Updated on 02.11.08

Using SuperCook to Save on Your Grocery Bill

Trent Hamm

Over the last week, SuperCook has quickly become one of my favorite websites. Basically, SuperCook is a database of recipes that works in a very clever fashion – just start entering ingredients in the upper left and it will start listing recipes on the right. Every time you add another ingredient, it finds recipes using only those ingredients and only a minimum of additional items. So, let’s say you add “tomato sauce,” “pasta,” and “pork” – it’ll suggest spaghetti with marinara sauce, which you’ll only need parmesan cheese for.

It’s not perfect yet (there’s some limited ingredient misidentification), but the potential for an amazing amount of utility is in place. I found a wonderful simple grilled fish recipe very quickly just playing around with the tool. Quite simply, this is a wonderful online tool for anyone who cooks at home.

Naturally, I began to look at this tool through the lens of how can it save money for me and my readers. Here are some ways you can apply this tool to save money in your own kitchen.

Dig through the cupboards. You likely have some stuff buried in the back that you haven’t thought about using in ages. Plug it into this tool, add a few other seemingly compatible things you have lying around, and see what recipes this tool gives you. Ideally, you’ll come up with a number of interesting recipes.

Sit down with your grocery flyer. Find out what foods are on sale this week, then use the tool to see what sort of recipes you can make from these items that are on sale. Fish fillets, lemon juice, and potatoes are on sale? Pop all of those into this tool and it’ll spit out some recipes. Just go through the whole flyer and enter everything that seems tasty and you’ll find a big bundle of complete and nearly-complete recipes just waiting to be used.

Buy in bulk. If you have an opportunity to buy food in bulk, this tool can be phenomenal for helping you generate a ton of ideas for what to do with it. We’re considering buying a quarter of a cow for our deep freezer, so we’ve been looking at lots of beef recipes. I entered “beef” into this tool and was flooded with ideas, so I started thinking of foods that, in my mind, would be tasty with beef. There are more ideas here than I can possibly use, and I’m further convinced that the purchase is a good idea that will save us some real money.

Inspire yourself. Often, the one thing that gets me into the kitchen after a long day at work is inspiration – the idea that I can quickly cook something quite delicious for my family. All I have to do for some inspiration is to put in a thing or two that sound really tasty to me right now – say, chicken and parmesan cheese, and see what I can find. Then I keep adding stuff I know I have around the kitchen until I find a recipe.

SuperCook has very quickly become a part of our family’s meal planning routine, and it’s already saved us quite a bit of money by helping us figure out what to do with what we already have in the cupboard in conjunction with what’s on sale at the grocery store. Check it out.

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  1. Frugal Dad says:

    This is a great tool – thanks for leading us to it! I want to learn to cook different dishes, but quite honestly just don’t like many of the suggested ingredients in cookbooks (too expensive, to “frilly,” etc.). I really like SuperCook for coming up with recipe ideas based on what I already have on hand.

  2. Duane Lester says:

    This is a great post and a great resource. Thanks for writing this. I’m adding it to my del.icio.us account and seeding it on Newsvine.


  3. In Debt says:

    Supercook looks awesome! I got some great ideas just by typing in a couple of ingredients. Since I’ve been trying to eat both healthfully and inexpensively, I’ll definitely be using it in the future. Thanks for linking to it!

  4. Mandy says:

    This is wonderful! Often times, I have plenty in my kitchen but don’t know quite what to make with the ingredients I have on hand. I’ll get a craving for something and then either go to the grocery store and buy the ingredients for it or order takeout. Such a waste of time and money! This will definitely inspire me to eat in more often. Thanks!!

  5. Wow, thanks for that link! I love to cook at home, but I’m often stumped on what to make. I don’t want to make the same things over and over again… my husband also thanks you for this! LOL

  6. Johanna says:

    This is a search engine that seeks out recipes from any old site on the web? No thanks. Just because somebody writes something up and puts it on the internet and calls it a recipe doesn’t mean it’s any good, and some people are (much, much, much) better at the art of recipe design than others. This is why I like cookbooks: Once I find one that I can really trust to be consistently excellent, I have tons of recipes to explore that I know will all be fantastic. Out of a few dozen cookbooks that I own, there are maybe four or five that I love. You could say that that’s a waste of money, but you have your indulgences, and I have mine.

  7. Jaime says:

    I’m still a huge fan of AllRecipes.com, and they have a much more refined ingredient-based search (http://allrecipes.com/Search/Ingredients.aspx). It’s more of a community there, and doesn’t just aggregate recipes from all over the web. I tried doing a few searches on SuperCook.com and a lot of bogus results were returned…

  8. belleandthecity says:

    Are there any sites that help you plan a full week’s worth of menus, incorporating the same ingredients and left overs? Real Simple used to do this, but I haven’t been able to find anything else that does now.

  9. kelly says:

    Thanks for the site, Trent.

    As an alternative, http://www.allrecipes.com has a similar feature where you can search for recipes based on your ingredients. For those like Johanna that want something they can trust, allrecipes has tons of reviews that help weed out potential disasters OR give you some great suggestions for modifications of the recipe. Just thought I’d throw that out there.

  10. Julie says:

    That is so cool! It’s going in my bookmarks right now.

    I’ve been looking for something like this for months!

  11. Marta says:

    I agree with Johanna. I’ve been an allrecipes.com user for a while but lately I haven’t been happy with the recipes I’m finding (pretty much every recipe seems to have 4 or 5 stars). I also prefer the tried and true versions of cookbooks.

    That being said, if you’re in a rush for time or just want to get rid of some old ingredients, SuperCook does look handy.

  12. Jennifer says:

    Allrecipes ingredients search tool is a great help when I am faced with the situation that Trent mentioned … having things buried in the cupboard and not knowing what too make. It also allows you to search for recipes excluding ingredients, which is a great help if you’re trying to find a recipe without something that you either don’t have or are allergic too. (Ex. if you’re looking to make a dessert that is peanut and milk and wheat free, you can exclude all those items and search in the dessert recipes). You do have to review the reviews though. There are some that really shouldn’t be 4 star but quite a few that are 5 star are really great recipes.

  13. mark says:

    RecipeMatcher (www.recipematcher.com) is the leader in searching recipes with ingredients you already have at home. Give them a shot.

  14. Very cool website, thanks!

    I remember a site like this (maybe this one) on lifehacker around a year ago, but at the time, it had nearly no content.


  15. Andrew G says:

    Some good food for thought here. I’ll tell my girlfriend/personal chef to check it out!


  16. H-Bomb says:

    WOW!! I love that site!

  17. k12linux says:

    Great tips in the post and the comments. Man I love this place.

    I’m not a great cook, but am good enough to *generally* be able to look at the ingredients and have a good idea whether I’d hate the recipe or not.

    As a result we rarely make anything inedible. Sometimes we’re wrong and a recipe goes into the “Lets not make that again” list. And every now and then we are glad we have a backup meal that is fast to make. But that’s how you learn what not to make next time or what seasoning you don’t really care for.

    Also by being more adventurous sometimes we find that incredible meal that becomes a new favorite or goes into our personal recipe collection.

    Cookbooks are great but at some point you get enough confidence that you want to break out and experiment. That’s when you can really start customizing your meals to fit your tastes. Heck, for me that is when I started really learning which flavors, scents, textures, etc. most suit my tastes.

  18. Johanna says:

    I’m not talking about just avoiding disasters. I’m also talking about seeking out the recipes that make you go “Wow!” in amazement that those ingredients could go together to make something that tastes like that. For a long time I had no idea that such recipes exist. But they do.

  19. k12linux says:

    Agreed. Exactly why we don’t stick to the safe and known.

  20. A in NC says:

    Another great resource is http://www.recipezaar.com.
    Same idea of putting in ingredients and then narrowing the search with each additional ingredient.
    Good reviews and nice that I can sort by review levels.
    Another thing I really like on this one is the true “homemade” stuff. I make pita bread (which is so easy!) off of a recipe there. Homemade yogurt, homemade tahini, etc. This web site is where I always start. Also, many folks load in recipes from favorite cookbooks. I too am a cookbook fan.
    This is a free website tha I use so much I actually pay for gladly. That allows me to create my own cookbooks which i have divided by type of food.

  21. Missi says:

    Oh my word, I am instantly addicted. The site is bookmarked- thanks Trent!!

  22. Minimum Wage says:

    How do you SUBTRACT an ingrtedient or start over?

  23. Laura says:

    The site is great. I have new ideas for recipes. Thanks Trent!

  24. White Eagle says:

    Thanks Trent for sharing this site with us and thanks to all of you recommending similar sites.

    I’ve been looking for such an application on and off for years to help spice up my nutritional plan. I’m finally found some sites that might just do the trick. Thanks!

  25. luvleftovers says:

    this is great – I’m about to clean out my pantry so i’ll need to know what to do with all that stuff!

  26. Susan says:

    That’s wild, I’d just been trying to figure out how to condense my grocery list into multiple recipes. So you’ve saved me a huge headache on trying to figure it out on my own. Thanks!


  27. Rob Madrid says:

    My main complaint with alot of “quick and simple” recipes is they usually call for ingredients for which I have a hard time getting, like cream of mushroom soup etc. I tend to trust recipes done on blogs because the person posting it has actually made it.

  28. Will says:

    Great find Trent! I’ve already sent it out to my co-workers and wife.

  29. clevelis says:

    Yesterday, I went home and cooked dinner for the first time in a while. I had steamed salmon, steamed veggies and couscous. It was great if I do say so myself. :o) Thanx for encouraging cooking. As a single person, sometimes it just seems like why save those few dollars by cooking… Anywho! I’ll definitely check out this site.

  30. Almeda says:

    Terrific idea. Long overdue. Many thanks for pointing this out to your readers. At the very least, this site saves time…which is money.

  31. Nancy says:

    All of sites sound worth looking at – Thanks! This is a nit-picking but Trent you probably are buying a steer, not a cow.

  32. H-Bomb says:

    Minimum Wage-All you have to do is click the x next to an ingredient to take it off your list. :)

  33. TEJL says:

    Thank you so much for blogging about this! I think it will be my new favorite website too :) What a great way to clean out my overflowing pantry . . .

  34. HebsFarm says:

    By all means, buy the quarter-beef! Even better, buy a pig! When you buy a butchered pig, you get a marvelous array of meats (ham, bacon, chops, loin, roasts, sausage). Beef can get a little monotonous. I don’t know how people afford grocery-store prices for meat. One caution: my dad used to buy the cheapest beef he could find. That first steak was sometimes very disappointing, because we knew if that first steak was tough, we were going to wear out our jaws until we finished working through that steer.

  35. Crystal says:

    “Are there any sites that help you plan a full week’s worth of menus, incorporating the same ingredients and left overs?”

    Try savingdinner.com. They have an inexpensive subscription service called Menu Mailer where they email you, every week, six recipes and a shopping list. The ingredients are more or less consolidated as you describe. They have several different options, including vegetarian and frugal. It’s worth checking out.

  36. Chris says:

    I’ve often thought that such a tool must exist and that it would be perfect for me. I’m horrible at thinking up things to make out of raw ingredients. This will help immensely!

  37. sunny says:

    Agree w/Crystal – savingdinner.com is a terrific time saver and the recipes are delicious.

  38. Veronica says:

    About buying a side of beef: do they age it for you? if not you will end up with some very tough steaks. almost all of the quality beef you buy and what restaurants use has been aged for around 20 to 30 days. it has to be done in a very controlled environment. this is something you should look into before your purchase.

  39. Paul says:

    I am bookmarking supercook.com now, thanks so much Trent!

  40. Chris says:

    Thanks for supercook and allrecipes! I never thought of something so simple existed.

  41. Ashley says:

    I can’t wait to try supercook.com! Anything to keep me from making a trip to the store sooner and using up what I have leftover in the fridge is sure to become a life saver. And, by the way, I too cannot wait for your cooking blog. I love your easy reading style. I feel as if I am just taking a recommendation from a friend. :)

  42. Misty says:

    Holy Crap, this is the coolest thing!! I cook often and am always left with a small amount of something…
    This is an awesome tool to add to my favorite cookbook (you should check it out, Mom’s Best One Dish Suppers, also another great cookbook)

  43. NancyB says:

    Thanks for the website! I’m a big fan of online recipes but have never known about this one. Now I have a recipe for that pack of oysters: oyster stuffing!

    Trent, about your considering buying a quarter-beef, my advice is do it!! My husband and I bought a quarter last summer and loved it so much we bought a half this winter. We bought a small freezer (7 cubic foot) to store it. With the money we saved on the quarter beef, we broke even with buying the freezer. FYI, a quarter will fit in your freezer in the kitchen, but for a half you’ll need more space.

    This is the best tasting beef I’ve ever had. And the smell is delicious–it actually smells fresh. The color is brilliant, more so than I’ve ever seen in a grocery store. The cattle we bought are not injected with antibiotics or growth hormones, nor are they confined to small stalls to fatten them up, which leads to stress and the nasty hormone cortisone building up in their bodies. They roam through a pasture freely and are housed in barns with generous “accommodations.”

    Regarding Veronica’s comment on the tough steaks, I wonder if this is a result of the cortisone in cattle that aren’t cared for well. The steaks we have had basically melt in the mouth. They are delicious. We can cut them with a butter knife instead of a steak knife. The smell, the texture, the taste, all are superior. The beef my husband and I purchased is better than the top-notch grocery stores in my area, which charge 3-5 times more than what we paid. It seems that the thing to learn from this is to ask questions: ask what the animal eats (grain, grass) and how it feeds (from a trough in a stall, roams a pasture freely), ask if it gets growth hormones or antibiotics, ask how the animal is housed (confined to individual stalls or has a large shelter to share with other cattle). Maybe you can even see pictures of how the cattle live. I did. Don’t get me wrong: I don’t put animals above humans (although a properly cared for animal is better than one treated like, well, an animal), but I know good meat, and I’m trying to eat like royalty on a pauper’s budget.

    And here’s a big bonus that I’ve enjoyed: I have an abundance to give to others. I’m a new subscriber to your column, and I love your frugality insight. I haven’t seen you mention giving to others, but maybe that’s because I’m new. I have had a couple occasions to give to others, and I love being able to go to my freezer and give them a whole roast, top-quality steaks, or a 10# pack of hamburger patties. I’m not the richest person in the world, but I’m not the poorest either, and giving to others not only makes me feel rich but also gives me an inside satisfaction that can’t be measured with the dollar, the euro, gold, or any other monetary substance.

    Thanks for your column. I’ve enjoyed it every day.

  44. Shana says:

    epicurious.com has had this feature for years, and it’s very comprehensive (e.g. you can search by food stuffs *and* type of meal to prepare). I also like epicurious because they have good and useful customer reviews (which help point out typos…like the recipe that called for one TBSP of cayenne pepper, instead of one TSP — and yes, one reviewer actually put a tbsp of cayenne in the dish..).

  45. diso says:

    excellent site. This is a time and money saver tool!!! Will be saving me time going back and forth to the grocery store, by following a recipe (which I have been doing in the past 1 year).
    This site allows me to cook with the ingredients
    I have in hand…really handy since I start my dinner late most of the time!

  46. Lisa says:

    OMG. This is the coolest thing ever! I think I spent two hours playing with it. Thank you, thank you, thank you!!

  47. Penny Squeaker says:

    Thanks Trent,

    This is the best cooking source I have ever known. I have implemented it into our household, the savings in time & money has triple extending panty as well as providing addition recipes.

  48. Ty Brown says:

    I love that site!! My wife and I have been talking about needing something like this for weeks. Glad to find it.

  49. don says:

    Shana: epicurious does NOT have this feature. epicurious only allows you to seleect which MAIN ingredient a recipe should contain, and you can only choose between 25 main ingredients. Supercook takes into account EVERYTHING, the spices, fruit, veggies, everything.

  50. Christina says:

    I can’t thank you enough. I’ve been looking for a site like supercook for a while now.

  51. Trish says:

    I’m recommending this site for individuals who shop the sales:


    It provides me with an online “flyer” from local grocery stores, and you can monitor the sales for multiple stores as well. They are developing a feature that will tie in your shopping list taken from the flyer cross-referenced to coupons available and I’m really looking forward to that feature. But just as it is, it has become a very useful site for me to determine in advance what I’m going to buy. I then take that list and put it into sites such as epicurious.com or the one recommended here to determine our menus.

  52. Abby says:

    This site is wonderful! My fiance is getting sick of eating the same things every week, this will be great for trying new recipes!

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