So you have decided that you want to start cooking on a budget. Good for you! Maybe you weren’t a budgeter previously, or maybe you weren’t much of a cook; it doesn’t matter what brought you to this place, what matters is that you are here. I am so excited to be with you on your journey.
The first step to cooking amazing food on a budget is to establish how much you can afford to spend on food each week. Set an amount for food only, it shouldn’t include other items like laundry detergent and toilet paper (but it’s a good idea to have a budget for this as well). Make this amount reasonable, it should be enough to feed you and your family each week.
Now that you know how much money you have to work with, have a look at the weekly flyers. Shop what’s on sale, there is no point spending more than you have to. Look for coupons as well. You won’t find them for fresh broccoli, but you might for things like canned tomatoes, beans, pasta or rice. If it’s a week where there isn’t a big selection of fresh produce on sale consider frozen options, they will often have coupons available. To make your dollar stretch think about buying less meat. Now before you abandon my blog forever, I am not saying that you should become a vegetarian, but what I am saying is that meat is expensive. Consider buying cheap cuts of meat and making stews or soups with them instead of having a plate of meat, potatoes and vegetables. Also become friends with alternative protein options. Beans and tofu are often made fun of, but once you know how to cook them they can be absolutely delicious. Plus they are filling and cheap!
The next step is the most fun, you get to look for inspiration. Look for creative recipes that include the sale items for the week. Items like eggplant are extremely versatile, so even if they are on sale for a couple weeks in a row you should be able to find new things to make. While you are perusing through blogs and books, look for recipes that use expensive ingredients sparingly. Some items will be expensive but are packed full of flavor so a little will go a long way. Others don’t hold up their end of the bargain, which means you need a lot to make a recipe taste good.
Once you are armed with your recipes, write a meal plan for the week. This will give you an idea of how much food you actually need so that you won’t over or under buy. Do an inventory of your kitchen and then write a grocery list of your needed items. Once you are all prepared, head to the store, just don’t do it when you are hungry because you are more likely to pick up extras that aren’t on your list.
In the store make sure that you don’t get pulled in by deals that you don’t need. A 25 pound bag of onions for $5 sounds great, and it is, but only if you will actually use them before they go bad. Sometimes shopping in large quantities will work out for you, sometimes you’ll be better off buying only what you need for the week. Also, don’t be afraid to stray away from big grocery chains. Shop your neighborhood! There could be fruit stands, ethnic stores or small family run places that have better prices on some items. I am also a huge fan of bulk stores where you can buy only what you need.
All the hard work is done now! Cook up your delicious food and enjoy it. However, before you sit down make sure to portion out any leftovers that you might have. This will help prevent you from going back for seconds, also it’s great because now you have lunch for tomorrow. Make sure items are cool before putting lids on containers and sticking them in the fridge or freezer. Extra tip here, label things that you are putting in the freezer so you know what they are later. Playing “surprise lunch” isn’t always appreciated by your family, especially if they are picky eaters.
I hope that this helps you get started. I promise that I will be posting recipes soon.