In my house, I’ve spent many years cooking from scratch, while finding ways to save money at the same time. I know I learned this from my mom who always cooked up amazing meals on a tight budget to feed a big family.
These days there are so many convenience foods out there, it’s easy to want to take shortcuts, especially if you also work full time outside the home. But cooking from scratch not only saves you money, the food also tastes so much better than store prepared foods. Plus it’s healthier because you can control the ingredients like salt, sugar, and fats.
So, the smart thing to do is to take a closer look at cost of some of these convenience foods and learn to save money by making them yourself from scratch. Here are some smart ways to save money.
If you buy coffee every day on your way to work, start brewing it at home and take it in a travel mug. (We actually buy disposable coffee cups with lids in bulk, to encourage this habit). Also, it helps to keep some tasty condiments on hand like cinnamon, raw sugar, cocoa powder and flavored creamer, so that you don’t feel deprived. Also, chill leftover hot coffee in the fridge for iced-coffee drinks later in the day and you’ll be saving quite a bit of both calories and money on your coffee runs.
Flavored Iced Teas
For iced tea lovers, buying flavored tea be both costly and loaded with too much sugar. So instead, try cold brewing your own tea it at home. Just add your tea bags to a jug of water, (about 1 bag for every 6 ounces), and chill for around 6 hours. When it’s ready, remove tea bags, and stir in your favorite flavor, like lemon juice, raspberry puree or pomegranate juice.
Save the hassle of getting in a long line to grab breakfast. Instead, make hard-boiled, peeled eggs the night before. Then in the morning, slice them over toast or an English muffin along with some low salt ham or turkey sausage and you’ve got a quick, low-fat breakfast sandwich at a fraction of the cost of buying one.
Make homemade Italian tomato sauce in big batches and freeze it into meal-sized containers. You can also freeze smaller servings to top pizzas with or to use as a dipping sauce. With the cost of a can of tomato puree being much less than the cost of a jar of prepared sauce, you’ll save big time and there’s no comparing the flavor.
I’ve learned the hard way that store bought meatballs are never as good as homemade ones. Plus, it’s a huge waste of money if your family won’t eat them. If you purchase ground beef in bulk or on sale, you can make big batches for several meals and freeze them for later on. Making an extra big batch of meatballs once will save you time, and they will taste delicious over pasta, or in sandwiches.
If you like snacking on hummus, you can whip up a quick batch at home in minutes. Simply open and drain a can of chickpeas and put it into your blender or food processor with a tablespoon of olive oil, a dash of lemon juice and some minced garlic. Blend until smooth and season with salt and pepper. If it’s too thick, add a bit of water and blend again. At 99 cents for a can of chickpeas, it’s quite affordable and you can enjoy it freshly made.
On a recent run out for groceries, I spent around $60 for food, (not all of it pictured here), and got a pretty good assortment of items for the week, that were all on sale. While not all of this food was on my original list, I couldn’t pass up sausage for $2.67 a pack, ground beef for $5.07, tomato puree for 99 cents a can, pasta for 59 cents a box, and bananas for 49 cents a pound. I also got drinks and snacks on sale.
Plus, I purchased two boxes of Special K for $2.50 each, less a one dollar coupon. At my previous job, they use to charge $2.00 for a single serving of cereal, if that puts it into perspective for you. I am also using Kelloggs Family Rewards to earn gift cards, coupons and discounts on other items, so it’s a win-win!
Now here are a few more of my favorite “make from scratch foods”.
Chicken Broth or Soup
This is another food that pays to make in big batches and freeze because chicken broth can be used to make so many dishes. Plus, you can use whatever veggies and chicken you have on hand – whole chicken, left-over rotisserie chicken or chicken parts. It’s also nice to know that you will not have to recycle all those cans.
Making pizza at home is not only yummy but can be a fun activity for family and friends. For around $5.00 you can usually buy enough pizza dough to make two large pizzas at home. You can save even more if you make the dough from scratch. Of course, you need to add sauce and toppings to that cost. But when you consider that a large take-out pizza can cost anywhere from S12.00 to $19.00 making it at home is quite affordable.
If you’ve ever purchased a slice of quiche for lunch at a good deli, you know it’s not cheap. A full quiche at the supermarket can be about $9.99 and it’s not always especially tasty. So, if you serve quiche it pays to make it from scratch with fresh ingredients. Quiche is great for brunch when you have company over, but it also makes an affordable dinner, that can be prepared ahead of time and heated up.
Making scones at home is not difficult and you only need a handful of special ingredients on hand like berries, chocolate chips, and cream. When you consider that one bakery scone can cost $2.50, making a batch of 6 to 8 scones for your family is really affordable.
I only have a family of two to cook for, but I also sometimes cook for four, and really do save money every month. So the next time you feel like ordering out, consider all the things you can do with the extra money by cooking foods from scratch at home.
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