Save time and money cooking from scratch

Savings Angel

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Most people know that cooking meals from scratch can save a lot of money, since pre-packaged and processed foods tend to come with a price markup. However, cooking from scratch can be time consuming, which makes those pre-packaged foods more appealing to busy people. If you follow a few simple tips, though, you can cook from scratch to save money, even if your schedule is tight.

Here’s how to save time and money cooking from scratch:

1. Use a slow cooker. Slow cookers do most of the work for you. Just dump in the ingredients, turn the slow cooker on, and attend to other tasks while everything cooks. You can prepare entire meals in a slow cooker, or just cook certain meal components, such as dry beans or rice.

To save time with clean-up, use disposable slow cooker liners. That way, you have a lot less scrubbing to do after dinner.

2. Prepare ingredients ahead of time. Schedule some time at the beginning of each week to prepare ingredients you’ll use in cooking in the days to come. Chop veggies, cook rice and beans, juice lemons, and more. Portion out these prepared ingredients ahead of time.

3. Invest in good food storage containers. You can use food storage containers to store pre-prepared ingredients, leftovers, and pre-cooked meals. Make sure the storage containers you get can work in the pantry, the refrigerator, and the freezer. Glass or plastic containers usually work best, and airtight containers are great for keeping out moisture and pests. Clear containers work well so you can see what’s inside them.

4. Cook in large batches. You don’t have to cook entire meals in batches, but you can easily pre-cook and store many meal components for future use. Brown a few pounds of ground beef at one time, then portion it out for meals throughout the week. Cook an entire pot of homemade spaghetti sauce, then store it in smaller containers in the refrigerator or the freezer. Then, as you need these items when you cook throughout the week, they’ll be ready and waiting for you.

5. Make a detailed meal plan. Plan out each meal for each day of the week, so you know ahead of time which ingredients you need to prepare. This ensures you have enough ingredients on hand, and you also don’t have to waste time every day trying to figure out what to cook. Write your meal plan in an easily visible spot so you can just look at it each day to see what you need to cook.

6. Grow a small garden. Choose a few plants that are easy to care for and harvest. Fresh herbs grow really well in small pots indoors. Keep a few of these in the kitchen, and just cut off some of the leaves when you need them.

7. Don’t forget about breakfast. Instead of relying on pre-packaged cereal for breakfast every morning, try making your own granola. You can mix up a big batch of it all at once at the beginning of the week, store it in an airtight container, and you’ll have an easy breakfast every day. If you’re more interested in a hot breakfast, pre-cook a dozen pancakes or waffles and freeze them in individual portions. That way, you only have to zap them in the microwave for a minute or two every morning.