Food

7 ways to cook and eat on a budget—with tips from home cooks

After spending and splurging for the holidays, our wallets are in need of a break. But that doesn't necessarily mean cutting back on the food front. With a few smart tips and tricks from the TODAY Food Club, it's actually quite easy to save at the supermarket and still turn out the same quality meals you've been making at home.

When buying organic, skip the bagged vegetables. You’ll pay more for having your lettuce washed and packaged ready to eat. For the same price (or less!), you can grab a whole head of organic lettuce and get more bang for your buck. If you have kids, they can help wash the greens and help you prepare your meal. —Laura of Momables

Purchase in bulk. Determine a few staples that you need at home and buy ingredients in bulk for a fraction of the price. I buy nuts in bulk from a store in Philadelphia called Nuts To You! and almost always make my own nut butters (cashew, peanut, almond, hazelnut, pecan, you name it). You can also buy from the bulk section at Whole Foods, or from a site like Vitacost or Swanson Vitamins. The bulk bins are a great way to get just what you need for the recipe so you don’t waste food or money. —Katie of 24 Carrot Life

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A large selection of bulk dry foods in clever dispensers and a weighing scale at an upscale grocery store

RELATED: How to buy in bulk and save money in the grocery store

Make your vegetables go the extra mile. Meat is what costs my family the most each week at the grocery store. In order to stretch our money a little more, I started getting creative with those lovely vegetables that for the most part cost much less than the meats and fish. —Alli of Made with Happy

RELATED: Got veggies to use up? Try one of these creative pasta sauces

Stock up on canned goods. Items like chickpeas, black-eyed peas and beans are pantry staples that make great additions to leftovers, adding much needed healthy protein and fats to keep you fuller for longer. Danielle Shine

Save your kitchen scraps. I have a mysterious bag that lives in my freezer. Every time I peel a carrot, those shavings get tossed in. Meat bones? They go in there, too. Celery trimmings, onion peels, egg shells—I save it all. Once the bag is full, I dump out the contents into my slow cooker, add water, and let it simmer away on low for a good 24 hours. The result is a beautiful bone broth (stock) that you can use as a base for your soups, stews and sautes. Best of all, it’s free! —Erin of Platings and Pairings

Stephanie J. / Daily Appetite

Make croutons from stale bread. Instead of tossing out a bread loaf or baguette that’s starting to go bad, turn them into your own seasoned croutons. —Stephanie of Daily Appetite

Make your own spice mixes. It’s a great way to use up those half empty bottles of herbs and spices. Making it yourself is also the best way to avoid the additives that many pre-made spice mixes include. So you can be sure there’s nothing artificial, no sugar, and no salt added. —Lisa of Cook Eat Paleo

Try these budget-friendly recipes:

Easy stir-fried chili mango chicken with peppers

BBQ meatball subs with spinach mayo

Classic red beans and rice

Ham fried rice

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