There are many options available when deciding what to eat for dinner. There are endless options of restaurants, there are pre-packaged or frozen meals available at the grocery store, but your best option is to cook from scratch as often as you can. This will save you money and also has other advantages:
Check your sale ad. The first thing you should do when deciding what to cook is to look at your sale ad from your preferred grocery store. Finding out what is on sale will allow you to pick out ingredients that you can get for less money than normal.
Set up a shopping day. That leads me to another piece of advice which is to always shop in advance, which means that you plan your meals out in advance. If you find yourself stopping at the grocery store multiples times per week to pick up stuff you need, chances are you are wasting money, and it’s a certainty that you’re wasting time. Do a little advance planning. It’s definitely worth it.
Start slow. If cooking meals from scratch is a new practice for you, that’s just fine, but if that’s the case I would start off slow. Don’t think that you can convert from the take-out lifestyle to the cooking at home lifestyle overnight. That would be too overwhelming. Pick one meal, make it simple (like pasta with meat sauce) and use that as your launching pad. If you jump in too quickly, you’ll likely end up quitting because it’s too dramatic a shift to make all at once.
List your ingredients. When you cook from scratch, have a recipie and an ingredients list. Make sure you have all of the ingredients you need, and if you are seeing something on your list that you think you have but haven’t used in a while, make sure you check to ensure that it’s still good. There’s nothing worse than assuming you can use meat in the freezer only to find out that it’s been in there so long that it’s freezer burned. This would certainly bring a halt to your meal making plans!
Don’t compare meal prices at the start. One of the common arguments I hear is that, especially for single people or couples without kids, is that eating in doesn’t save money. They’ll point to the costs of buying all of the ingredients that they need, and will show that a takeout meal is the same price and takes a lot less time to make. Don’t fall into this trap.
Why? Because you’ll stock up. If you haven’t cooked much, you likely don’t have much to cook with, so at first, you will need everything. But, with many ingredients, you’ll use a small portion and will have the rest left over for future meals. This means that as you get deeper and deeper into your meal making strategy, your costs per meal will steadily decline.
It’s healthier. What you make in your kitchen will be much healthier than what you get from a restaurant, whether it be fast food, take out, or sit down. You’ll use healthier ingredients and it’s almost a certainty that you’ll use less of the unhealthy ingredients that restaurants use, like salt. Over time, the health benefits that you give yourself by cooking in will pay in other ways. You’ll feel better. You’ll have less problems that will require doctors care. You’ll have better opportunities to keep your weight from going up.
Bottom line, it puts you in control.
The problem of time.
One of the common complaints I hear about cooking in is that there isn’t enough time. By the time you get home from work and deal with kids or everything else, it is late to start a meal. I understand that, and while it’s not possible to create time out of thin air, and while I doubt many employers are going to take too well to you leaving early so that you can get a head start on dinner, there are other ways to handle this.
Have your ingredients laid out. The night before, you can get your ingredients together so that when you do come home, everything is right there. A common factor that many people forget is that prepping your meal takes quite a bit of time, so if you can reduce the prep time necessary, you’ll be able to jump right into actually making the meal as soon as you walk in the kitchen.
Take it one step further. You can take the prepping in advance to an advanced level, by doing some of the pre-cooking the night before. If your meal requires meat to be browned, you can do this the night before after the kids are in bed and things have settled down. This will make the next day’s meal even easier to cook, and it will force you to actually cook the meal and not give into the temptation to slack off!
Cook when you can. If you have a little extra time on the weekend, especially with the colder winter months now coming upon many of us, you can spend some time cooking meals for the week. Many people will cook two or three meals, and put them in the fridge, so all that has to be done is warming it up when it’s actually time to eat them! How easy is that? Plus, as you get better with cooking, you’ll find that you can make many of your upcoming meals at the same time, so you can get three meals cooked in two hours, versus an hour per meal during the week, saving you an hour of cooking time.
Don’t forget leftovers. If you cook something that you make a lot of, plan on freezing what you can. As long as you don’t abandon it to the dark regions of your freezer, you can have that as another meal within a couple of weeks.
Cooking your meals can save you big bucks if you start off small and stick with it. You’ll learn new skills, save money, and will end up providing yourself better health along the way. Readers, do you cook from scratch? Share how it saves you money.
Thank you for reading.