If you know me (or any of my recipes), then you know I am all about hacks, shortcuts (there’s no shame in the shortcut game), and generally any way to save myself time, energy, and money. The result of this character trait is that I’ve amassed a ton of frugal kitchen tips and food hacks over the years. Today I’m sharing a big list of my tried-and-true tips, frugal food hacks, and kitchen tricks to help you save money on your groceries, make your groceries last longer, and help you reduce food waste. They’re all super simple, yet they all work like a charm! Save this post for future reference, and watch us demonstrate many of these hacks live on the replay of my Pinterest TV episode on Cost-Saving Food Hacks.
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Frugal Kitchen Tips
- Meal plan. Meal planning doesn’t have to be as daunting as you might thing, and it will help you shop more efficiently and only get what you need for that week. Basically, all you need to do is determine what you’re going to cook that week and add just those items to the grocery list. You can also batch recipes by ingredient when you plan ahead. Click here for my meal planning tips for beginners.
- Keep brown sugar soft by storing a marshmallow in the container. This surprising tip works both as a preventative measure and as a way to revive brown sugar that’s already hardened. The sugar absorbs the moisture from the marshmallow to soften it like magic in no time.
- Revive stale bread with water. Don’t throw stale bread away! Extend the life of that loaf with this surprising hack I learned from Food Network. Stick the bread under a running faucet to wet the outside and don’t be shy about it! Place the bread on a baking sheet. Heat in an oven pre-heated to 300 degrees F until the bread is dry and crusty on the outside (6 to 10 minutes). We’ve done this several times, and it makes the loaf feel like new.
- Revive crystallized honey. Many people worry that their honey has gone bad when it crystallizes, and it (sadly) gets thrown out. Since honey will rarely spoil, you don’t want to waste that liquid gold! Instead, place the jar of honey in a bowl of hot water for about 10 minutes, and you’ll see the crystallization melt away before your eyes.
- Freeze shredded cheese in portions. You can save a lot of money by purchasing cheese in blocks instead of the pre-shredded packs. To make sure it doesn’t go to waste if you don’t use it quickly enough, you can shred it and freeze in zipper freezer bags in 2-cup portions (with as much air removed from the bag as possible before freezing). When you’re ready to use it, defrost in the refrigerator.
- Make your own homemade stocks and freeze them in portions. Homemade stock is not only better in quality (and lower in sodium), making it in bulk saves money and lets you have lots of stocks available whenever you need them. I make a big batch of chicken stock every 3 months or so and freeze in portions (get my recipe and method for freezing and storing homemade chicken stock here). I separate 1/4 cup portions into the cups of a silicone muffin pan to freeze. Once frozen, I remove them from the molds and freeze them stored in an air tight container. I also store 1 and 2 cup portions in zipper freezer bags (laid flat to save space). Remember to label the containers with portion quantity and date.
- Save vegetable scraps to make your own homemade veggie stock. Ever since I learned this method from Tasty years ago, I’ve been saving my scraps and making homemade vegetable stock ever since. Save your vegetable discards in a large Ziplock freezer bag in your freezer (think: onion and carrot, tops, bottoms, and skins; celery tops and bottoms; mushroom stems; garlic, tops, bottoms, and skins; potato skins; parsley and other herbs stems; discards from leeks; the whites of green onions, etc.). When your bag is full, place the scraps in a large pot and cover everything with water. Bring the water to a boil then reduce it to a simmer, and cook for 10 minutes. Strain out the scraps and store your stock in the fridge (for use within a few days), or the freezer to use later.
- Plant green onions to regrow them. One of my favorite hacks to reduce waste and save money is to plant the whites of green onions after cutting the greens for use in a recipe. They’ll regrow, and you’ll have green onions to snip and use whenever you need them. You can stick them directly into potting soil in a container or your garden bed, but if your garden isn’t ready, you can start them in a jar of filtered, room temperature water placed in the sunlight before planting (see more about that method on Allrecipes here). You’ll have green onions forever!
- Store celery wrapped tightly in foil. Remove your celery from the plastic bag it came with from the grocery store, wrap it tightly in foil, and store in the refrigerator. It will maintain its freshness from 2-4 weeks this way.
- Store mushrooms in paper bags in the fridge. Mushrooms will also last much longer if you remove them from their store packaging. Store them unwashed in a paper lunch bag in the fridge with the top of the bag open. This works for either whole or pre-sliced mushrooms. The bag will absorb excess moisture while still allowing them to breathe, keeping them from getting slimy as quickly. Whole mushrooms will last up to 2 weeks, and sliced mushrooms will last for up to 1 week this way.
- Store onions in pantyhose. This tip will keep your onions fresh for up to 6 months! If you have an old clean pair of pantyhose lying around, cut the legs off. Drop an onion into the foot and tie a knot in the hose. Repeat all the way up the leg. Hang the pantyhose in a cool, dry place. The pantyhose allows the perfect amount of air flow to keep them fresh without spoiling as quickly. When you need an onion, cut a slit in one of the sections to grab the onion you need.
- Store tomatoes stem-side down. Tomatoes have a notoriously short shelf life, but this tip will slow down the ripening process. Remove the top stems from your tomatoes and store them upside down.
- Keep lemons in a sealed bag in the fridge. You might be surprised to learn that a bowl on your counter is not the best place to store lemons. They will stay fresh for up to one month when stored properly in your fridge. To do this, place them in a plastic zipper bag, seal the bag, then put the bag in your refrigerator.
- Get more juice out of your lemons by microwaving them. In this tip I learned from The Kitchn, microwaving a whole lemon for 20 seconds will allow you to get more juice from it (here’s my favorite lemon and lime juicer).
- Freeze excess lemon juice in ice cube trays. If you end up with more juice than you need, or if your stash of lemons is about to go bad, you can freeze the juice in portions in ice cube trays. You can add the cubes to soups (lemon juice is a magic flavor-boosting hack for soups), for your lemonade so it doesn’t get watered down, as a recipe ingredient when you need fresh lemon juice, and more. Get more ice cube tray kitchen hacks here.
- Freeze all sorts of leftovers in ice cube trays. Speaking of ice cube trays and kitchen hacks, you can use them to freeze leftover coffee (great in your iced coffee or for adding to chocolate cakes), that awkward amount left in a bottle of wine (wine is awesome to add to stews and rich sauces), portions of pesto (whether homemade or the extra in a jar after a recipe), chopped herbs with butter (great on steaks), coconut milk leftover from a can (add them to smoothies), and more. Learn more in this article on 6 kitchen hacks with ice cube trays.
- Freeze leftover tomato paste. Don’t throw away leftover tomato paste from a can! After you use what you need for your recipe, you can actually freeze and save leftover tomato paste for use later. Scoop 1 tablespoon size portions onto a piece of waxed paper, then place in the freezer to freeze until solid. After frozen enough to handle, store the solid tablespoon portions in an air tight bag or container in the freezer. They’ll be good for about 3 months. Pull out portions as needed for future recipes, and you’ll never waste what’s left in a can again.
- Freeze nuts in a plastic zipper bag to extend their shelf life. Nuts have many health benefits, but can sometimes be costly. Get the most out of your purchase by extending their shelf life. Nuts stored in the freezer can last for up to a year when stored sealed in a plastic zipper bag.
- Freeze ginger root. This one is my favorite frugal food hacks that I’ve been using for years. There’s no need to waste that extra ginger root after using a small amount for a recipe. Ginger freezes and stores really well! Wrap the root tightly in foil and store in the freezer in a plastic freezer bag or other air tight container. When you need to use it again, grate (I use a microplane grater) or slice off the amount you need, then return to the freezer. You can grate it and use it peel and all. The thin peel is safe to consume and won’t affect the flavor of your recipe.
- Keep your ice cream free from freezer burn. To help prevent freezer burn for your ice cream so you aren’t tempted to toss it, put a large plastic freezer bag around the ice cream container, seal the bag, and store it in the freezer like normal. This extra layer of protection will result in less of those unappetizing ice crystals than just the ice cream container alone. Thanks to Simplemost for originally teaching me this tip!
- Freeze extra cookie dough. Do you ever want homemade cookies, but don’t want to make a giant batch at one time? If you don’t want 24-48 cookies hanging around, you can freeze extra balls of cookie dough to make a few at a time whenever you want, just like the trays of ready-to-bake cookie balls from the grocery store. It’s really easy! Just roll extra dough into cookie-sized balls and place them in a large freezer bag labeled with the type of cookie, date, and basic baking instructions (e.g. “350 degrees for 15 minutes”). Remove as much air from the bag as you can before freezing. Whenever you’re craving homemade cookies, pull out however many you want to bake, and you’ll have homemade cookies on demand!
Did you learn any new frugal food hacks by reading this article? Which one blows your mind the most? Do you have any tips we should try? Let us know in the comments!
Alice Ricci says
AWESOME!! Thank you! Someone told me about making recaito and freezing it in ice cube trays and then putting that into a freezer bag. Yoyre welcome to share that hack. I take out a couple of cubes & put into my soups. I have got to get. Chicken broth hack as my son has a stomach ulcer and I’m making home made chicken soup 2 times a week! Any ideas? I’d like to make bone broth so ‘ve it’s even more beneficial/ healthier. Thank you so much for sharing- I never thought of the cookie dough ( ended up refrigerating the extra dozen cookies & eatting them myself- lol). Anyhow, thanks for all the great info!!! Happy New Year to you & your family!!
Ramona Cruz-Peters says
I’m so glad you found these helpful, and thank you for sharing your ideas, too! For chicken broth it’s also great to make in the Instant Pot!