Posted by Dave on February 2, 2010
I eat pretty healthy, probably a lot better then most people. I also eat fairly cheaply on a per day basis (as you can see by the title of the post, between my wife and I we eat for approximately $50 per week). For full disclosure, I don’t include restaurant trips in this budget, that is included in our entertainment budget. Basically 20 out of 21 meals per week are included in the $50. Saving money on food, especially good quality food is pretty easy, although it is a radical change over what I ate from childhood up to a couple of years ago. Here are some tips that I can offer if your current bill is higher then you want it to be:
1.) Learn how to cook/bake: It’s not as scary as it seems – when I first started, my main companion with any meal was ketchup and hot sauce to cover up some of the weird tastes I was putting together. As an example, I bake my own bread, sometimes by hand, but usually with a bread machine I got as a wedding shower present last year. For $10 you can buy a 10kg bag of flour that last us approximately three or four months, making 1 loaf a week. I also make my own tortillas, pasta, tomato sauces, baked beans – basically anything can be made from scratch rather quickly and easily – the internet is a really good source for recipes and troubleshooting when recipes go terribly wrong. By making all of your food from scratch, you also know exactly what you’re eating, whereas a lot of prepackaged food includes ingredients that are not pronounceable, and probably shouldn’t be consumed.
2.) Don’t be afraid to try new foods: From my childhood on, I hated squash – I hated the texture, the taste, the colour – I was definitely not a fan. I had not tasted squash in well over a decade, but when I did, I found that it isn’t terrible and is really healthy to eat. I basically buy fruit and vegetables when they are in season and switch throughout the year what I eat. There are some serious savings to be taken advantage of by buying in season rather then maintaining a constant diet year-round. Try brussel sprouts, eat some butternut squash, try some weird fruits or odd looking green things that are there – they are generally pretty healthy.
3.) Eat less meat: I love meat, but it is expensive and there are much more healthy sources of protein. I eat a lot of beans and legumes, which I buy dry from bulk food stores, soak and cook in a pressure cooker. If even one or two days of meat are removed from your diet, especially in a household of more then 2 people, significant money per week can be saved.
I put this advice into action this weekend, when I hosted a “Christmas” dinner for my family of 10 people. I made – vegetarian chili, homemade pasta, and fresh-baked french bread with garlic butter – all from scratch. It was very well received and probably cost me a total of $10-$15, was reasonably healthy, and made from fresh, whole ingredients with no preservatives or chemicals in it (with enough leftovers to last until Wednesday or Thursday of this week for lunches) and didn’t really take a ton of time to do at all.
As an example of how I eat, here are a few things that I ate last week and this week:
“Green smoothies” – spinach/kale/some other kind of green mixed with seeds, berries, banana, flax, and other weird healthy stuff that my wife drinks, but doesn’t understand the awesomeness that is irish moss with her kale and beet smoothie.
Eggs on home-made toast
Usually leftovers from dinner the night before
Stir fry with tons of vegetables in a home-made peanut sauce
Chicken breasts, rice and brussel sprouts
Sweet potato fries, rice and beans
I’m not sure if my diet is typical, but I think it is generally healthy – made with whole foods, full of fruits and vegetables. I’m working on cutting back on grains, but I really really like them, so we’ll see how that goes. How about you, have there been any major changes to your diet as you strive towards early retirement, or a healthier lifestyle? Food is one of my more serious interests right now, so I look forward to comments.
Happy Groundhog Day!