Friday, July 12, 2013

Save Money on Food

Or Making It Easy to Get to the Table (part 8)

We were in a state of reverse culture shock. It was 1988 and we were back in the states for the first time in almost four years. During that time we'd been living in Peru, a country where you stopped at every bodega* (corner food shop) you saw to ask if they had flour or sugar or powdered milk because there was a shortage. We were there as missionaries and I was born with an enlarged frugal gene, so we ate all our meals at home, except for "occasions." 

So we arrived in Dallas to visit my cousins. He picked us up at the airport in his BMW and we sped down the freeway past what seemed like miles of car dealerships full of cars. (We had waited several months to receive our Toyota in Peru and the lot never had more than two cars that were already bought.) 

It turned out another cousin had had an emergency appendectomy the night before so my aunt and uncle had come into town as well. After visiting my cousin we needed to eat so my uncle took us to a restaurant. It was a nice place, and I'm sure he wanted to give us a warm welcome to back to the states, but I looked at the prices and could only order a cup of chili. Now my uncle likes to tell people that my husband only "allowed" me that! But the truth is, my enlarged frugal gene was acting up.

But the fact is, the first way to save money on food is to eat at home. I can buy a pork roast that will feed ten for $6, by the time I add potatoes, vegetables, bread, a salad, coffee, and dessert, I have usually only spent $20 to $25 and my husband will probably have enough left over for his lunch the next day.

The second way to save money on food is to cook at home. One year our furlough had us staying in the empty dorm of a Bible college. We had nowhere to cook but a microwave. We soon tired of $5 pizzas and  decided to get a rotisserie chicken and some deli salads. That meal for five people also cost $25! And we were hungry when we finished. So the less you go with prepared foods the better on your budget. Of course you have to find a balance that suits your lifestyle, budget, and energy level. 

Eating the same thing together is the third way to save money on food. If you have become a short order cook fixing mac'n'cheese for one, a hamburger for another, and pancakes for a third, you are going to end up throwing away wasted food. Not to mention the what trying to please everyone is doing to your stress levels. Cook one meal and everyone has two choices: take it or leave it. Sit together to eat it so you can enjoy each other as well as not end up with more waste from overcooked or stuck to the pan food no one wants.

My fourth suggestion is to keep some quick fixes in mind. Our plan is to save eating out for special occasions so when we just "need to eat" and we're in our own town, we go home and make something. It might just be sandwiches, breakfast for dinner (eggs, french toast, or pancakes), or a chef salad with what I can find in the cold meat and cheese drawer. That food will save us about $10 per person!

Fifth: use your leftovers. You can do this like we do, my husband takes them to work in little airtight glass containers and reheats them for lunch. Or like friends of mine did: Friday omelettes. She laid out all the leftovers and asked each person what they wanted in their omelette which she made to order. My mother-in-law used to fix up plates of leftovers and call us to dinner. We each chose the plate we wanted and heated it in the microwave. If you have enough left over for a meal, freeze it and have it one night when you don't feel like cooking!

Seems like everyone is looking for ways to save money these days. Eating together at home gives you a chance to work together and enjoy together and connect with your family in ways that no restaurant can offer and you save a bundle!

*Interesting tidbit: bodega is what it is called in Peru. In Colombia they say tienda for the same thing.

Photo credit

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To read the "Making It Easy" series thus far, click here.
Or go directly to the topic that interests you.
Energy to Get to the Table (Part 5)
There. Is. No. Need. To. Yell. [Pleasant Mealtimes] (Part 6)
Your Table: An Attractive "Meal Zone" (Part 7)

Other Posts that will be coming:

  • Attract Your Family to the Table
  • Cooking Ahead

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  1. Yes, way too many families eat out, eat on the go, enjoy few meals together, and spend an enormous amount of money on meals. Stirring the pot makes much more sense and saves dollars and cents. ;-)
    His blessings,
    Kim @ Curtain Queen

  2. Breakfast for dinner is great and we like to keep fast fixes on hand like tuna and noodles or soup and grilled cheese. We also offer the option of a pb&j for those who choose to be ungrateful for whatever the cook has prepared...the complainer usually chooses to eat what is fixed but it's an option. They have to fix it themselves and still eat with the family.

  3. Great tips! Can't wait to put these into practice with my own family someday!

    Pinned it! Thanks for sharing with us at One Sharendipity Place this weekend!

    Krys and

  4. I feed my family using many of the tips you share in this post. And my children are learning well. Our college aged son spent $20 on lunch items and had makings for nearly 6 weeks of lunches, while the other students on campus were spending triple (and more) on fast food and junk.
    I look forward to reading other posts in your series - I found your blog today via Family Home and Life.

    1. Wow! 6 weeks of lunches for only $20! That's pretty amazing. But even if I spend more, on say salmon for example, it's still feed 4 for what just less that what that would cost for one person at a restaurant.

  5. Great ideas. I need to remember them myself. It's so easy to get in the habit of "grabbing" something. And really whatever it is we are grabbing doesn't satisfy as much as even a quick meal at home.

  6. I love seeing your throwback photos.

    Thank you for linking to Raising Imperfection.
    Please come back Friday to see if you were featured. :)

    (¸¤ Lanaya | xoxo

  7. I think we'd get along great, as we do most of these tricks as well. It sure feels great knowing how much money you've saved, and had a healthier meal as well :-) I'll be featuring you again on Mom's Library at Crystal's Tiny Treasures this week. Keep up sharing the great ideas!

    1. Thank you so much for featuring me, Crystal! It would be fun to meet someday!

  8. Another way we've found to save money on groceries is to meal plan. By planning out our meals a week or so at a time we find that we are less likely to find ourselves in a "need to eat" situation (but, hey, life happens) and we don't buy food we don't have a plan for. I feel like the most expensive food is the food you throw away because you haven't gotten around to eating it!

    1. You are so, right, Adrienne. I have talked about menu planning in other posts and decided not to include it, but maybe I should have. If something strikes your fancy in the store, but you don't get around to eating it before it goes bad...what a waste of money! Thanks for your comment.

  9. So nice to find your blog Sharon. We too were missionaries in 1988, and came home to cultural shock, especially to prices. Although I now only cook for one (lost my precious hubby 5 years ago, and occasional dinners for friends, I'm still very frugal. I can vouch for every one of your wonderful tips. They worked way back when, and they still work well today. Be blessed!

  10. Love your suggestions. I taught my frugal nephew the difference between buying KFC fried chicken and buying a chicken to roast, with leftovers for chicken salad and soup. Never thought about the frugality of serving the same food to people at a meal, instead of special ordering. I'd always thought allowing children to special order was depriving them of the common experience of eating together and learning to like, or at least be polite about, whatever is served.

  11. We try to be as frugal as possible and we have taken to leftovers on pizza or in fried rice on Fridays or Saturdays. We do freeze other leftovers if they can't get used up in the week. It is important to meal plan and plan a leftover day. Eating at home is more frugal and more healthy. We try to only get take out once a month for our family as a treat instead of something to regularly feed us. We all appreciate it more and get more creative to make it through the rest of the month with what is in the house and a limited budget :)

  12. "Enlarged frugal gene" . . . love it!!! When we were first married we lived in Germany where DH was stationed in the Army. Friday night was "pizza night". I would make a pizza crust and all the leftovers in the refrigerator went on top followed by a layer of cheese. We had some - ahem -- interesting dinners but the only one we did not like and could not finish was Macaroni and Cheese Pizza.

  13. These are great tips! Ones we are trying to implement more. It's too easy to order takeout and then I look at our bank account and want to bang my head at what we've spent. Thanks for sharing at All Things Pretty!

  14. I enjoyed reading this post so much. What great encouragement to eat at home. We don't eat out often. Feeding everyone in our home is a lot cheaper, like you said, when we eat at home. Thanks for sharing this over at WholeHearted Wednesdays last week.



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