One of the easiest ways to save money is by cooking as much from scratch as possible. It can be hard to do that when you’re working full time, though. I know that when I get home at 6 in the evening and know I only have a few hours of relaxation time, I don’t want to spend an hour in the kitchen. I also know that I’m usually starving when I get home, and if I don’t have anything ready, I’m 500% more likely to want to pop out and grab something quickly, which means (for the two of us) $20-30 is gone, just like that.
My method of dealing with this is to cook on weekends for the week ahead. Yes, this means I eat a lot of leftovers, but that’s never bothered me. I usually go 2-3 months without making the same thing twice, so I don’t get sick of eating the same food constantly.
Take this weekend: we went to a local farmers’ market on Saturday morning and picked up a whole 6 lb chicken ($16) and a shit tonne of veggies. In the fall you get everything cheaper than you can imagine, so we spent $28 on sweet potatoes, celery, onions, carrots, broccoli, cauliflower, strawberries, and peaches.
On Saturday, I roasted the chicken with a little olive oil and herbs from my garden, along with some chopped root vegetables. That night, I took the rest of the meat off the carcass, and used the bones along with some vegetable scraps that I freeze specifically for this purpose, and made chicken stock in my slow cooker. We had leftover chicken and veggies for lunch, and then I made a chicken, rice, broccoli, and cauliflower casserole that night for dinner and for the next 3 lunches for each of us. I also took the stock I’d made, added carrots, celery, onions, tomato paste, dried beans, 4 slices of leftover bacon, and spices, and made an amazing bean soup that was going to be our suppers through the week. I also made a loaf of bread (which is easier than most people think), so breakfasts and the last couple lunches were essentially taken care of as well.
There you go. A few hours of cooking, and 4-5 breakfasts, lunches, and dinners were all set. If you really can’t stand the idea of eating the same thing 4 days in a row, you can always freeze half and then, midway through the week, take out freezer portions from previous batches. We usually run out of prepared on Thursday, which is why Thursday has become our standard night to treat ourselves and go out to eat. Even with that, though, and with the grocery store staples (milk, rice, flour, etc), it’s rare that we spend more than $100-150 a week on food.
I’m sure there are a lot of people out there who can eat just as well for even less. When I look at the meals we have, I don’t see how we’re denying ourselves anything, and almost everything we eat is homemade and healthy. So, as I develop my budget going forward, my food line will be $600 a month.