Do you know you can save money on food by cooking at home? Yes! Did you know you can save time too?!? Oh yeah!
The allure of eating out is an illusion, and I’ve never figured out how restaurants trick people into thinking it’s more convenient.
How do people think this is smart?!
Even worse, my wife got suckered into it for years! Let’s just say it was a sore spot in our marriage for far too long.
She used to have this “adorable” habit of spending fifteen minutes in a Tim Horton’s lineup every morning before work for a coffee and a bagel. Never mind that we had coffee at home…and bagels.
“It’s a Canadian tradition,” she’d say, I never agreed, but who am I to judge.
But let’s have a look. Five buck breakfasts don’t seem so bad, but if you have it Monday through Friday, your little habit costs you $25 weekly.
- If you go out for lunch too that’s another $10 a day for another $50 a week.
- Then toss in some take out dinner for an easy $15 a day.
- That’s $125 / week without even eating good food, weekends, buying expensive drinks or having a spouse.
You may scoff but look up last month’s credit card bill and see how much money you spent out. I bet it’s more than you expect.
But eating out saves me time! (It doesn’t)
“Hey, Mr. FireEscape, you are all about saving time and this saves me time so it’s good right?!”
Ok, saving time is great but let’s be real. Eating out wastes more time. I track my hours more than is healthy and I hate eating out because it wastes my time.
- Bagel and coffee – 3 min at home vs. 13 min in line. Time waster!
- Lunch out – 2 minutes using dinner leftovers or a sandwich vs. 1 hr lunch break. Time waster!
- Burrito Dinner – A freaking burrito takes 15-20 minutes once I’m AT the store vs. 10 minutes to assemble and grill a homemade one while I have a beer (some bulk cooking done ahead). Time waster!
Just for argument’s sake let’s ignore the time savings and say it’s 1 hr a week extra effort to cook at home. It saves $125/week so you are making $125/hr by eating in. That’s good money! (There are better ways to save and earn but this is pretty awesome).
Hey, I’m not saying never indulge. I do it sometimes to hang out but I go in knowing it’s bad for my wallet and my schedule.
Okay cool, we get it, but how can you save money AND time by cooking?
Maybe I’m not the first guy to tell you that cooking is fast and easy. You’ve probably come across time-saving tips like these:
- Cutting up veggies in advance every week
- Planning out your days
- Clean ahead of time and leave out the next meal’s tools
Okay. But I’m a normal person, and those take wayyy too much planning and don’t really save much time. I have a life to live.
And the money-saving tips are just as bad. Too much planning and driving around:
- Look through coupons to value shop
- Check all the flyers for checkout comparisons
- Grow your own ingredients
Bahhhhh those are all slow. That level of slowness makes me nauseous.
So here are my 3 ways to save time and money when it comes to food:
1 – Mindset shift: Eating in = winning
Yep. the first is just acknowledging that if you’re making a meal at home, you’re already saving money, because eating out costs A LOT. Cook whatever you feel like. Don’t be stingy and give yourself a pat on the back right now.
Then on top of that, if you want to grab a beer with your meal, that’s astronomically marked up. (A Guinness at the bar – $9. A Guinness at the store – $3.25… Probably less if you don’t live in Canada.)
Oh and by the way. Whatever you can buy at a restaurant, you could probably just buy at the grocery store – and it’s still cheaper and faster than going out.
2 – Staple meals
I have some harsh news for you. Your taste buds aren’t as cultured as you like to think they are. You don’t need a creative new gourmet meal every day to keep it exciting.
You can rotate through 1 breakfast, 2 lunches, and 3 dinners for 95% of your life and be happy.
I’ve been eating burritos for dinner 3 days a week, for 4 years and I still love it!
Get to know your favorite recipes by heart.
That way you’ll never have to stare at your phone at the grocery store trying to figure out what you need and wander aimlessly up and down a spice aisle looking for something you’ll probably only use once.
Just zip in and out of the grocery store when your stock runs low of all your frequently used ingredients.
3 – Cook in Bulk (especially burritos!)
Your grandma did it, and her grandma did it too. And there’s a reason for that.
Learn to quadruple every meal you cook and clear out some freezer space. Obviously, your go-to recipes should be ones you can scale up. Think comfort food, not stuffy French cuisine.
Everything at casa Fire Escape is cooked in a big pot or in the oven. I literally don’t pan-fry anything because pans aren’t big enough to handle my cooking dreams.
Bonus: you can buy the big cans of your ingredients and really feel like you’re saving money 😛 (The big cans really don’t make much of a difference in pricing).
Know what doesn’t make the list?
Online shopping. (Boooo)
I had high hopes, but it kind of sucks. It doesn’t really save time when it comes to cooking staples in bulk.
Comparing prices takes three seconds at the store, and I don’t care which brand of diced tomatoes I go home with. Comparing online takes a bit longer.
When I go to the store I know where everything is since my components are all on repeat. If I want I can sprint through the aisles blindly to get everything. Plus, I have a blast there with my kids, trying weird snacks and making them inspect the food.
Disclaimer: I live close to a grocery store and have a car. If you don’t have those things, online ordering is for you!
Heck, my kids are almost old enough to really help out and I have a dream. A dream that a trip to the grocery store will soon be an episode of Supermarket Sweep once I have trained my kids.
As for the cost of online grocery shopping, the big driver isn’t the delivery fees. It’s the loss of good sales.
At the store, you have better sales than you have online. Things are priced to move before expiry or you might notice the next brand of cottage cheese is ½ off today.
Online you won’t see anything like that without spending too much time browsing the cottage cheese section of the site.
- Have a few staple meals, cook in bulk, and start seeing yourself as a winner by eating in
- I really like burritos
That’s how I save money and time when cooking. Do you guys have any tricks? A few go-to meals I haven’t thought of? An awesome burrito recipe? I’d love to hear anything that can help streamline my life.