Your inner foodie may well be buried under mountains of debt, but luckily you don’t have to fork out a fortune to eat well. It’s time to retire those packets of Ramen noodles and boxes of Kraft Dinner for good. Head into the grocery store and kitchen armed with these tips, and you’ll start eating well on a budget.
A frugal foodie’s best friend is an air-tight strategy. Organization is an essential hack for anyone hoping to save some moolah on their meals. From shopping lists and meal plans to budgets and coupons, your plan of attack should be fully fleshed out.
Most of the world’s top chefs have their own websites where they compile their favorite recipes, and if they don’t, they’re often featured in well-known publications and websites that share their masterpieces. A quick online search will produce a variety of frugal yet flavorful recipes to test out. You can even find meal plans designed around certain budgets.
Jot down the ingredients you’re missing and keep your list close to you. When you shop with a list in hand, you’re more likely to avoid temptations you don’t need.
Tips on how to create a budget or follow a list don’t always have to come from Ina and Jamie. Even a lender of online payday loans can be a great resource for budgeting tips that help you save in and out of the kitchen, as they’ve curated advice for those on tight budgets. There are also a variety of free money management apps that help you create a budget, track your spending, and locate deals.
Hunt for Bargains in the Grocery Store
You probably already scour the flyers and online ads to see which items will be on sale each week, but this isn’t the only way to save big at the store. Learn the layout of your favorite bargain grocery store to find where they keep their discounted areas. Each department should have a section devoted to damaged goods or food nearing its expiry date. Don’t be scared off by a few dents or the date on a sticker. If the grocery store is still selling them, they’re still perfectly safe to eat.
It’s in these sections that you’ll find reduced boxed goods, produce, and cuts of meat. Considering the cost of meat in most areas of the country, you stand to save a lot when you stick to these cut-rate steaks and chops. If they’re especially cheap, buy in bulk and throw them in the freezer for later. As for fruit and veg, try to stick with those that are in season and you’ll add extra savings to your plan.
Become a Flexitarian
Flexitarian is the latest buzz word in the dietary world, and it’s one you should get used to. Also known as semi-vegetarian, it’s a plant-based diet that allows for the occasional addition of meat. Meat as protein is often the most expensive item on the bill, pound per pound. A flexitarian diet encourages adding meat alternatives like legumes and beans on your plate every once in a while. In addition to curries and stews, these alternatives can substitute meat in almost any dish if you’re willing to give it a chance.
Not only do you stand to save a few bucks at the register, but you could also save your health. Last year, the WHO (or the World Health Organization) squealed on bacon, classifying it and any other processed meat (like hot dogs and deli meat) carcinogens. It is a challenge to cut these out of your diet completely, so try to eat them sparingly like the indulgences they are.
Buy Lower Quality Meat
When you do eat meat, avoid the expensive cuts. Though you may have visions of Waygu beef, Porterhouse steaks, and racks of lamb, your budget can’t afford to have these on your plate. There’s only one problem; cheaper cuts tend to be tough and flavorless. Right?
Sometimes. While it’s true lean shoulders, skirt steaks, and eye of round score low in meat-lovers’ books, they can earn top marks when prepared properly. The trick is learning cooking techniques that guarantee tender meat and enhanced flavors.
Braising disguises these cuts by cooking them for a long time over low heat in savory marinades or stews bursting with flavor. If you’re tight on time, a slow cooker can help achieve the same results while you’re off at work. Meanwhile, pounding chicken or pork with a mallet helps tenderize and moisten an otherwise tough and dry cut. Take a look online to find a recipe that can transform your budget ingredients into something worthy of a Michelin star.
Cut Down on Waste
Even with a list and meal plan, food waste is a big drain on your wallet. Roughly $165 billion worth of food is thrown out by Americans each year. That translates into $2,200 lost for every household.
If you find yourself throwing out too much food, try using recipe websites that suggest meal ideas based on the ingredients you have in your fridge. These sites, like SuperCook and Recipe Matcher, help eliminate food waste by utilizing everything you have on hand.
Don’t be a snob either. Let leftovers make up a huge portion of your weekly meals. If you can’t hack the same thing three dinners in a row, head to Google. There’s a way to reinvent your old leftovers into new dinners after a few clicks.
You may not have the budget to visit the top Michelin star restaurants as often as you like, but that doesn’t mean your taste buds should suffer. You can eat well on any budget if you’re willing to put the time into planning around your finances. Use this guide to get started and see how your frugal foodie lifestyle can create delicious meals.