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How to Cut Your Cooking Costs

Tips and tricks for saving money in the kitchen
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For many people, cutting back on their grocery budgets can be an overwhelming experience. They know they're spending too much, but don't know where to begin to cut. Often, they fear that they will deprive themselves and their children if they become frugal. The good news is that there are ways to have your cake, eat it and save money at the same time.

Start Small

Cooking frugally is like changing your diet. You need to learn gradually how to do it. Don't expect that you will get your food bill down to $150 for four people in the first month if you are spending $600 a month right now.

Try cutting just $25 or $50 a month. Even if you cut back only $50 a month, you will save $600 a year. If you save just $1 a day, that's $365 a year! You can then apply that $365 a year to paying off your credit cards. At 21 percent interest, you will save more than $70 a year. This will eventually cause a snowball effect since the more you pay off, the less you pay to interest. When you pay less to interest, you have more each month to apply to paying off your overall debt. This means that as you pay off the debt, the rate at which you can pay it off increases.

Money-Saving Ideas

  • Before you shop, take a tour through your pantry and your refrigerator. Be organized! Don't buy what's already hiding in your kitchen.
  • If you're a fan of coupons, remember this: It's not what you save, it's what you spend. If you save 30 cents on something you wouldn't ordinarily buy anyway, you haven't really saved anything.
  • A typical fruit item is significantly larger than one serving. Most people would be just as happy eating a small apple as eating a large one – so buy smaller fruits! You will save money by the pound.
  • This month, try two meatless meals a week – or one, if you're a diehard meat fan.
  • Make simple meals. One-dish meals can contain your meat, your vegetable and your bread.
  • Drink water for your meals. If your family is used to drinking milk, juice or pop for every meal then start by cutting juice from one meal or snack a day and drinking only water. After you get used to this, cut from another meal until you drink only water for meals and a glass of juice or milk at snack time. You can also try allowing one glass of juice at meal times and then water after it is gone. You can save more than $500 a year by cutting just one glass of juice per person per day for a family of four.
  • Don't assume homemade is cheaper. If you get a very good deal on chocolate chips and ingredients for candies, it is cheaper to make them than buying them pre-made. Make sure you do the calculations though! If you don't purchase them on sale, homemade candies can be more expensive than candies purchased at the store.
  • Stop wasting food. Give young children small portions. They can always have more if they are still hungry. Give them a half a glass of juice and a half a sandwich so you don't waste uneaten food. Put food in the refrigerator right after the meal so it doesn't spoil. Use leftovers for lunches, in other dishes or frozen in one-portion sizes for a quick meal.
  • Don't buy everything at one store. Prices vary greatly from one store to the next. Go to different stores to buy only their sale items. You will save more than the cost of your gas. It usually only takes half an hour to 45 minutes per store to get the items that are on sale including driving time. If you save a minimum of $20 to $30 per trip, it is like "earning" $40 to $60 an hour. If I save $60 spending one hour going to two different stores, it is five extra hours my husband does not have to work for us to pay for that same food purchased at the regular price. I would rather have him home with us.
  • Stop buying things like toaster pastries and breakfast bars for breakfast. Eat oatmeal, pancakes, granola and fruit instead.
  • Don't assume that bulk is cheaper. Compare cost by the ounce or pound.

Remember, cooking frugally is a mindset. You have to change your cooking and eating habits. Don't get discouraged if one idea fails. Try another one.

Most people don't think they can live the frugal life and still be comfortable. I feed my family of four on $125 month. Over five years, when my husband earned an average of $22,000 per year, we paid off a $20,000 debt. When cutting your grocery bill, it's the little things that add up.

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