Monday, June 13, 2011

Cooking at Home

Wow. I never would have guessed it.

With a vegetarian diet, coupons, stocking up, pantry, and home cookin', we spend an average of $98 per month on groceries.

$98! We used to spend over $200 for both of us

I'm sure you're going to ask us how this could possibly be. Well here's our most basic rule: Don't buy anything that's pre-made.

You know the term that goes 'you pay for convenience'? It's true. Pre-made dinners, ready-packed lunches, seasoning packet mixes, even things you wouldn't think about like loaves of bread and cans of biscuit dough, all are assembled for you at a factory, packaged and labeled, then shipped to the store for your consumption. All of that costs money. You can skip all of that by just buying the ingredients and making it at home. In this way, not only are you saving money, but you are also carefully monitoring the amount of ingredients going into what you eat, and thereby making it healthier as well (cutting down on salt, butter, oil, and certainly preservatives.) Don't forget that this applies for restaurant meals as well

How can you get that convenience back, while still cooking at home? I know you're a busy person. As busy as ever. But I guarantee you, you have time to cook at home! Imagine how long it takes to go out to eat at a restaurant. leave at 6:30, seated at 7, order, eat, schmooze, etc, you're home by 8:30 or so. That's two hours. You could have cooked something extravagant in that time at home and saved an $80 dinner tab! Double the ingredients, same cooking time, and you easily have another dinner later in the week too (if your family members don't eat it all before then.) How hard is that

Ok, so you only order in, and you still want to squeeze in the time? Well, When was the last time you said 'there's nothing good on TV'? Instead of flipping around for something to watch, make yourself some lunches to take to work later in the week. Assemble some sandwiches, start a stew in the slow cooker, make pasta salad, or bake up some goodies to take with you. You don't have to do everything at once, and none of these tasks can take more than 15 minutes of your time, tops. Sandwiches? Please. Stew? Drop some beans and veggies in the cooker and turn it on low for 8 hours. Saute and add meat if you like. Something to bake up? Cookies just take a minute in the mixer and 15 in the oven. Make granola bars or oatmeal cookies for a healthier option. If you have a bread maker, toss in some ingredients and get it started to go with dinner that night

How much money will this save you? Well, going out to eat some pasta will cost you around $30 for two people. More if you have class. A pre-packaged home-cooked pasta meal will be in the $9-10 range (going off the Buitoni prices here.) A similar hand-made home-cooked meal could be as little as $2. A half of a pound of pasta, a can of crushed tomatoes, some basil and minced garlic, olive oil, and homemade garlic bread on the side. Toss in some fresh Portabella 'shrooms if they are on sale that week and add another $0.50 to the price. That's about a 90% savings from going out for dinner! If you must, some ground beef or sausage will only add $2 tops

In one afternoon of brown-bagging lunch at work, you could at least $5. A combo special at Wendy's sets you back $8 with a medium fries, while a sandwich from home ($0.40), homemade cookies ($0.30), an apple ($0.28), banana ($0.18), pretzels ($0.14), yogurt (from a big tub, $0.20) and a granola bar ($0.19) come to around $2. No one I know goes out to eat twice a day everyday for a whole month, but it can really add up even if you do it once a week.

The health savings are significant as well. You know that when you go to a restaurant, whatever you buy will not be good for you. This is why it tastes SO GOOD. Prepackaged foods at the grocery store will be packed with preservatives to make them last longer, and also packed with fats to make them taste better (because preserved things don't taste quite as good as fresh, so they have to compensate.)

On the other hand, fresh things at the grocery store can be hand inspected by you before being purchased, to ensure quality. They can be organic if you so choose (not an option with many restaurants or premade meals.) The recipe can be scrutinized and things that are bad for you can be reduced, replaced, or omitted. Things like chocolate chips, vegetable oil, whipped cream, etc. can all be rethought, deleted, or minimized to some degree

You will recall Hillary's earlier post about salt, therefore you already know how some of the things you don't even think to look at on a label really are quite bad for you. Take my advice and set aside a little time to cook at home. Your family, your figure, and your wallet will all thank you for it.