If you've bought a house then you know how tight money can get, but if you haven't then know that when you buy a house you will not be interested in spending money on much of anything else. One of the biggest things we spend money on is is food ( no surprise there! ). So, we knew we wanted to focus on limiting that expense and also use up our pantry to prepare for moving. Here's what we did to limit how much we spent on food:
1. Make things yourself: This is not always successfully cost effective so know that first, but most of the time you will save yourself at least a little money by making food yourself. For example making black bean burgers at home is way cheaper than the grocery store. ( I haven't bought store made black bean burgers in a while but I think they are $5-6 dollars for 4 burgers and if I make them at home I would spend $2 on beans plus another few on frozen corn--which it takes several batches to use up--and I usually have some pasta sauce and bread crumbs on hand. So I end up spending about half as much to get 6-8 burgers, which is pretty great! ). We also make our own pasta sauce sometimes and I always make my own peanut butter because I hate the added sugar, salt, and oil in commercial peanut butter--plus it's so easy!
2. Eat at home: This ties into #1 pretty well and I'm sure you know this already but eating dinner out is really expensive. Also, going out to eat when you're trying to save money is just not fun so you're always tempted to spend a bit more--and then there's tip and taxes, etc. So, eating at home is your best bet.
3. Choose wisely: If you do go out to dinner, remember that restaurants usually give large portions that are very calorie dense. So, it will be both cost effective and healthier to choose to have some appetizers as your dinner or even to split a meal with your date or a friend instead of both getting something or consider just having water since soda or alcohol are both pricier and more calories. It's all about balance. You can also try to stretch it into two meals by taking half home with you for lunch the next day.
4. Plan ahead: Y'all know that I love my Sunday meal prep and one of the reasons is because I make a list of the meals we'll eat and write down all of the ingredients. When I stick to the list then I only buy food I'm certain I'll use and then I won't waste money or ( usually ) cave to impulse buys. Plus, and you know this, don't go hungry so you are less likely to grab everything off the shelves.
5. Price Shop: Figure out where you can find the best price on the things you buy most. A prime example? We buy quinoa every few weeks since it's a staple for us and it's about half the price at Walmart that it is at our grocery store so it's worth the trip!
6. Cheap Staples: Think of what you can make with some cheap staples. Think bananas, oats, eggs, beans, and seasonal produce. You'd be surprised what you can make with cheap ingredients, like overnight oats, breakfast cookies, breakfast for dinner, black bean burgers, nachos, etc.
7. Shop Sales: Don't be afraid to buy what's on sale--even if it's not ready to eat. Most grocery stores have sales flyers that you can read before you head to the store so you can plan. However, when you get there you might find that what is on sale isn't ready to eat--buy it anyway! For example, this week peaches were on sale but really not ripe so I threw them into a bowl with a few bananas ( it works! ) and let them ripen. It didn't cost me anything to have them sitting on the counter for a week and next week when they're ready to eat they'll cost twice as much at the store.
8. Embrace Leftovers: Yea, leftovers are not everyone's favorites but if you're trying to save money, you'll have to learn to love them. Sometimes the best way to use up leftovers is to make them into something else. For example, you could buy chicken ( on sale ) and grill it to use during the week. One day you could put it in a stir fry, another day on a salad, and yet another in a burrito or wrap. Finding ways to use up leftovers can be a fun challenge--if you think of it that way.
9. Treat yo self: This one may seem counter-intuitive because you're like "how can I treat myself when I'm trying to save money?" I think that the key to success with any long term goal is balance. If you want to eat healthier, you can't expect yourself to never have sweets or a cheese burger; it's just not realistic. The same is true with money. Now, I'm not saying spend a lot of money on your treat; that would defeat the purpose, but if you plan a small treat that is a reasonable price then it will help keep you from feeling deprived and sad about the fact that you can't go have a steak dinner. For example, raspberries are something I love and I often pick them up at the grocery store but then it wasn't cost efficient or practical. However, when they went on sale, I grabbed one and was really excited about it-- and it made me feel like I wasn't even trying to save money, score.
What are your tips for saving money on food?
If there's one thing I can get excited about, it's snacks. At one point, a student saw how many snacks I had in my desk at work and basically asked if I thought an apocalypse was coming or something. "Uhm, no. I just have a fear of being without snacks," I said. So true, so true. Here are my favorite snacks:
Found these at Marden's for $2.50!
1. Beef Jerky: First of all, the best beef jerky of all time was made by my father-in-law and now is made by my husband. For those of you who can't cajole your husband into making you beef jerky ( or, heck, who has the time? ), my favorite brand is Krave, pictured above. My husband claims not to like this kind but I'll just let you guess who ate the last of it. Keep in mind that anything dehydrated from fruit to beef is going to be calorie dense--i.e. don't eat the whole bag in one sitting ( the struggle is real ! ).
2. Chia Seed Pudding: Okay, I'll admit right now to being hipster. Go ahead, judge. The thing is, I really do like chia seed pudding. My husband is not a fan and my students think it is the weirdest thing they've ever seen ( Yes, this is the stuff that you see on T.V.-- Chi, chi, chi, chia! ), but I still like it. First of all, it's a great source of protein, like all seeds. Second of all, the versatility makes it a total win for me. On my to make list: one from Paleomg's cookbook, this Cherry Jubilee one from Real Food Whole Life, and obviously this colorful one from How Sweet Eats. I mean, come on. Plus, you can top it with toasted coconut or fruit (so, obviously I'm in) or even jam or whipped cream ( or coconut cream for those fellow lactose intolerants! ).
3. Energy Bites: We've totally talked about this before, but they travel well, freeze beautifully, and are easy to make so yes, I'm a bit stuck on them. My favorite, and David's favorite, are probably these from Eat, Live, Run. As he said, they taste like cookies--uhm, yes please.
4. Smoothies! If you haven't noticed yet, I'm pretty obsessed with smoothies. First of all, anything fruit and I'm there. Second, they are easy and fast to make and travel well in mason jars. Third, since I'm often running late or going somewhere, they are perfect to take on the road. Usually I make them for breakfast but in the summer I just want smoothies all. the. time. In this same realm, I also love green juices--is there anything that can make you feel healthier? But it has to be like, I woke up late and in 20 minutes I'm going to have lunch anyway because no one is full after drinking a green juice, no one.
5. Toast: Okay, before you roll your eyes, toast can be wonderful ! When we stay with my parents probably 9/10 times I'll have sprouted grain bread and almond / peanut butter toast for breakfast. I'll top it with fruit or granola to give it some extra oomph and texture. There's also Justin's Chocolate Hazelnut Butter on toast with some milk, which is obviously the snack of champions. And, since I'm still a hipster, don't forget about avocado toast because toast + perfectly ripe avocado + a little sea salt (and maybe some lemon juice) = one of the best simple snacks ever. Give toast a chance!
What are some of your favorite snacks?