Cooking creatively and inexpensively can be done--without resorting to ramen.
Cooking creatively and inexpensively can be done–without resorting to ramen.

Just because you want to cook on a budget doesn’t mean you have to suffer. There’s no need to boil ramen when we’ve boiled down the three essentials of cooking on the cheap. All you have to do is shop, shop, shop and prepare that sumptuous meal!

1. Economical Utensils. Having the right utensils can make or break your experience in the kitchen. When buying utensils, you want to find those that are long-lasting and that ideally multitask. Check out Paleo Leap for 10 essential kitchen utensils. The list highlights what basics you need and nothing more so you don’t overspend on unnecessary items. Inessential items to be avoided, however tempting they may be, are ones that are incredibly specific – see HellaWella’s list so you know which gadgets to avoid when you shop.

So where to buy utensils? Wayfair has quality finds (including sets of items) for under $50, and Dollar General has a limited selection of kitchen items, but what they do have is about as inexpensive as it gets and of good quality. Target also offers good options for kitchen utensils and appliances, if a bit more expensive. They are currently offering 20% off KitchenAid and free shipping on orders over $50.

We also suggest that you take advantage of promotions. If you live in Northern California, for example, Lucky Supermarkets is running a promotion until January 2015 when you can earn free Thomas Professional Cookware like pots and pans by collecting stamps from your regular grocery purchases.

Plan Ingredients in Advance. Impulse purchases can kill the most thoughtful grocery budget. To avoid those temptations, we shop online.  You can give it a shot with services like the same-day delivery Google Shopping Express or Amazon Fresh (if you live in a number of metropolitan areas in the U.S.) or direct delivery from stores like Safeway (which offers free first time delivery) or Walmart. In general, we suggest avoiding specialty stores, as they tend to be more expensive, and opting for grocery stores instead. And make sure to keep track of your deliveries with Slice!

Creative Recipes Kill Budget Boredom. Cooking on a budget does not mean your food should be bland – it’s an opportunity to get creative instead! If you’re cooking for one, check out Budget Bytes, which is regularly updated with new mouth-watering recipes, or the Food Network’s budget-friendly recipes. Cooking Light has recipes under $10 for families. And if you don’t want to go grocery shopping but aren’t sure of what you can cook with what you already have, check out MyFridgeFood, which lets you input what you have in your fridge and suggests recipes based on the ingredients you select.

Here’s to a bon appétit on the cheap!