Your 10 top budget cooking tips

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Your 10 top budget cooking tips

It’s that time of the month where we need to make our meals (and rands) go further. We asked the TASTE community to share their best budget cooking tips, and they delivered! From getting creative in the kitchen to smart ways to shop, here are 10 ways you ensure to get the most out your money in the kitchen.

In the kitchen


1. Cook in bulk

Batch cooking is a classic savings tip for a reason. Freeze portions of food for when you don’t feel like cooking, or when you might be tempted to order takeaways (or when loadshedding is looming). You can also keep leftovers for lunch the next day, so you don’t have to buy lunch at work. One reader said she always packs some exciting snacks for work to avoid buying extra treats. Cooking in bulk also allows you to use up your ingredients timeously so they don’t go to waste. Winning all round!

2. Improvise

Many of you said that it’s best to use what you have in the house, rather than buying new ingredients to make recipes. One answer that caught our eye read: “The best meals are often put together with love and what’s in the fridge.” We wholeheartedly agree! A truly skilled cook can get creative with what they have in the pantry. Not only will it save you money, but you may also create a dish you’ll love. Abigail Donnelly’s 3-ingredient mussel pasta and Hannah Lewry’s green fridge clean-up pie are great examples of this.

Find the recipe for green fridge clean-up pie here

3. Canned foods are your best friend

We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: canned food is the pantry MVP! Making use of canned foods was another popular choice for budgeting in our Instagram poll. You can make wonderful, filling meals using canned food, plus the cooking time is drastically reduced, saving on electricity and pre-loadshedding prep. Pasta, rice and frozen veggies were also popular ways of getting more food for less.

Check out our beans recipe collection

4. Bulk up your meals

Speaking of canned foods, they’re also a great way to bulk up meals. Canned pulses (and pulses in general) are great for bulking up meals. One person also suggested using canned mushrooms for this. Another tip was to use canned tomatoes and coconut milk to make your meals stretch. You could also add bread, potatoes and more veggies to make meals go further.


Find the recipe for pressure cooker Bolognese here. 

ALSO READ: 4 top tips to bulk up and thicken your soup

5. Be a fiscal vegetarian

Meat is more expensive than veggies. Many of you add more vegetarian dishes to your weekly rotation as a way to save. If you are new to minimising meat, this is a great opportunity to discover great recipes. As one reader said: “The meat doesn’t matter, veggies taste amazing when cooked right!”.

NEED INSPO? Our vegetarian recipe collection will help!

6. Meal prep, meal prep and meal prep some more

This was an overwhelmingly popular tip. By planning your meals in advance, you can keep your a tight rein on spending. You can also plan your meals to take advantage of specials in store, and eat seasonal produce to save even more. Cook in bulk to prep meals, lunches and snacks on the weekends so your week is sorted and you have less to do in the kitchen. Save your rands and your time in one go!

Vegetable curry with pap

Find the recipe for vegetable curry with pap here.

When you grocery shop

7. Build your shopping list around ingredients you have

It may be a tedious exercise, but taking the time to go through your pantry, fridge and freezer will ensure you don’t unintentionally double up when you shop. This will also help with your meal prep because you can build on what you have at home so you buy less when you go shopping.

8. Buy ingredients that can be used more than once

You may shop like this already, but it’s worth doing it consciously. One person said their grocery shopping rule is: “If you can’t use it twice or in more than two dishes, it’s not worth buying.” Snacks and special occasions aside, this is an excellent rule. It helps you really think about what you’re going to make. Plus, it will ensure you don’t have a sad bag of carrots in the fridge wasting away because you didn’t have a plan for the other half of the bag.

Roast carrot salad

Find the recipe for roast carrot salad here.

ALSO READ: 9 carrot recipes to use up that bag

9. Buy in bulk when ingredients are on special

Look out for discount flyers (such as the Daily Difference, at the entrance to Woolies stores) and sign up for promo mailers (you can sign up for ours here, or head to the Woolies site and scroll to the bottom of the page for their newsletter sign-up box). Promo emails from stores share info on deals and specials, so you can plan your shopping better. This will make a difference to your budget and will ensure you’re properly stocked when money is a little tight. If you live alone and miss out on bulk buy deals, find other people you can team up with and split the goods. Sign up for a WRewards card to get instant savings, vouchers and access to Woolies competitions.

10. Always shop by price

An ingredient’s packaging may look amazing, but the same product in different packaging is cheaper! Always look at the prices of all items on the shelf before grabbing something. You may find a budget-friendly version of what you want and it’ll help you see any in-store promotions or deals you may have missed. Keep an eye out in store for the orange WList sticker on certain products. WList is Woolies’ list of items that customers need every day. Woolies is constantly checking that these prices are comparable to the market, so you know you’re getting a good deal.

Bonus tips from you!


Find the recipe for Thai peanut noodles here.

  • Keep a stock of instant noodles in the pantry, you can build on them to make great meals like stir-fries. Use protein from your freezer, plus the veggies you have and make some noodle magic!
  • For those who live alone, roast a whole chicken (or buy Woolies’ iconic rotisserie chicken), portion it, then freeze each quarter separately to have it on hand when you need it.
TASTE Article by: TASTE

The TASTE team is a happy bunch of keen cooks and writers, always on the look out for the next food trend or the next piece of cake.

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