Figuring Out Your Monthly Food Budget
We all have those days where we want absolutely nothing to do with the kitchen. The idea of even making ramen sounds like too much. I know for myself it’s not even the cooking part that turns me away, but it’s the whole cleaning part afterward. Doing dishes, sweeping the floors, and wiping down the counter might not be the most tedious things to do, but they still suck. But I’m also not made of money. There is no way I can afford to eat takeout or Postmates every single day.
The other big challenge about cooking for me is that I live alone. Buying groceries for one person is a lot harder than you might think. Why is everything packaged for a family of four or five? And then everything I buy ends up going bad before I can ever eat it. Honestly, adulting is a struggle.
My love of food
There are two types of people in this world: those who eat to live and those who live to eat. I am someone who loves food. It’s what gets me out of bed in the morning. I am beyond jealous of people who can eat whatever sustenance they can get their hands on and be content with it. Have you ever met that type of person who, if they could, would drink a grey smoothie with all the nutrients they need for every meal? I WISH.
I grew up in a big family where everyone knows how to cook. You can’t even imagine some of the fantastic meals I’ve had that come from a family member’s kitchen. So when I moved out, those skills transferred into adulthood, but I never learned how to cook small portions. When I cook, there is enough food to feed an army, but that’s because there was always an army of mouths to feed in my family. I have been slowly trying to figure out how to plan out what to eat and how much it will cost me each month since I moved out at 18. I’m 24 now, and it’s only until recently that I figured out.
Cooking for yourself on a budget isn’t hard if you like to eat the same thing for every meal. I once ate a pot of chili for about a week straight; breakfast, lunch, and dinner. I haven’t eaten chili since December. I don’t mind eating leftovers, but at some point, I can’t take it anymore. I need something new.
Tip 1: Plan out your meals for the week
Nothing will get me to blow more money than necessary when I go to the supermarket without a plan. I start grabbing things off the shelf. I’ll grab half the ingredients to make tacos. I might grab some stuff to make sandwiches throughout the week. My undiagnosed ADHD takes over, and by the time I check out at the line, I have an assortment of random things in my basket. Planning out what you are going to make that week with a detailed list will help cut down on unnecessary purchases.
Tip 2: Don’t lie to yourself
As I said earlier, we all have those days when cooking is the last thing we want to do. So don’t lie to yourself and say that you will cook every day for the next two weeks. It won’t happen. If you plan for the occasional lazy day where you can order out some food, you won’t feel guilty that you are wasting money. The keyword there is occasional. This doesn’t mean you should order out all the time. Even if you have the money to do that, you can spend that money in more valuable ways.
Tip 3: Lazy Meals
Cooking doesn’t have to be a 2-hour thing where you are hovering over a pot tirelessly. There are so many different great recipes out there that are perfect for a lazy meal. One-Pot recipes are great if you want something that feels more “extravagant” than a bowl of cereal. But my go-to lazy meals are:
- The premade Buitoni tortellini (really any pasta).
- Grilled cheese
- My mom’s go-to egg sandwiches
If you plan, you give yourself the chance to prepare effortless but delicious meals that don’t take longer than 20 minutes to cook. I once watched my mom whip up steak tacos in 15 minutes for about eight people. It was pretty wild to see. A quick easy to make meal will deter you from Postmates.
Tip 4: Meal Prep
The last thing I want to do is cook three times in one day. Breakfast isn’t too bad. Some toast, an egg, and some avocado (if you’re into that kind of thing) is probably the easiest thing to make. My problem lies with cooking lunch. It’s in the middle of the day, and the last thing I want to do on my lunch break is cook. If I weren’t so hungry, I would take a nap during my lunch break. So when I meal prep, it’s almost always my lunches for the week.
I’m not going to lie to you, my lunch of choice is the easiest thing ever, but that’s because I am obsessed with sandwiches. I love sandwiches so much it’s ridiculous. You can turn any dish into a sandwich if you are creative enough.
Back to my point, I usually make sandwiches for lunch. But I make them on Sundays. I don’t add anything that will make the sandwiches soggy, like mayo or butter, but I will assemble the general basics of the sandwich on Sundays. And I will make 15 of them or however many I can get out of the ingredients I buy. I wrap them up individually, and when it comes time to eat them, I will add whatever condiment or other things I might want at the time and toss them into my toaster oven. It makes lunch so easy, and sometimes I have one with an egg for breakfast or dinner.
Knowing I have food already made at my apartment is a big deterrent when eating out or spending more money on food.
To sum it up
My two biggest turn-offs in cooking and saving money on food are that I hate cleaning up after, and I hate eating the same thing for every meal days on end. But if you take 10 minutes out of your week to plan out what you want to eat, you will be surprised how much money and time you will save. And if you plan, then you won’t be stuck eating a pot of chili endlessly like I had to do. It’s going to take a bit to find a groove on how much money you spend on groceries without letting stuff go bad, but planning is critical. And if you ever need inspiration for good fast meals, check out Hello Fresh’s recipes.
If you want to read more about budgeting your monthly expenses read our article here.