If you’re like me, you probably eat at home most days of the week – which means spending time buying food, cooking, cleaning, and doing all the other little chores that need to be done. If you aren’t careful, this can expend a lot of time and money. But it doesn’t have to! These tips, and the reader tips that follow, are sure to help you save a lot of time, money, and energy in the kitchen.
How to save money in the Kitchen
1. Plan your menu. You will save money on groceries when you shop with a plan. This helps prevent buying too many perishable goods and reduces waste. Buy only what you need, when you need it and your cupboard will remain uncluttered as well as more organized.
2. Buy generics. This works best for staples such as rice, flour, milk, eggs, and similar items. However, there are many other items where the difference in taste and quality is negligible, while the difference in price is high. Use some experimentation to find which generic items work best for you.
3. Buy produce in season. The highest quality and best tasting produce usually comes from farmer’s markets, but those aren’t available year-round. Plan your menu according to the fruits and vegetables you can purchase in season and you will save a lot of money.
4. Buy in bulk. Certain items, including many staples, are cheaper when purchased in bulk. But not everything is cheaper when purchased in bulk. Keep in mind unit cost, item shelf life, and whether or not you actually need as much as you plan to purchase. When done the right way, you can save a lot of money.
5. Cook larger meals and eat leftovers. I love leftovers. If a meal is good the night it is made, it is probably just as good the next day, and for foods like chili and stews, better the next day! Personally, I think it is easier and cheaper (per meal) to shop for and prepare a meal for 4 than it is to prepare a meal for 2.You can eat the leftovers for dinner the next day and save preparation time, or you can take them to work and save money by not eating out. Where I live, the average lunch is around $7, so the savings add up quickly!
6. It’s all about the Rotisserie chicken! My wife and I often buy Rotisserie chickens when we are feeling lazy or are pressed for time. At $5-6 each, they represent a great bargain because between the two of us we can easily get 6 or more meals out of each chicken. We generally have chicken as the main course the night we buy the chicken, then use the remaining chicken in meals such as quesadillas and salads. We then use the remaining chicken carcass for money saving tip 7.
7. Make your own chicken stock. Chicken stock is incredibly easy to make, especially if you have a whole chicken available, or if you followed tip 6, the carcass from your Rotisserie chicken. When we buy a Rotisserie chicken, we take the remaining bones, skin, and fat and place it in a large pot. Then we add a couple of carrots (washed, but peel on), a couple of sticks of celery (broken in half) and an onion sliced in half or quarters. Then add salt and pepper and other spices like oregano or thyme, add water until the chicken is covered, bring it to a boil, reduce the heat, and let simmer for a few hours (4-6 is good). Strain the stock and use it right away or refrigerate or freeze for later. The best part is that you add the salt to your tastes or dietary needs and there are no MSGs or other unhealthy chemicals. Cheaper, better tasting, and healthier. That’s a winning combination!
8. Use a toaster oven for baking small meals. Toaster ovens require much less energy to heat and less time to cook a meal compared to a full-size oven, killing two birds with one stone. Toaster ovens are great for toasted sandwiches (toasted bagel sandwiches are one of my favorites!), broiled fish and sausage, and even cookies (try keeping cookie dough in your freezer and only bake a few cookies at a time).
9. Clean your kitchen with homemade cleaners. You can use one lemon to clean half your kitchen. Use half the lemon to clean your garbage disposal and the other half of the lemon to clean your microwave. Here are some more homemade household cleaners.
10. Waste not, want not. My wife and I throw away very little food. We try to plan our menu and buy only what we need. Even so, we always have some leftovers. So we mix and match our meals near the end of the week, or get creative when cooking – adding bits and pieces of leftovers to the meal we are making. This works great for stir fry, stews, soups, hash, and many other meals. We even find ways to use overripe bananas. Get creative!
How to save time in the kitchen
11. Plan ahead. Before cooking, gather all the tools, utensils, and ingredients you will need and set them within easy reach. This makes it easier to get into a groove and keep going. Keeping your kitchen organized will go a long way to help this step. Keep often-used ingredients readily available and in easy to open containers (example: store staples like flour, sugar, and rice in plastic containers for easy access). Many people are turning to meal services like Blue Apron and Plated to deliver their ready to prepare meals directly to their house. This way there is no measuring and you just combine the ingredients. This drastically reduces prep time and leaves you with mostly just cooking.
12. Wash dishes as you go. My wife and I make a great team in the kitchen. She enjoys cooking and does most of it. But she hates cleaning, which I don’t mind. While she cooks, I often go behind her and clean the pots and pans as we go. The dishes are usually at least half done by the time we finish dinner, which makes clean up a snap.
13. Quickly clean frying pans. First, let the pan cool, then drain out the oil or grease into a glass or plastic jar. Then wipe out the residual oil with paper towels. This makes the pan easier to clean and requires less soap.
14. Use the right tool for the right job. Using the proper style pots, pans, trays, and utensils will save you a lot of heartache and time. That doesn’t mean you need to go out and spend several hundred dollars on specialty items you might use once or twice a year. But it does mean you should have a quality set of basic kitchen tools.
15. Use quality knives. Trust me, they are worth the investment! A quality, sharp knife will save you a lot of time and frustration. Here is a quick reference for how to buy kitchen knives.
16. It’s all about the George Foreman Grill! I love my George Foreman Grill! I bought it when I lived in an apartment unit because the fire code prohibited residents from having a grill with 75 feet of the building. I have been a faithful George Foreman Griller since (8 years with the same grill!). The George Foreman Grill is quick and easy to use and cooks healthy and tasty meals. For quick cleaning, use a wad of damp paper towels or a damp washcloth while the grill is still hot (reheat it if needed). Cleanup should take all of 3 minutes. Just be careful!
17. Crockpots are wonderful for cooking! I make a mean beef stew. Ask my wife or anyone else that has had it. Dice some vegetables, lightly brown some beef, add some spices, cover with water (and some flour or cornstarch to thicken it), cover, set it on low heat, wait 6-8 hours, and enjoy. The prep time takes 15 minutes and you can make enough stew to last for several days. It’s one of my favorite fall and winter meals.
18. Use pre-washed and pre-cut vegetables. These may not always be the cheapest option, but they can save you a lot of time. If you are intent on saving time and money, buy your produce as you normally would, then wash and cut your vegetables in the morning and have them ready for cooking when you return from work. Another thing my wife and I do is slice and dice leftover onions and peppers and freeze them for later use. They won’t be as good in foods like salads but work great for things like stews, soups, and omelets.
19. Use single-serving sizes. When My wife and I make our homemade chicken stock, we freeze it in one cup sizes, then transfer them to small ziplock bags (then put several in a larger bag to keep them together). Since most recipes that call for chicken stock do so by the cup, our job is easy. If it calls for more or less, just get creative. Recipes are just guidelines anyway. 😉
20. Prepare meals in advance. Some people have little time during the week, but prefer the taste and health benefits of eating meals they prepared themselves. A way to manage this is to prepare a week’s worth of meals the previous weekend and refrigerate or freeze the meals until you want to eat them. Some people go so far as preparing a month’s worth of meals in advance. There is even a book called Once a Month Cooking.
Do you have additional tips on how to save time and money in the kitchen? If so leave them in the comments section, or if you have your own blog, write your summary article of tips. If you link to my article about saving time and money in the kitchen and let me know about it, I will list your article below!