Cooking Made Easy: Money Saving Tips

Cooking made easy - with cooking tips from our money saving super page.

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This Cooking Tips – Cooking Made Easy Page contains Frugal Tips & Ideas to help you Save Money while Cooking!

If you want some time- and money-saving cooking tips watch the Cooking Made Easy 9 Minute Video

Cooking as a Single Mom!

I really love your website and cooking tips. It’s just what I’ve needed all these years. It’s really helped me in more ways than one. I’m a single mom and for years it’s always been easier for me to go to a fast food place or restaurant for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. And of course, I never had money for other things we needed. But thank God you opened up my eyes! I have since started looking through the ads on Wednesdays and I’ve gone to the grocery store (something I haven’t done for years). My fridge, freezer, and pantry are overstuffed and boy is my family happy. Mom is cooking again!!!

Not only that, I’ve saved money and been able to take care of our other needs that I didn’t have money for before. Thanks for your help!   Jean – Dallas, Texas

Editors’ Note: We love hearing your success stories! Keep up the good work Jean!!!!!!

Quick Dinners to Prepare in a Flash

I always keep taco fixings on hand (and usually have cooked ground meat in the freezer to zap in the microwave), spaghetti, pasta, and tortillas. Tortillas can be used as a quick individual pizza crust, roll-ups (with whatever leftovers we happen to have), scrambled egg burritos (which also freeze well) or just melt cheese in a folded tortilla and dip in salsa. I love your cooking tips!
Debbie Bottom – Cortland, NE

Cooking Made Easy – Video

Cooking Made Easy – 4 Ways Spend Less Time and Money in the Kitchen.
If you want to spend less time in the kitchen and less money on groceries, check out these four simple cooking techniques. This information is taken from our best-selling book, Cut Your Grocery Bill in Half.

Annette Economides – the mom of America’s Cheapest Family talks about how she saves money and time Cooking Double, Bulk Cooking, Crockpot Cooking and Once-A-Month Cooking. She isn’t a gourmet chef or foodie, and she doesn’t love to spend hours in the kitchen.

Annette’s into nutritious and efficient meal planning and meal prepping. Follow her steps and you’ll spend way less time and way less money on feeding yourself and your family.

No-Stick Spaghetti?

Pasta Cooking Tip: Add a tablespoon of cooking oil or margarine to the water you cook spaghetti or noodles in. The water won’t be so eager to boil over and the noodles won’t stick together.
Carol M – Scottsdale, AZ

Cooking Double

I love to cook, but don’t always have the time to make a great meal each day. I’ve started to cook double portions when I do cook. Then I freeze half of what I make. This way we can always have homemade meals. Linda Brown – Leland, Illinois

Teamwork & Once a Week Cooking

I was intimidated by the idea of trying to cook a month’s worth of meals all at once, especially considering I never really learned how to cook. But my husband and I decided to try a week’s worth and thought surely we could expand from there.

Our kitchen is small so we split the task with me inside at the stove and him outside at the grill. I browned several pounds of ground beef (bought in bulk for savings), with some finely chopped onion and some Cavender’s Greek Seasoning on some of the ground beef (a good all purpose mix).

He grills several pounds of chicken breasts, bratwursts and steaks — basically whatever we bought on sale. Then we divide the meat up into meal sized portions and either refrigerate or freeze it depending on the schedule.

We use the ground beef as a base for stroganoff, spaghetti, soft tacos, taco salad, or a variety of casseroles. The chicken is cut up into bite-sized pieces for chicken Caesar salad, fajitas (steak can be used here too), casseroles, or combined with cut up smoked sausage or brats for jambalaya.

I still do quite a bit of cooking out of boxes and cans (mixes and sauces) but it is still a family meal and not fast food. The great part is that dinner is ready in 30 minutes or so, and takes the stress out of trying to figure out what to prepare after working all day.

My husband and I take leftovers for lunch, and our teenage daughter does too — which also saves money. We now are planning up to two weeks’ worth of meals. Eventually, I hope to work my way up to a month’s worth of meals, but none of this even would have happened if I hadn’t started bulk cooking! 

Thanks Annette and Steve, for giving us your knowledge and tips, and the tools and encouragement to use them!  Dena McVay — Fayetteville, AR

1 Chicken – 3 Meals Cooking Tips

Here’s how I get 3 meals out of 1 chicken. 

  1. Divide the meat into two piles.
  2. De-bone and de-skin the chicken.
  3. Boil or Roast a large chicken – include onions, celery, and other spices.
  • Lunch #1 – Chicken Salad Sandwiches.
  • Dinner #2 – Use the second pile for Chicken Stir Fry or Chicken Stew.
  • Meal #3 – Put the bones, with a little meat still on them, in a pot of water. Add onion, celery, carrot and other veggies you have handy. Throw in rice or pasta and you have Chicken soup or broth.

You may find different ways to stretch the usefulness of a chicken, but the key is to think and plan and waste not.  Ruth Irvine – Scottsdale, AZ

Stretching Your Beef Stew

Here’s another way to stretch a meal. One night I’ll make beef stew and the next night I’ll put the remainder of the stew into a pie crust to make a beef pot pie. Sometimes if I make a large enough pot of beef stew I can make four pot pies out of it and then freeze them. Most people cut the beef for stew beef into large chunks. If you dice them up smaller there is an appearance of more because there are more little pieces of beef in each bite.  Jennifer Emery – Black Canyon City, AZ

 Once-A-Month Cooking is Better for the Family

A black stove with 3 pots and one frying pan on top.

I just did our first once a month cooking (members archive access only)  with our family.

It was fun and also met my goal of sending all my kids out into the world with the ability to cook. I had also thought it wasn’t for me because I love to cook.

But what I am finding this week is that having the meals in the freezer is so freeing that I am more cheerful at dinner and often have time to make a dessert. Crystal Zecher – Kempton, PA

We write in detail about how we do Once-A-Month cooking (and once-a-week cooking) in our Amazon Best Seller, Cut Your Grocery Bill in Half.

Related Resource: 11 ways to Make Dinnertime Fun

Cooking with Pressure Cookers

My Grandmother, my Mom, my Sister and I are big fans of pressure cookers. We all own more than one. Except for rice, pasta, pastry, and soups, we cook almost everything in a pressure cooker. The cooking time is significantly reduced, thereby cutting your time spent in the kitchen and your energy usage. Most veggie dishes take 10-15 minutes, meats take around 20-45 minutes depending on the cut. The initial investment may be a bit expensive, but the cookers last a very long time, so it sure is worth it. Canan Onat – Istanbul, Turkey

What to Do When you Live Far from Fast Food

We live 20 miles from the nearest fast food restaurant, so I have devised my own fast food menu. I keep my pantry stocked for a few easy meal nights. When 4 PM hits, and I don’t feel like cooking or have not pulled anything out to defrost, I look at my pantry.
Debbie Bottom – Courtland, NE

Chicken Soup For The Flu

I have a great book entitled Eat Right to Live Long  by Dr. Cass Igram.

One of the recipes I’ve made from this book is called “Cure-a-Cold Chicken Soup” which I just made for a friend who had the flu. She raved over it. It is a very helpful book. The book is out of print, but can usually be found on and on eBay.

Here’s the recipe:


2 pieces of skinless, boneless chicken breast
2 T extra-virgin olive oil
1 bay leaf
2 cloves of crushed garlic
2 chopped onions
4 chopped pieces of celery
3 thinly chopped carrots
4 cups chicken broth
Couple handfuls of noodles
4 thinly sliced scallions
Salt and pepper, to taste
1/3 cup chopped parsley and dill
1/3 cup green, red or yellow peppers; spinach; or parsnips and grated ginger; optional
1 lemon


Combine the chicken, one of the onions, bay leaf and garlic in a large saucepan and cover with water. Bring to a boil then simmer it for about twenty minutes. While the chicken is cooking, put the olive oil in a heated soup pot, then throw in the second onion, the celery, carrots, pepper, spinach, and parsnips, then season with salt and pepper. Cover the pot and cook about seven minutes.

Add the broth to the soup pan, 2 cups of water (only one and half for stronger chicken flavor), and boil. Place the cooked chicken on a cutting board and shred it, adding it to the soup pot. Lastly, add the noodles and cook for about five minutes. Take the pot off the heat and stir in the scallions, herbs, and the grated peel of the lemon. Add more salt and pepper to taste if desired. Aunt Harriet Meola – Mauldin, SC

Tips for Cooking Beans from Scratch

As a single mom with three children, I have found that cooking with beans is a cost-effective and healthy way to stretch my monthly food budget. Here’s one way I include beans into our meal rotation:

1. Cook a pot of beans in the crock pot and serve with rice, biscuits or corn bread. I usually serve a salad too.

2. Place the leftover beans in a food processor to make your own “refried beans” for bean burritos the following night.

3. The remaining beans can be placed in smaller plastic containers and frozen for future usage.   Whitney Gilchriest – AZ

I read in a bean and legume cookbook,  that you can soak large amounts of beans at a time and freeze what you don’t use, in portion sizes for later use. It saves me loads of time and takes care of a big, time consuming task all at once. It really makes it easier and faster to use dry beans in recipes because I have eliminated the soaking step by doing it earlier.
Debbie Bottom – Greybull, WY

Freezing Meals Ahead for Dinner

My goal is to double and freeze one meal on my menu per week. I can take 5 lbs. of ground meat, make one meatloaf for dinner, prepare a second meatloaf to freeze, and use the rest of the meat for meatballs. I freeze the meatballs on a tray overnight (covered with wax paper) and then pop them in a bread bag in the morning. They freeze well, but I don’t like to put raw meat into my zipper bags. That’s why I use an old bread bag to put the meatballs in first, according to family portions and company portions. Then I put them into the zippered bag to store in the freezer. The meatballs are versatile because you can cook them with a BBQ sauce, Sweet and Sour sauce, or use them with spaghetti.   Debbie Bottom – Cortland, NE

Cooking Tips for Meat and Vegetable Broth

I freeze all of my chicken, beef and vegetable broth in ice cube trays. Once they are frozen, I store them in freezer bags or plastic containers. When I’m ready to use them, I just pull them out one or two cubes at a time depending on the recipe. Joanne Patterson – Belmont, NC

Whenever we eat bone-in chicken, I freeze the left-over bones until I have a soup-kettle full. I fill the kettle with the bones, a carrot, an onion, celery tops, a turnip, a couple of bay leaves, peppercorns, salt, 1/2 cup of white wine (which will help pull calcium from the bones), and water. I simmer this brew for 4-5 hours, then strain it through cheesecloth and freeze in various-sized plastic containers.

This broth is very potent, and I can dilute it by at least half for any recipes calling for chicken broth. I love to try new recipes, and there is hardly the unsuccessful dinner dish I cannot transform into delicious soup with the help of my homemade chicken broth, assorted vegetables, and maybe a can of minestrone.
Inger Grape – Kelseyville, CA

Cooking Ahead While Overseas

Your email newsletter and website is exactly what I needed right now. I am working slowly into the once a month cooking thing. It’s kind of hard living in a foreign country when you only have one pot, two burners and limited containers.

But it is going well and I am loving it. Two days ago I made sauce that will be used for multiple meals: spaghetti sauce, pizza or chili. I also cooked some ground beef that can be added to the sauce or used for tacos or stuffed peppers or whatever.

Today I cooked beans for chili or burritos. I am also experimenting with my pizza dough. I usually make it and use it right away, but this time I put some in the fridge and some in the freezer to see what that will do. We are so glad to have been influenced by you during the early years of our marriage. Kristi Johnson – ChengDu, China

Making Bread Crumbs from Old Bread Ends

This tip is not so much a recipe, but a clever way to make the most of your unwanted bread ends.
I save the crusts and end pieces of my loaves of bread in a ziplock bag in the refrigerator. When it’s full, I make my own breadcrumbs in the food processor. I add whatever spices I want, such as Italian seasoning. Then I use these breadcrumbs to coat chicken and my family loves it. They are much more flavorful than the canned bread crumbs and way less expensive.  Sue Lankford –  Scottsdale, AZ

How to Keep Biscuits Hot

Collect a few flat rocks, wash them thoroughly and heat them up in the oven (350 degrees for 15 to 20 minutes) while you’re cooking biscuits.

Basket of Biscuits with Hot rocks in the bottom

Place the rocks in the bottom of a basket, lay a cloth napkin on top of them and put your biscuits on top of the fabric. Cover the biscuits with another napkin and they’ll stay nice and warm. Carol Meola – Scottsdale, AZ 

Vegetarian Cooking from Scratch

My husband and I are both in our 30’s and vegetarians — eating no meat at all. Most of the food I buy is pre-packaged because I don’t know how to cook. The only thing I can make from “scratch” is spaghetti. Is there any hope for me?

Money Smart Family Answer Absolutely there is hope. When we were first married, Annette knew how to scramble eggs and boil water — that’s it. She set a goal to become excellent at managing our food budget.

Now she can cook more than 100 meals. Annette’s mom coached her through her first few months and told her, “If you can read, you can cook.” The public libraries have shelves of cookbooks, including those dedicated to vegetarians.

Our all-time favorite is the Good Housekeeping Illustrated Cookbook because there is a picture of every single completed recipe, a real help for beginners. But you should also look for vegetarian cookbooks. You might also get together with friends who know how to cook and learn a couple of their best recipes. And, your husband should get involved, too — together you two can accomplish almost anything.

Cooking from scratch is incredibly rewarding, healthier and definitely cheaper. Take it slowly and learn a couple of recipes at time.

You’ll have a few failures; go to our website and read about “Tapioca Soup.” But overall your family will be better off as you sauté and simmer.

Cooking Tips for Garbage Soup

I just finished reading your article about “Tapioca Soup” — garbage soup. My Mom used to make this soup for me when I was a kid. With 6 mouths to feed, this soup was always on the menu.

Thanks for the great story that not only made me laugh but brought me back to my childhood. It makes me question what exactly was in that soup Mom made! Desperate times call for desperate measures! Janel Noe – USA

I just read your Tapioca Soup article. We have three children and a long time ago, we qualified for a program called Woman Infants and Children (WIC). On this program, we received vouchers for milk, cheese, cereal, peanut butter and dry peas.

We weren’t fond of dried peas, but not wanting to waste, we tried different varieties. So I made a huge pot of lentil soup! We had never tried a lentil before and didn’t even know what a lentil really was. But they looked good, felt smooth and even smelled yummy while the soup was simmering.

My dad was visiting that day, and having grown up during the depression, he ate “most” everything. While the soup wasn’t exactly bad tasting, it was rather “rich,” with lentils. My dad didn’t finish what he was served, complaining that he ate a big lunch before coming.

My husband and I choked it down, but we certainly weren’t interested in the next 52 meals worth that we had left.

So, we figured that it would be a good treat for the dogs. Now you know something is too much when even the retrievers won’t eat it! Lisa –  Wisconsin

How to Make Soup from Leftovers

I have a large family: a husband and our 8 kids.  At the end of the week, I use the accumulated leftovers and make a wonderful soup. I usually have everything I need in the cupboard (canned tomatoes or tomato paste, beans of any kind.

I also include noodles of any kind, frozen chicken broth I save after stewing chickens or leftover beef broth I save after doing a roast), and then I toss in almost all leftovers. This might vary each week with the type of vegetables and meat I might have.

Soup from Leftovers - Easy & Economical

Believe it or not almost all my kids and husband love this soup every time!I use the largest pot I have and dump it all in. It lasts in our house for at least another meal or 2.

I have used leftover roast beef, chicken, pork, etc…fresh tomatoes,  canned, paste or sauce.  I don’t dump in pizza and stuff like that, but little bits of any kind of veggie and meat or even sauces and gravies or mashed potatoes.

Since I do a small garden I usually add fresh carrots, zucchini or whatever I might have. After it simmers for a while and you season it up, it is one of my favorite meals.  If you don’t think you have enough leftovers after 1 wk, freeze in baggies or containers until you do.

A  Way to Repurpose Leftovers

My husband and I are empty nesters and while our son and his wife live across the road and come for dinner (and we go there), I still have not been able to learn to cook without waste.

I finally realized that I could freeze that small amount of sloppy Joe meat because it would still be enough a couple of weeks later for my husband and myself.

I had to get out of the mindset that if there wasn’t enough to feed 4 or 6, it needed to be thrown out. Now I have frozen bags filled with “just enough” taco meat, sloppy Joe’s, etc.

I also started taking small amounts of leftovers, frozen, to our daughter who is in the air force stationed two hours away. She is single so that small amount is just right for her. All she has to do is heat it up and buy buns or taco shells, whatever fits the leftover. Much better than $15.00 every night for fast food on her way home. Kristie – Williston, ND

Cooking made easy - stainless steel pot on the stove with wooden spoons in it.

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