I learned a few things from my budget savvy mama and, having lived on my own for a few years, I picked up a few of my own good habits and tips on saving money. These are pretty straightforward, but have helped Luis and I maintain a healthy diet and cut expenses along the way.
1. Learn how to cook.
Sometimes people believe that cooking fresh meals, full of produce and meat, is more expensive and out of their budget. This is a fallacy. Some produce items might cost you more up front, but they always always always produce a higher yield that a boxed or prepared dinner. You can eat more and fill up on your home-cooked meal without guilt! Plus, I believe that the more you cook fresh meals on a daily basis will save you money in the long run on healthcare costs. If your body is consistently being fed healthy, fresh produce, meat, dairy, etc., your body will be stronger longer.
What to do if you are a hopeless cook? Learn how to assemble food. In other words, make sandwiches, tacos, quesadillas, etc. That way you can still use fresh ingredients without resorting to buying a ton of prepared meals.
2. Plan your meals in advance and stick to a list.
When you cook your own meals, it only makes sense to be sure that you have all the items necessary to complete each meal. I actually enjoy doing this! (Does that make me weird...?) When you plan each meal and create a grocery list, it helps you stay on track while in the store. Along with a list, my hubby and I always have our phone's calculator up and we add the cost of each item and make sure we don't go over a certain limit. We don't have a strict grocery budget that we adhere to, but we try to make sure that our costs don't exceed a certain price.
One resource that helps me meal plan has been to create a Pinterest board. It helps me compile foods that I like and choose from that list so I don't have to spend too much time pouring over recipe books and pulling my hair out. Pinterest is a God-send.
3. Keep track of what is already in your pantry.
Knowing what's in your pantry and cupboards can help plan meals with ingredients you already have, eliminating repeated purchases and saving time and money at the store. Also, try to plan your meals around what you already have.
4. Bring your lunch to work at least 4 days each week.
This one doesn't need much explanation. Food prices in stores are usually overpriced and add up very quickly. As I said before, when you create fresh meals, it usually yields quite a bit of leftovers. Put them aside in containers to take with you to work. You can also keep salad materials on hand for an easy lunch. Fatten them up with chicken, almonds, tomatoes, cucumbers, and homemade salad dressing (this stuff is amazing!!).
5. I try and only buy ingredients if I know I'll use them more than once.
Some dishes seem fun to make but contain ingredients that you have to go to a special store to buy. Don't restrict yourself, but if you're going to buy that ingredient, plan on making additional dishes that also include it. Again, it goes back to tip number 3.
What do you do to save money on food and groceries? I'd love to hear your ideas and tips!
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