Wednesday, December 7, 2011

9 Ways to Save Money in the Kitchen

These days, money is tight for many families. With increased grocery and gas prices, not to mention pay cuts or job losses, families are looking for ways to stretch their dollars farther. While obvious steps like cutting back on eating out or buying fewer toys are helpful, there are other, smaller ways to save money that add up. The family kitchen is one place where money-saving tips help frugal moms save money during daily cooking and cleaning.

1. Try Baking Soda
Have you noticed how expensive brand-name scrubs are? Compare that with a box of ordinary baking soda. Baking soda makes a great scrub for sinks and even crusty pots (as long as they don't have delicate nonstick finishes). Sprinkle baking soda onto surfaces and add water to make a grainy paste. Scrub with a sponge.

2. Use Vinegar
You probably have another ordinary kitchen item in your pantry that was a cleaning staple for previous generations. Vinegar is a cheap, all-natural antiseptic and antibacterial cleaning agent when mixed half-and-half with water. Fill an empty spray bottle with equal parts water and white or apple cider vinegar, and use in place of any all-purpose kitchen cleaner sprays. Vinegar is nontoxic and effective -- and much cheaper than household cleaners.

3. Cleaning Cloths
Paper towels are expensive, not to mention environmentally-unfriendly. Switch to cloth rags that you can throw in the washing machine and reuse as needed.

4. Use Appliances Wisely
Dishwashers and ovens use a lot of electricity, which translates into money out of your pocket. Be sure your dishwasher is full when you run it, to save on water and electricity. Skip the heated dry cycle and use air dry. When baking, if your dish can cook in the microwave rather than the oven, use the smaller appliance. It takes less electricity and is therefore more budget-friendly.

5. Use Every Scrap
Lots of us throw away food that could be used, which wastes food and increases our grocery bills. Remember that leftover or limp vegetables can be used in soups and stews, extra herbs and celery leaves are great in vegetable broth, and meat or poultry bones are the base for homemade stock.

6. Go Bigger
When grocery shopping, don't fall for individual-serving items, which cost a lot more. Those little applesauce cups are pricey compared to the large jars of applesauce, for example. Buy the cheaper version and divvy up the contents in your own kitchen.

7. Save that Milk
Sure, a gallon of milk that's about to turn might seem unappealing, but it's perfect for making pancakes, waffles and cornbread. After all, the buttermilk used in those types of recipes is basically just sour milk.

8. Shop in Bulk
Consider buying grains, nuts and flours in bulk rather than in smaller packages. You'll save considerable money over bagged and boxed varieties.

9. Grow Your Own
Consider home-growing your vegetables. Home gardens are becoming increasingly popular. It doesn't have to be large or fancy, but even a small plot or a few pots for growing tomatoes, lettuce and cucumbers saves you money at the supermarket and gives you fresh dinner ingredients.

Saving money in the family kitchen doesn't have to be hard or complicated. Use these tips and you'll love the money-saving results!

Kathryn Jarvis likes to save money at