In the age of fast food convenience, cooking at home is becoming a lost art form. Not only is it healthier than eating takeout every day, it’s also an area where you can trim your budget significantly. Here’s how you can take advantage of cost savings by preparing your own meals at home.
Eating Out vs. Cooking at Home
If you buy a cheap fast food meal for lunch every day, that’s about $25 per week. Add a takeout meal for dinner and your food budget goes up to $75 per week. If you throw in a mocha on your drive to work, your monthly food and drink bill comes to more than $300 per month, and that’s just during the work week. If you’re eating out on the weekends as well, your food bill comes to about $350 a month, and it doesn’t include eating out at a nice restaurant. If you plan and cook your own meals, you could cut your food bill in half.
Planning Your Meals
Figure out your meals for the week ahead. Invest in some cookbooks if you’re out of practice, or check for recipes and tutorials online. Estimate the amount of food you’ll need for breakfast, lunch and dinner for a seven day period. Make a detailed list of the ingredients you’ll need for every meal.
Unit Pricing at the Grocery Store
When you shop for ingredients, work out the unit price for every item. This means determining the price per ounce for ingredients. Buy the ingredients that are on sale or available for the lowest price, and use coupons. Purchase flour, sugar, beans and other “staple” foods in bulk, so you can get the best deals.
Cook Lots, Freeze Lots
If you’re worried about time during the work week to prepare meals, don’t fret. Set aside a block of time on the weekend to prepare meals. Prepare more food than you need, and freeze individual meals. Once you have a supply of homemade meals in your freezer, the process gets easier. The key is to prepare a lot of your food ahead of time. You’ll have ready-made meals at your disposal for those times when you come home too tired to cook. If your apartment freezer is too small, consider buying another miniature deep freezer to store meals in.
Because you’re storing meals ahead of time, you’ll want to make sure you learn to prepare a variety of different meals. You don’t want your diet to get too repetitive, or you could lose your motivation to cook at home. With time and patience, you can learn to prepare many of the same types of meals that you enjoy eating out, at a fraction of the cost.
Cooking at home can seem like a daunting task at first, especially if you’ve never learned to do it. However, if you keep it up and develop a system to stay ahead of schedule on meal preparation, you’ll find that you’re saving yourself a lot of money and gaining the satisfaction of becoming more self-sufficient.