It probably comes as no surprise to you - eating well, whatever that means to you, can really add up. And the Dollar Menu (and other questionnable alternatives) can start to feel pretty attractive when the alternative is a $7 head of cauliflower.
But don’t despair, my friends! There are ways to stretch your food budget. I have done the research and tested all the tricks so you don’t have to - just read on before your next trip to the grocery store!
In fact, I came up with so many tips that I couldn’t fit them all into a single post, so I made a nifty downloadable guide for you! Just scroll down to the end of the post to get it.
Tip #1: Shop your pantry
OK so chances are, you are not running as low on food as you think. Sure, you might be running low on your favourite foods, or on convenient foods, or on foods that go well together, but that’s a different question. If you want to save some moolah, why not see what you can throw together based on the content of your pantry/freezer?
Shopping your pantry will also have the advantage of using up items that might be nearing the end of their usable life. Plus, I can’t be the only one who gains satisfaction from emptying containers, right?
A Pacific Northwest homestead blogger I like did a whole series called the Eat from the Larder Challenge; I strongly encourage you to check it out for inspiration. Her endeavour was obviously a bit different (she and her family were going to consume only whatever they had stored, preserved or frozen, for an entire month) but the essence of the challenge has its money-saving benefits. Can you push back grocery day by a day or 2 and get through the weekend without running to the store? Winning!
Tip #2: Keep It Simple
Who says every meal needs to be an elaborate affair? I’ve eaten a veggie omelette with toast for dinner more often than I care to admit, but guess what? It works! As long as you are getting a protein source + a vegetable + a starch + a fat most of the time, you are doing fine, honey.
Tip #3: Spice it up!
Switch up the spices and condiments you use with your staples to feel like you are getting variety!
Tip #4: Change the cooking method
Changing the way you cook your food will also make you feel like your meals are more varied than they really are.
Of course, relying on different spices and cooking methods for the illusion of variety that they create is not ideal in the long term, as there are true benefits to switching up your diet, but in a pinch, both can be really helpful.
Tip #5: Plan ahead
Create a general plan of attack for your week, where you keep in mind:
what you have at home already
what your week is looking like (any planned events, trips, unusual weather, etc. coming up?) and
what you are in the mood for.
For example, if you know you already have some canned beans in the pantry and frozen ground turkey in the freezer, and it’s going to be bitter cold this week (again), why not plan on making some chili (and bonus, you can also have the leftovers for lunch!)? Or if you know you are leaving town for work for a few days, then no need to stock up like mad!
Tip #6: Make a list
Now that you have a plan, write up your grocery list. Include any staples (rice, oats, spices, etc) you are running low on. Budget Bytes has a great staples grocery list to jog your memory.
Tip #7: Check it twice
Make sure your list as exhaustive as possible, and refer to it once you are actually at the store! That way, if you know you have a complete list with you, you’ll be able to make a beeline for the items you’ve identified you needed, instead of wandering the isles and getting tempted by pricy, less-healthy goodies.
Tip #8: Not all leftovers were created equal
I may be a Gremlin that needs to be taught the finer things in life, but the truth is I have been living on my own for so long that nearly every meal is leftovers for me. And I am completely fine with it!
That being said there are ways to make the Tupperware life more pleasant for yourself:
Avoid mixing dressing into salads - only toss in dressing into a serving you KNOW you will finish in one sitting
Sauce-y dishes and stews reheat well
Some people don’t love reheated starches (quinoa, rice, etc), so why not make a big batch of sauce/curry and just make the starch the day of.
Try eating it cold! You’d be surprised with how delicious some leftovers might be straight out of the fridge.
Switch up the cooking technique so it holds up better the next day: shredded chicken breast cooked in an Instant Pot is much tastier than grilled, dry chicken breast leftovers.
Tip #9: Go meatless
Meat can get pricy, so why not replacing with a vegetarian or vegan alternative a few times a week?
Psssttt!! Check out Gains Bro: The 411 on Protein for ideas on how to diversify your protein sources
Tip #10: Invest
As the financial moguls of this world put it, you have to spend money in order to make money. Investing in decent kitchen tools will pay off in dividends. Simple upgrades like decent knives so you can (safely) chop your own veggies, and a big enough pot to make a big batch of your favourite soup are great staples.
If you want to get fancy, a spiralizer is awesome if you like vegetable noodles, as is an Instant Pot and an air fryer. I try not to make bold claims I can’t back up, but well… I’d say they will transform your home-cooking experience.
Don’t try to implement all the tips at once! Start with one and see how you go.
If you’d like to dive further into living on a budget and frugality, here are a few links for you to check out.
I have A LOT more tips on how to eat well on a budget - but they simply wouldn’t fit into a blog post. That’s why I created a nifty free downloadable e-book about it - check it out below!