If You’re Serious About Budgeting…

I try not to share a lot of my blog-world gripes here very often, more because I think the habit of bashing blog habits is sort of been-there-done-that tired than because I’m any kind of Polyanna.

There is one thing that has started driving me crazy, though, and I just feel the need to share.

When you say that you are “trying to save money” by “not going out to eat” and then buy $12 meat, $5 organic lettuce, $7 walnuts and $5 garlic oil (that comes with a $8 shipping charge) to make a steak salad for dinner and then buy a $5 drink to go with it, how much money are you really saving?  Unless your original plan was to hit up the Palm for a steak dinner, probably not that much.

The reason that this frustrates me a bit (besides making it seem like a homecooked dinner “on a budget” in your world is $42) is that there really are good ways to feed yourself for less than $5.  And the meal will not be boring. And you might even have leftovers.

Case in point:

I think I raved enough about these potatoes that you probably know by now that they were amazing and cheap (about $1 per stuffed potato).

Another thing that I make a ton of:

Fried rice.  Mine isn’t all that authentic, but it still tastes way better than the measly amount of money I spend on the ingredients that I make up.

I always keep the following on hand: brown rice, frozen veggies, soy sauce, fish sauce (optional, but it adds a lot) and hot sauce (either sriracha or sambal oelek).  If you have those, you can make this.

I’d say any given batch of this I make up (for 2 servings) sets me back about $1.50.

Canned beans also come to the rescue in my kitchen a lot.

Beans are cheap and they have a very long shelf life.

And you can do a surprising amount of things with them: sautee with some garlic and onion as a side, puree into a soup with broth/spices/veggies, mash and mix into potatoes, make into burgers, roast (remember those cannellini beans?) as a snack…I could continue, but you get the point.

How much is the average can of beans? About 89¢ at Trader Joe’s.

They’re not only the musical fruit anymore.

These staples have a few things in common (besides all costing less than $1/serving):

– They are vegetarian.
– They have relatively long shelf lives.
– They all require a bit of creativity to remain satisfying as meal bases.

I think we all know that I am not a vegetarian.

But I do tend to go heavy on meat-free meals at home, because it’s a lot cheaper to buy veggies and grains (and organic, at that) than it is to buy quality meat.

Plus, when I’m dining out and a veggie burger is $9 vs $10 for a beef burger, I don’t mind springing for the extra buck for some good ol’ fashioned American cow.

Plain and simple, it’s more cost effective to eat meat at restaurants than at home.  Plus, in most metropolitan areas, restaurants are becoming more and more conscious of serving quality (read: grass fed, free range, local, what have you…) meat.

The shelf life issue is key, too.  If you buy food that will last for a few weeks (at least) you won’t end up throwing much of it out!  Personally, I have a bad habit of forgetting about meat until it has been in my fridge for 3 or 4 days and then I’m not sure if it’s still good.

That potato you’ve had for a week?  It’s probably fine.

So I’m telling you to buy potatoes. Rice. Frozen veggies. Beans.

If you don’t get a little creative, this diet would be incredibly boring.  But if you class things up a little bit and stuff your potato (with anything, not just my Southwestern mix from a few days ago), season your rice, and do something crazy like roasting your beans, you won’t get bored. I promise.

For fear of sounding holier-than-thou, I’ll stop while I’m ahead.

But if you’re sick of having to sell your plasma on the black market to be able to make a decent dinner, take my advice.  You really can feed yourself for less than $30 a week without resorting to canned soup and tuna.


10 thoughts on “If You’re Serious About Budgeting…

  1. I like your tips. 🙂
    I will admit I’m kind of one of those people who wants to spend less money on food but I don’t.
    I would add eggs to your cheap, healthy, good list though, I rely on them a lot! I also will get frozen salmon burgers – they last forever and I can pull one out as needed.

  2. Love this post! We rarely buy meat unless it’s on sale or in bulk because you’re right – it is not cheap, and I would rather have the good stuff whenever possible.

    My go-to meals during the week are a lot like yours – and I agree with Emily, too. Eggs make great breakfasts for dinner!

    Plus, eating out is just too much fun. 🙂

  3. I’d agree with the other gals- eggs are a cheap protein substitute and are relatively easy to get through before they expire.

    But yes- I feel like a can of beans can do wonders to “beef up” any meal some way or another.

  4. I used to do this all the time! One time I went to the store to buy the ingredients for a recipe I wanted to make, and Shane actually calculated and compared the prices and we totally could have gone out to eat. And prolly order a bottle of wine. Yep, we were also “on a budget” LOL

  5. I love this. The idea of spending $15 on an organic chicken breast makes me want to cry. That is the main reason (along with my fear of salmonella) that I dont cook with meat.

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