"It’s A Whole Delicious Meal For Literal Pennies": Budget Shoppers Are Sharing Cost-Effective Ingredients And Cooking Strategies That Everyone Should Know About
It's 2023, y'all. Stop overpaying for groceries.
Cooking at home instead of eating out at restaurants (or ordering in) can be one of the easiest ways to save money. But these days, it's not always simple to stick to a budget with grocery prices soaring higher and higher. The good news? I recently learned a ton when I wrote about the foods that budget shoppers swear by, and the best part is that even more members of the BuzzFeed Community chimed in with your favorite ingredients, methods, and meals for keeping your food expenses as low as possible.
These are some of the most helpful responses. And if you have a tip or two of your own that you'd like to add, scroll down to the bottom of this post to leave a comment.
1. "One of the ways I save on my grocery bills as a one-person household is by storing leftovers in single-serving containers. Doing it that way makes it a lot more likely that I'll actually eat them, so I'm getting my money's worth out of the food that I buy. Part of it is just being able to grab a container and stick it in the microwave with no extra steps; it also just works better for my brain to be like, 'OK, I'll be eating beef stew twice more this week' rather than, 'There's a big tub of beef stew in the fridge.'"
2. "If you eat pork, know that pork chops have been considerably cheaper than any cut of chicken in the US this year. Chicken prices are finally coming back down, but for most of 2022, it was a minimum of $4 per pound for anything while various cuts of pork could be had for $2 a pound."
3. "Buying frozen broccoli instead of fresh. I’ve been eating from a huge $4 bag of broccoli for months. Broccoli and penne with some butter and garlic and Parm is such a cheap comfort food for me."
5. "One cheap staple that I live by is canned tomatoes. It's around 36 cents a can here, and they can be used in so many different types of sauces with just a few switches of herbs and spices: Bolognese, chili, ratatouille, enchiladas, soups, curries, chicken stew, cottage pie. The possibilities are endless."
6. "This is my cheap, delicious tuna sandwich for people who hate tuna salad: Lightly sauté oil-packed tuna with smoked paprika and garlic with a generous amount of olive oil. Season to taste with salt and pepper and put on toasted bread. Ah-mazing."
7. "Know what freezes well — like butter, bread, and low-moisture veggies like peppers and onions — and what doesn't. In the latter category: dairy products and produce with a high water content, like lettuces or cucumbers. It's the best way to figure out how you can stock your freezer with helpful items when they're on sale."
8. "Instead of adding wine to spaghetti sauce, I use a squirt of grape jelly. It does the exact same thing as wine, but it's cheaper — and also safe for recovering alcoholics."
9. "Cream cheese. Whether in a tub or box, name brand or not. It's so damn versatile. Leave some out, mix in powdered sugar and cinnamon, then spread on toast or dip a cookie into it. Directly from the tub, you can spread it on anything and pair it with fruits and jam, or if you're more savory, avocado and sun-dried tomatoes. Dump salsa on it and you've got a dip. Cream cheese is EVERYTHING."
10. "You can save money by buying popcorn kernels instead of microwavable bags. Just pour 2/3 of a cup of kernels into a brown paper bag with the top rolled down a touch, and microwave for three minutes or until the popping slows. Bam! Air-popped popcorn, no additives or toppings unless you choose to add them. It's cheaper and more environmentally friendly."
11. "If you have the space for it, always buy your meat at Costco and freeze it into individual or meal-sized portions. Bonus points if you marinate it beforehand, too."
12. "Canned chickpeas! This is my favorite chickpea recipe: 1 can of chickpeas, drained, 3 tablespoons olive oil, 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, and salt and pepper to taste. Roast the chickpeas for 15 minutes at 400ºF, then remove the pan and add the olive oil, cheese, salt, and pepper. Mix everything together, and bake for another 10 minutes. Delicious!"
13. "I’ve been buying a whole chicken for $6 or so and using it for a dinner. Then, my husband makes sandwiches for several days from the meat. At the very end, I even get to make a delicious chicken stock. Considering how expensive lunch meat has gotten these days, it’s a great deal!"
14. "Turkey. When it's super cheap over the holidays, I buy a lot. A LOT. As in, I have six to break down and deal with, and it will make up 90% of all the meat my family will eat until spring. Every bit gets used, from rendering out the fat to cook with to making a bone broth for soups or just sipping on. The meat gets frozen so all I have to do is cook the veggies and a grain on nights when I'm tired."
"If you are gonna break one down and freeze it, make yourself a trash bag poncho. Trust me. It might make you feel like Dexter, but it makes the process a lot easier to face."
15. "Whole carrots in bulk are incredibly cheap and can be easily shredded, cooked down, and added to so many different dishes — they amp up the nutritional value and fill you up at the same time. Think tacos, chili, spaghetti...anything, really!"
16. "To stretch ground beef, which is getting so expensive, I’ll add two cups of lentils for every pound of beef I use. It's a great way to 'double your meat' while adding a lot of fiber and other nutrients — and save money, of course. Add them in right after you cook your beef so the lentils soak up all the meaty flavors, and you seriously can’t tell. I’ve tested it on many a meat lover in my household."
17. "Stop buying jars of pre-made spaghetti sauce and make your own at home: A can of crushed tomatoes with garlic and herbs is much cheaper and very yummy."
18. "The next time you need a recipe to feed the family, consider a baked pasta dish. No matter what the recipe is, it'll make a whole lot of food and last for several days, depending on how many people you have to feed. I recently made a baked spaghetti dish that lasted for three days in my house, and the whole thing cost less than 20 bucks."
19. "Don’t sleep on TORTILLAS, y’all! They're much cheaper than bread, more versatile, and have a much longer shelf life. Pair with whatever ingredients you have on hand for wraps, burritos, tacos, quesadillas, and chilaquiles. You can also cut them up and fry them for chips with that restaurant flavor."
20. "Definitely cottage cheese. For me, personally, I like to mix in chopped tomatoes and use it as a dip for potato chips. My husband thought this was so gross, and now, it’s one of his favorite snacks."
21. "Both oatmeal and rice pudding can be prepared ahead of time, even several days if it's kept in the fridge. They're easy to microwave for a warm, comforting winter breakfast, and they're much cheaper than cold cereals, too. I make two or three days' worth at a time and portion it out in individual containers."
22. "Instant ramen is fantastic. Throw that cringe flavor packet out and boil it in some chicken or beef broth, season with a bit of sesame oil, garlic, and soy sauce, add leftover meat or veg if you have it around, top with a fried egg and some sriracha, and it’s a whole delicious meal for literal pennies. College dorm food grew up!"
What's your favorite budget-friendly meal, ingredient, or cooking hack? Tell me about it in the comments below, or if you'd prefer to stay anonymous, feel free to submit through this Google form.
Note: Submissions have been edited for length and/or clarity.