Is it Worth Cooking More at Home to Save Money?

July 14, 2022
This week, I have shared tips and ideas for saving money – those things that we have some control over during this time of high inflation.

Another area we can control is how much we spend on food. We already know that to stop eating out and to cook more at home will save money.

If you are away most of the day or work from home, preparing a meal from scratch can be discouraging when you are already tired. I work at home during the day and don’t always enjoy cooking an evening meal. Especially every day.

Photo by Becca Tapert on Unsplash

Yet, to save time and energy, we have bought into the life of convenience: stopping at the grocery store to get a prepared meal (we convince ourselves that since it was prepared at the store and not frozen, we are eating more healthfully), ordering at a restaurant for pickup, or subscribing to a meal delivery plan.


Consider this: Freshly prepared meals by a grocery store ready for the microwave or oven cost on average $8-9 per person. Depending on the entrees you choose for one of the popular meal kits (like Hello Fresh, Freshly, Real Eats, and Every Plate), the final cost per person ranges from $9-13.*

We already recognize that buying prepared foods from the grocery store or take-out is a tremendous time-saving advantage, even if it costs more. Cooking at home more often sounds lovely, but with a busy schedule, isn’t it just as important to save time? And while we understand that cooking from home may save money, is it worth it?

Let me encourage you with some tips to help you more easily cook at home regularly.


Plan Your Shopping List in Advance

Try using Google Assistant or Siri to create your grocery list. It’s helpful for Google to add something to my grocery list just as I’m using up something in the kitchen.  

Don’t go to the store hungry. This is altogether true. If you do your own shopping, keep on task (and budget) and shop only from your list. Don’t let sale displays tempt you to buy things you don’t need or won’t really remember to use later.

Have the store shop for you.
At my favorite grocery store, if I schedule curbside 3 days in advance, I get free service instead of paying the $5 fee. This is my best solution for shopping for only what is on my list. 

Prep Your Kitchen

Establish one hour a week for food prep. I plan an hour not long after a grocery run to prep everything in my order for the week. This is to accomplish two things: (1) wash, cut, and store veggies in zip bags for the fridge, and (2) divide large packages of meat into separate containers for upcoming meals or the freezer. This can be accomplished in an hour or less, and the best part is that when you cook during the week, you only need to grab your meat pack and veggie bag to start a meal.

If I have extra time, I clean and portion veggies and fruits in small snack bags for my family to grab when on the run. It keeps them from stopping at a convenience store to spend money on expensive (and unhealthy) snacks.

Photo by Darrien Staton on Unsplash

Clean out the refrigerator
. This should be done weekly and before a grocery run. I take a few minutes to clean out the fridge (of too old, expired, or abandoned food) and wipe down the shelves. It lets me see what I have left to use so I don’t buy more.


Even if we are good money-savers, sometimes wasting food just happens. Occasionally, fruit doesn’t get eaten quickly enough in my home, even though we all love the purchased grapes, apples, and bananas. Instead of throwing away fruit that is near spoilage, I include it in my food prep. You can peel and cut up fruit to freeze for smoothies. I do this with bananas and apples. The frozen chunks of fruit work in place of ice cubes and adds creamy thickness. The apple taste is so mild you don’t notice it. Any fruit makes smoothies and protein drinks more filling!)


If you follow this next step, cleaning out the fridge will become much more manageable
.

 

Keep Fewer, Simpler Ingredients

Recipes that are simpler with fewer ingredients are a big key to making cooking at home worthwhile.

Keep fewer condiments. Don’t buy things that are only used a couple times a year. Instead, keep condiments to a minimum with only what you use regularly. Do you need mustard and steak sauce on hand when no one uses it?

In our home, I keep one salad dressing, Ranch. Not only do my husband and son prefer it, but it can double as a dip for carrots and celery.

Photo by Heather McKean on Unsplash

Having every spice on hand isn’t necessary
. You don’t need every spice to create tasty meals. Instead of separate herbs, try spice blends. I began making my own spice blends to use what I have now and condense my spice rack.


Not sure how often you use a particular herb? Keep it by the stove as a reminder. If you don’t find enough uses for it, get rid of it. If you don’t make Chinese dishes, then there probably isn’t a reason to have ginger on hand. If you don’t make Mediterranean dishes, turmeric may not be necessary.


Limit the number of different grains and pasta. If you don’t have a preference, use grains like rice in microwavable form. I found a brand of instant brown rice I can microwave in 9 minutes while cooking something else on the stove. Most pasta recipes requiring one type of pasta, like a bowtie, can be made just as easily by replacing it with penne, which you always have on hand.

Save on prep with frozen vegetables. Frozen vegetables are just as good as buying from the produce department. They are flash-frozen right at the peak of freshness. Using frozen saves on prep time and stops waste. Many frozen veggies are now available in steamable bags, saving time by microwaving.

 

Use a Rotation of Favorite Recipes

Keep a rotation of family favorites. Making something new is always fun, but an often used recipe is quicker and less stressful while saving time. Teach your children how to do some steps. If they are teens, a simpler recipe is an excellent start to cooking independently, and bonus – they can start dinner for you!

Start now with what you already have. If you have a stocked freezer and pantry right now, do an inventory of your freezer and pantry (not just a casual look, but an actual list). Take a few minutes this week and try a website like All Recipes to find one or two simple recipes using ingredients you have on hand or want to deplete. As your stock dwindles, you will learn what you like to use most and what your family prefers. You may discover a new recipe to add to your regular rotation.

 

Let me know in the comments: Which of these tips do you already implement?
Which one will you try? What other tips can you add to help other readers?

 

 

 

* I’ve tried all these services. Even Dinnerly, which advertises a lower price per individual meal, isn’t necessarily better. There is prep, plus the use of the same, cheaper ingredients. Most of their recipes are filled with grains and potatoes as “fillers.” Overall, I discovered that there is not enough food for the 4 adults in a 4 meal plan.)

 

7 comments:

  1. We are pretty conscious of what we use and our spending but you've given me a couple good tips here, Thank you for sharing

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  2. I just cleaned out my fridge last weekend and am now super motivated to keep it organized so I'm not losing veggies in the back (and finding them later when they've morphed into penicillin). I also started a an inventory of my pantry but didn't finish, you've inspired me to do that. I always tell myself I need lots of different grains to keep things interesting but you're right, I really don't. I will use what I have and pick one or two to purchase regularly. Thanks for another great money saving post!

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    1. I'm so glad this post helped! My pantry has a lot more room now that I don't have 'all" the pastas, beans and rices!

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  3. I also find that the meal kits are not as convenient as they sound. Good tips about spices!

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  4. I clean out my freezers every January. I basically stop buying food until the pantry and freezers are just about empty. I love frozen vegetables, mostly broccoli, cauliflower, corn and green beans. I can make a meal from $3-$5 since I love to scope out sales in meats. Checkout my blog for Saturday, it's all about my quick and easy meals!

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    Replies
    1. I saw that post! You always have the best organizing and money saving tips!

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  5. I routinely cook nutritious and flavorful meals for myself and my friends. And, I keep kosher, so the prices are higher than what they may be for you. But, my health- and enjoyment are paramount.

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