Estimated Monthly Savings: $100
Dining out is disastrous to the wallet, but few people enjoy cooking every night. After a busy day, the thought of spending an evening in the kitchen is often more painful than spending cash in a restaurant. Luckily, with a well-planned menu, a few groceries, and a single day of cooking, you can look forward to many evenings of fresh homemade meals with little daily effort. Plan ahead, put on your apron and some good music, and commit to one day of cooking. With ample refrigerator and freezer space, you’ll be able to store homemade meals for many nights to come.
Choose versatile foods. Pasta can be served under a hearty sauce and used in hot casseroles and cold salads. Boil once and create three meals. Eggs are cheaper in bulk. Quiche and Frittata are easy to make ahead, refrigerate or freeze, and reheat. When buying meats, look for sales on large cuts or portions that are useful in more than one dish. A few pounds of ground beef goes a long way. And the thought of meatballs, sliders, and chili at home will keep you out of the diner!
Always add a salad. When dining out, dinner comes with a salad. Don’t skimp on this important meal component. Prepping a week’s worth of salad is just as easy as preparing one salad. And it will certainly prove cheaper. Rather than buying small bags of pre-cut and pre-washed greens, pick up a few different heads of lettuce and create a personalized blend that will last all week. Shaved carrots, shredded cheese, and chickpeas are good salad fixings that also work well in other dishes.
Learn to love your broiler. Almost every oven comes with a broiler. High heat emanating from the upper element browns and cooks food quickly. A few trays of seasoned broiled peppers and onions can be divided into many dishes. Add some of the broiled pepper mix to a casserole, reserve a small amount for Italian sub toppings, and serve the rest over rice as a side dish. The broiler is also useful for dressing up leftovers. Turn yesterday’s cold tuna salad into some scrumptious tuna melt sandwiches in under a minute. Yes, the broiler is your friend.
If you want to eat in and save money but you don’t want to spend every night in the kitchen, try committing to a single day of cooking. The challenge is invigorating. Planning the menu exercises creativity. And you’ll enjoy many more healthy, homemade meals.