I have a few tips to help you beat that stress! Let’s take your food budget from over-stuffed to happily satiated.

Shubha Rao

It’s 5 PM on a Friday night. You just paid your rent, bills, and that student loan payment.

You open your fridge and see that you’ve already finished your restaurant leftovers for the week. You check your bank account hoping you can afford to eat out for the weekend, but it’s not looking good. Ack! What do you do?!

This is a problem so many of us find ourselves in. According to a recent study by the National Institutes of Health, only 54% of Americans cook meals at home. Since eating home-cooked food is both economical and usually healthier, it’s time for us to take control, break out the apron and help bring those numbers up! If figuring out what to eat, grocery shopping, a food budget, or meal planning in general is a perpetual worry of yours, like it was for me (and still is sometimes), I have a few tips to help you beat that stress! Let’s take your food budget from over-stuffed to happily satiated.

Grocery Shopping

With recipes a quick google search away, it is a lot easier to plan your meals based off of what is on sale at your local grocery store. In fact, there are many mobile applications (apps) you can use to find discounts on groceries. Gone are the days where the only choice for planning in advance involved writing a list on a piece of paper and remembering to bring that list to the store, the latter of which was a constant struggle in itself for me. Vons is my local grocery store so by the advice of a friend, I downloaded the store’s app and was able to see what was on sale and easily add it to the in-app’s grocery list making my trips to the store quick, efficient and inexpensive. Take a look to see if your local grocery market has an app too. Voila! The first step to healthy, budget eating is finished in a snap.

Cooking

Once you figure out which affordable ingredients you like, you can then google those ingredients with the word, “recipes” and you’ll be able to pick out what recipes correspond best with your tastes, cooking comfort level and the amount of time you want to spend on preparing. For example, tonight I googled, “zucchini dinner recipes”. I looked through the options, found one that would work with the other ingredients I already had at home, and landed on Zucchini cakes with a Greek yogurt. Not only did I not have to leave the house, but I was also able to utilize the flour and eggs I already had so I didn’t have to spend much money and it was pretty nutritious. Now there are so many low sodium, all-natural, healthy options out there that you can buy ingredients such as whole wheat or cauliflower pizza dough, pre-made salads with dressing, noodles, etc. to expedite your cooking, and make homemade cooking a realistic possibility.

Repurposing

A problem I run into when I cook enough food for the week is that eventually I get bored with what’s in the fridge. The best way to combat that is to repurpose ingredients. My favorite ways to do that is to throw the ingredients on a pizza, in an egg scramble, or on tacos with a quick salad or avocado mash. You can always keep staples like store-bought pasta or tomato sauce in your pantry so you can incorporate the ingredients you saved money on into a quick meal that will feed the whole family.

Wrap Up

Very few people consider themselves to be good cooks so don’t get intimidated by the idea of making food for just you, or your friends, or family. Even if it’s not critically-acclaimed, home cooking is always better. I’m definitely not perfect about cooking at home myself, so even if it’s just one meal a week that you cook from home, or one healthy low-cost snack that you bring for yourself instead of buying that $5 cupcake that always calls to you, you should congratulate yourself. Plus, practice makes perfect.

When Friday at 5pm rolls around again, you can pop your delicious home-made food in the microwave or pile on store-bought pizza sauce and dough, and relax knowing that your waistline and wallet are much happier!

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