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Favorite tips for better, cheaper meals

You've learned how to cook, but can you cut up a whole chicken?

By Karen Datko Nov 9, 2010 10:57AM

This post comes from Jim Wang at partner blog Bargaineering.


Inspired by this post by Eating Well on The Huffington Post, I thought I'd share a few ideas on what we do to save money on food without even noticing.


My No. 1 way to save money is learning how to cook. You might have a hectic schedule and be exhausted at the end of the day, but push yourself to prepare a nice meal. You'll get to enjoy it, expand your knowledge about cooking, and eat better than ordering it from some fast-food place.

You won't be good at it in the beginning, but over time your skills will improve and you'll enjoy it even more.


Use a leftover calendar. The No. 2 tip by Eating Well was to minimize waste. We do this by using a leftover calendar. It's part meal-planning calendar, part leftover calendar because we record what nights we've cooked certain meals. This gives us an idea of which meals are getting close to spoilage. We eat those first, rather than the ones that are closest to the front of the refrigerator shelf.


Learn to butcher a chicken. I'm always amazed when I see chicken breasts for sale at a grocery store for $5 a pound when, right next to them, are oven roasters at 99 cents a pound. Part of the price difference has to do with the cheaper cuts on the chicken, the bones, and the neck and giblets. However, if you learn how to butcher a chicken, you can save yourself a ton of money. You also get lovely bones to make your own stock, which I find to be fun.

Make your own pizza. We love making pizza at home, their No. 5 tip, because it's so easy. We don't make the dough; we cheat and buy it from the grocery store. But we get fresh ingredients and some Don Pepino's pizza sauce to make ours.


We get to control the quality of the ingredients and we get to save a little money, as pizza is really cheap to make. Not only that, but we get piping hot pizza that's right out of the oven prepared exactly the way we like it.


Go almost vegetarian. Their No. 1 tip is to go vegetarian a few nights a week. While we've tried to go this route in the past, it's usually lasted only a short while. Our tip is to try to go heavy on the vegetables and a little lighter on the meat, but still incorporate it into our meals.


We've gone with eggplant dishes cooked with ground pork, which gives us a big portion of eggplant with just a little bit of pork. We've done the same with tofu, green beans, and other vegetables with good success. It's hard to go completely vegetarian, but just a little bit of meat can go a long way.


Grow your own. If you have the room, try growing your own vegetables. The best yielding plant in my experience is the tomato, if you can avoid killing it, and a home-grown tomato tastes entirely different from one you buy at the store. When you let it ripen on the vine, the flavors are far more intense and it'll make the grocery store tomato taste like water. We usually grow tomatoes, a variety of herbs, and some other fun things just to try them out.


Fun tip: I had read that if you chop the ends off scallions and dip them in water until their roots re-grow, you can plant them. I did it on a whim and it actually worked. That won't save you much money, but if you have extra space you aren't using, it's worth trying out just to be as surprised as I was.


Do you have a good money-saving tip for food?


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