While scrolling through a favorite online frugal forum, I discovered the question, “What are your cheap or frugal-ish cooking shortcuts?” The internet responded by delivering this list of money-saving insights.
1. Get Rice and a Cooker
“Buy a rice cooker and buy rice in bulk. Always make more rice than you initially need so you can use it for fried rice the next day. Drier rice is better than wet or newly cooked rice for making fried rice,” shared one.
“Rice is so cheap, it’s quick and foolproof if you use a rice cooker, and it’s an easy foundation for any dish; for example, I like to add canned tomatoes, herbs, and other vegetables to the cooked rice, and then I eat it as-is. Go to your local Asian markets for the best prices.”
2. Freeze Your Leftovers
Someone added, “I take any extra vegetables and meat leftovers and place them in a container in my freezer. Then, when I have enough, I add it to fried rice or make a vegetable soup.”
“You can also freeze the leftover rice for fried rice. I like to have some on hand for a quick meal,” replied another. Finally, a third said, “Portion your leftovers in single-serving containers. You’re way more likely to eat them if they’re grab-and-go.”
3. Don’t Underestimate Instant Mashed Potatoes
“I use plain potato flakes for a lot of mashed potato applications. A box at the store is anywhere from $0.99- 1.99. It lasts a while. I use it for my Wednesday late work night mashed potato bowl. Instant potato flakes also make a great potato soup.”
“I’ve done cheddar cheese broccoli and baked potato soup. It also helps thicken soups I want creamy but without cream. I waffle mash potato salmon balls, and my prep work is cut in half with a quick add of boiling water to my instant potato flakes.”
“I use it to bread chicken tenderloins and cod and zucchini and bake or air dry to make crunchy chicken tenders and fried fish. It’s excellent, especially on fish,” one person confessed.
4. Buy Plenty of Beans
“Cook a batch of beans or lentils once a week, and keep it in the refrigerator. Then, I add some into a lunch salad, to a quick soup with veggies for a fast dinner, chopped raw vegetables, olives, and vinaigrette scooped onto crackers for lunch—tacos or burritos or burrito bowl meal at some point,” shared one.
“It’s an easy, high-protein, high-fiber, cheap, ready-to-eat meal to make once a week. We cut a lot of our meat dishes with some beans. For example, I use black-eyed peas in my jambalaya. I use (sprouted) lentils in my BBQ or sesame turkey meatloaf.”
5. Use Filling Additives to Stretch Your Meals
“We switched to using barley rather than brown rice where appropriate. It’s more filling, and we can get away with using less. I also roast the barley, make tea, then use the tea barley for a couple of different kinds of snacks,” one explained.
“I do the same thing but with soy, aka textured vegetable protein (the dried one). I buy the packs of small granules and soak them to rehydrate, then add them to ground beef/chicken/turkey, etc., while cooking. It takes on the taste of the meat, and it’s difficult to tell the difference.”
“It helps cut down on meat usage for my family, that’s not bean-friendly. It also can be used to make spaghetti sauce, shepherd’s pie, or any dish that needs meat. Throw in some vegetables for extra fun.”
6. Use Your Ramen
One person exclaimed, “Ramen is the base for a wide variety of meals in a rice cooker! Put the required amount of water in the rice cooker. Next, add frozen vegetables and frozen fish, chicken, beans, or sausage, and some additional spices.”
“Bring the water and other stuff to a boil, add the ramen and seasoning pack, and cook until the ramen is ready. Add grated cheese or instant potatoes for a creamier soup.”
7. Use Everything in Your Pantry
“I just did a freezer and pantry clean out before surgery. I put together 23 meals that only needed to be dumped into a crock pot or instant pot with ingredients I already needed to use. I was excited because it saved me a ton of money knowing I would be out of work for eight weeks to recover,” admitted another.
8. Make Soup With Your Leftovers
“Crockpot soup once a week with anything that’s getting old,” one replied. “It is how we end up not wasting the last couple of potatoes or onions, greens, etc. I make taco soup often with whatever I have. Veggies, any meat or beans, use whatever you have.”
“It turns out different every time but always good. I buy bulk at Sam’s Club because our grocery stores are expensive in this small town, and I freeze anything I can. Bread, rotisserie chicken, even heavy cream. Use silicone muffin tins and freeze them. It’s about a 1/4 c per “muffin.”
9. Save Your Vegetable Scraps
“I keep a big Ziploc bag in the freezer and put veggie scraps in. Ends of onions, carrots, celery sprout parts, squash ends, cauliflower, and broccoli stems and leaves. After cooking a carcass for broth, I will remove it, add the veggie scraps, cook them down, then strain. It makes the broth much richer,” explained one.
10. Repurpose Extra Leftovers
“I do a lot of repurposing. For instance, I’ll make a larger meatloaf and a big pot of pinto beans one night. Then, the next night, I’ll turn the leftovers into chili! Same with baked chicken or a roast.”
“I shredded the meat for tacos the next day. The trick is to make extra! I don’t do it as much now that my kids have grown and left home, but I love seeing how much I can stretch one item.”
We hope you enjoyed this tips list of frugal shortcuts for cutting your grocery budget.
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