I was halfway through Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University personal finance course when Mr. Vega and I started dating, and he was nearing the end of a period of unemployment he had navigated more deftly than most. Because neither of us had any money when we found each other, we enjoyed mainly home-cooked meals on our early dates. And because neither of us had any money, that became a topic of conversation very early in our courtship. We began doing our individual budgets side-by-side while we were still dating, and have continued to create a budget every month since we’ve been married.
While we do enjoy cooking together at home, I confess that our food and grocery budget remains the biggest area in which we still have plenty of room for improvement. We generally pack and bring our lunches to work, do our best to minimize food waste, and have dinner at home most weeknights, but we are not immune to the siren song of takeout on the days we find ourselves exhausted, and I am very guilty of impulse buys at the grocery store. Menu planning is also challenging, because sometimes we just don’t want what we had planned to make, and we haven’t got ingredients in the house to make what we do want.
We’re still working on finding ways of planning, spending and eating that blend our desire to eat a frugal, organic, real-food diet that is also delicious and interesting. So we overspend. On a regular basis.
But we haven’t given up: we set up a balcony garden almost as soon as we got settled in Austin, and are hoping to have a quick learning curve about container gardening in this hot-humid climate. We signed up for a weekly CSA box from Johnson’s Backyard Garden, and are enjoying learning to cook new-to-us veggies like sweet potato greens and okra.
What are some of the challenges you face in keeping your food costs low? Where have you succeeded?
My biggest food-budget challenge is living in Alaska, where things just plain cost a lot (and where produce isn’t always the freshest). Fortunately my partner likes to cook (he does more of it than I do) and enjoys repurposing leftovers (we never throw food away). We’re gardening to some extent but could do better; an upcoming greenhouse construction should help.
Here’s my suggestion: Watch the TV show “Chopped,” and then “chop” your fridge and pantry. Even when one of our creative meals isn’t all that great, we eat it anyway and consider it a lesson learned that, say, dried kale shouldn’t be added to tomato soup after all. 😛
I like to cook, but I haven’t always got the energy for it! I guess the trick is to stock the freezer when I DO feel like cooking, to be ready for the days that I DON’T, ha. We’ll have to check out “Chopped,” though, it sounds like fun!
Can’t wait to hear more about your greenhouse!
We have a few challenges: first, my husband while not a picky eater, can’t have a meal without meat! I mean, he can, but really prefers not to. The largest part of our grocery budget is spent on keeping our meat stocked.
I also think it’s challenging to have high-quality, fresh, healthy food without having to spend a lot. I buy all our produce as it comes on sale, but sadly, sometimes with coupons + sales, it’s just cheaper to buy the unhealthier, pre-packaged stuff. We are CONSTANTLY trying to balance healthy + cheap!
It’s a shame, isn’t it, that the stuff that makes us sicker is so cheap? I try to remember that saving money on the front end could mean much higher expenses later in terms of medical bills. But it’s not easy to compare today’s very real costs with the imagined costs of the future.
I’m also married to a die-hard carnivore, and lately, we’ve taken to creating vegetarian dinners that he can add meat to… it was a light-bulb moment for me when I realized that I didn’t have to eat meat at every meal just because he likes to! We’ll see how much that impacts the grocery bill…
My challenge in keeping the food cost low is staying away from the fast food joints. they surround where we live and are just to easily accessed. my Wife has put me on a diet these days though, so that helps keep the fast food away and the costs down.
Fast food is my nemesis! It’s not even delicious, but it’s oh-so-easy, and there’s something comforting about the greasy-saltiness of it, even though it’s utterly deadly, both to my physical health and to our finances.
Since we moved to Austin, my commute is too short to make fast food the “obvious” choice, and there are far fewer drive-thrus here than in Los Angeles.
Good luck on your diet, and know that you are not alone in your fast-food struggles!