Cooking on the cheap: 23 tips that will save you massive amounts of money

Eating is more than just taking in food. It starts with the shopping, continues with the preparation and culminates in the finished dish. In all steps you can save a lot of money without having to accept a hint of quality loss.

Cheap Cooking: The Article podcast episode:

>For years I have been cooking daily . What I have learned in the process: There’s no one money-saving tip that will lighten your wallet by orders of magnitude. Rather, it is a hodgepodge of tips and habits that add up to make a significant difference in the wallet.

In the post, we discuss my 23 best tricks to save money on cooking and shopping. Number six is my favorite.

Saving money on cooking is easier than many think. Cheap cooking can be done without much effort and without sacrificing quality. The picture shows a flambeed pineapple with coconut chips

Flambeed pineapple with coconut chips

I. Go shopping full

Maybe you feel the same way? When my stomach growls, I buy lots of superfluous stuff. Chips, pretzel sticks and crunchy mice end up in the shopping cart in unhealthy quantities. My wife adds chocolate and ice cream ..

Meanwhile, we preferably do our bulk shopping on Saturday mornings, well satiated after breakfast. I’ve been able to curb my consumption of snack foods significantly this way. This saves money and keeps the fat pads in check.

By the way, we gain time by buying in bulk, since we rarely go shopping during the week.

II. Buying own brands at a reasonable price

A simple money-saving tip is to prefer low-priced private labels. So far, I can’t see a loss of quality compared to expensive branded products.

In the long run, it makes a significant difference whether I pay 40 to 70 cents for a pack of pasta or over a euro. I estimate we save a triple-digit amount a year on private label alone.

III. Buy bulk

When shopping, I like to go for bulk packs. Admittedly, from time to time I incur the displeasure of my wife. There is simply no room in our cupboards for a 10-kilo sack of potatoes. And so it lies "well hidden" in the back corner of the kitchen. But financially it is simply worth it ..

IV. Always keep an eye on the price per kilo

When I compare prices while shopping, I always face the same challenge:

The different package sizes complicate matters immensely.

Therefore, it is useful to always keep an eye on the prices per kilo. If the exact conversion is difficult, a rough estimate is usually enough to uncover cheating packages.

V. Pay attention to the expiration date

If I don’t know exactly when I’m going to process a food, I make sure it has the longest possible shelf life. Usually everything that is about to expire is in the front row, so it pays to reach into the second or third row.

If I want to process something promptly, I also do it the other way around once in a while. Often products that have reached their official shelf life are significantly reduced in price. Especially for foods that storage does little damage to, this is a good deal.

I prefer to buy perishable food like minced meat at the counter.

VI. Sharpening knives myself

Number five is by far my favorite money-saving tip for the kitchen.

Little annoys me more when cooking than dull knives. Therefore I sharpen them regularly. First and foremost I use a>sharpening steel* made of metal. The edge of a knife is bent to the side over time during use. With the sharpening steel I can straighten the edge again and the knife keeps its sharpness longer.

When I can’t sharpen a knife with a sharpening steel, I use sharpening stones, working with three different grits. Grinding removes material from the blade to remove bumps and build up a sharp edge. Good knives can keep their sharpness for up to two years if a sharpening steel is used and the dishwasher is avoided.

Sharpening knives myself has four benefits:

– Safe working, because sharp knives allow precise cutting (with blunt knives you slip off the food faster)
– You don’t have to buy new knives all the time, which saves money
– You don’t have to take your knives to the grinder, which saves money
– Last but not least, it is more fun to work with sharp knives than with blunt ones

For me, sharpening knives has become a hobby. I enjoy the craft and it is an integral part of my kitchen work.

It’s understandable if you don’t like grinding stones. The alternative is to go to a professional grinder. The cost is somewhere between 15 and 20 euros per blade. This only makes sense if you have high quality knives and use a sharpening steel. Otherwise the sharpness is short lived. The handling of a sharpening steel is simple. You can find nice instructions on YouTube.

My favorite knife in the kitchen is my>chef’s knife from Wusthof* that I use for almost all applications. For the sharpening steel I chose a cheap version, which is also from Wusthof. So far I am very satisfied. With my two sharpening stones I have also resorted to inexpensive variants, where I am particularly satisfied with my>BERGKVIST sharpening stone*. My stone for the "coarse" with 400 grain size, however, I can not recommend without reservation.

VII. Eat meat consciously

Meat consumption is a complex issue. I like to eat meat and am far from being a vegetarian.

You can undoubtedly save money with meat from factory farming, but I take a different approach. I prefer to use organic products. For this I buy smaller quantities. Whether I cook the chili con carne with 300 instead of 600 grams of minced meat makes hardly any difference in taste.

In addition to reducing the quantity, I also want to work with meat in the most productive way possible. With chicken, for example, this means getting as many meals out of it as possible. In addition to several servings of noodle soup, several meals of fricassee are created at the same time.

VIII. Making mayonnaise from the whole egg

It always annoyed me that all recipes wanted to explain to me that I could only use the egg yolk for mayo. The egg white is then mostly spoiled unused. At some point I just tried using one whole egg instead of two yolks. And lo and behold … since then, the mayo succeeds every time and is, in my opinion, tastier than before.

The saving is only in the cent range, but it is not accompanied by any restrictions.

IX. Replace butter with margarine

Our economics professor liked to argue that margarine and butter are substitutive goods. What sounds pompous simply means that the goods are interchangeable with each other.

A packet of margarine costs me only 79 cents, while I have to pay 1.79 euros for butter. Therefore I use much more margarine than butter. The difference in taste is acceptable in most cases.

X. Buy kitchen herbs that grow back

For the next money-saving tip, let’s harness the powers of nature and simply let our kitchen herbs grow back. Ideally, they’ll sprout right in your backyard. If you don’t have a garden (like me), you can buy herb pots. This saves money and ensures that the herbs always come fresh to the food.

XI. Make your own breadcrumbs from old rolls

The savings from this tip are manageable. But it helps to avoid waste. Before buns go into the trash can, you can dry them until they are hard. Then you can use a square grater* to turn them into breadcrumbs.

XII. Avoid useless ready-made products

I can understand if you want to do as little work as possible. But with some finished products it leaves me speechless. The other day I stumbled across "roux" in the package …

Honestly, all you have to do for roux is melt butter and stir in flour. With induction stove, this is a two-minute second effort (that’s counting the trip to the fridge to get the butter …).

Such ready-made products are money thrown away.

At the top of the list of superfluous products: roux from the package. You can cook more cheaply by simply making it yourself

At the top of the list of superfluous products: roux from the package

XIII. Vegetable broth is produced by itself during cooking

In recipes you regularly come to the step "and now we pour in 500 ml of vegetable stock". As if by magic, the cook then suddenly has vegetable stock at hand. Which begs the question, how is broth just going to fall into our laps …?

Making extra broth is costly, so often resort to bouillon cubes and powders. And it works without a chemistry set. For most hot meals, a vegetable side dish is cooked anyway. And pea, bean or cauliflower water is nothing more than vegetable stock, which is ideal for sauces and makes stock cubes superfluous.

XIV. Put a lid on the pot

Putting a lid on the pot saves energy and prevents unnecessary steam from building up. Especially the latter is a real plus in spartan kitchens like ours without an exhaust hood.

Cooking on the cheap: 23 tips that will save you massive amounts of money

Exclusive: The financial kitchen newsletter with background texts and our free e-book.

XV. Adjust the size of the pot to the size of the stove

This tip also shows how simple inexpensive cooking is.

I make sure that the diameter of the pot is at least equal to that of the stove top. Otherwise a lot of heat and energy is lost.

XVI. Cook with as little water as possible

If you bring a lot of water to the boil, you need a lot of electricity. If you bring little water to a boil, you need little power. That’s why I always use as little water as possible to cook vegetables and co. to cook. If the potatoes are just barely covered, that’s quite enough.

XVII. Cooking larger quantities

Cooking larger quantities. Then I can take meals with me to work and don’t need to buy anything. In addition, my wife has to cook less often and has more time for our son.

XVIII. Storage: get decent containers

If you cook larger quantities, you need containers for storage. I got myself>glass boxes*. This has the advantage that I can see what’s in the fridge. So nothing gets forgotten and I throw away less.

XIX. Soup: combine broth and chowder only on the plate

When I cook a delicious broth for a noodle soup, I want to eat from it as often as possible.

I used to cook the soup noodles directly in the finished broth. The problem is that the noodles soak up most of the broth and don’t benefit from it taste-wise. That’s why I switched to cooking the noodles separately in salted water. Broth and noodles only touch each other directly on the plate in our home. How to get significantly more portions out.

XX. Use leftovers for stews

Leftovers make excellent stews. Leftovers from Sunday’s roast are just as great a basis for a lentil stew as the too-much-bought peppers. So you kill three birds with one stone:

– You throw away less
– You save money
– You have something delicious to eat

XXI. The cheapest dishes are often the tastiest

It doesn’t have to be decadent on the plate to please your taste buds. Often the cheapest dishes taste the best. I love to eat potatoes with cottage cheese and mustard sauce with egg. Especially the latter has a reputation as "poor people food".

You can find nice ideas for inexpensive dishes here, for example:

XXII. Grate cheese yourself

This money saving tip is for me an expression of food culture. For me it is something special to grate cheese fresh on my pasta instead of tearing open the plastic package.

At the same time we save money since we buy hard cheese in one piece. Grated cheese tends to go moldy in the refrigerator if not used promptly. On the other hand, we can eat our hard cheese for several months. The one-time investment in a cheese grater* is always worthwhile.

XXIII. Storing bread in a romaine pot

Recently we bought a>roaster pot * to store our bread. The effect we achieve is amazing.

When we still kept our bread in baker’s bags, it no longer tasted fresh after just one day and slowly became hard. The bread stays fresh for days thanks to the Roman pot. The prerequisite is that you buy your bread in one piece.

When buying a Roman pot, make sure it has enough room for a whole loaf of bread.

Cooking on the cheap: The resume

Delicious food and saving money are not mutually exclusive. On the contrary – often both harmonize wonderfully and are easy to implement.

Cooking on the cheap: 23 tips that will save you massive amounts of money

Exclusive: The financial kitchen newsletter with background texts and our free e-book.

The list of tips for cheap cooking and saving money on shopping is certainly not exhaustive. I am curious what you have for saving tips. Write it to me in the comments.

Your financial chef
Christoph Geiler

*The links are affiliate links. With every purchase I receive a small commission.

Portrait of the author of this article

As a financial advisor I am specialized in financial planning, investment and retirement planning. As a financial chef I do conceptual work and create content. In my free time I swing the wooden spoon, do sports and play with my son.

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13 comments

Hello, really good tips!
You can create great things even with little money! I look forward to trying the recipes.
Especially with a family it is impossible to manage money well in every corner. I myself had some problems making ends meet back then. Familiar standards from life without children and suddenly my two sweet Frida and Johanna (twins). The two were a gift but my handling of money had to change drastically.. I tried it alone first.. unfortunately in vain. Through the recommendation of a friend, I came across Matthias Eilers. Has helped me a lot. If you also need help with money management here is the link:removed

Greetings from Dresden

Hello! Thanks for the many ideas. The suggestion to cook noodles and soup separately is something I will certainly take to heart in the future when I cook for several days. I also keep it so that I no longer have to have everything available. When the Gouda has just been eaten, the Edam has to hold out until there is new Gouda again. So less leftovers are formed. I also buy directly from our local farmers whenever possible. Although not always organic, but regional and seasonal. You can also save quite a bit of money with seasonal cooking.

Many greetings from the Palatinate, Dagmar

I think margarine is ok, the state of research is so not clear…

Nice (and tasty :D) tips!

Hello all,
many thanks for the many saving tips. We also try to buy cheap. In my opinion, you should also try to buy food from sustainable cultivation. The farmers/producers should already be able to live from their work and not (have to) destroy our environment in the process. So we try more and more to use regional organic and fairtrade products. I wish more people would think about the manufacturing conditions and not only look at the price. Especially the people who can afford it.
Best regards from Sellerhausen,
Francis

Hello Francis,
I see that similarly and try to implement it. I must admit, however, that we still have room for improvement there ..
Greetings from Leipzig
Christoph

Here is a tip, which perhaps causes less discussion and brings people closer to nature. Have fun searching and searching. https://mundraub.org/

The production of margarine involves three fundamentally different steps:
The refining, d. h. purification of the oil obtained; modification, d.h. the transformation of the refined raw material into the technically suitable form; and the recombination with additives to a typical imitation. In principle, this sequence applies to all imitations, novel foods or other products of food design.
The most important oilseed of the Germans today is the soybean. It is peeled, crushed and extruded to denature the protein. This facilitates the subsequent leaching with hexane (light petroleum). The gasoline-oil mixture is distilled, the hexane reused, the crude oil refined:
– de-lecithination: part of the lecithin is separated with the addition of hot water
– the degumming: with phosphoric acid accompanying substances like proteins, carbohydrates and phosphatides are removed
– deacidification: hot caustic soda is used to remove the free fatty acids
– bleaching: activated carbon or bleaching earth binds all coloring substances such as chlorophyll, carotene or gossypol
– deodorization: with steam, at approx. 250°C, it is possible to separate practically all the remaining accompanying substances.
This "chemically purified" raw material must now be solidified for margarine, because all vegetable fats from our latitudes are naturally liquid. Three different processes are used to modify the fat:
– hardening; nickel catalysts are used to crack the unsaturated bonds of the fatty acids under pressure and provide them with hydrogen. During this process, numerous new compounds are formed, whose health significance z. T. unexplained. z. T. doubtful is.
– transesterification: the fat is boiled with sodium alcoholate to break it down into glycerol and free fatty acids. Then glycerin and fatty acids are again usammengesetzt. By controlling this process, the properties of the finished fat can be adjusted quite precisely.
– the fractionation: a natural oil consists of a mixture of different fat components (triglycerides) with different melting points. Through the application of cold, evtl. under washing and solvent, components with high melting points can be separated from those with lower melting points. High-melting fractions are used for margarine.
Subsequently, the solidified fat is subjected to a post-refining process in order to separate the chemicals used again. The three procedures are often used in combination. For example, one recipe for baker’s puff margarines is: harden palm oil, harden peanut oil, fractionate soybean oil, and transesterify these three components together with beef tallow.
The recombination to the household margarine:
Now the hour of the Food designer strikes. He must ensure that the end product looks and tastes like real butter.
– Adding suitable emulsifiers enables the formation of a spreadable fat-water mixture that does not splatter even when fried in a pan.
– Then, by means of the dye carotene, the paste is given the former golden-yellow complexion of summer butter;
– Flavorings with a buttery or nutty appearance, acids and table salt make it seem tastier than real butter.
– With protein additives, you get the typical foaming and browning of butter in the pan.
– Antioxidants, synergists and occasionally preservatives provide the necessary shelf life
If you now still call magarine healthy, you can’t be helped.
Source(s): : "Cheers meal! Sick through healthy nutrition" by Udo Pollmer, Andrea Fock, Ulrike Gonder and Karin Haug. Publishing house Kiepenhauer& Witsch, Cologne. 1. Edition 1996, p. 91-93). The reference mentioned in the text is: "Bockisch M, Nahrungsfette und -ole". Stuttgart 1993"

Hello Stefan,
thanks for the excerpt. I will deal with the topic more intensively as soon as I have time.
For the future I ask you for a more respectful coexistence. Sentences like "If you still call Magarine healthy, you can’t be helped." have lost nothing on my blog, neither with opposite nor other commentators opposite.

Best regards from Leipzig
Christoph

But this is part of the article, not mine. From me is only "Guten Appetit". The article addresses the misconception that there is healthy or unhealthy food.

all clear. When writing, misunderstandings are bound to happen … Thanks for the correction.

Best regards from Leipzig
Christoph

Rather spend the 1€ for butter more – margarine contains trans fats

thanks for the hint. Do you have literature references to the topic?
The topic is discussed very controversially and it probably also depends strongly on what kind of margarine is bought. I will probably change from the normal ALSAN margarine to the organic ALSAN. No hardening takes place here, which prevents trans fatty acids from forming and the price difference to the "non-organic variant" is also not so dramatic.

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