Tuesday, April 9, 2019

Things I've Learned from The Tasty Cheapskate



Hello friends!

This post was supposed to be written in January. I'm a wee bit behind.

I've been crazy busy with writing and life which is why The Tasty Cheapskate will be slowing down. From here on out, I may post an amazing recipe, or a group of favorites for you, but I won't be posting regularly. With any luck, I will have a Kindle version of my favorite recipes for you to purchase sometime next year.

For now, I wanted to share with you what I've learned from writing this blog. When I started, it was our goal as a (young) family of six to eat on $6/day. We came pretty close! The second half of the year, that figure moved up to $10/day. We could do that pretty handily. Now I sometimes spend more than that a day (closer to $13/day), trying to keep our food budget at around $400/month. Below you'll find a few of the things that I still cling to to keep our food life cheap while still eating as naturally and healthfully and deliciously as possible. Cheers!

1. Cook most of your own food. I mean, somebody shut the door, right?  Earth-shattering advice happening right here. But, seriously, it's the biggest and best tip I can give you. Food will almost always taste better, be better for you, and be CHEAPER if you make it at home. You don't have to go crazy (unless you want to). You don't have to make your own yogurt or kimchi or grow your own tomatoes for sauce or bake all your own bread (unless, again, you want to). But make dinner at home and life will be cheaper. Take a sack lunch and life will be cheaper. Skip the drive-thru for breakfast and life will be cheaper. No guarantees here but your waist might get smaller too.If you have to cheat, cheat. Buy a bagged salad (cheaper than even a fast food salad). Buy applesauce in the little cup things for your kids. Buy breakfast cereal for heaven's sake if you want to. But don't go out all the time (do go out sometimes if you're exhausted or want to--just not all the time). Even expensive food is cheaper and usually tastes better if you make it at home (hello triple layer chocolate cake). There are so many resources these days from food blogs to allrecipes to pinterest to everywhere. You're not stuck with grandma's cookbook. You can find a million and three good recipes with a million and three reviews to boot.

2. Don't eat more than your body wants or needs. I just can't stop with the earth-shattering revelations here. But one of the most expensive things we can do is eat (and cook) more than we need. Yeah, I know it's easier said than done. I feel you, people. Just don't cook and eat like it's a holiday every weekday. Keep your portions small.

3. Don't waste food. Try not to over-buy food (especially perishables). Try not to overcook and end up with things people won't eat for leftovers. This takes a little trial and error, but if you care about it, you'll get it and it will save you TONS of money. Americans waste 50% of their food every month (that's not all home waste; it's grocery stores and farms too). But we easily throw away a good 10-20% of our food budgets every month. You do the math. That's a lot of money that just went into the bin. It's a carbon footprint. It's a budget slap in the face. Sometimes I'm a little crazy about this and I am trying to be more moderate so we don't wind up with a fridge full of odd little bites of leftovers all the time. But if it's a serving-size leftover, I keep it. And then I try to remember to eat it.

4. Speaking of... Eat your leftovers. I try to have leftover nights and bring out all the stuff we've got to eat. I eat leftovers for lunch. And it is AMAZING. Why would anyone NOT want to eat leftovers for lunch??? They're delicious and cheap and take NO time to prepare. If you're not doing this, you are missing out on one of life's great delights, time-savers, and indulgences. Yeah, I just called leftovers an indulgence. I'll do it again if I have to. You're leftovers are better than most restaurant food. Eat them.

5. Along these lines...Keep the refrigerator clean. Because if you really don't eat all your leftovers, it's okay. You're sill human. I know sometimes we have good intentions, but just don't get to those leftovers. It's okay. Clean them out of the fridge, make adjustments to your cooking or shopping, and try again. Keeping a messy fridge (or freezer) with rotten food won't reduce your food budget. It'll just make your crazy and maybe sick if your weird kids go and eat that rotten food.

6. Eat less meat. If you don't eat less meat, eat it with cheap side dishes like rice or potatoes. We're not writing about diet ideas here, so if you just can't stomach potatoes, or you're on a keto diet, so be it. But meat is cheaper if you pair it with something inexpensive.

7. Breakfast for dinner. We did this back in our cheapest days. And we still do it. It's fun, it's easy, it's time-saving. Your kids will probably eat it.

8. Quick foods. Have some quick foods on hand, even if they're cheats. Pull out the pasta, the croissant rolls (to wrap meat or cheese into), the bagged salads, the tortillas, the beans and rice if that's your jam. Easy things to make when you're about to order a pizza. Try not to eat these every night or you'll grow hopelessly bored, but they're really nice in a pinch. And the truth is that every time I almost order food and then drag my butt into the kitchen and whip something up, I end up relaxing and feeling better about life and the night. Try it.

9. Have a plan (ish). Even if it's just a sloppy Pinterest board. Kind of knowing what you'd like to make for the week saves you money and makes cooking more fun and makes life less crazy.

10. Clean up together. When your kids are old enough, cook together. This isn't cheap necessarily, but it keeps you from slavery, which is nice. It makes it more fun to cook and eat together if you are not the family servant.

BONUS! Have fun and give yourself a break sometimes. Eating cheap is a great way to slim your budget (and maybe your waistline), but don't let it become an unhealthy obsession. Let it be fun. Let it be freeing.

Long live cheapskatery!!!

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