The kitchen is one of the places in your home where you spend the most amount of time in. Incidentally, it is also one of the places for which you spend the most amount of money too! From modern gadgets to expensive food, food and kitchen-related expenses can really add up.
We’re not saying you have to give up your fancy coffee maker or stop buying your favorite organic chips, but there are some small things you can put into practice that can help bring down your overall expenses. Subtle lifestyle changes that help you be more efficient in the kitchen, eliminate wastage, and also save money at the same time? Bring it on!
Here are some tips to help you be frugal in the kitchen:
Make a Meal Plan
Meal planning is a great way to make things easier for yourself in terms of saving time and money. It may take a few minutes to do initially, but once you get the hang of it, you should be able to draw one up in a couple of minutes!
And the best part of meal planning is that you can write up your grocery list right afterward, and you don’t have to speculate whether you might need some ingredient or not. You buy only what you need for the week, and since you already know what you’ll be cooking every day, this should minimize waste. Another way meal planning can help you save money is by reducing the frequency of which you resort to getting takeout. Most people admit that they end up buying meals because they don’t know what to cook or don’t have ingredients. Meal planning gets rid of these problems for you!
Make Your Grocery Runs Efficient
The first thing you have to do before going grocery shopping is to have a list! If you are a notorious over-shopper, then this is the best way for you to stay focused and only pick up what you need. If you are on a tight budget, you may even go so far as calculating the price of each item and taking enough cash with you to cover it (don’t forget to leave your cards at home!).
Meal planning should help you write a comprehensive list of everything you will need for the week. Better yet, plan for 2 weeks and get your shopping done at once! After all, the best strategy to save money at the grocery store is to stay out of it!
Make the Most Out of It
Let’s face it, cooking can be a cumbersome task, especially when you think of doing it three times a day, every single day! However, you can reduce the time you spend in the kitchen by making the most out of your meals. I often make a double batch of whatever I am cooking so I can freeze half of it. That way, I’ve got one other meal sorted. Cooking a larger batch usually doesn’t take much longer than making a smaller batch, so it is a great idea to save time and money.
Making things from scratch is another way to save a lot of money. Premade or readymade food goes through a lot of processing, which equals a higher price (and not to mention a bunch of additives and preservatives). When you make things from scratch, you know exactly what goes into it, and again, you can make more so you use the leftovers for another meal.
You should also make sure to include lots of fresh fruits and veggies, as well as whole foods so you can get the most nutrition out of what you eat. Oftentimes, such foods are a lot cheaper than the junk kind too, so it’s definitely a win-win!
It’s a sad fact to think that 40% of the food supply in America ends up wasted. It’s up to me and you to bring down that statistic by making sure we do our part. You can do so by making sure you don’t buy more food than you need and also making sure leftovers get eaten as well. And don’t open a new packet or bottle of anything until the previous one is completely empty!
Another way to reduce wastage is to wash and reuse the containers and bags that you get along with your food. Instead of chucking them in the bin, think of other ways you can use them. Or better yet, invest in some reusable containers or bags that you can take along with you to the grocery store.
Stick to reusable items such as containers, cutlery, plates, etc. whenever possible. The cost of disposable items can really build up over time, so make sure to bring some plates and cups with you when you go out for picnics and/or cookouts.
You should also try to eliminate paper towels and napkins. These are one-use-only and can add to a lot of wastage. Instead, invest in some cloth napkins. You can pick some up for cheap at thrift stores or yard sales and have some fancy ones for whenever the occasion might call for it. At the same time, you can build up a collection of rags from old, torn-up clothes that can be used for cleaning purposes as well.
Use Smart Appliances in Smart Ways
There are ways for you to use the appliances in your kitchen so that you can get the optimal output, and of course, save some time and money at the same time. For instance, washing dishes using a dishwasher is proven to use less water than handwashing. While it’s better to wait until you have a full load to start the dishwasher, studies have found that even smaller loads will save you money over handwashing! You can save more money by turning off the heat-dry setting on your dishwasher and letting them air dry instead.
Similarly, you should avoid running the oven in the summer when there is already a lot of hot air inside the house. Adding to that will only make your air conditioner work harder, and therefore, use more electricity. Instead, consider investing in a slow cooker. It uses less energy than an oven and produces some pretty amazing meals that are hassle-free as well. An instant pot can also be a lifesaver in many a situation where you do not have time and think your only option is to order takeout.
Lastly, make sure to unplug your small appliances as they can drain electricity even when not in use!
Save Money on Cleaners
If you were to believe everything that marketers say, you will need to have an entire pantry full of cleaners that serve different purposes such as dish soap, dishwashing detergent, degreaser, soft scrub, granite polish, stainless steel polish, multi-purpose cleaner, floor cleaner, tile cleaner, carpet cleaner, glass cleaner, and so much more!
But, as you may have guessed, you don’t really need all of these. Most cleaning products can be used for multiple purposes. You can use your dish soap to clean your kitchen sink, countertops, and even your stovetop in a pinch. Other times, a little bit of DIY can save you a lot of money too, such as using baking soda and vinegar for tougher stains.
Give yourself some challenges that are fun (and doable) that can help you save some money in the kitchen. For instance, you can appoint a few days of the week to be “meatless” or at least “meat-reduced” if your family are hardcore carnivores.
You can also leftovers day when you finish off all the leftovers by making something new with them or pantry day where you stretch out the time between grocery trips by cooking up a meal using only what is in your pantry. You’d be surprised at how unique and delicious meals that come out of such challenges can be!
And last, but not least, consider growing your own produce so you don’t have to spend money on them. This will also make you appreciate your food more, and you can get your family involved too! If you don’t have the time or space for a proper garden, no worries, you can start by growing some herbs on your kitchen sill.