I never realized exactly how independent I was in college until I was eating ice cream for dinner and pizza for breakfast. There was no one telling me what to eat, when to eat it, and how much I should be spending on food. It was an amazing feeling, until my credit card bill came in that month. I could not believe how much I spent on food alone. Those small fixes, like my daily coffee and biweekly ice cream shakes were filling up my stomach but burning a hole straight through my pocket. I was eating out at least once, sometimes twice day, and could spend over $20 per day simply on food. This multiplied by seven days a week and four weeks in a month came to an amount much, much larger than I could afford. So, I finally decided to make a change and started planning my own meals.
The first step was to see which foods I ate most often and to make sure I always kept them on hand, like peanut butter, dry pasta, flour, spices, canned foods, and frozen vegetables. This way I always had the ingredients to whip up a quick, basic meal. Additionally, most of these foods could be bought in bulk and stored for a long time because they weren’t perishable, which made them even more worth the money. After the non-perishables, I needed to establish a weekly budget for my perishables, like milk, fresh fruits and veggies, and eggs. I normally plan my weekly meals over the weekend after looking at the grocery store ads that come in the mail so I know what to buy, and this way I save even more time and money.
Budgeting for food may seem tedious and boring, but there are a lot of ways to spice things up (no pun intended). Like a lot of you, I get bored eating the same thing over and over again, so by cooking my own food I get a chance to experiment! I often peruse through websites for good recipes and like to adapt them to whatever ingredients I have available. No arugula? Perfectly okay with me! I’ll just use mixed greens instead. Cooking for myself has really helped me save time and money, and my savings account and I are much healthier.
If you’re curious to find out about tips on how to save money on food, check out these sites! And to help you get a kick-start on cooking, here’s a couple sites that have some really delicious, easy recipes.
- Super Cook: Recipe Search, Served Well Done
- Eat Well for Less is a series of modules put together by Oregon State University to further help people learn that saving money on food, staying healthy, and still eating deliciously are still possible all at the same time!
- All You Budget Meal Planning Guide: There are a ton of recipe resources out there on the Web, but this one is particularly geared towards helping you learn some super fast, cheap, easy meals perfect for a budding cook or a person on the go!
- Allrecipes: Worried that you don’t know what to cook? This website is one of my personal favorites, and includes HUNDREDS of different recipes from your basic mac n cheese to the fanciest international foods. So whip out your aprons and give it a whirl!