Cooking at home is certainly more cost effective than eating out. But in order to cook on a budget, it doesn’t mean that you have to buy cheaper food. Generally, cheaper food is less healthy for you, and everyday cooking should call for the most wholesome ingredients you can find.
If you have stress over cooking at home while still cooking on a budget, the first place to start is in the grocery store where your food bill originates. There are some simple ways that you can lower your grocery bill without having to buy inferior products and still make cooking at home nutritious and fun.
First, know your basic portions for the people for whom you cook. The following list gives you the averages for each type of food product that I'm going to discuss today (per meal):
- Protein = 5 ounces raw protein
- Vegetable = 4 ounces raw vegetable
- Starch = 3 ounces raw starch
What this means is that if you’re cooking for four people, 5 ounces of raw protein times 4 people is 20 total ounces. That’s less than a pound and a half total. Now, you have a quantifiable number to buy. Don’t buy the three pound container of chicken breasts, you’ll over-cook, over-portion and waste food and money.
Be able to do some simple math while in the grocery store, because packages are down-sizing. Notice that many boxes of pasta are no longer a full pound. Many have been down-sized to 12 ounces, but the price not down-sized appropriately. You need to figure out the cost per ounce, or some common denominator so you can compare the products correctly.
However, you also have to keep this in mind when you are thinking about portion sizes. In my household, I prepare 5.3 ounces of dry pasta for two people. This gives me three meals out of a 1 pound box. However, if I can only buy a 12 ounce box, it's easy to just make the whole box. Don't! The result will either be that you overeat or have to throw leftovers away. Be aware of the portions and save the uncooked leftovers in the box for another day. Your stomach and your pocket will thank you.
Cooking at home can save you more money than ever when you know your portions. Knowing your portions and paying attention to package sizes will make you able to purchase with your cooking in mind and not over-buy, pay the highest price per ounce, or throw the leftovers away. Your goal for cooking on a budget is to purchase only what you’ll cook, and cook only what you purchase. This is everyday cooking with your budget in mind.
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