Whether you’re a scrimping student or a new parent, one of the biggest weekly expenditures that most people have is food. Trying to tread the fine line between week-before-pay-day meals (Mi Goreng Monday anyone?) and epic feasts can be really tricky, and the difficulty is compounded by the fact that for a lot of us, food is about health and nutrition just as much as it is about enjoyment.
However, with the right information and recipes in hand, learning to cook amazing meals for cheap is well within the grasp of even the most culinarily impaired among us!
Simply follow these simple tips and tricks, and you’ll be well on the way to a full belly and a full wallet.
As we all know, the absolute worst time to attend to your grocery shopping is when you’re hungry. Making good nutritional and financial decisions is hard enough without a rumbling belly guiding your shopping trolley. In order to maximise the ease with which you can exercise your financial and gastronomic discipline, it’s a good idea to start planning your meals before you hit the supermarket.
In addition, by planning your meals and doing meal prep, you’re able to budget your time more effectively. If you know you’ve got a busy week ahead of you, cook double portions of everything, and minimise your time in the kitchen.
And if saving time and money isn’t enough, here’s the kicker – you’ll actually be eating food you enjoy. No more scraping together unwanted stuff from the pantry … you get to pick the menu well in advance, so there’s no chance that you’ll be stuck with baked beans on toast for dinner (unless of course you like that!). Your food will be healthier, cheaper, tastier and quicker.
What’s not to love?
The trick is to be flexible. Choose simple meals that you already know, and you’ll be able to save money by substituting sale ingredients and shopping around. Rather than going with complex, easy-to-mess-up culinary masterpieces poached straight from Instagram, look for meals that contain only a few simple ingredients. Specialty sauces and spices can be quite expensive, and often end up sitting at the back of your pantry going to waste.
Another great (and healthy, and environmentally friendly) way to save a bit of cash is to plan a few vegetarian meals every week. Proteins like beef and fish are a lot more expensive than vegetarian options like tofu or tempeh, and in the right recipe they won’t be missed.
This brings us to our next point. The key to budget meal planning is … well, budgeting.
Allocate a reasonable amount of money each week for food and groceries. Make sure that you have enough to cover all your meals, and stick to it.
The first place to start is figuring out how much you currently spend on groceries. Hang on to your receipts from all food purchases (yes, even that cheeky lunchtime friand!) This will give you an idea of what you can (or can’t) afford on a weekly basis. Look out for expenses that seem small, but occur regularly. Things like eating out for lunch or late night ice cream runs can quickly add up – by eliminating these costs you can save a lot of money in the long run.
In order to make sure that you’re not underbudgetting or overbudgetting, take note of your weekly food expenditure and adjust accordingly. If you’re the person buying the food, you’ll need to account for every member of your household – even the furry ones!
Finally, don’t forget to budget for snacks and treats. The easiest way to get sick of budget meal planning is to deny yourself your favourite foods, so be sure to allow yourself a bit of fun every now and then.
There are heaps of apps and services out there that can help you to plan meals for the week. Apps like Mealime, MakeMyPlate and EatThisMuch.com are all really quick and effective ways to get started meal planning. Find meals and recipes you like the look of, plan for the week, and get started with saving some money.
Another great way to use technology to your advantage is utilising online shopping carts. Most major supermarkets now offer online ordering, allowing you to quickly and easily pick and choose the items necessary for your new meal plan, compare prices, and get the ingredients you need delivered straight to your home.
Ultimately, cooking great food for yourself and your family is a really rewarding and satisfying experience – it’s even possible to do Christmas Lunch on a shoestring budget if you plan ahead. If you take the time to get into meal planning, your food will be healthier, cheaper, tastier and quicker.
Disclaimer: Please note this content is provided as general information only and does not take into account your objectives, financial situations or needs. For advice tailored to your financial situation, it is advised that you seek guidance from an accountant or financial advisor. The above post refers to application software (“App, Apps”) that is not affiliated or associated with Nimble. We do not have any control or responsibility over the content of the Apps. Use of the Apps may be subject to further terms and conditions imposed by the App provider, the owner of the mobile operating system and/or other related parties. The above links belong to a variety of websites and not Nimble, so clicking on, and using them, will take you away from Nimble’s website meaning we’ve got no control or responsibility over the content. Nimble does not endorse and is not affiliated or associated in any way whatsoever to the businesses named in this blog post. The information contained in this article is correct at the date of publication.