Food. It’s one of those things we all need — and yet is something most of us would rather not spend a ton of money on.
And, when we really need it — when we’re really hungry (or worse yet, “hangry”) — we tend to panic and think with our stomachs, not our wallets.
We all know the most surefire way to save money on food is to cook at home. But it can be hard to get started.
So here are eight easy ways to cook on a budget that require minimal planning but yield maximum, tasty results.
1. Make something out of nothing
We’ve all been there: you get home, you’re famished, you open your cupboards/fridge/freezer, and…nothing. You determine cooking is a lost cause because you don’t have any ingredients — or so you think.
Resist the urge to order delivery and get resourceful. A can of tuna? Sure. Some frozen vegetables? You bet. A forgotten jar of capers? Absolutely! You may not see it, but you have options.
2. Cook with leftovers
Leftovers are the unsung superhero of the kitchen. They’re also the superhero of your food budget. Not only can they be eaten the next day, or frozen and enjoyed in the future, they can be repurposed into completely new meals.
Believe it or not, you really can make two, or even three, meals out of one. Prepare for your mind — but not your budget — to be blown.
3. And plan for leftovers!
Speaking of leftovers, there’s nothing wrong with cooking meals specifically for leftovers. There are loads of dishes that only get better when they sit in the fridge a day or two. And they’re not just great for lunch and/or dinner the next day, you can freeze them to enjoy in the future.
(You may have hated leftovers as a kid, but trust us when we say that these are good. Don’t worry, we won’t tell your mom!)
4. Buy a rotisserie chicken
Leftovers may be the superhero of your budget-forward kitchen, but rotisserie chicken is its trusty sidekick. This humble supermarket staple can be the foundation for infinite quick, inexpensive recipes.
From casseroles to soups, tacos to pasta, a single rotisserie chicken is a blank canvas — and a shortcut! — for culinary creativity.
5. Dust off the slow cooker
That slow cooker your mom gave you three years ago is getting lonely. Break that baby out and get cookin’.
Seriously! There’s a reason so many people swear by their slow cookers. All you do is add some basic ingredients in the morning, and by evening, voilà, dinner is served. It’s so cheap and easy, and so tasty, you might delete all your meal delivery apps for good.
6. Take out one pot
The thought of scrubbing pots and pans (sigh) can be the last straw when you’re tired and tempted to grab takeout on the way home. In these instances, a one-pot meal — soups, stews, pasta and rice dishes— can be just the ticket. They can also be really cheap, really delicious and really, really easy.
7. Hide the garbage can
Tempted to throw out that half-used tomato paste? Leftover rice? Hamburger buns? Step away from the garbage can. You’re about to toss the foundation of some really great meals, not to mention dollars and cents.
8. Shop smart
If you’ve perused this list, you probably know by now that the best way to beat takeout temptation — and homebound hunger in general — is preparation.
Get to the grocery store (when you’re not hungry) and carefully buy the basics. It’s amazing how far you can go with a few fridge, pantry and freezer essentials.
You can do this!
Overwhelmed by what you just read? Don’t be. You can totally do this. Remember, learning to budget, especially when it comes to food, takes time. Start slowly and you’ll get there.