8 Tips for Cooking on a Budget

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If you love to cook, but are on a tight budget, we’re here to help. At JOW, we believe everyone can enjoy cooking, regardless of how much you could spend on groceries—in fact, we aim to help you save money. Here are eight of the best tips for cooking on a budget.

1. Make a Grocery List!

At JOW, one of the tips that we always recommend to aspiring cooks is simple – make a list of the ingredients you need before going to the store. Whenever you plan a meal through JOW, we’ll give you a complete list of all the necessary ingredients for free right off the bat. We’ll even order your groceries for you from the nearest store! Then, all you have to do is drive over and pick them up, or schedule a delivery. It’s as simple as that! 

Ordering groceries remotely is a great way to handle making a list. That way, you won’t have any struggle to read your own writing in the store. You can get a visual representation of all of the foods you’re buying, and you’ll know the total cost of your cart before you checkout. Plus, grocery pickup is free at most stores once you reach a certain spending level. That’s a big perk!

2. Stick to the Grocery List

It’s a scenario we’ve all been in. You show up at the store, shopping list in hand, and you’re determined to buy only the items on that list. Nothing more, nothing less. 

However, it doesn’t take long before you find yourself in the dairy aisle to pick up some parmesan, turn around, and see freezers full of ice cream. It’s not on the list… but it’s on sale. Adding one more item to your cart can’t hurt, right? 

While it’s no fun to think about, all of the unplanned additions to your shopping cart can add up over time. You might end up spending hundreds of extra dollars in a year through undisciplined shopping, especially if you tend to go to the store with no list at all! 

One of the best ways to stay budget-conscious – and make great meals at the same time – is to make a hardline “no extra items” rule. If you’re going to pick up a snack or dessert that you love, it’s no problem. Just put it on the list! 

Before you pick up your groceries, you can get a rough estimate of the price of your cart and make sure you’re not buying too much. Or, just order your groceries through JOW to get only the items you need and a price check beforehand!

3. Keep an Eye Out for Sales

Your local grocery store puts on sales for plenty of reasons, including:

These types of sales are common on items with a relatively short shelf life. If you see meat, dairy, or produce that’s on sale, make sure to use it quickly! In addition, keep an eye on expiration dates to make sure that on-sale food doesn’t go bad after you bring it home.

These sales can be sneaky, and they’re often intended to get you to spend more. Don’t be fooled by these types of sales – while they might seem like they’d save you money, they’re most likely not for items on your shopping list!

So, what’s the bottom line on sales? Look for discounts on items you already need! Stick to your shopping list, but try to find the lowest-priced produce, meat, dairy, and other ingredients with the help of sales.

4. Set a Limit on Eating Out

Going to a restaurant can be a real treat. There’s something magical about enjoying a meal that a culinary pro prepared just for you. However, the cost of eating out is astronomically higher than cooking at home in most cases. Because of that stark price difference, it’s always a great idea to set a limit on the number of times you go out to eat per month!

Making eating out a special occasion is one of the best ways to save money on food over time. While it’s perfectly fine to enjoy a meal at a restaurant from time to time, prioritizing making your own food will be better for your wallet in the long run.

5. Make a Grocery Budget

If making a list hasn’t been enough to rein in your food expenses, it’s probably wise to pull out the big guns – a budget.

Budgeting is the practice of assigning a certain amount of your monthly earnings to a certain purpose – in this case, food. If you’re finding yourself spending too much on food per month, it’s a great idea to set a limit on your grocery costs and stay on or below that limit. 

Using an online banking or budgeting service can be a huge help in staying within your grocery limits. Most banks give you no-charge access to your transaction history online, and many will itemize your costs. In other words, your bank can tell you just how much you’ve been spending on food each month. 

Using your current food expenses, you can set a reasonable goal to stick with for next month’s groceries. It might take some diligence and practice, but it’s worth it in the long run!

6. Be Wary of Food Subscription Boxes

There are plenty of services out there that offer weekly deliveries of ingredients, along with accompanying recipes. These subscriptions can be super convenient, but they’re often much more expensive than the ingredients inside each box are worth. The extra costs can be chalked up to shipping expenses, packaging, recipe building, and profits for the company offering the subscription. Overall, you’d end up saving money by buying the exact same ingredients from your local grocery store!

Instead of upcharging you for the sake of convenience, JOW gives you chef’s choice recipes, ingredient lists, and grocery pickup, all without those crazy upcharges! If that sounds too good to be true, it really is that good! 

7. Embrace Leftovers

If you’ve made a habit of getting rid of your leftover food after you finish a meal, we’re not going to shame you. However, we think you’re missing out! All of that extra food can feed you for your next meal, helping you to save money over time. 

To keep your leftovers from going bad, try and finish them 2-3 days after cooking. To make leftovers from previous meals last longer, you can even freeze them and heat them up weeks later. Freezing your leftovers is a great strategy if you often find yourself too busy to cook!

8. Got a Busy Day? Use a Slow Cooker

It’s often tempting to blow extra money on fast food when you’re worn out after a long day at work. That’s where your slow cooker comes in! Instead of eating out when you’re too tired or busy to cook, start your day by getting a slow-cooked meal ready. By the time you get home from the office, you’ll have a hot dinner all set to eat!

A slow cooker can be left on at low heat to prep your meal during your workday. That way, you’ll have food ready for you and your family once you clock out, saving you the time and stress of cooking right after work!

Want More Cooking Inspiration?

Looking for something delicious to make for dinner tonight? Look no further than JOW’s recipe page. To access tons of inspiring recipes, click here.