Eating well on a dime
How well you can eat on the cheap depends a lot on how much you want this to be a lifestyle choice. If you can’t be bothered to cook yourself dinner after a long day, you need to figure out how to batch cook efficiently, or you’re going to waste a lot of money (and eat more crap in the process.)
I believe that meaningful change in our food system begins at the kitchen table. We can’t change the world outside our door if we don’t change our habits at home.
The key is finding the pleasure in the process. If you enjoy your time in the garden and kitchen, it won’t feel like work and the resulting feast will be a bonus.
1. Eat less meat
Most of us eat way too much meat. In our home, we use Meatless Monday to stretch our food budget.
It doesn’t take an economics major to figure out beans and rice are easier on the pocketbook than steak (or even hamburger!)
2. Don’t eat out
Save dinners out for a meal that you wouldn’t be able to cook at home. The hubs and I are both pretty handy around the kitchen, so when we do eat out, we go for broke and it is a memorable, sometimes once-in-a-lifetime experience, not just a get in and get out forgettable meal.
3. Learn to cook
I don’t care if you can’t boil water right now, you can learn to cook. Cooking is not rocket science and it doesn’t have to be fancy, complicated, difficult or time consuming.
I get my panties in a twist when people moan – But I don’t have time cook! Bah. I say you’re full of it.
Get a slow cooker, a bread maker, a rice cooker – do what you gotta do. This week I got up a few minutes early on my “hell day” bunged a couple bottles of beer, an onion, garlic, celery, carrots and seasoning in the slow cooker along with a couple racks of ribs. At the same time, I heated through some molasses, ketchup, garlic, onions, apple cider vinegar and spices.
When I got home later from work the house smelled like heaven and all I had to do was slather that gorgeous homemade BBQ sauce onto meltingly tender ribs. I got the ribs on special for $3.50 a rack. We spent like paupers and ate like kings. Zero time and minimal effort. You’ve just got to plan ahead.
Personally, I’m a big fan of having one afternoon a week to batch cook. This works especially well in winter when I’m craving warm hearty meals like soup, lasagna and shepherd’s pie. All you have to do is bung it in the oven.
Who doesn’t have time for that???
4. Eat inexpensive cuts of meat
In our house, we are able to afford to eat pastured organic meats because we primarily eat the less expensive cuts.
Flank steak, stew meat, hocks, roasts . . . pretty much any cut of meat that starts out tough and cheap can be incredibly flavourful if you know how to prepare them.
It’s might go without saying, but meat on the bone is way less expensive than boneless skinless chicken breast, for example. Really want a good buy? Pick up a whole chicken and learn to cut it up yourself.
5. Eat whole grains
Whole grains are inexpensive, filling and good for you. How can you go wrong?
I like to use whole grains in unexpected ways – barley for risotto or as a filler for a greek salad. (Sounds weird, but believe me – delicious.)
6. Buy dried beans and legumes
A tin of organic beans can cost three dollars or more. Using dried beans can be inconvenient. You need to plan ahead, soak them and take time to cook them properly.
I avoid all that trouble by buying dried beans in bulk, cooking them all at once in the slow cooker, and freezing them in recipe portion sizes.