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12 Money-Saving Tips All New Cooks Should Know

Because cooking at home can be both delicious and budget-friendly.

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A lot of people think that cooking at home is a great way to save money, but that's not always true. Between the cost of the groceries and the food waste you end up with, it can actually become pretty costly.

But with a few simple tips — like learning how to minimize food waste and repurpose your scraps — you can turn cooking at home into a fun and budget-friendly hobby.

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Here are twelve thrifty cooking tips that'll save you some serious money:

1. Buy your most-used grocery items in bulk to avoid paying more for excess packaging.

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Buying groceries in bulk is often cheaper than buying them in smaller quantities. For dry storage items that don't go bad easily (like rice, pasta, and canned goods), purchasing in bulk is a great way to shed a few dollars off your grocery bill and make sure you always have staples on hand to cook with. You can either shop the bulk section in your grocery store, or simply opt to buy bigger packages of items — just check that the price per ounce tag confirms that you're actually saving money.

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2. Try meal prepping. It'll help you utilize the same ingredients in multiple ways so you don't end up buying more than you need.

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Meal prepping is a great way to look ahead at what you want to cook and see if there are any overlapping ingredients. Brown rice, for example, can be used in a stir-fry, a soup, or tossed in a salad to bulk it up — but you might not have realized that unless you planned out your week. Try searching for recipes with overlapping ingredients and give meal prepping a try. It'll prevent you from cooking recipes with entirely different ingredient lists that'll end up costing you a ton of money.

See more: 16 Practical Tips For Meal Prepping For One Person

3. Turn a budget-friendly rotisserie chicken into multiple meals...

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A great way to save some money while cooking is to utilize the budget-friendly (and always delicious) grocery store rotisserie chicken. You can easily turn one chicken into several meals ranging from soup, to pasta, to stir-frys, and they are usually less than $10 and can add a boost of protein to any recipe. Sure, using store-bought chicken is a cooking shortcut, but sometimes small shortcuts can save a ton of money in the long run.

See more: 24 Easy Meals You Can Make With Rotisserie Chicken

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4. Avoid processed produce like diced onions or cut fruit. It's usually more expensive than whole produce and not nearly as fresh.

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Instead just opt for whole fruits and veggies and cut them yourself. You can usually get a lot more out of them and at a fraction of the cost.

Pro tip: While it's generally best to avoid processed produce (simply to save yourself some money), they can come in handy if you wouldn't end up using the whole item (like an entire watermelon) — so do what's best for you.

5. Learn a few simple recipes that transform food scraps into delicious meals...

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Restaurant chefs make use of everything — from potato skins to broccoli stalks — and you should too. Instead of thinking of them as garbage, think of them as a challenge. Parmesan cheese rinds can be saved and used to flavor stock, and citrus peels can be dried and steeped into liquids for a bright flavor, so instead of throwing them out simply research if there's another use for them.

See more: Get a recipe for roasted broccoli stalks.

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6. Save your veggie scraps in Ziploc baggies and stash them in the freezer to make homemade stock with.

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For random veggie scraps that you can't find a use for, stock is always the answer. Whenever you cut veggies, throw the scraps into a Ziploc bag and stash it in the freezer. Once the bag is full, make a homemade stock and use it in soups, braises, and sauces. It'll prevent you from having to spend money on store-bought stock — and it'll taste way better, too. A true win-win.

See more: How To Make Vegetable Broth With Veggie Scraps

7. Don't be afraid of cooking with frozen fruits and veggies.

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Frozen fruits and veggies are often significantly cheaper than fresh ones and are great to use in a variety of recipes. Soups, jams, and braises are all prime recipes for using frozen produce — and once you become comfortable cooking with them, you'll learn which recipes you can use them in without compromising the flavor or texture.

See more: 13 Healthy And Fast Dinners You Can Make With Frozen Veggies

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8. Store fresh salad greens and delicate herbs with paper towels so they don't go to waste.

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Fresh greens and herbs go bad quickly, but there are ways to extend their shelf life so you don't end up throwing them out. A simple trick is to store them with paper towels to absorb any excess moisture that would otherwise make them go bad. For salad greens, store them in an airtight container with a paper towel on the top and bottom. For fresh herbs, roll them in a paper towel and store them in a Ziploc baggie.

See more: Learn how to properly store herbs.

9. Learn how to make a handful of delicious vegetarian recipes and aim to cook less meat.

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Meat is often the most expensive part of a home-cooked meal, so by choosing to eliminate it you are almost automatically guaranteed to save money. Aim to cook one meal a week without using any meat, then bump it up to more if you're up for it.

See more: Get a recipe for curried chickpeas with spinach and check out 14 more vegetarian recipes that won't break the bank.

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10. Make a mental list of what ingredients are worth splurging on, and which are good no matter what.

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Once you become comfortable cooking, you'll know which ingredients you can buy for cheap, and which are worth investing a bit more money. Canned beans are all pretty much the same quality, but canned tomatoes can range from watery and bland to sweet and flavorful. Keep track of which ingredients are worth splurging on and which don't make a difference, then opt for the cheaper option if the cost doesn't justify the flavor.

11. If you notice that your fresh veggies are about to go bad, cut them up and stash them in the freezer.

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If you find yourself with veggies that are about to go bad, just cut them, place them in Ziploc bags, and freeze them. This will help preserve them until you're ready to use them and make sure you don't end up wasting a ton of produce.

Pro tip: To prevent cut vegetables from freezing together into one solid block, lay the pieces out in a single layer on a parchment-lined tray and freeze them. All you have to do next is transfer the frozen pieces into a Ziploc bag!

See more: How To Freeze Fruits And Vegetables The Right Way

12. Give your leftovers a new life.

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Cooking at home means you'll inevitably end up with some leftovers, so instead of eating the same thing over and over again, repurpose them in new and exciting ways. Try serving them with a new sauce, or tossing them into a completely different dish. Think creatively so you don't get bored and end up buying more groceries just because you don't want to eat the same thing again.

See more: 21 Recipes That Will Completely Transform Boring Leftovers

Looking for more money-saving tips? Check out these posts:

12 Expert Tips For Saving Money On Your Grocery Bill

I Tried 6 Money-Saving Hacks And Here's What Actually Worked

10 Seriously Useful Money Tips That Everyone Can Use

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