When it comes to cooking, a 3-pronged approach works great: cook often, cook good food, and cook within your budget. The first two are quite easy but the budget is definitely the hard part. What can make a budget more manageable is adopting habits that are not only easy to stick with but also sustainable.
Here are 6 essential habits to help you cook within your budget. Do you practice any of these already?
1. Adopt Meal Planning
It is essential to plan your meals and snacks. You will often hear about why it is so important to have a mindful plan for your groceries and meals, and the reason is that it is incredibly simple but with a huge payoff. If you have a plan, you will be able to create more focused shopping lists, cook smarter, and even have an easier time sticking to your budget.
2. Cook What is in Season
It is fun cooking using fresh produce as much as you can, but you will find that it is not always possible such as cooking asparagus in mid-February. While you can track it down at your local grocery store, it will obviously cost more than when it is in season, and it probably won’t taste as good. You should always stick with using in-season produce because it is usually cheaper and obviously more readily available.
3. Try Using Chicken Thighs & Other Types of Inexpensive Meat
Cooking on a budget does not necessarily mean actually eliminating meat from your diet completely. What it means is that you should be creative when it comes to the cuts that you buy. Even when you are not cooking on a budget, chicken thighs should still feature at the very top of your list. Whether you buy your chicken thighs skinless or skin-on, boneless, or bone-in, they are still cheaper, rich in flavour, meaty, and quite versatile. Other smart buys you should consider include meats for braising such as pork butt, where your time investments transforms cheap meat into delicious meals.
4. Using Slow Cookers
When you get to trying out the cheaper cuts of meat, your best tool is the slow cooker. Slow cookers are some of the best tools in your kitchen to help you adopt cooking on a budget. The slow cooker is perfect for cooking cheaper but tougher cuts of meat such as roasts and rounds. Cooking the cuts over low heat for a longer period transforms them from chewy and tough chunks to delicious and tender meat you can eat.
5. Cooking Down the Freezer and Pantry Regularly
Sitting in your freezer and pantry right now is the makings of more meals than you probably realise. You might be surprised by how much money you can save if you eat through your freezer just twice a year. Most people can probably go one week without shopping for groceries and only cooking meals based on what is available at hand.
Challenge yourself by “eating down” your freezer and pantry regularly. If you are able to avoid spending as much money on groceries one week out of a month, you will enjoy major savings. The best thing about this approach is that it helps you appreciate what you currently have and rethink your shopping habits. When faced with eating a bad purchase, you are likely to be more thoughtful the next time you are out shopping for groceries.
6. Use Coupons & Freebies When Shopping
We all love a bargain; some of us look for yellow sticker deals in Tesco or Asda, to printing off coupons from coupon sites. Recently WOW FreeStuff ran free pizza coupons in their free food and drink section.
What is the best advice you have for cooking on a budget?