Even if we weren’t poor post-grads, I’d stick to food budget. It’s amazing how much moolah food costs, and, though I’ve tried it on days when I’m too lazy to cook, cutting out food from one’s life just doesn’t work.
We give ourselves a $200 per month budget. It’s tight, but we’ve got some secrets to keeping our small budget.
We shop for two or three weeks at a time. It’s nearly impossible to make wholesome meals out of a $50 weekly budget, but it’s more than doable to drop $80-$110 dollars on one shopping trip that stretches for several weeks.
This means we buy in bulk as much as possible, hunting for the lowest price per pound on almost everything. The few cents we save adds up. Anything that spoils quickly, we freeze. (This does cause problems when it’s 8 PM and I remember that food is a thing but all we have to eat is frozen solid. Just a forewarning.)
We’re still using our gigantic bag of rice we bought as newlyweds. Rice, potatoes, eggs, beans, and huge bags of Great Value cheese are our staples. It’s mind-blowing how many yummy, filling recipes you can cook up with those ingredients and a few dashes from your spice cabinet. By the end of week 3 (maybe into week 4, if we’re lucky), we’re chowing down on potato cheese scrambles, bean burritos, and seasoned rice.
That’s another secret to sticking to our budget — we don’t do much meal planning. Sure, we’ll think ahead if we’re craving something in particular, but we just buy flexible ingredients that work with each other. We’ve always got some tomato sauce and ground beef to whip up a noodle dish or a chili, tortillas for fajitas and quesadillas, and veggies for stir fry, salad, or snacking with some ranch dressing.
When our food starts dwindling, I Google recipes involving whatever random ingredients I want to pair until we’ve eaten through everything and the backup potatoes, eggs, and beans. No food gets left behind — except the bare bones staples like flour and oil, and condiments.
I might make another run or two to buy fresh milk or butter (or Japanese cookies), but we’re pretty much done shopping for the month. All of this for under or at $200, no problem.
What are your tips for shopping or cooking on a budget?