The New Year, it comes along with so much optimism but it also comes along with that Christmas Visa bill and perhaps increased property taxes. Regardless of the reason, you may be looking to save a few pennies this time of year. I've found the biggest cost saver to be home cooking. Not only do you save money, you likely eat healthier and get into the habit of always having groceries in your house. Those days of opening an empty fridge and hoping the condiments make some sort of edible meal...
Preparation is the first step; it's inevitable and annoying. Really, I get it. Spending an hour at the grocery store is less than ideal way to spend the weekend but I've found that if you go in with a list you can be in and out way quicker than every other day pop in (which I used to do!). Living alone I usually didn't like to make huge meals and eat the same thing for 5 days but I've mastered ways to stretch my groceries and get creative.
Some tips I find helpful with meal planning:
- Pinterest: Get creative with some dishes and try something new, chances are if you're excited to eat the dish, you'll be more motivated to stay on track. If there is an ingredient you like to cook with, search and go from there (example, ground turkey). If something has been pinned 30,000 times, you've likely got a winner. Next, look at the ingredient list. If you're starting off and don't have a stocked pantry, I wouldn't jump into Jaime Oliver's 40 ingredient curry right away... look at what you already have and what you need.
- After The Recipes, Comes The List: All of the groceries you need to make for your recipes, make sure you're thinking for the whole week not just Monday and Tuesday. By Wednesday you'll be out of groceries, hangry, and find yourself at the nearest Subway.
- Shop in Season: I love fresh berries as much as the next person but I'm not going to be buying $10 worth of blueberries in the dead of winter. Winter means time for warms salads, soup, chili, roasted veggies, and etc. Squash is one of my favourite foods and I love to cook with them, you can try so many different flavours with fresh herbs.
- Multi-use Ingredients: Chicken is an easy and great example. Buying chicken breasts and cooking them in a batch on a Sunday means you'll have them ready to go at a moments notice! Chicken Fajita Salad or a Curry is a quick and easy meal at the end of the day. Another favourite everyone knows about me is my love of tacos, I'll often do taco's on Tuesday and then a Zoodle (Zoodles = Zucchini Noodles, a spiralizer changed my life) Bolognese later in the week!
- Variety Is Key: you can't eat the same thing everyday. Last time, I did a Whole 30, I think I ate eggs for breakfast for 18 days in a row... not good. Breakfast sets your tone for the day and is one of my favourite meals. I love to mix it up between more savoury and sweet and I'll alternate between overnight steel cut oats with fruit and a nut butter, chia seeds, or a new favourite is a baked egg in an avocado! This one is best to not make ahead - it takes 14 minutes in the oven, so pop it in before the shower and you'll be good to go.
To give you some ideas, here's a list of my groceries for this past week. As some are more of the aesthetically pleasing dishes I made:
- Babybel Cheese
- Bulk Nut Mix (I'm loving bulk sections!)
- Sockeye Salmon Fillets
- Ground Beef
- Coconut Milk
- Brussel Sprouts
- Butternut Squash
- Celery Sticks
- Greek Yogurt
- Green Beans
- Ground Turkey
You'll also note from my title of this blog that this is my ideal Monday to Friday. I'm not perfect and while it's ok to eat alone in life, it's important to go out, enjoy meals, socialize, and all that fun stuff! It just means that if I go out on the weekend and have a delicious meal (I tried Minami for the first time this weekend and it completely upped my sushi game), I enjoy it and I don't feel bad splurging because I've been conscious of my spending the whole week.
To give you guys some context, that grocery list cost me $72.31. I made 5 lunches, 5 dinners and satisfied my grazing cravings with at least 2 snacks a day - broken down that equals $3.62 per meal (and mini meal). I polled my colleagues and the cheapest lunch they could get near our office would be a minimum of $6. Almost double!!!
The hour prep and shopping is annoying but after it's done you're set up for success for the week which means more time to watch The Bachelor! Meal prepping is the gift of time saved having to cook and shop during the week and its the gift of more money in the bank. Need more motivation? The bento box craze is what all the kids are talking about and you'll definitely be the coolest one in the office with this upgraded lunch box from Takenaka.
I'm completely open to any other money saving tips so let me know what you do to save.