One of the things that Oliver & I absolutely adore doing together is cooking. We love to plan out recipes, grocery shop, cook together, pair our meats with wines, and evaluate new meals for our collection of “married people” meals. Ever since the wedding (which I can proudly say we cooked quite a bit on our honeymoon), we have noticed a decline in our budget when it comes to groceries. This, of course, meant we had to start getting creative with our cooking adventures. Here’s a few tips that we have gathered (both during our time dating and marriage) when it comes to saving money in the kitchen.
Don’t buy things you can make
Sure, it’s tempting to buy the more expensive items that require less prep time, but sometimes that’s where your money can seriously be wasted. Here’s a few examples:
One of my favorite snacking foods is carrots with hummus, so I usually buy baby carrots in order to easily fit in snack bags. Typically I spend $3.50 or more on a bag of baby carrots, which at the time I figured was worth the investment. On the contrary, this week I bought a bag of full size carrots for $0.99 instead. Sure this means peeling and cutting the carrots into sticks myself, but that extra five minutes of prep saves me almost $2.50 a week (which means saving $10 a month for 4 bags, or $120 in a year).
Depending on where you shop, a bag of Kind Peanut Butter Granola Clusters can cost upwards of $5.50, maybe more. For a couple on a serious budget, it’s easy to look at that kind of price and be like “yup, I definitely don’t need it.” Why is granola so much money? Never fear, because I have the perfect recipe for you right here. I’m obsessed with making my own granola lately that I want to start experimenting with granola bars and different types of mixes. You have nothing to lose, just try it!
One tradition that we took from Oliver’s side of the family is ending every Sunday night with a huge bowl of popcorn for dinner. It’s become one of my favorite new traditions as a couple, especially when we pair a yummy bottle of Pinot Noir with it. To be clear, this popcorn isn’t your typical bag in a microwave kind of snack. No, no, Oliver actually makes the popcorn from scratch every Sunday! A bag of popcorn kernels is WAY cheaper than a box, and we get more popcorn out of it anyway. Plus it tastes better, especially the way Oliver makes it. I’ll try to convince him to share his secret on here some day.
The easiest carb I could ever make for a side at dinner is rice, especially when a bag of plain white long grain rice costs less than $2.00 every time. I typically like making Mexican style rice from scratch, and hope to share the recipe soon. But seriously, if you’re looking for an easy side that isn’t as starchy as pasta or bread, buy a bag of rice. Again, you get more bank for your buck when you buy a bag of it.
Chicken/Beef broth (hint, hint, try bouillon squares)
This is another tip I took from Oliver because he’s the one who added Chicken & Beef bouillon squares to our spice cabinet. I give you permission to make fun of me for not knowing what these were at first…basically a bouillon square is a way to create broth from scratch. Bouillon is also great to use in stir fries, casseroles, sauces, and more.
Use recipes with the same type of ingredients each week
Oliver & I meal plan our week through an app called Paprika. This may sound like a promotional plug, but I promise it’s just two customers coming to you with honest experiences. Paprika is perfect for not only storing your recipes, but putting together grocery lists, planning your week in meals, and being able to easily share it across multiple platforms. Basically I can put our grocery list together at work and Oliver can take his phone and grocery shop for us right away. I write all of this because one of the best features is being able to add each recipe’s list of ingredients to your grocery list. It’s satisfying being able to go through that ingredient list and check off every item we already own. So, long story short, try finding recipes that use the same type of ingredients. Have to pick up a block of Cheddar for that pasta recipe? Try finding 2-3 other recipes that use Cheddar as well in order to finish it out! Chose some fresh veggies at the local farmers market? Choose your weekly recipes based on those vegetables! Trust me, it means making your grocery bags a bit smaller and your fridge a heck of a lot more organized.
Choose only 1-2 snacks for each week
Like I wrote earlier, my go-to snack lately has been carrots and hummus. When I’m not feeling the hummus though, my second go-to is apple with peanut butter. When I’m with Oliver we usually pull out the chips & salsa. Any who, I write this because it saves you a lot of time, money, and energy when you have go-to snacks that you don’t have to think about. Instead of buying a bunch of junk during each trip and making yourself feel awful about it later, pick out a few healthy snacks for your week that you know will be your go-to when you need something small. Other great ideas include banana and peanut butter, greek yogurt and berries, avocado toast, and slices of sharp cheddar cheese.
Make coffee at home
If you haven’t gathered it yet, Oliver & I are huge coffee people. Being in NYC it is so tempting to want to hit a new cafe or coffee shop and get a fun latte or macchiato every morning, but we have to restrain ourselves. Actually it’s me who has to do the restraining; Oliver loves making his pour-over coffee every morning. It’s a part of his routine! Right after he gets up and showers, he measures out the perfect amount of beans, grinds them fresh, and makes us a small pot of Chemex every morning. It tastes amazing and forces us to spend way less on coffee. Don’t worry, we’re still doing our coffee dates once a week out here in NYC!
Dinners with 4 servings means lunch leftovers
The recipes we tend to gravitate towards usually have a serving size of 3-4, or even 6-8. When we cook, we try to make enough for almost 3 to 4 people. It sounds like a waste, but in reality it actually isn’t. After eating a delicious meal, I pack it up in two smaller containers for the next day’s lunch! One for me to take and heat up at work, one for Oliver to heat up at home before heading to class. It means not going out and spending on lunch every day, which in NYC I have never seen a lunch cost me less than $8.00.
Make your own sweets
Sounds like we're not healthy people, but think about it...when you make your own sweets at home you're actually conscious of how much sugar/oil is being put in your dessert. Plus, making an entire loaf of banana bread at home probably cost you the same amount as buying a small slice of it at your local bakery or Starbucks! For healthier alternatives, you can actually swap out some of those ingredients while baking if that's your style. I'm not saying make dessert all the time, but if you have a sweet tooth and crave chocolate every now and then like me, than make a sweet once in a while at home!