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Saving money has been ingrained into me since I was a child. So cooking on a budget was something that I never struggled with. However, most people do not have the same upbringing as me. On average, I spend around 20 dollar a week to feed myself. This is a very surprising number to most people and they most claim that I am lying to them. To be fair, most people will not go to the length that I will to save money so its understandable if they do not believe me. But once I go through the steps that I use to save money, people start believing that saving money and cooking on a budget is entirely doable. Below, are some of the stuff that I do to save money.
Choose the Right Supermarket
This is the biggest mistake that I see people do daily. Not all supermarkets are created equal and not all supermarket have the same prices. Certain grocers cost more than other, sometimes 2 or 3 times more. Super Market like Whole Foods, Ralphs, Trader Joes and even Walmart are some of the markets that I avoid for fresh fruits and vegetables. The markets that I go to are usually the ethnic supermarket. Since Los Angeles have a lot of little enclaves of ethnic minority, finding such supermarket is pretty easy. Some of the Super Market that I frequent are Super King, Big Saver, Superior Grocers and 99 Ranch.
Almost all of these market have more competitive pricing than the big brand name super market. As a disclaimer, the prices that I get are for the Los Angeles Market. It might be different for other areas but considering the cost of living, I doubt it.
Cooking on a Budget Healthy Eating
Fresh fruits, vegetables and meats are incredibly affordable. I typically go for fruits and vegetables that cost 2 lbs for 1 dollar. I typically find brocolli, spinach, lettuce, zuchinni and egg plant for this price. If you think about that, you are getting 2 lbs of food for less than 1 dollar. That one dollar can probably fill you for the day.
Now, once you get into process food, price starts to jump up considerably. For some people, they grew up on processed food and it is all that they know. Take a can of Chef Boyardee which cost around 1.30, the net weight of of the food is 15 oz or a little less than 1 lb. You are literally getting 1 lb less of food for twice the price. Maybe this is a bad example I do understand that there is a convenience factor to it.
Lets change it to processed meat, looking at Aidells Sausage, they are currently going for around 4.67 per 12 oz. These type of sausage are usually made with pork or chicken. Which based on my local supermarket price, will hover for around 0.80-1.50 per lb. That is almost a 400% increase in price. I want to make this clear, I am not knocking Aidell’s Sausage, they are some of the best sausage I have eaten. But I am just using that as an example to show how much you are paying for processed food.
Wait for a Sale
Of course I dont just eat the same thing over and over, there are many different items for sale. I would get a variety of grocery depending on what is on sale per that week. Meats for example will fluctuate in price, I will buy whatever I see that is on sale. If it is on a really deep discount, I would buy it then freeze it. I heard of some people buying an entire cow and then storing it in a freezer. But that is a little extreme even for me.
You can even apply this method to processed food. I am not one of those people who are above eating processed food. However, I would never buy the Aidell sausage at normal price. What do I do? I wait until there’s a half off sale or promotion then I buy it in bulk. I would use the sausage to compliments other vegetables and grain.
Hypothetically, If I manage to get that Sausage for 2.50 and I eat 2 links, rice and some blanched vegetable, I would have eaten a whole meal for less 2.00 dollar.
Don’t have Enough Time to cook?
One common excuse that I heard is that I dont have time to cook on a budget. Cooking itself will takes forever. This statement is a little misguided in my opinion. Lets say that you go out and eat. Going out takes you 20 minutes to get there, another 10-15 minute to get the food and finally another 20 minute to get back. Add it all up, that takes you around 45 minutes just to get food. I am quite confident that you can fry something up in 30 minutes or less. A fried piece of steak should take you less than 10 minute and frying some vegetables and egg with that shouldn’t take more than 8 minute. That right there is a steak dinner in less than 18 minutes. You can use that remaining time to wash your dishes.
Cooking on a Budget and Meal Prep
I personally dont do meal prep because I think cooking and eating fresh food is worth the time and effort. However, most people are not like me. The good think is that some food will freeze really well. One such item is stews and currys. One of my favorite dish is Japanese Curry. You can find my recipe for Japanese Curry Here. You can literally make a Giant pot of curry and eat that for the whole week.
I also know of people segmenting food into different box and then freezing it. You can use that into your set of time saving skills. Remember when I said to wait for a sale? This is the perfect time to cook on a budget. You can use that sale to make a bulk purchase and you will be saving even more money. I am pretty sure that are other ways you can use meal prep to save time. But I hope this shows you that it doesn’t take that much time to cook.
Still cost too much?
I gotta say, I am pretty cheap but you’re taking this to the next level. I have a few recipe to give those who are completely broke. You can have a meal for 50 cents or less.
Cooking on a Budget 50 Cents and Under
For those who are really struggling, here are some recipes to help you out.
Rice, Eggs and Soy Sauce
A bowl of prepared rice.
1 fried egg
Get the bowl of rice and put the fried egg on top of it. Drizzle some soy sauce on it and you have an easy Japanese Dish.
1 packet or Maruchan Instant Noodle. At the time of this article, it cost 21 cent for a packet.
2 pieces of Broccoli.
Boil water and drop the egg in. Once the egg is white is formed wait 15 second and remove. Drop in the noodles and seasoning. Once the noodle is semi soft, drop the broccoli and egg back in. You now have Ramen for less than 50 cents.
Chicken ala Taco Bell
1/2 lb chicken. If you time it, you can get chicken for less than 69 cents per lb.
1 tortilla. You can get 30 for a dollar at the dollar store.
1 or 2 packets of Salsa Verde from Taco Bell.
Fry the chicken with some salt and pepper. Get the tortilla and warm it through. Wrap the the chicken and put in the salsa verde. I gotta admit, this recipe is pretty, bad but youre on a budget right?
More Cooking on a Budget Recipe
Comment below if you really want more 50 cent and under recipe. I will start developing recipes for this segment.
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