COOK YOUR OWN MEALS

Photo Credit: Katie Smith

One of the best ways you can stick to your budget is to make your own food instead of eating out every night. If the average (reasonably healthy) dinner for two at a restaurant costs between $30 and $60 or more depending on where you live, multiply that by seven nights, and you’re now between $210 and $420. That’s for just one of your three meals a day.

On the other hand, if you can cook (even if it’s not great), the grocery bill for a family of four for seven days of breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks, can fall around $200 to $300 a week if you shop efficiently.

If you’re like me and don’t believe you can cook anything more than a bowl of cereal, it’s worth it to take the time to learn and practice. You don’t have to go to culinary school, there are plenty of how-to videos on YouTube for free. Start small with slight modifications to things you can already make. If you know how to scramble some eggs, try experimenting with seasonings or maybe add a little ham and cheese to the mix. You can even build a foundation by practicing basics such as soft-boiling an egg or baking a potato without worrying about an entire meal. Of course, if you want to take a cooking class, it can be a fun experience for you and a friend or partner.

Whether you can cook or not, it’s important to remember that when you buy groceries to prepare your own meals, plan ahead. If you just buy the ingredients you need for one meal, it’s tremendously more expensive than if you plan on using similar ingredients for multiple meals and can spread the cost. This also helps reduce waste because using a bulb of garlic across the whole week means you don’t just use one or two cloves and let the rest go bad. Make a weekly calendar of meals and see if you can find different ways to use the same ten to twenty ingredients.

You can even spread the cooking workload by grilling more chicken than you need one night, so you cut up and refrigerate the rest for tomorrow’s lunch salad. A little planning goes a long way for both your wallet and your time.

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