Mrs. 1500 here.
A few weeks ago, I wrote about a blog I love, called Herb on Herbs. While not a personal finance blog, they write about food, providing recipes to go along with amazing photos of tasty-looking dishes. This is a great site to visit when menu-planning for the week or month, because you may hit a brick wall when trying to decide what to eat. This site can help you save money by inspiring you to stay home and cook, rather than go out to dinner when you can’t think of anything to make.
Without further ado, here is Mrs. Herb, from HerbonHerbs.com.
I get it. You just spent the day hard at work at your job or perhaps taking care of your screaming, demanding children, or maybe even a combination of both! You’re tired and hungry while the kids (including your spouse!) are whining to be fed. You are tempted to appease them by going to the nearest drive-thru. After all, it’s not like you have anything at home that you could fix!
But the reality is, when you choose to eat out, you most likely are over-SPEND-ing and over-EAT-ing. A double whammy to your wallet and your waist. Or, for those of you working toward FIER (Financial Independence Early Retirement), you can think about it like this: you are adding extra mandatory workdays to your career!
Let me be realistic for a moment. I am not trying to convince you to NEVER set foot in a restaurant again. I am only suggesting that you make these visits less frequent. As much as Herb and I like to cook, we still enjoy eating out with friends and family or on date nights. We make conscious decisions to eat in as much as possible, which makes it that much more enjoyable when we do eat out and I don’t have to do the dishes!
I also realize that for families with picky children (or spouses!), cooking can be even more challenging. Or maybe you’re single and just never really learned to cook anything beyond Ramen noodles, and the thought of cooking intimidates you.
Whatever the case, I’m convinced that EVERYONE should learn to make at least a few basic meals that you and your family can enjoy. It doesn’t have to be worthy of a 5 star restaurant review for it to be satisfying for you.
Since this is a personal finance blog, let me just say that this is one area I feel that many families can improve in. Do you realize how much money you’re spending on eating out?
When I first started learning about personal finance and tracking my spending a few years ago, I was astonished at how much I was spending per month (as a single person!) on eating out with friends. It didn’t seem like much at the time: ten bucks here, twenty bucks there. But it added up to some serious cash each month. If you haven’t done this yet, try tracking just for one month how much you spend on dining out. It may be an eye-opener for you.
Mrs. 1500 recently shared a post asking how much people spend on groceries. Herb and I average around $250 a month in groceries for the two of us. I just checked our budget, and for 2013 it looks like we are actually averaging closer to $200/month for groceries (yay!) And it’s not like we’re starving ourselves by any means. This amount includes all the delicious meals that we blog about over at HerbOnHerbs, and I feel like we eat very well most of the time!
My main “secret” is that we try to limit our grocery visits to once a week. We usually do one larger grocery run per month to stock up on staples (Costco/Sam’s Club are great for this), and then 2-3 other grocery visits throughout the month to get items like fruit, vegetables, and milk.
Another “secret” is that the staple items are part of planning ahead for recipes. I know that if I have a few certain ingredients in the house, I can whip up a quick meal without having to run to the grocery store. Also for these items, I have a general idea of what they normally cost so that if they go on sale, I can stock up.
10 staples we always have on hand:
-Whole grain instant rice
-Canned and Frozen Veggies**
-Frozen chicken breast tenders**
-Garlic and spices
-Canned soup – tomato, broccoli cheese, cream of chicken, etc.
-Hunts tomato sauce
**These are my two favorite secrets. Chicken breast tenders can be bought on sale at around $1.99/pound. I stock up and freeze them, 6-8 tenders per bag, then put them in the fridge to thaw the night before I want to use them. Steam-in-the-bag veggies are super quick and easy and only $1-2 per bag. Just throw them in the microwave for a few minutes and they’re ready to eat as-is or to use in a recipe.
You can make a number of great meals from the few ingredients listed above that are healthy, cost-effective, and don’t take all evening to make! In fact, I’d say the majority of the meals we make at home come from these core ingredients.
Need a few ideas?
Like Asian food? Check out our Shortcut Asian Chicken Teriyaki and Rice
Mexican? Beef Taco skillet
Italian? Shortcut Chicken and Broccoli Alfredo
Have children? Herb and I don’t have any kids yet, but we hear from other parents that it’s great to get the kids involved when cooking. For one thing, it can be fun, and for another, if they’ve helped prepare the meal, they are more likely to eat it! There are a few fun recipes that I imagine would be kid-friendly.
Why not try breaded ranch chicken tenders? They will feed the whole family, and let’s be honest: they are healthier than the pink slime in your children’s chicken nuggets! Let your kids get their hands dirty and dip the chicken tenders into the butter and then roll them around in the breading.
Like pizza? Make it a fun event for the whole family, and let your kids add their favorite toppings, like the 1500’s family pizza night.
The list goes on and on. There are so many quick and easy recipes to tempt your palate!
And when all else fails and you’re at a loss for what to cook, you can always just Google the ingredients you have at the house and see what comes up.
You can improve your health, and your finances, by learning to cook a few simple recipes. And you may even find that you enjoy it!
Join the 10s who have signed up already!
Subscribing will improve your life in incredible ways*.
*Only if your life is pretty bad to begin with.