18 Home Cooks Reveal Small Tweaks That Drastically Reduced Their Meal Costs

    I'm immediately using all of these money-saving tips.

    Even though cooking at home saves you money overall, it still somehow always adds up.

    That's why we recently asked the BuzzFeed Community to share their tips and tricks for saving money while cooking. Here's what they (and some other BuzzFeed Community users) had to say:

    1. "I’ve actually upped my grocery bill a bit to save money in the long run. I focus on items that are fully or partially prepared so I can then combine them to make quicker dinners. For example, I buy things like premade sauces, pre-cut veggies, rotisserie chicken, pulled pork, doughs (pizza, bread), spice mixes, frozen pre-seasoned veggies, etc. I make sure that they are easy and quick combinations that I can whip together into a meal in under 20 minutes. I used to buy so much scratch stuff that we would get overwhelmed and not want to cook anything. Then we would get takeout and have to throw away a bunch of groceries because they went bad from waiting too long to use them. This way, we always have a way to make a good, quick supper without any fuss."


    2. "All my veggie scraps get saved in a big freezer bag; then, once full, I make my own stock. A week's worth of veggie scraps for a family of five yields four 2-quart jars."


    A pot of vegetables on a stove, ready for cooking

    3. "Always have an emergency frozen snack or meal you can reach for whenever you feel the itch to order out."


    4. "We have an herb garden and will grow tomatoes and cucumbers for the season."


    5. "Bread machine. You don't have to spend money on a new machine — they show up in thrift stores all the time. They are incredibly easy to use. You can add the ingredients in the morning, set the auto-start, then come home to fresh bread. The ingredients cost around $1.50."


    A freshly baked loaf of bread inside an open bread machine with a digital display

    6. "I have an app for my local grocery store that allows me to cut coupons and attach them to my phone number, so the coupons are automatically applied when I type in my number at checkout. Second, that app allows me to plan to buy sales items, so I can freeze them for later."


    7. "Don't buy pasta sauce. Get canned tomatoes, add water from your pasta and stock, and then let it simmer."


    8. "We buy frozen pizza dough, pizza sauce, cheese, and basil for four people for about $6. Meanwhile, takeout from a good pizza place for four people is now about $50. It’s a no-brainer."


    Adult and child in chef hats making pizza together on a wooden table

    9. "I know people find planning difficult, but it's a good way to stick to your list and not throw food in the trash because it went bad before you used it. I plan our dinners for the week, eat leftovers for lunch, and eat the same two or three breakfasts. Yes, sometimes I get uninspired when planning, but it works."


    10. "I play a game with myself when my groceries are running low: I make as many meals as possible with the leftovers I have, making as many substitutions as needed. It's truly this weird, sad, groceries-are-too-damn-expensive game. Here are the rules: 1) You can't eat a leftover by itself, you must combine a leftover with at least one other leftover. 2) You can buy any additional groceries to improve the leftovers but at a minimum. 3) The name of the game is to empty the fridge except for condiments. Overall, it's made me a more creative cook who wastes less food and saves some money."

    —30, Anonymous

    11. "I head to areas in the grocery store where the food is marked down. Day-old artisan bread makes great croutons, French bread pizza, French toast, or breadcrumbs. Marked-down fruit is great for juicing, smoothies, banana bread, or dehydrating, and veggies make great soups or stock. Marked-down meat is just at its sell-by date so either freeze it right away or cook it that night."

    —43, USA

    Man in a store examining a paper bag of food with shelves of products in the background

    12. "It’s not really a hack, more just a rule of thumb. Off-brand is just as good as a brand name. I promise you, you can find an off-brand version of what you’re looking for that will taste just as good. You don’t need the Hershey's or Ghirardelli’s chocolate chips; the Walmart brand ones will taste the same and save you, like, $3."


    13. "I am single and live alone, and food waste to me is a big culprit to overspending. I typically shop for only a couple of days rather than a week or more in case something I buy goes bad. I have managed to cut down my food waste to almost zero."

    —Anonymous, Texas

    14. "Get a food sealer! My mom got us one for Christmas a few years ago. My husband feels we have too many kitchen appliances and was skeptical, but it has saved us so much money. He shops sales and buys meat when it’s discounted and seals and freezes it for later. It stays great so much longer, and we don’t have to toss anything with freezer burn."

    —39, Germany

    Vacuum-sealed salmon beside lemon halves and mint on a wooden surface, with a laptop

    15. "Don’t wanna meal prep, but wanna make sure you have food ready to go at home? Prep cheap meal 'building blocks.' By prepping your rice, legumes, beans, and on-sale veggies, you can quickly and easily build whatever meals you want. Prep condiments at home as well! Chili crisp can cost $7 a container, but literally $1 to make for the same amount."

    —26, New York

    16. "When I see vegetables on sale for cheap, I turn them into pasta sauce, usually after roasting them for more flavor, and freeze them in portions to have with cheap pasta."


    17. "I have a few methods that keep my bill under $30 for the week. First, I add all the things I am getting to a cart on Instacart so I know exactly how much it would cost. I can compare at other stores this way, too. This has been a game-changer for me. Sometimes, stuff costs a little more on Instacart, but the pricing is generally accurate with sales included. Second, I try to plan a menu that reuses ingredients from previous meals. This has saved me so much money."


    18. "I chose a credit card that gives me points toward free groceries. It certainly doesn't cover everything, but it's nice being able to reduce the total bill."


    Person paying with a card at a grocery store checkout. Produce visible

    Note: Some submissions have been edited for length and/or clarity.