By contributing writer Laura
With colder weather here and Christmas just around the corner, ’tis the season to bake and warm up your kitchen! Wondering how you can save money while being crafty in the kitchen? Here are some frugal baking tips and shortcuts to help you out.
Cook from Scratch
This may sound obvious, but cooking from scratch will almost always save you money. That means avoiding box mixes, pre-made products, or store bought bakery items. If you take the time to make your food and bakery items from scratch, it can save you a big chunk of change.
Buy During Peak Sale Times
It’s that time of year when you notice baking goods and cookware start to go on sale. Be sure to stock up on all the baking supplies you regularly use like flour, sugar, spices, extracts, etc. Manufacturers know that the holiday season is peak time for baking, so you will see more sales as well as coupons available for baking products. During winter, I often see loss leaders of flour and sugar in grocery store ads as the stores seek to draw you in.
Buy in Bulk
Check your grocery store for bulk bins as well as large, restaurant-size packages at warehouse stores. Often times you can get a better price when buying in bulk or larger packaging, but be sure to check the unit price. Before you buy in bulk, make sure you have room to store the food, or see if you can split an order with a friend so you don’t have a 50 pound bag of flour taking over your pantry (trust me on that!).
Try Frugal Baking Tips & Shortcuts
There are a few frugal shortcuts I use in the kitchen that can help save you both time and money. Try the following:
Use butter or margarine wrappers in lieu of cooking spray.
This is a trick my mom and grandmother have used in the kitchen for as long as I can remember. Keep the empty butter wrappers in your fridge, and use it to grease baking sheets or pans. I’ve done this myself for as long as I’ve been cooking in the kitchen. I never realized it wasn’t something most people do!
Keep a plastic baggie of crushed graham crackers.
I love making my own simple graham cracker crust for cheesecakes and pies. But crushing graham crackers takes a little bit of time. So whenever we buy a package of graham crackers from the store to have as a snack, there are inevitably broken pieces or crumbs inside. Don’t throw these out; collect them in a plastic baggie and use later to make a simple graham cracker crust.
Keep a plastic baggie of crushed candy.
What many people may throw out, I like to save. Crushed up candy cane or peppermint candies can make a great topping for a chocolate peppermint cake and other desserts as well as gifts like DIY Peppermint Sugar Scrubs. Also, candy pieces — even if broken — can make a great topping for ice cream sundaes.
Make your own cake & cookie mixes and keep in mason jars or plastic baggies for easy use.
Making your own cake, cookie, or pancake and biscuit mixes is more cost effective than buying packaged mixes, plus you can control exactly what goes into it, including how much sugar and other fillers. Keep this in the pantry, and you can easily dress it up with ribbons and baking instructions to give as a quick, last-minute gift.
Buy box mixes on markdown.
If you can get a great deal on a box mix that is on markdown or you can combine a sale with a coupon, purchase and keep those in your pantry. It can help save you time when you need to whip together a dessert quickly. There are some great recipes online for cake mix creations that use cake mix as an ingredient in a dessert recipe, creating extraordinary desserts that you wouldn’t think came from a box!
Keep a list of baking supplies and spices you are running low on.
By keeping a list of baking supplies and spices you need, you can remember to pick up more during one of your next shopping trips and search for a good price. Some spices I don’t use often, and I have found that if I’m running low and don’t make a note to pick it up at the store, I’ll completely forget, and then the next time I’m halfway through that recipe and run completely out of that key ingredient, I’ll wish I had made a list. Save time by keeping a running list of ingredients you are running low on.
Make your own cake circles.
If you are a frugal cake lady like me and love to bake and decorate cakes, you can run through supplies quickly. Instead of buying the cardboard cake circles, I make my own by taking a bowl or circle outline, and tracing over a side of a cardboard box (diaper box, package I received in the mail, etc.). I then cut out the circle and will cover with foil or plastic wrap. Using a DIY cake circle instead of putting your un-frosted cake directly on your serving platter, allows you to use a revolving plastic turntable or lazy susan, which makes the frosting and decorating process much easier!
What ways do you like to save money when baking in the kitchen? Any tips or shortcuts that you use that help you save time and/or money? Leave a comment and share your tips!