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10 Secrets to Fast and Low Cost Meals

Updated on October 18, 2017
Maggie Bonham profile image

MH Bonham is an award-winning author and editor. Bonham is also the author of more than 50 books as well as thousands of articles.

You're out of time and out of money, and yet somehow, you have to cook dinner. Before you reach for that phone and call for takeout, try these tips for saving time and money on meals.

1. Plan Your Meals

Plan your meals and your shopping. If you plan your meals ahead of time, you'll save money by purchasing only the ingredients you need. Choose recipes that are inexpensive to make and have ingredients that are in season or you have on hand.

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2. Make Your Own Stock

Use homemade stock instead of store bought broth or bouillon. This may sound difficult, but making your own stock is easy and cheap instead of buying expensive broth or bouillon. To save time, put your crockpot to use to make your own broth/stock. Put your stock making ingredients: bones, meat, carrots, celery, onions, and water into a crockpot and cook overnight on low. The next day, you'll have broth ready to go.

3. Make large batches of meals ahead of time and freeze for quick use.

Instead of calling for pizza when you're in a hurry, try reaching for a meal you've prepared ahead of time that's now in the freezer. Make a big pot of chili, soup or stew in the crockpot and freeze family-sized portions so that when things are a little harried, you can pop them in the microwave and have a nutritious and low-cost solution.

4. Use dried beans instead of canned beans.

Beans are cheap when bought dried, but expensive when bought in cans. Soak the beans overnight in water and then use your crockpot to cook them throughout the day. Or better yet, if you have a pressure cooker, you can quickly make beans in about a half hour. Make enough to freeze and when making chili or some other meal that uses beans, toss them into the recipe.

5. Use frozen vegetables instead of canned or even fresh.

As much as I love fresh veggies, they can be expensive and difficult to have on hand. Frozen veggies can be bought on sale and stay fresh in the freezer a long time. They're usually cheaper than canned or fresh and retain their nutrients.

6. Buy fresh fruit and vegetables in season and freeze them.

A corollary to tip 5, buying fresh fruits and vegetables in season and freezing them will save you a bundle. Local produce in season is usually on sale and can be readily frozen for out of season use.

7. Depend on Technology

Is your bread machine gathering dust? Do you still have that pressure cooker you got for Christmas in its box? Now is the time to dust off those machines which offer labor saving benefits and put them to good use. Use your crockpot, bread machine, microwave and other labor-saving devices to their full potential. Look for recipes that allow you to use these devices so you don't have to spend all your time cooking.

8. Use Shortcut Ingredients

Use shortcut ingredients such as pizza dough, canned pizza sauce and mozzarella cheese that's already grated. While more costly than making it from scratch, it's cheaper than buying out.

9. Use Those Leftovers

Reuse the dinner leftovers the next day in another meal. A roast can become sliced steak sandwiches the next day; leftover chicken from the day before can become chicken enchiladas. With a little imagination and preparation, you can get two or more meals out of the same ingredients.

10. Buy on Sale

Stock up during sales on the foods you use most. This seems like a no brainer, but often people shop for things as they need them, not when they come on sale. Buy stocking up when the item is on sale, you'll save more money than if you bought the same product each week.

© 2014 MH Bonham


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