How to grocery shop and cook frugally

How to grocery shop and cook frugally

Have you ever noticed that the heart of a home is the kitchen? It’s where you prepare meals. You connect as a family over dinner conversation. It’s where you entertain.


Your children do crafts and homework at the kitchen table. You balance the budget, plan events and so much more in the kitchen. Now it’s where you can learn to save money. Discover 10 frugal ways to stretch your grocery budget.


The kitchen is also where you cook and store groceries. Whether you are planning an elaborate holiday celebration or a simple Thursday night meal the kitchen is where you’ll be.

Cost Of Goods Increase

I am not sure if you have noticed or if it just something happening in our area but the price of groceries is on the rise.

Feed Your Family

Where we live the average price of eggs is $6 a dozen and a gallon of milk is about the same. Yes, it is getting expensive to feed your family.

Groceries On A Budget

How do you feed your family on a budget with grocery costs on the rise? Honestly, you get creative. You clip coupons, shop sales and use Rakuten. You can also learn to stretch your grocery budget.

Ways To Stretch Your Grocery Budget:

Pantry basics

Beans, rice, pasta and oatmeal are all common kitchen staples. They are cost effective meal items. You can substitute beans in meatless meals for added protein and nutrition.

Pasta comes in so many shapes and sizes, get creative, add some sauce, break bread and enjoy.

Make it once and serve it twice

I think this one is my favorite tip. You cook a ham or a chicken and use it for multiple meals throughout the week.

We use leftovers for lunches. This oven lunch box allows us to have warm meals on the road.

Plan meatless meals

Let’s face it even with the cheapest cuts, meat can get expensive. One way to cut the cost is to have meatless meals once or twice a week.

Replace the meat in a recipe with beans or other protein sources like tofu.

Save your leftovers

You know those extra few carrots left in the fridge or that half an apple you need to use before it goes bad. Freeze them.

You can save the leftover vegetables in a bag in the freezer to use for soup stock. Save your extra fruit for smoothies and baking. Learn more about what you can freeze to save money here.

How to grocery shop and cook frugally

Shop in season

Yes, I know those juicy red strawberries look real good in the middle of December but the price tag doesn’t look that appealing.

Save yourself the coin by purchasing produce in season. Shopping locally sourced items is even better. The less it travels the cheaper it is.

Water it down and spread it out

Did you know you can add water or broth to “make more” soup? Or add rice or beans to a meal to make more. Simple additions to a meal can make more food for pennies.

A common example would be to water down soup or add “fillers” to burgers. Adding simple common pantry ingredients to make more food to feed your family.

Pasta for example is cheap, you can use it as a base for just about every meal. As a side dish, a main dish. I am sure you could even get creative and use for a dessert.

How to grocery shop and cook frugally

Shopping discount stores

To all of you out there that live near an Aldi store I envy you. There isn’t one near us. The deals I hear about are amazing.

Shopping discount retailers and ethnic grocers is where the food savings is at. We have these great little ethnic stores that we shop at to save on produce and basics.

And the food and spices are amazing. You can easily save 20% off your grocery budget by shopping at discount retailers.

Breakfast for dinner

I love breakfast for dinner. This is a standard meal in our meal plan rotation. Who doesn’t love pancakes and eggs or waffles and bacon for dinner?

Breakfast foods are cheaper than dinner foods and it’s fun to switch it up every once in awhile.

Do it yourself

Preserve the harvest and get baking. You can cut some of your grocery costs by growing your own food. Even a small pot of herbs, tomatoes and strawberries.

Preserving the local harvest by canning, dehydrating and freezing goods can also save you money throughout the year.

Baking your own pastries, muffins and breads can save you money as well. You can read what we stopped buy and started doing instead to save over $1000 a month.

Get creative

Use what you have. Improvise. If you want to have a bean based taco buffet for dinner do it. If all you have in the fridge is eggs, bread and cheese make fried egg sandwiches or french toast.

Creativity in the kitchen is half the fun. We love having pizza or omelet meals to use up leftovers. Who says you can add (fill in the blank) to a pizza?

Stretching The Grocery Budget

Stretching the grocery budget is easier than you think. Stock your pantry with beans, rice and pasta. Make it and take it for lunch the next day.

Shop with cash. Use a meal plan and be creative.

Using Rakuten is also a great way to save money while you grocery shop. You can try out Rakuten today and get $10 for free just for signing up.

We all know eating healthy can come at a very high cost. And living alone has increasingly taught me that. Not only do I have a the small budget of a recent grad, but I have a small capacity to eat all my groceries before they inevitably go bad and turn into wasted money. For a while, I didn’t think I could eat healthy and frugal at the same time.

How To Eat Healthy and Frugal When you Live Alone

Luckily, I think I’m finally beginning to master the art of not over or under-buying groceries for my dinners for one without sacrificing nutrition, and you can too! Here’s how I’m shopping frugal, and eating healthy:

1. Make a grocery list

This probably seems like an overly-simple tip, but I don’t think enough of us do this! Whether on paper or in the Notes app in your phone, you should make a grocery list. For me, this keeps me on track and helps reduce over-spending when I get a little too excited in snack aisle.

2. Choose the right store for you

Yes, the store you choose to stop at does impact your ability to eat healthy and frugal! You should decide where to shop based on the best deals being offered, any useful loyalty programs, and the location. There’s no point in spending an excessive amount on bus fare to get to a store when there’s one in walking distance.

3. Buy your protein in bulk

Doing this has made such a big difference for my grocery bill. I tend to lean towards chicken and eggs as my main protein sources. And while eggs are cheap, chicken is typically not. I try to seek out larger packs of chicken, preferably on sale, and divide the pieces into freezer bags.

I cook whatever I want for the week and the rest I freeze and thaw when I’m ready to cook them. This gets me more meals for my money than buying a small portion every other week!

4. Limit the fresh produce you buy

Despite what you might think, you can eat healthy and frugal while limiting your fresh produce budget. The issue with fresh produce when you live alone is how quickly it goes bad. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t buy it, just be sure to only purchases what you know you’ll eat.

For me, this is usually some bell peppers to cook with and small container of cherry tomatoes to snack on! Along with that you can stock up on frozen fruits and veggies! I like to buy a club pack of frozen fruit which makes me enough smoothies for a month at least.

5. Don’t be afraid of discount produce

Sometimes you can find some good stuff in the discount produce section! If you’re able to use it fairly quickly, this is a great, cheap way to shop for fruits and veggies.

6. Meal prep

Meal prepping is a great time-saver that I’m always happy about on busy work days when I only have energy left to re-heat food. It also saves me from ordering delivery fries when I’m lazy. Divvying up my weekly meals also acts as a good reference when I am trying to budget accordingly.

7. Go plant-based for part of the week

I’m not a big meat-eater overall, so going plant-based is actually how I live most of the week! There are many misconceptions about eating plant-based, but it tends to be cheaper than you’d think. I love using oat milk instead of dairy in my coffee, it lasts longer in the fridge than dairy, and with just using a splash every day I have to buy it less often!

One of my favourite cheap vegan meals that I’d recommend trying is a chickpea pasta salad. Start with a can of chickpeas, your favourite veggies (you can even use frozen!), and your favourite pasta. You can dress it up with whatever’s in your cupboards.

8. Stock a snack cupboard

My snack cupboard is essential to me. I love having things on hand that I can just grab when I’m hungry. If you stock your snacks up on occasion, you should be able to make them last a while and focus on eating perishables first. This prevents me from over-spending when I want snacks!

9. Set a dine-out/delivery budget

You can eat healthy and frugal and still dine out! You just have to be mindful of your spending and account for it in your budget. If I don’t have a set a limit, I tend to go overboard. And no, you don’t have to order a salad to maintain your healthy eating. It’s healthy to treat yourself!

If you need some help with budgeting and tracking your spending, KOHO is a pre-paid Visa linked to a budgeting app and acts as great budgeting tool! You can read our KOHO review here.

My healthy and frugal grocery budget

When I created my budget, I ensured a had $120/month dedicated to groceries. Living alone in Toronto as a new grad means a modest income and monthly rent that makes me cringe. Here’s a sample of some groceries I’d pick up on my bi-weekly shopping trip. This should come to around $55-$60; being pre-stocked with the basics and snacks helps.

  • 2 cans of chickpeas
  • Bell peppers
  • Cherry tomatoes
  • Pasta
  • Oat milk
  • Bread
  • Yogurt
  • Orange juice
  • Eggs
  • Chicken

Without a budget, I don’t think I’d be eating healthy or frugal!

Seriously, this is why setting my budget came before I tackled any of these other ways to save on my groceries. I’m glad that I took that first step. Because now I’ve gotten into the rhythm of buying just enough food for me without wasting anything!

I know that just because you live alone doesn’t mean we’ll have similar taste or appetite, but I hope that these tips prove themselves useful when you’re planning out your next meals.

It’s taken time for me to find ways to ensure I’m eating healthy and not over-spending or wasting food, but now that I have I’ll never go back to my old ways! And both my wallet and body are very happy about this.

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Grocery Shopping for a Large Family on a Budget is easy when you follow these frugal tips. Give them a try and see how much money you can save your family while still eating good food!

How to grocery shop and cook frugally

Grocery shopping on a budget is a must for anyone, especially if you have a large family. No one enjoys handing over their hard-earned money for food. It’s time that hard working people can feed their large family on a skinny budget. What defines a skinny budget? Any budget that is less than the average person/family spends on groceries. Since grocery shopping on a budget is a must for larger families and a definite plus for every family – these tips are ideal for helping you reign in the food budget in your home.

Grocery Shopping for a Large Family on a Budget

Discount Grocery Stores- These are stores that you should scope out in your neighborhood. Scratch and dent, also known as, discount grocery stores, carry groceries for a lot less. They might be slightly damaged or going out of date, but they are still good. One of the more popular stores to shop is Aldi. With higher quality products and low prices, it is a favorite.

Bread Thrift Stores- If you have never tried a bread thrift store, you’re in for a real treat. Our local bread thrift store has slightly outdated bread and other products. You can find baked goods there and miscellaneous items that are perfect for helping a skinny budget. For example, baked pies, white bread, wheat bread, and many other bread items can be found at bread thrift stores. Walk out with 10-12 items for under $6, depending on what you get. How perfect is that for grocery shopping on a budget easily?

Make Big Meals- When I cook, it’s rare that anything is left behind for leftovers. However, I intentionally try to make more, so that I save myself time and don’t waste ingredients. It’s my motto in our family to go big or go home. We’re a big family, so I might as well make enough to feed us! Also, we don’t spend a ton of money on making one meal. Each meal that we make should cost us under $5!

When you make big meals, you may want to also consider Alea’s, Prep Ahead Meals From Scratch cookbook to help get you started on easy prep for larger meals. Using this, along with good freezer storage containers for your double batches of recipes makes it a lot easier to manage and account for every dime spent in your grocery budget.

Stay Consistent with What You Buy- When I go to the store, I’m consistent with what I buy. For example; eggs, bananas, and hamburger is something I buy every week. Since I know I’m going to buy these, it’s always a PLUS when they’re on sale. Sticking to buying the same foods each week helps keep myself and my budget in check.

Stick to Your Meal Plan- I must say this because it’s so true. How many of us make meal plans but don’t stick with them? The key to feeding a large family on a skinny budget is truly sticking to your plan. If you planned to make spaghetti for dinner that night, do everything in your power to stick to it.

Feeding a large family on a skinny budget is about planning, but it’s also about using common sense. Learning how to go grocery shopping on a budget, and use that budget to build amazing and healthy meals for your family is a must. These tips are sure to keep your large family well fed, and happy despite a skinny budget.

The below frugal cooking tips and strategies for finding sources of cheap and free food has made it possible for my family to easily save thousands of dollars per year on our food costs and improve our health along the way. You can do this too.

We are always searching for new and creative ways to save money on groceries while still eating fresh organic foods.

As we discover new ideas and tips for saving money on food, I continuously add what we have learned to the list below. So this is like our frugal cooking tips blog.

I am sure you will discover many new ideas below which will inspire your own healthy frugal cooking and meal planning.

If you have new thrifty meal ideas of your own, I hope you will take the time to share them with us by leaving a comment at the bottom of each page.

“Frugal Cooking and Cheap Meals Pay Multiple Dividends”

Pragmatic advice for a frugal diet is one of my favorite topics because a healthy diet CAN be had cheaply and often CHEAPER than traditional less healthy diets (despite what many folks believe).

An investment in knowledge always pays the best dividends especially when it comes to creating a more frugal kitchen.

Some of the dividends from eating well cheaply include freeing up more money to pay down debt, saving on healthcare costs, feeling better, and reducing environmental damage in the long run.

Even though we have reduced our food bill substantially, maintaining a cheap yet healthy diet is certainly still at the top of my family’s frugal living priorities list.

Yes, stretching our food budget is a never-ending battle. But it is also a rewarding and frugal fun challenge to find new cheap food sources that are also healthy.

We have learned through many little successes and failures that the most important key to frugal cooking was to change our mindset and alter our eating habits.

We all have life-long eating habits that often are sources of extra food cost and waste. Breaking habits and daring to try new things is important.

Food frugality and finding cheap food sources requires a mindset of flexibility, planning, efficiency, and resourcefulness.

“A Looming Global Food Crisis in the Making”

Now is the time to prepare by honing your frugal cooking skills. There will come a day soon when these times of plenty (relatively speaking) will come to an end. We are just now seeing the first signs of a global food crisis looming on the not-too-distant horizon.

Food prices have risen as much as 20% in many staple food categories over the last several years and the average two earned income family of three people now spends close to $9000 a year on food.

This puts grocery costs near the top of the list of monthly household expenses and has made cutting food costs a major priority for most families, including ours.

We as a family have taken the bull by the horns to lower our food bills via these many frugal grocery shopping ideas and careful meal planning and food storage techniques. As a result we now spend less than $1,700 per year per person for food and we are healthier and happier for it too.

We have easily cut our grocery bill in half over the last few years and you can too. Frugal meal planning is a fun challenge the whole family will benefit from. It helped pay our mortgage off early too.

I am sure you will find many useful frugal cooking tips and tricks for putting healthy, yet affordable local organic food on the table without breaking the bank or scrificing your other priorities.

If you make many of these frugal meal ideas and practices habitual you will become more self-sufficient as you literally keep more money in your pockets every month and free yourself from the convoluted food system most people are mentally shackled to.

The following tips for smart wholesome frugal cooking and healthy eating will also greatly empower you to grow your food independence and to be more self-reliant and more insulated from supply constraints, demand spikes, food shortages, and the inevitable continued inflation of food prices.

Grocery shopping on a budget is certainly a concern millennials face when looking to save money on food. Perhaps you’re struggling to find a job. Or, maybe you’re trying to save for a house, or think you spend too much on your weekly shopping. Luckily, food shopping on a budget is possible, and can be healthy too! This guide will introduce a few ways for you to cut costs to ensure you are still eating healthy, even on a budget.

Getting Started Grocery Shopping on A Budget

The first thing you can do to save money shopping for groceries is to create a budget. Indeed, you’ll save money grocery shopping when you create a food plan. The plan is what you’ll eat every breakfast, lunch, and dinner throughout the week.

When you go food shopping without a plan, you are likely to pick up things that won’t get used. Or worse, thrown away. For this to work, it’s important to have everything you need to create meals for the week, in advance.

A food plan will reduce the costs while also reducing the amount of food going to waste. Once you’ve started, planning your meals will feel like second nature. And, you won’t have to worry about deciding what you are cooking throughout the week!

How to grocery shop and cook frugally

Or, you might have some broccoli leftover that won’t get used. You could add the broccoli and combine with seasoning, a potato or two, some of your homemade breadcrumbs. And, be sure to add some cheddar cheese for lovely (and healthy) broccoli tots. All it takes is a bit of creativity, and you can make delicious recipes without buying anything new. Indeed, a casserole is a great way to stretch the food budget once in a while.

Reduce The Amount of Individual Products You Buy

When you go grocery shopping, you can stick to your budget and save money by reducing the number of individual products you buy. Now, this can mean a few different things. Firstly, purchase items in bulk or packs of multiples because they are usually cheaper than the individual or small packets. Rather than buying four individual tins of baked beans for $1.50, purchase a pack of four cans for $5, saving you a buck. While it may not sound like a lot, imagine if you saved that dollar on every item in while grocery shopping, and invested it?

Also, look for products that offer multiple things in one product rather than shopping separately. For example, buy multivitamins rather than five different individual vitamins. Or, buy mixed frozen summer berries instead of fresh strawberries, blueberries and blackberries. And, get all-in-one washing tablets rather than detergent and softener separately. Spend some time looking at what the shop has to offer, and you’ll be able to easily cut unnecessary.

Consider No Name Products

While it may be tempting to shop for branded foods, you won’t save much money doing so. Supermarket brand (no name) products offer fantastic quality and are usually much cheaper than the branded version. There have been plenty of blind taste tests involving supermarkets like Aldi. For example, people get asked to taste two products. The results show that people love the supermarkets’ brand.

Don’t be afraid to give it a try. Store brand products are almost always half the price of the branded version. Indeed, it’s an easy way to cut your food costs in half immediately, making your grocery shopping on a budget easy to do! You won’t have to compromise on quality while you are also saving money that you can use to pay down debt!

Healthy Options Don’t Have To Be Costly

How to grocery shop and cook frugally

When you look at your receipt after grocery shopping, the budget killing items will likely be meat. You don’t need to cut meat out altogether, but aiming to eat 3-4 healthy, vegetarian evening meals a week will reduce your shop’s cost. In the UK at Asda, two chicken breasts will set you back $4.75, while a large packet of meat-free chicken-style bites cost just $1.75. Not only will you save money, but cutting back will ensure you are doing your bit for the environment, too.

How to grocery shop and cook frugally

Head To The Reduced Section

The best way to enjoy the foods you love at a discounted price is to head to the supermarket’s reduced section. You will find some fantastic deals on delicious and more ‘luxury’ foods still in excellent condition. The packaging usually recommends eating the product on the same day that it’s bought. Or, perhaps the day after. But, don’t forget, you can freeze them the day you buy them.

Cook in Bulk and Freeze Leftovers

As discussed previously, grocery shopping in bulk is usually a cheaper, budget friendly option. If you’re buying ingredients for chili, for example, consider buying in bulk. A large pack of ground beef and sauce will cost less, per meal, than buying smaller portions. You can then buy freezable tubs, fill them with your meals, and label them with the contents and date before freezing.

As a millennial, your life is probably busy. So it’s essential to have meals stacked away in the freezer ready for days when you are short of time. As you continue to cook in bulk, week after week, you’ll build up various meals. This way, you aren’t stuck with the same meal every time. Just one tip, make sure you have plenty of freezer space before you start bulk cooking!

Opt for Frozen Fruit and Vegetables

Another fantastic way to get better value for money is by buying frozen fruit and vegetables. You can buy frozen mango and berries for smoothies or crumbles. Or, frozen butternut squash and peppers for a delicious soup. And, don’t forget lovely garden peas to go in pasta dishes, salads, or pies. The best part is aside from saving money grocery shopping, less food will go to waste.

Grocery Shopping on a Budget FAQ

Sam’s club is a grocery store that sells items in bulk, direct to the consumer. Consumers save by buying multiples of the same item.

Canadians can save money on groceries by meal planning, and only buy what they need. If the consumer has a larger family, a store that sells in bulk, such as Costco, may be a better choice to save money.

The best way for consumers to save money on groceries is to start by planning meals, one week in advance. Consumers can then buy the ingredients for the week, cook their meals, perhaps on a weekend, and consume the food in the coming days.


So, there you have it! Saving money grocery shopping is possible and can be healthy! Also, it offers an ideal lesson in millennial financial literacy that doesn’t have to be boring in any way. These tips will help you to think differently about how you shop while also enjoying the food you love. Then, you can invest the money you have saved in fantastic ways, no doubt!

How to grocery shop and cook frugally

Frugal grocery shopping doesn’t have to involve extensive coupon clipping and sorting. I used to grocery shop with coupons and I still use them if I come across any. But, I no longer find tracking them down worth the few dollars I save. And they’re mostly for processed foods which I try to avoid buying although some do sneak into my cart—not sure how to prevent that.

Most families are on a tight budget and food is one of our main line items. Grocery shopping haphazardly can lead to excessive spending and wasted food. Neither ideal for our family’s budget. But, we can save money by simply having a smart two-step plan in place.

Start with an easy checklist to simplify your frugal grocery shopping

There’s a better, easier way to approach grocery shopping than running out every time you’re out of something. Think about how much you have to spend on groceries and what you need to buy for the week.

1. Check what you have in the fridge and pantry.

Take an inventory of your stock before heading out grocery shopping. Whenever I head out without a list, I end of forgetting items or buying stuff I think I’m out of only to find a large, hidden stockpile.

2. Plan meals around what you have and need to use up.

I’ll usually start with fruits and vegetables that need to be used. If I have some marinated meat or anything defrosted, I’ll plan a meal or two around those foods. It’s an easy start to planning your week’s menu.

3. Make a shopping list.

Knowing what you have on hand and will need to use up, you can make out a list of items you’re still missing for the week. I usually spend less when I go straight to buy what’s on my list and skip the aimless browsing.

4. Choose your stores for low prices.

Do some price comparison and find the overall most inexpensive stores for your most commonly purchased goods. I discovered that the organic products I buy are cheaper at Trader Joe’s than at other grocery stores in my area.

5. Shop sales and clearance racks.

I’ll browse weekly flyers online and sometimes head to a store that has good sales to stock up. Clearance racks are usually filled with discounted seasonal items that are perfectly good but need to go to free up shelf space.

6. Avoid processed foods.

Processed foods tend to cost more than making the same dish at home. Think frozen food and bakery goods. Even prepared items from the deli. Homemade is usually tastier and cheaper. It’s an ongoing battle in my home but we try to keep it in check.

The second part of frugal grocery shopping is using great recipes

Sometimes we just need a little help in the kitchen to find good recipes everyone in the family will eat. I’ve been relying on these frugal recipe blogs for a bit of assistance and I’m eternally grateful for their money saving, delicious content.

Eat Yourself Skinny

I discovered this site a few years ago and I love it. Kelly’s recipes are light and healthy and you’ll use basic ingredients that won’t break the bank. She also provides a breakdown of nutritional facts for each meal.

My two absolute favorite recipes are THE BEST TURKEY CHILI YOU’LL EVER TASTE and BLUEBERRY LEMON BREAD. And there’s plenty more to love!

Budget Bytes

My family enjoys many of these recipes. I think they’re tasty and work for busy families on a budget. Beth does a great job of keeping ingredients simple and inexpensive. This site gives you a breakdown of cost per recipe and per serving so it’s easy to adjust numbers to calculate for your own budget.

If you’re interested in prepping meals for the week, this is a really good recipe to pack and stock your fridge SALSA CHICKEN MEAL PREP BOWLS.

Cooking With Trader Joe’s

I recently discovered this site and I’m so excited! I do a lot of my grocery shopping at Trader Joe’s and it’s a store that rotates its inventory. Tempting seasonal items pop up on the shelves asking to jump into your cart. Often times, I find things that look tempting but I don’t know how to make a meal out of them. So, my problem was answered by Deana Gunn and Wona Miniati.

Their site covers different recipes using items purchased at Trader Joe’s and their own take on the store brand’s prepared foods. This should be quite a treat!

Don’t forget your leftovers

Our grocery shopping starts with what we already have and we now need to finish off what’s left of our prepared meals. Avoid food waste. You spent money and time getting this food on the table so don’t end up throwing it away.

Leftovers can be reheated for another meal or enjoyed with something new. When leftovers accumulate in the fridge, it’s time to work on them. In my house, that’s called “buffet night.”

With frugal grocery shopping, you not only save money and provide great inexpensive meals for your family but you can skip take-out. And that’s more good news for your budget.

Adopting simpler cooking and eating habits can help you get through January's financial squeeze.

How to grocery shop and cook frugally

  • University of Toronto

Katherine Martinko is an expert in sustainable living. She holds a degree in English Literature and History from the University of Toronto.

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January can be a tight month financially. It's the time for reckoning with excessive holiday spending and paying off one's credit card bills. For many Americans, the situation has been made worse this year, due to the government shutdown that is withholding paychecks. Needless to say, it's a month for hunkering down and making do with less.

One of the best ways to save a considerable amount of money is to embrace a simpler form of cooking. Many other cultures know how to cook delicious, nourishing food with low-cost ingredients, but this skill is harder to find in the United States, where low-cost eating is commonly associated with processed, prepackaged, and/or fast foods. Look at countries like Italy, India, and Brazil (among many others), and you can see budget-conscious eating in action, without it being really obvious. If you were to implement the lessons observed from these places throughout January, your bank account would thank you by the end of the month. So how does one go about cooking on a serious budget?

Plan Your Meals Ahead

Sit down once per week and figure out what you're going to eat for the next 5-7 days. The more doubling up of meals, the easier and cheaper it will be. Plan the meals around what's on sale, what you've already got on hand, and what you'll be buying for other dishes. Or you could be really Brazilian and just eat the same thing every day – black beans, rice, and some sautéed greens on the side.

Limit Meat and Dairy

Meat and dairy are very costly relative to other forms of protein, so they should be used sparingly if you're trying to save money. It's better for the planet, too. Go veg at home for the month and see how that feels. Get your protein from alternative sources like beans, lentils, tofu, tempeh, eggs, and nuts (when on sale).

Choose Recipe Sources Wisely

This has a huge effect on what I want to cook and eat. When I’m trying to save money, I look at budget-conscious websites and cookbooks. I avoid books that call for expensive ingredients. A great resource I’ve recently discovered is Budget Bytes, which offers recipes, meal planning tips, and a guide to calculating the cost per serving.

Use Flavor Boosters Strategically

There are ways to enhance your meals on the cheap. By cheap, I don't refer to quality, but rather the bang you get for your buck when you add spices, herbs, and aromatics to dish. You'll hardly miss the expensive cuts of meat and the fancy olive oil when your lentils are wafting heavenly garlic and cumin.

Beth of Budget Bytes also advises, "Expensive ingredients are often the most potent so you can use them sparingly and still get a great flavor (think sun-dried tomatoes, pesto, walnuts). So, choose your recipes based on the ratio of expensive ingredients versus inexpensive ingredients and use potent/expensive ingredients sparingly." For example, pairing ground beef with rice and beans can make a burrito filling go much further.

Calculate Meal Costs

It’s worth taking the time to calculate per-serving costs, as it can be eye-opening. You don’t have to do it indefinitely, just long enough to get a feel for which dishes save you money and which do not. You may find yourself losing appetite for the meals that gobble up a significant portion of your food budget.

Work With What You Already Have

The idea is to come up with ways to make dinner using five ingredients or less, based on what's already in your fridge or pantry. Try to stay away from the grocery store as long as you can.

Give up Alcohol

It's not technically food, but it goes hand-in-hand with it, and contributes to the grocery bill. By choosing not to drink for the month of January, you can really kickstart your savings (and any fitness goals you may have set).

Embrace Soups

True peasant food, soup is one of the best ways to make multiple meals at very little cost. It's also a perfect comfort food for January's frigid temperatures. I make vats of bean soup, curried lentil soup, butternut squash soup, and beef-barley soup that do for several dinners, packed lunches for kids, and freezer meals.

Exercise Portion Control

You could be eating more than you need to. Be strict about dividing up the food you've made so that it can last for more meals. This doesn't mean you should go hungry; stock up on nutritious snacks like almonds, apples, hummus, peanut butter, and bread to fill those between-meal voids.

Shop the Deals You Find

If you come across great food deals at the grocery store, you should snap them up, even if that particular item isn't on your menu for the week. Just be sure to plan the following week's menu around it.

How to grocery shop and cook frugally

Grocery shopping is one of the large expenses in the American home, and it seems to be getting larger. Most of us try to control the expense of groceries, but not everyone has the skills for frugal living.

If you are used to going to the grocery store and making any purchase you want, this may be the time to re-think your grocery shopping. You can grocery shop on the cheap and have fun, eat healthy foods, and save some money for other things in life. Your alimentary canal does not have to be paved with gold.

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Step 1

Choose the right place to grocery shop.

Shop at a large chain store for your groceries. Do not grocery shop at the corner market, the nearest quick stop, or the service station. Do not shop when you are hungry. Go grocery shopping without the kids if at all possible. They will want all the junk food at the checkout and most of the junk food in the aisles.

Step 2

Do not grocery shop every week.

Choose reasonable intervals for grocery shopping, and do not shop between those intervals except in emergencies. Do without any non-staple products until the next scheduled shopping trip. With two in the family, you should be able to shop once a month. With children, you should be able to shop every two weeks. The longer you can wait between shopping trips, the more money you can save.

Step 3

Make a permanent list of staples.

Make a grocery list of staple products you need: sugar, milk, bread, rice, oil or cooking spray, flour, eggs, salt, spices. You get the idea. Keep this list for every shopping trip to be sure you do not forget the essentials.

Step 4

Make a grocery list for specific meals you like.

Make a list of groceries you need to make entree meals that are family favorites, naming only the special products for each dish. If you like spaghetti and meat sauce, then you may need spaghetti, sauce, parmesan and meat. You may also need vegetables for meat sauce.

Step 5

Do not make out the menu for the week before you grocery shop. You are there to buy the bargain items, not based on ready-made menus.

Step 6

Shop for bargains in vegetables.

Shop in the fresh vegetable section first. Buy potatoes. Nearly everyone eats potatoes. They are nutritious and cheap, and go with almost everything. Carrots are the same. Buy other reasonably-priced fruits and vegetables that your family will eat. Apples, oranges, lemons, cabbage, celery, and tomatoes when they are reasonably priced, are usually good buys and they will KEEP in your crisper drawer for several weeks. Do not buy high-priced fruit and vegetables, and particularly the ones that will only keep a few days.

Step 7

Go to the meat aisle next, since this is where you will plan the menus.

See what is on sale. See if there are any discounted meats. You probably need ground meat for hamburgers or for meat dishes. Read the percentages, check the date and the price, and find the best deal. Do this for any other meat you buy. Chicken is usually a good buy, pork is sometimes a good buy, and shoulder roast is usually the most reasonably priced edible beef.

Make some selections based on what your family will eat and what you know how to cook. Buy boneless if you can. It saves money, even though it looks more expensive. Remember, when you buy with the bone-in, you are throwing away part of the purchase.

Consider buying canned tuna and canned chicken. These are good for casseroles, provide the protein your family needs, and are usually reasonably priced. Cheese is also high in protein and a meat substitute, and good for casseroles. Peanut butter is high in protein and will substitute for meat, too.