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Four simple ways to create budget-friendly meals

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(NEW YORK) — Cooking at home can be a great way to cut down on food costs, but understanding the elements and how to make the best use of ingredients is an important step to staying on track.

Jenna Helwig, Bare Minimum Dinners cookbook author, recipe developer and food director at Real Simple, shared a few tactics that make the most of any budget.

Get Creative with Basic Ingredients

“When you stick to basic ingredients and stay away from specialty items, your grocery bill will be significantly cheaper,” Helwig said.

There are a bunch of basic, affordable ingredients to add to a shopping list and recipes that can be used in different ways throughout the week. Helwig suggested items like oats, eggs, marinara sauce and canned beans.

Big Batch Breakfasts for Easy Mornings

“To keep mornings stress-free, make frozen smoothie packs, overnight oats, breakfast burritos, breakfast sandwiches and more on the weekends and freeze them. In the mornings, simply get them out and zap them in the microwave or blender if needed — breakfast comes together in seconds” she said.

Of course, the real savings come in when you eat breakfast at home and don’t stop somewhere on your way to work — so think about prepping some DIY cold brew instead snagging a pricey iced latte from your favorite coffee shop.

Cook Your Freezer

“Cooking your freezer is a great way to save money. Frozen fruit and veggies can be cheaper, you can buy meat in bulk and then freeze some, and products like frozen pizza dough mean you can make a pizza in less time than it takes for delivery,” said Helwig.

Flavor Boosters to Stock Your Pantry

“Introduce items to your pantry that pack a punch of flavor with things like anchovies, miso, fish sauce, tahini and flaky sea salt,” Helwig said. “A little of these go a long way to making basic foods taste amazing.”

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