Frugal meal planning is something anyone can master! A previously broke 25-year-old version of myself will attest to the fact this concept is possible for anyone. And there’s no need to ditch your favorite foods or drastically undercut food quality. It all comes down to proper planning and smart shopping.
It doesn’t matter if you’re a college student or part of a large family, these tips can benefit everyone!
$4 is All it Takes to Eat Healthy (What You Need to Know)…
The ‘Gospel’ of Good and Cheap
I went through a long, careless phase where I never thought about the meals I’d eat during my work week. I would order delivery all the time. I went out to lunch way too frequently and if I wasn’t spending copious amounts of money at restaurants I was making impulsive runs to grocery stores. This sporadic approach piled up and became an unwanted expense. I was settling because I was lazy. I was settling for food that was unfulfilling, expensive and downright unhealthy.
Then as if it were an act of destiny, I randomly stumbled upon an incredible cookbook.
Leanne Brown is the mastermind behind the most useful cookbook I’ve ever read. I am thankful for her hard work putting this resource together and so is my wallet! Her appropriately named cookbook, Good and Cheap, is free to download and filled with hundreds of awesome recipes! Good and Cheap is designed with healthy food choices in mind, for only about $4 a day!
Best Day to Shop
Pro tip: Do your grocery shopping on Wednesdays.
Some grocery stores offer what’s known as double-ad Wednesdays: the ads from the previous week still are running while the new sales start. This means you’re getting access to twice as many sale items on Wednesdays! Plus, Wednesdays tend to be a more mellow shopping day, meaning you’ll have more time to browse for the best deals. Personally, I avoid grocery stores on the weekends at all costs.
Avoiding Restaurants Most Days
Restaurants always will be more expensive than cooking at home. I’ve had to come to terms with this unfortunate fact. The thing is, I absolutely love going out to eat. I think most people do. I love the whole process, everything from the social elements to the associated conveniences, such as zero dishes to wash.
However, there’s just no comparison when it comes to the price difference between the two. When you go out to eat you’re always paying extra for your food and you’re doing so in numerous ways. The restaurant’s overhead, labor costs and ample tip for your waiter/waitress really stacks up quickly.
This concept really hit home for me when I began documenting how much I was spending on eating out. I began jotting down the price of my meals in a notes app on my phone. I was completely baffled at how much I was spending at restaurants, literally hundreds of dollars a month. Instead, get creative with your own meals! As with most skills, the more you practice the better you get! Cook your meals at home and stay away from restaurants.
Discount Grocery Stores: Your New Best Friend
While expensive health food stores and upscale grocery stores do serve a purpose for certain items and sales, they generally are extremely overpriced. People are continuing to wise up and realizing that fancier stores are as overrated as their steep prices.
Alas! The era of the discounted grocery store is alive and blooming! Stores such as Aldi, Save-A-Lot, and Grocery Outlet have become huge influencers in this niche industry. These stores are seriously cutting down the costs of their products and typically are not compromising quality. You may be skeptical at first. How is this possible?
Discount grocery stores buy up specials and discontinued items! They also are slimming down overhead costs associated with fancy interiors, large store sizes and special departments such as delis. They also are cutting labor costs by not making it a requirement for employees to bag groceries. They are offering products at a fraction of the cost of other major grocery stores. Often times they carry organic and otherwise extremely expensive products as well.
Huge Savings in the Bulk Section
Many grocery stores and the brands they carry use sly marketing and advertising techniques that fool consumers into buying more expensive and more wasteful food. These tactics are elements of grocery store psychology that often are overlooked by spontaneous shoppers. Bulk foods oftentimes are the same quality as packaged foods, but at a fraction of the price.
I’ve started buying as much as possible from bulk sections. I buy everything from rice to cat food to hummus mix in bulk. It saves a lot of money and, since I use my own containers (mainly Mason jars), I help reduce the excessive waste of pre-packaged foods.
Grow Your Own Food, No Really, You Can!
Growing your own food is a surprisingly foreign concept, as many people never have experimented with gardening. I’ll admit this is something I can improve on, but I have made efforts to get the ball rolling, or rather the food growing.
I’ve started by growing herbs in pots in my kitchen. Indoor gardening is a great way to start, and herb gardens and sprout gardens are inexpensive. They also don’t take up much space in your home and require little effort.
Once you get a feel for small scale indoor gardening, graduate to vertical gardening and other outdoor techniques. Raised beds and tire gardens are great ways to jumpstart an outdoor garden. If you have an abundance of space, a traditional outdoor garden is perfect. But if you live in a city and think you don’t have enough space to pursue any type of gardening, think again! Raised bed gardens require very little room. They can be set up on porches, parallel to driveways and on flat roofs to save space.
What are your go-to methods for saving money on food, while keeping food quality in mind? Did I fail to mention your secret technique? Post your ideas in the comment section below! I’ll be sure to post an update of my gardening efforts as they unfold.
Robert Parmer is a online freelance writer and student at Boise State University. Outside of writing and reading voraciously, he enjoys commuting by bicycle whenever possible.
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