We all need to eat, and a lot of the money that we spend goes toward food preparation. Furthermore, it can be expensive to eat at home and eat healthy, making fast food too tempting. Fortunately, there are ways to stretch your dollar in the kitchen.
With the demands of modern life, it is unrealistic to expect nutritious home-cooked meals made every day from scratch. However, websites such as Allrecipes.com and FoodNetwork.com can help you find recipes that are not only easy to make, but enjoyed by the whole family. A crockpot can simplify the dinner-making process by turning meat, vegetables and potatoes into a stew by the time you get home from work.
At the same time, remember that recipes to not have to be followed exactly. Try replacing the most expensive ingredients with something else and see how it works.
Smart grocery shopping
Groceries may not be a huge part of a typical budget, but they are a continuous expense. This means any savings found in the way they are purchased can really add up over time. Use the tips outlined in how to save money on groceries to find those savings.
Keep appliances clean and maintained
Heat will distribute better in a clean oven and replacing worn doors seals (as well and calibrating the oven with a thermometer) will more than pay for itself in saved electricity. In addition, keeping the stovetop clean will keep it running more efficiently.
Cleaning the refrigerator’s condenser coils every few months help with its efficiently. As a general rule, any appliance that is well maintained will work better, use less energy and be easier to work with overall.
Handle produce properly
Don’t rinse produce until right before you are ready to use it. Rinsing it and then putting it back in the fridge can make it slimy and moldy quicker.
With lettuce, rinse it and dry it thoroughly. If you have not used the whole head, be sure it is dry before placing it back in the bag. You want to remove any excess air in the bag before putting the remaining lettuce back in. This will keep the lettuce fresh for a week. Better yet, put the lettuce in a plastic container instead. It will help the lettuce keep its crispness.
When a recipe calls for meat, use half of the amount called for in the recipe. For the other half, use any leftover vegetables or pasta that you may have on hand.
You can stretch ground beef by mixing in crackers, bread crumbs, oatmeal or plain cereals.
Saving money with other types of foods
The next time you need to bake potatoes, bake as many as you can in the oven. You can let the leftover potatoes cool down and then freeze them for future use.
Buy blocks of cheese instead of shredded cheese. You can save money by using a grater to shred the cheese yourself and storing it in a Ziploc bag.
Double up when cooking. Make extra food that can be frozen and eaten at a later date when you’re too exhausted to cook. Casseroles are a good food choice. They keep well in the freezer and offer a healthy meal on short notice.
Make dishwasher soap
Forget buying expensive brands that can cost upward of $5 for a small bottle. With a few simple ingredients, you can make dishwasher soap. Use 1 cup of washing soda, 1 cup of Borax and ¼ cup of kosher salt and mix it up. More instructions can be found here.
Make your own spices, condiments and salad dressings
This cannot only save you as much as 50%, but it is fun to do as well. You can add your own creative touches by mixing various ingredients to create a new flavor that you would not be able to buy in a store. By taking vinegar, oils, salt, pepper and herbs, you can create a variety of salad dressings. If you don’t know where to start, a recipe website such as Allrecipes.com can help you create, for example, the perfect ranch dressing that tastes even better than the store-bought version.
Invest in a stand mixer
With a stand mixer and a little cooking skill, you can make many types of foods in your own kitchen. You can make staples such as crackers, pasta, muffins, breads, biscuits, pancakes and waffles. Buy a few attachments and you can also make purees such as tomato sauce, jams, jellies, pumpkin pie, soup and mashed potatoes. Get a meat grinder and you can turn roast into hamburger. With this handy tool, you can make meatballs, sausage, turkey and stuffing for food such as ravioli and peppers.
Use fewer dishes
Try to cook and eat in a way that allows you to use as few dishes as possible. If you use measuring cups, use them multiple times for the same recipe, and it is not necessary to put food on a new plate to serve it in most situations. With some huge pots and pans, you can usually wash hem by hand and let them dry without stuffing the dishwasher, which translates to more energy and money. If the dishes are not too dirty, simply rinse and reuse.
Unplug small appliances when not in use
Many appliances draw power even when they are not in use (this is known as vampire power). To save on the energy bill, unplug them when not in use or use electrical strips with power cutoff switches.
Keep the oven door shut
Because an oven must heat up to very hot temperatures, it needs a lot of energy. It can be costly to operate an oven, which is why it is recommended that you only open and close the door at the start and finish. Regularly opening and closing the oven door releases a large amount of heat into the kitchen, which can be uncomfortable as well as wasteful.
Check the refrigerator temperature
The appliance consuming the most energy in your kitchen is most likely the refrigerator. A lot of people think that it’s better to keep the fridge as cold as possible. However, keeping refrigerators too cold takes more energy and money, while potentially damaging food. 37 degrees or higher is a good temperature to keep it set on. Rule of thumb: If your milk has ice in it, the fridge is too cold.
These tips will help you cut costs on your next energy bill as well as save time and money when cooking.