What is frugal cooking?

Frugal cooking means something different to everyone.  Most people agree that frugality is at least partially about saving money.  A complete view of frugality covers more than money.

Wikipedia defines frugality as:

  1. acquiring goods and services in a restrained manner, and
  2. resourcefully using already owned economic goods and services, to
  3. achieve a longer term goal.

I apply these principles of frugality to come up with this my definition of frugal cooking:

  1. acquiring inexpensive and healthful ingredients, and
  2. using things already in your pantry and refrigerator, to
  3. achieve the long term goal of saving time and money, and good health for your family.

So practicing frugal cooking doesn’t just mean buying the least expensive items you can find or buying sale items.  True frugal cooking is about balancing cost with time savings and health.  Here are some examples of common choices I make that illustrate using frugal cooking principles to make good choices:

  • Beans are a very health ingredient so I like to keep them on hand.  While dry beans are about 1/4 the cost of canned beans, they require soaking overnight and then several hours of cooking.  I choose the canned beans because I rarely have the time to cook dry beans and the canned beans are still relatively inexpensive.
  • Rice is a very inexpensive and healthy ingredient.  I choose brown rice because for the same cost it has more vitamins, minerals and fiber, thus much better for my family’s health.
  • Packaged foods like top ramen and boxed macaroni and cheese are really inexpensive and quick to make.  I NEVER buy these because they’re not healthy.  They are full of white flour, sugar, salt, fat and chemicals.  Instead, I choose to make my own so I can control the ingredients.
  • Supermarkets always have something on sale in the meat department.  I do check out all the sale items, but often choose a nonsale item because it’s still less expensive, is more healthy or works better with ingredients I already have at home.

Please feel free to comment with ways that you make frugal choices.

Join the Conversation


  1. I enjoyed reading your blog. I want someday to become a frugal home cook, but I find that I lack A)the energy after a full-time job and B)the experience to cook. I guess I could throw in C)a kitchen.

    I used to watch those chef programs on cable, bought cookbooks, went through the steps of trying different things, but nothing really pleased my family’s palate as well as restaurant food (which was ridiculously overpriced).

    We literally eat out for every meal. The cost is enormous. That is why your blog and others like it have the potential to really help people like me.

    Thank you,

  2. Just keep it simple to start. The chef programs on TV are not good for everyone. Start with what does your family likes to eat and try those recipes, taste while you are cooking. Get your family into the kitchen chopping & cooking.

    Yes eating out is expensive! Use cookbooks with recipes that your family likes. Casseroles and stews that can be reheated help on daily cooking chores.

  3. I use a lot of canned beans too. I’ve read that recently harvested dry beans cook much faster than regular ones; I’m going to try it and see what I think!

    If you have a taste for rice and ramen, I hope you’ve tried Asian markets!

  4. I do spend a fair time at Asian markets. There are some deals that are unbelievable. One day at Vietnamese supermarket I saw the best looking rib eye steaks I’ve ever seen for $2.99/lb!

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