When creating or revising a budget, you might think food is the one thing you can’t skimp on. It is essential for survival, after all. But how much do you really need to spend on sustenance each month? After careful analysis of your spending habits, you may find those Chipotle lunches and Sunday brunches adding up. It takes some planning, and some good recipes, but it’s possible to save a tasty sum of money while improving your health.
“It’s amazing what a little time in the kitchen can do for your wallet, not to mention your body and mind.”
Take a close look
If you’re looking to reel in your food spending, begin by figuring out where to make the easy cuts. A good place to start is take-out. The average restaurant meal costs about $12.75 per person, according to The Simple Dollar. At the rate an average American eats out (about four times per week), that’s $232 per month, or almost $3,000 in a year. That’s enough for a short vacation. When you start examining your eating habits, the potential savings may surprise you. Start saving receipts and tracking your spending – just being aware of how much you spend might compel you to save. Melanie Pinola at Lifehacker suggested comparing average food budgets in your area to your own to get an idea of what’s realistic.
Just like shopping for any other necessity, planning ahead leads to savings in the long run. In her budget-conscious cookbook “Good and Cheap,” Leanne Brown lays out some ground rules for smart grocery shopping before diving into delicious recipes that add up to only $4 per day. Among the best:
- Buy in bulk if you find yourself using certain ingredients frequently, but make sure you can use it all before it goes bad.
- Take advantage of your freezer and use it to store large batches of prepared items, like beans, or entire meals. This can save time and money.
- Sugary drinks like soda and juice can become a drain on your budget while adding to your waistline. Try to cut back and drink mostly tap water. Brown suggested sprucing it up with lemon or cucumber slices.
Learn to love cooking
Many view cooking as a chore, but it doesn’t have to be this way. Taking time to find and combine the right ingredients in unique ways can be a lot of fun, as well as a great learning experience for you, your partner and even the kids. And what inspires love more than a fresh, home-cooked meal? Take your cooking game to the next level with advice from the pros. YouTube star Chef John produces a great guide to cooking called Food Wishes, specializing in easy recipes explained in less than 10 minutes. Esquire also publishes quick tips for home chefs that cover some basic techniques. Leanne Brown’s aforementioned cookbook is also a great starting point.
It’s amazing what a little time in the kitchen can do for your wallet, not to mention your body and mind. With these tips in mind, start slow and begin building your pantry and skills. Who knows, you may have just discovered a new hobby – one that actually saves money.
The views expressed by the articles and sites linked in this post do not necessarily reflect the opinions and policies of Cash Central or Community Choice Financial®.