This is a dangerous time of year for me to go grocery shopping. Everywhere I turn I pick up a craving. I see Chex cereal in someone’s cart. Suddenly I’m craving Muddy Buddies – you know, that peanut butter/chocolate/powdered sugar-covered Chex cereal. Blackberries are on sale at Aldi. “Oh, I think I saw a blackberry scone recipe somewhere.”
Before long I’ve convinced myself to squeeze in another full-fledged day of baking to accommodate all these cravings (please tell me that I’m not the only one?).
I know that most of us are baking these days, so let’s walk through six money-saving tips that will help you each step of the way.
As You Plan
#1: Find Ingredient Substitutes
Just because a recipe calls for some ingredient you don’t have doesn’t mean you actually have to buy said absent ingredient. Try finding a substitute. I think Joy of Baking has one of the most complete ingredient substitution lists I’ve seen, with the exception of spice substitutes.
When I’m out of a spice I need, then I google “[spice name] substitute” to see if I can make do with something I’ve already got. (By the way, when I discovered that I can make my own buttermilk substitute – wow, it opened a whole new world of baking recipes. Just sayin’…it’s the simple things in life.)
#2: Plan Around What You Already Have
I *big puffy heart love* AllRecipes.com’s ingredient search. It’s perfect for last-minute baking recipes (or last-minute dinner ideas). You input the ingredients you do have on hand. You input ingredients you don’t have. AllRecipes will search its ten gazillion recipes and provide a list of only those that use what you have. It’s a beautiful thing, my friend. Truly beautiful. (Try it, you‘ll l-o-v-e it.)
As You Shop
#3: Raid the Secret Spice Section
I hope your grocery store has a secret spice section like mine (I’m talking Cub Foods, a SuperValu-owned store, for those who may live near one). It’s not aisle 7 or wherever they put the plastic bottles of McCormick spices. Nope. Not there. It’s at the edge of the produce section. Look for a display of small plastic spice-filled bags. They are store-brand and cheap. Cheap (with a capital C). For example, I think I paid a buck or two for a package of cinnamon sticks and another buck or two for sage at Thanksgiving.
#4: Use Coupons
If you forgot to check the Pocket Your Dollars grocery coupon database before you left for the store, then check the free Ibotta app while you‘re inside. You earn a cash deposit into your free Ibotta account when you buy qualifying products at select retailers nationwide (and tons of retailers participate, plus you get a sign-up bonus). It’s worth the few minutes to download the Ibotta app and see if anything on your list is currently cash back-eligible.
As You Bake
#5: Wax Paper Hack
If you don’t want certain candy or cookies to stick to everything, you might want to lay them on wax paper to cool (by default I cool cookies on newspaper because that’s what my mom did. Is that gross?). Or, maybe you want to use wax paper as you stack cookies for transport or freezing. Instead of that store-bought box of wax paper, use a washed, cut-to-lay-flat cereal bag from boxed cereal. It works like a charm. (Yes, this tip just changed your life. I know it.)
#6: Skip the Vent Hood
You‘re probably not prone to turn on your exhaust fan/vent hood while you bake, but you might. You know the routine: A crumb falls to the bottom. Stink. Smoke alarm. Exhaust fan. But, that fan doesn’t just suck up the stink. It takes all the warm air out of your house. Voom, up goes your heating bill as your furnace kicks in to replace all that lost hot air. (Same thing with the fan in your bathroom, by the way. Use it, but don’t overuse it when you‘re running the furnace.)
There you have it: six easy-peasy things you can do to save money on your holiday baking. Put one into practice and call it today’s to-do item. Well done, friend.
Your turn: Got any baking-related tips to share? Leave a comment and share!
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