How to Save Money and Still Eat Well

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Geek!This is Rogue Puppet’s submission for the HP Magic Giveaway. Feel free to leave comments for this article as you see fit – your feedback is certainly welcomed! If you’d like to submit your own how-to, what-is, or top-five list, you can send it to me. Views and opinions of this writer are not necessarily my own:

Today, everyone is looking for ways to stretch a dollar further. Here are some ways you can get more for less – right at home, in your kitchen.

(1) USE your kitchen.

If you are in the habit of eating out for dinner 2, 3, 5 or even 7 times a week, it’s time to cut back. Those drive-by meals from Burger King or Subway while you are running the kids from one place to another? Those count as eating out as well. Dining out can be fun, but that gets expensive quickly. Modify that pattern to accommodate a special social event to be shared with friends or family instead. Think you are too tired, too busy or too clueless to cook? I say: Balderdash! With a little planning, you can choose and make meals that are easy (or even ones that cook while you are gone at work). Clueless? The Internet is a vast resource of recipes and how-tos, including step-by-step video guides. You can even get a Nintendo game that will teach you how to shop and cook. There is no excuse not to try.

(2) Share in the family love.

Most stores (and even some butchers) offer items in bulk or “family-sized” packaging at lower costs. While it may be difficult for you to make good use of a three gallon jar of mayonnaise (does ANY family use that much?!), there are some such items that you can use – no matter what your family size is. Buy the family pack of meat, break it down at home, and freeze it in individual packets that fit your family’s size. Lots of other items freeze well that you might not have considered, too. Try re-sizing and freezing things like spaghetti sauce, baked goods (bread), or even cheese.

(3) No Bones about it.

For many, cooking with meat means buying pre-prepped skinless, boneless cuts and using those in recipes. Relying on the meat processing company to do all your meat prep for you adds a lot of cost. You can generally save a lot on meat if you are willing to skin and de-bone it yourself. Even better, for chicken, buy the whole chicken and either cut it up or cook it whole. Being willing to get your hands just a little dirty can save you real dollars on your food bill.

(4) Cook from scratch.

For some, cooking dinner means opening a frozen meal and heating it up. While this is convenient (and sometimes tasty), it is still an expensive proposition. Most dinner recipes involve less than 15 minutes of prep and about 30-45 minutes of cooking time. If you get home late in the day (and are really hungry), consider cooking with a crock pot. For a small investment, you have a countertop appliance that can slow cook marvelous meals that are ready to eat as soon as you get home. Most people think of things like chili or stew in a crock pot, but the possibilities are nearly endless – and include things like pot roast, roasted chicken, pork chops or even vegetable dishes. Do a quick search on “crock pot recipes” and you will get thousands of results. For days, with no time to prep in the morning, freeze leftovers in meal-sized portions for your own version of “frozen dinners.”

(5) Brown Bagging, FTW.

Thus far, we’ve largely covered dinners, but making and taking your lunch to work (instead of buying something while at work) is the next extension for saving money. If you are not lucky enough to work from home, and have to eat lunch far from your own kitchen, take a bit of home with you. Instead of a $7-15 lunch, you can have a meal for a couple of bucks. Tired of bland sandwiches? Use a tortilla and make it a wrap! Fill a thermos with soup or stew – or chili. A tossed salad with the dressing on the side paired with some homemade bread is a winner any day. You think outside the box all the time to solve problems at work, so have fun getting creative with your lunch as well.

Put some (or all) of these steps into action and you will find that your eating expenses will quickly decline, but your eating experiences will grow.