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Make Tasty Meals on a Frugal Budget

Apr 30, 2016 2 min read

Key Takeaways

  • Cooking classes can help you whip up low-cost cuisine.
  • Where's your next cheap meal coming from? Check your pantry.
  • Hump Day shopping can net grocery deals coming and going.


Everybody has to eat, and you want to be able to do it well without going into debt. Following these simple tips for creating tasty and nutritious meals without burning your budget should help both you and your wallet stay full.



1. Get in the know

The first step to producing impressive and healthy meals is knowing how to cook them.

One way to improve your cuisine expertise without spending too much cash is to grab a couple of friends and hit a local cooking class. Sites such as Groupon and LivingSocial promote classes where, for around $49, you can easily up your cooking game.

You can also opt for the digital route with online classes, including those offered by Foodist Kitchen. The enrollment price for their program is $99, but for this you get 30 days of online instruction. That amounts to only $3.30 per day, less than a grande latte at Starbucks.

Or perhaps your social media feed is full of hunger-inducing meal-prep videos? If you don’t want to commit to, or pay for, a class, these quick and simple clips are a great – and free – source of gastronomic inspiration. The ingredients featured are typically quite basic, allowing you to create satisfying meals while also enjoying a less expensive grocery bill.

Chef’s Choice:


2. Take advantage of coupons

The thought of taking the time to clip paper coupons or search for online deals may not be appealing to the aspiring amateur chef, but the potential for savings is enough to make this a worthy investment. Online coupon sites offering great grocery deals include Grocery Coupon Network, Coolsavings.com and LivingRichWithCoupons.com. If you save enough through this method, you may be better able to afford the occasional splurge – such as that pricey bottle of wine or the fancy truffles – that can make for an extra-special mealtime.


3. Prune your pantry

The best way to save money on meals is to cook with ingredients that are already in your pantry, and may have been sitting there for a while. These recipes with basic ingredients use common pantry items, range between $1 and $3 per serving and are both inspiring and simple.

Food for thought: A colleague, friend or relative may have duplicates of some of your pantry items that they would part with in exchange for a home-cooked meal.


4. Buy, freeze, repeat

Fruits and vegetables are, of course, the staples of a healthy diet and tasty recipes, but they can quickly go bad if we don’t use what we buy right away. Tossing wilted vegetables and brown fruit is a real waste of good food – and money. So try freezing the leftover produce you won’t use again soon.

Onions, parsley, tomatoes and garlic are all freezable foodstuffs, so buy them at their freshest, use what you want to immediately, then try these quick tips for freezing fruits and vegetables to keep you well-stocked and saving money year-round.


5. Buy in bulk

Perhaps you really enjoy a particular pasta dish you recently learned to create. Why not buy up a large amount of that linguini now, knowing you’ll definitely use it in the future?

Buying certain food items in bulk may feel overwhelming, but doing this can really help you save over the long term (as long as the food can keep for a long while), through a reduction in cost-per-unit.

To figure out the cost-per-unit calculation, you’ll look at the cost of the item, then divide it by the quantity. So, for example, if a 15-ounce jar of organic tomato sauce costs $2.50, the cost-per-ounce is $0.16. If a 67-ounce jar costs $8.50, that’s only $0.12 per ounce. So, while you would be laying out more overall for the larger jar, you’d also be paying far less in cost-per-ounce. In that case, it’s probably worth it to spend more now in order to save more over the long haul.

Stores including Costco and Sam’s Club, both of which require membership, also specialize in bulk grocery sales.


6. Check the calendar

You may not think it matters which day you go food shopping, but it can make a difference to your wallet. Data has shown that the best day to fill your grocery cart is Wednesdays . That’s because Wednesday is the day many new savings deals will launch, and grocery stores will often still honor last week’s sales on that day as well.

Wednesdays are also a good day to snag fresh stock, as most stores get deliveries on Mondays or Tuesdays. So if you’re thinking of going food shopping on a Tuesday, try to wait just one more day.


What you can do next

Chowing on a budget doesn't have to mean skimping on good food—if you know where to look, when to shop and how to put it all together.


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