In today’s post we’re going to look at simple ways you can save money based on the things you do in the kitchen. Now, this post isn’t all about buying cheaper ingredients, its actually about thinking smarter about what you do so you can save money overall – which means you might be able to spend less money on your grocery bills, your electricity bill and your water bill all because you’re more conscious in the kitchen.
8 ways to save money in the kitchen
1. Make your own
I love to get creative in the kitchen, and so should you. By making some of your own products especially sauces, you can save plenty of cash to use on other things. In 2014 I wrote a post with some basic budget saving tips and in it I showed three ways that I was saving money – one of which was by swapping from a bought pasta sauce to making my own using a tin of diced tomatoes. This simple action saved me about $2-$3 each time I made pasta, and over the last few years it has saved me hundred of dollars. And that’s just one sauce!
Try making your own bread, jam, yoghurt, pasta sauce, relish, pesto (doesn’t have to be basil pesto, try a pea pesto instead as it’ll save you heaps), cakes, muffins, and muesli, muesli bars and other snacks. It’s easy to dehydrate fruit in the oven at low temperatures, and you can easily whip up a sauce for your steak or chicken breast by using a bit of cream and some mustard in the pan you cooked the meat in, so give it a try and you might just find you really love making your own foods from scratch.
2. Eat more vegetarian meals
There’s a reason why I say to eat more vegetarian meals, and it’s because beans and lentils are much cheaper in price. A kilo of rump steak will set you back anywhere from $20-$30 while a kilo of dried beans, chickpeas or lentils will cost you $2-$3 and you’ll have enough beans/chickpeas/lentils leftover to make many more meals. Even if you decide to buy tins of prepared beans/chickpeas/lentils then it’s still a whole bunch cheaper than meat.
You don’t need to make every night a vegetarian night, but the more meals you can make vegetarian, the more you can save. Check out options like veggie patties, stuffed capsicums, vegetable lasagnas, roasted mushrooms and bean/lentil soups or casseroles and it’ll give you plenty of ideas for other meat free meals you can begin cooking.
3. Use your oven as a heat source in winter
I did say at the beginning that you might save on your electricity bills, and this is what I meant. In winter I make use of my oven by cooking bread, casseroles or baking fish and other dishes in the oven. I do this partly because I want warming winter meals, but I also do it so that the oven is heating up the house on cold nights, and I don’t need to turn on the heater when the oven is on.
Depending on the size of your house you might be able to get away with just using the oven. Bigger houses or apartments of course will need extra heat, but if your kitchen is near your living room then you’ll be able to get away with the oven, and maybe a hot water bottle when it’s time for bed. Try it and see if it works for you.
4. Bulk buy – where it’s actually useful to you
A lot of people tell you to save money by buying in bulk – but it’s not really a useful tip if buying in bulk just leaves you with more food to eat, or you end up throwing it away. Why pay $17 for the bulk pack and throw half of it way when you could by the regular pack for $10 and use it all? It’s simple logic – if the bigger portion costs more and you’re not going to use it, then it’s not value for money.
Be careful when purchasing bulk goods that are perishable (means they need to be used fast), because they can go bad really quickly. For instance, I won’t buy bulk on bananas unless I really want to make banana bread, cause I know the bananas go brown too fast for me to eat them. But I will buy bulk on onions because I know I can stash them in the cupboard or fridge and they’ll last me up to a month easily.
Just be careful what you choose to buy in bulk and you’ll be able to save some money for the things you really want, rather than on 5kg of rice you won’t eat, or 10kg of flour you’ll never really make into your own bread.
5. Boil the kettle for hot water
Jamie Oliver does this in all his recipes, but I’ve come to understand why. Not only is boiling the water faster in the kettle, it’s actually a really smart thing to do when you want to save money. The kettle takes only a few minutes of electricity to boil, whereas the stove top method takes significantly longer so you’re going to use up 2-3 times more electricity (or gas) to boil the water this way.
This is another method where you can save money on those electricity bills (if you have an electric stove) or the gas bills (if you have a gas stove top). Sometimes, every little bit counts, so start boiling water in the kettle, then transfer it over to the saucepan for whatever dish you’re making. I just pity the Masterchef contestants who can’t do this and lose precious time waiting for a pot to boil.
6. Unplug kitchen equipment
If you own a kitchen full of cooking equipment, there’s probably a fairly good chance you’re leaving some of those pieces of equipment plugged in all the time. Did you know that some pieces of equipment can still draw power from being plugged in but switched off? For this reason I always unplug the sandwich maker, the toaster, the kettle and the microwave after I use them, and leave them unplugged until I need to use them again. It saves me money in the long run, and it really doesn’t waste that much time replugging them in when I do need them. Granted, it won’t make a huge difference to your bills, but it will help in the long run (and do you really want the electricity company getting rich off you or would you rather get rich yourself?).
7. Batch cook
In the world of cooking and saving money batch cooking is always going to come up. In my post on what planning ahead actually looks like I explained that batch cooking is part of the planning process. It simply means cooking extra food now while you have the time, and storing it to eat later when you need it.
8. Menu plan and buy only whats on the grocery list
One of the most effective ways to save money in the kitchen is to write yourself a menu plan and then stick to it. When you buy only the ingredients you need then you will save money. Menu plans are an easy way to save because they force you to use ingredients you’ve already got at home, or bought specifically for the meal you’re going to make. They help you cut down on takeaway meals as well, and we all know that takeaway is much more expensive than cooking at home.
With the above tips you should be able to start saving small amounts of money that will lead to bigger rewards in the end. And if you’re looking for more ways to save, try the other budget friendly posts here on Spiced Anecdotes such as how to save money while on holidays or budget friendly lunches you can take to work.
So, what are you going to try first? Are you going to batch cook, make your own bread, or madly go around the house unplugging everything?