at the peak of strawberry season.
10. Plan ahead / Make a grocery list. This is the most important tip I can share with you. Make a menu of what you want to eat for the whole week and make a grocery list with all the missing ingredients plus whatever other items you ran out of during the week. Deciding what you want to eat once you are at the grocery store will not only cause you to buy more than you need, or double-buy ingredients you already have at home, but you will often chose less healthy/more expensive foods.
I am also happy to make myself available via email to anyone who’d like personal help cutting their kitchen budget, planning their garden, making the move to homemade foods, etc. myamii [at] rezimo [dot] com.
Thanks Nicole! To see the rest of our food bloggers’ money saving kitchen tips, check out the March Monthly Mouthful!