Want to know how to save money on food? How about saving a little extra time in the kitchen? Keep reading for my best shelf cooking tips and tricks you need to try for yourself!

Woman rolling out pizza dough learning how to save money on food, from Shelf Cooking

Guys, raising a family is no joke! Between work, running errands, and shuttling kids to activities, we're all so busy. By dinner time, the only thing you might want to make for dinner is a call… for pizza delivery.

*Note: When you click the links in this post, we may receive a commission at no extra cost to you.

What if I told you that you can save so much money on food if you first shop your shelves for hearty, easy meals your family will love? Let's talk about the basics of Shelf Cooking! Shelf cooking is primarily comprised of:

While this might feel a little overwhelming at first, we're here to walk you through some smart tips, tricks, and hacks to help you become a shelf cooking high superhero! First, let's talk about…


Hand writing on weekly meal planner, from Shelf Cooking

Meal planning isn't the easiest thing in the world. That's why sometimes it's nice to have a little help. Here are my best, tried and true tips for mastering your meal planning and how you can use these tips to save money on food! Grab your free meal planning printable and get to gettin'.


Fact: when you shop your shelves, you need fewer things from the store. You can reduce what you buy by half — or less — by shopping your own pantry, fridge, and freezer first. Done inventorying? AWESOME! Now it's time to fit the puzzle pieces together:


  • Start with a Protein – Do you have a bunch of chicken? Ground turkey? Hamburger? Picking your protein narrows down your options for a meal much more quickly and easily than starting with veggies.
  • Pick a Theme – Build a meal based on groups of ingredients that make sense together. Do you have rice, cheese, green peppers, tortillas, and taco seasoning? When you find ingredients with a commonality, make a meal of them!
  • Grab Your Phone – Use your phone to organize your meal plan, grocery list, and grocery budget. It’ll save both time and money. Favoreats is a social sharing app for when you need a quick meal plan! (Premium, but use JORDAN15 at checkout to save 15%).
  • Save the Date – Keep a magnetic whiteboard right on your fridge. Write down what your meals are by day. This keeps you organized and prevents all of the “Mom! What's for dinner?!” questions.
  • Plan for Fast Food Nights – Schedule days to eat out! This helps you avoid impulse fast food shopping. Plus, it gives you something to look forward to!
  • Plan for a Leftovers Night – Each week, pick at least one night you'll repurpose your leftovers. This is mindful meal planning at its finest!


  • Keep Your Junk Mail – Look at those grocery ads and figure out the best day of the week to go shopping. Some stores even allow for double coupons, so if you see a great deal on something you plan to buy anyway, you get twice the savings!
  • Shop Mid-Week – Not only do a lot of stores offer their best prices mid-week, but some stores let you stack last week's deal on this week's deal for overlap and even more savings!
  • Buy in Bulk – I can't stress this enough. This tip works no matter how big (or small) your family is. Buy foods you use regularly in as big of a size as you can afford. It's not only a better price per ounce, it's a great way to build up a stockpile… As long as you'll eat it before it goes bad! Look for produce, cheese, meat, crackers & dry goods. Don't have space? Split what you buy with a friend!

Pro Tip: You can freeze so. many. things! Keep your food fresher, longer, by freezing it the right way. Then you can pull from your freezer inventory when you need something without heading to the store!

Now that you've planned what you're going to make, it's time for…


Egg muffins in a freezer bag, from Shelf Cooking

Second only to your mortgage, you're spending a ton of money on your food, especially if you're winging your meals. A few tips for how to save money on food with smart meal prep:

  • Keep Your Fave Recipes Separate – Any time I make a recipe my family loves — whether it's an online recipe or grandma's recipe notecard from the 50s — I make a copy of it, print it out, and keep it in my recipe binder of go-to meals.
  • Make Meals with Leftovers in Mind – Don't waste food! Baking a bunch of chicken in the oven on Sunday? Fantastic! Now think about how to use some of that chicken for at least one other meal this week.
  • Double and Freeze – Since you've already got the ingredients and you're putting in the effort, double the recipe! Then take half and freeze it for another day.
  • Use a Freezer Bag – Use a double freezer bag for food you'll reheat in a pot, like a slow cooker or instant pot meal. Then, when you're ready to heat and eat, just run the bag under warm water to help thaw!
  • Use a Freezer Pan – Got a lasagna or breakfast casserole? Triple cover the pan with foil, write the instructions on the top, and you're good to go!
  • Pour Your Breakfast into Muffin Pans – We love make-ahead breakfasts! These easy egg protein cups are so easy to whip up in a huge batch and freeze for on-the-go nourishment.
  • Say Yep to the Prep – Perfectly chopped pre-packaged veggies are convenient, but they get spendy really quick. Take a few minutes to chop your own, and you'll save half the cost!

Pro Tip: Batch chop all of your ingredients on a Sunday, and you're set with an entire week of meals!


Tortilla on a pan and leftovers in containers, from Shelf Cooking

Around here, we love the “l” word: leftovers! Whether it's a leftover burrito, olive brine, pickle juice, or even pasta sauce, just look at some of the fun ways you can repurpose your leftovers:

  • Freeze Your Fruit Tray – Even watermelon saves really well! You can use it in slushy drinks, desserts, and even frozen breakfast smoothies!
  • Toss Yesterday's Cake in the Mixer – Big cakes from Costco are my favorite cakes of all time. When you have leftover cake, make it into cake pops!
  • Toss Your Veggie Tray in the Oven – What if I told you you can roast those store snack tray veggies up with oil, salt, and pepper at 400°F for 15-20 minutes? You might never look at a fresh veggie tray the same again.
  • Cook with Coke – You're at a party, and you're half-way through a bottle of soda. Now what? Cook with it! Coca Cola, Dr. Pepper, and even Sprite are sugary, carbonated, and they make meats so flavorful, tender, and delicious.
  • Bake with Sprite – Add one box of cake mix with 12 ounces of soda (no other ingredients needed!) for a fluffy, moist cake! Pair a dark soda with a dark cake mix and a lighter-colored soda with a light cake mix.
  • Put Your Stale Bread to Work – You're gonna love how simple it is to whip up these crunchy French toast sticks! Then make extra, freeze, and enjoy these whenever you feel like getting your maple syrup on.
  • Squish Your Potato Chips – Potato chips are so good for snacking. But what if I told you I literally crush on them?! Well, crush them on casseroles, anyway! They make basically the most amazing chicken breading, too!

Looking for some more fun leftover ideas? Check out these clever ways to use leftover rice!


Shelf cooking is the most affordable, effective way to feed your family delicious, home cooked meals. You save half the cost by planning meals with what you have on hand first and then buying what you need.

Shelf cooking is so rewarding! And remember, we're not looking for perfection here. We're looking for you and your family to save money, eat healthfully, and enjoy each other!

What are your favorite tips for shopping your shelves, meal planning, prep, and using those leftovers and other ways how to save money on food? Drop me a line below! And be sure to check out our Shelf Cooking Community on Facebook for even more amazing ideas from your fellow shelf cookers!

Image with text that reads "20+ ways to save money on food in the kitchen" from Shelf Cooking

Can’t get enough of our easy recipes and kitchen hacks? 

Get your shelf in gear, and have fun!