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Spending More Than Usual for Quarantine Meals? Here’s How to Trim Down Your Budget

More people have been turning to the art of cooking as a way to de-stress amid stay-at-home orders. Some have made it a reliable ritual in a time of uncertainty. One day you’re too busy to cook; now you have all the time in the world to whip up some exquisite recipes you’ve been meaning to try.

However, after weeks of bliss follows a sense of guilt about the amount of time you have been spending to prepare those meals. Some may even notice that their food budget has increased and is now more expensive than getting the dish from your favorite restaurant.

One of the perks of cooking your meals at home is that you can save more money. However, overspending for ingredients that you’ll only use once or twice can be counterproductive. Good thing there are ways that you can trim down your spending. Here are some of them:

People have been cooking more to help relieve stress while on quarantine.

You Don’t Have to Follow a Recipe Strictly

According to Serious Eats culinary director Daniel Gritzer, recipes are technical guides to tell you the specifics. However, it can eventually lead to overspending, especially if it involves ingredients that you’ll only use minimally but need to purchase in bulk.

If you only need a sprig of parsley but have to buy a full bunch, Gritzer says that the remaining ingredients may just eventually die before you can think of a new recipe where you can use it.

To avoid wasting your budget, view your recipes as an inspiration, and not exact instructions. Try to substitute ingredients that you don’t have with ones that may work fine. If you don’t have chicken but have tofu, use the latter instead.

Budget Savvy Diva’s Sara Lundberg also agrees. Veering away from the original recipe may be daunting at first, but it can be fun. Try mixing and matching different things that you feel may taste great together. Experimenting is a way for people to become better cooks.

Don’t be afraid to steer away from the recipe and make substitutes for ingredients you don’t have.

Another alternative, according to Gritzer, is to do what he calls “component cooking.” It involves preparing an ingredient in bulk for use in multiple recipes throughout the week. An example is roasting plum tomatoes in one big batch. You can use parts of it for roasted chicken, tomato sauce, or even risotto in entirely different meals. You can build your menu for the week around that ingredient, too, to make sure that it won’t go to waste.

Use Less Meat

One of the most costly ingredients is meat. A money-saving tip for meat, according to Gritzer, is to apply the “condiment approach.” Use the meat as the supporting actor in your meal and not the main star. Stir-frying is one helpful trick to make dishes seem like it’s meatier.

Also, opting for the less in-demand meat cuts can save you a bunch too since these are less expensive than the more popular cuts. For beef, shoulder cuts and cheeks are less expensive.

A chunk of your food shopping budget is probably spent on meat.

Make Use of What You Have

With the use of tools like, you can get suggestions and ideas on what you can make using the ingredients you currently have. No need to do grocery runs for a single ingredient, just be more resourceful and creative.

If you have leftovers, you can use it for an omelet for breakfast. If you have extra roasted chicken, shred it and use it as toppings for your green salad. If you’re not comfortable handling leftovers, scale down your recipe instead according to the number of people who will be eating.

Celebrity chef Cat Cora suggests stocking up on staples that can last for a time in your pantry. These may include rice, canned beans, jarred items, or pasta.

Resourcefulness should also be applied to kitchen tools. If you don’t have the necessary tool, you don’t have to buy it. Gritzer says that you should get crafty and find alternatives around you. If you need a meat pounder to flatten the chicken breasts ready for Chicken Parmesan but don’t have one, use a heavy skillet to do the job.

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