I know we’ve talked about how much I’ve come to enjoy cooking, and it’s become a great hobby both out of interest and the necessity of saving money.
Now that I’m more comfortable in the kitchen, I’ve made it my mission to learn how to prepare at-home versions of ingredients I’d usually buy. The savings are small (typically a dollar or two per serving), but for ingredients or pre-packaged items you use often it really helps cut down on the grocery bill.
There are also quite a few things that aren’t cheaper to make at home (marinara sauce) or too stressful (bread) in which case, I’d vote that they’re not worth the effort. These recipes, on the other hand, are me-tested (aka foolproof) and will provide a lot of savings in the long run!
Freezer Garlic Bread // I’ve made this so many times. While buying all the full-priced ingredients won’t save you a ton itself, if you can get french bread or butter at a discount you can drive that cost per serving way down. This also has the benefit of being 1) not full of preservatives, and 2) just as convenient as the store-bought version.
Black & Refried Beans // I wouldn’t go through the trouble to make my own beans without the Instant Pot, but since I have it, it’s a no-brainer. A can of black or refried beans is typically $.99, whereas I can get a HUGE bag of dried beans for $5. I get ~15 cans/bag — not gigantic savings, but as much as I use these for ingredients it quickly adds up. I just make a giant batch and freeze them in individual mason jars for maximum convenience.
Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough // You can thank my wonderful grandmother for this tip — did you know you can freeze cookie dough? It’s so easy to bring together, and then you just roll it into a log, wrap it in saran wrap, and cut off slices when you’re ready to use! It’s so much better than storebought, and the simple ingredient list makes it inexpensive to throw together, too.
Potato Skins // We sometimes do this thing called “appetizer dinner”, which is exactly what it sounds like and usually features a ton of frozen foods. I decided to see what I could home make from our usual list, and these came out SO much better than the TGIFridays version. Potatoes are so cheap that paying $10 for their tiny boxes seemed ridiculous…and since you scoop out the middles, you get mashed potatoes, too! They are time-consuming and there’s no way to sugar coat that, but most of the preparation is hands-off — perfect for a day you’re just hanging around the house anyway.
Freezer Pizza Bagels // Stemmed from the same homemade appetizer venture and my love of bagel bites! These are AMAZING. For real authenticity, you could use mini bagels and still save — I just used full sized because they were on sale. Bagel Bites are both tiny and expensive, whereas the cost of this recipe is ~$6 for 12 full-sized bagels halves!
Chicken Fried Rice // If you’re anything like me, the only time you order takeout is when you’re craving it so badly you can’t stand it…enter this chicken fried rice. Better than takeout isn’t an exaggeration here. I haven’t done the total price per recipe, but I use 1 chicken breast, a bag of frozen mixed veggies (~$2) and rice prepared from dried in my Instant Pot…so it comes out to be pretty darn cheap. Also, I was too frugal to buy the sesame oil the first time around — it’s fine without it but if you catch it on sale it does add a great depth of flavor!