Feeding Your Family on a Budget

The average household spends $4,363 each year on groceries. Before the pandemic, Americans were spending more money on restaurant visits and dining out than ever before as an average American dines out on average 5.9 times a week. Although COVID-19 altered this picture significantly, ordering in and getting takeaway became the new norm.

1. Benefits of Eating at Home Vs Eating Out

The pros and cons of eating at home versus eating out are often debated. Eating a meal made by a professional obviously comes with fantastic flavor, or at least it should, along with a ‘visual presentation’. But, it comes at a hefty price tag.

Eating at home is cheaper in any scenario. Although the average cost of eating ‘out’ depends on the type of restaurant, most restaurants charge about a 300% mark-up on the items they serve to make up for the cost of actually running a restaurant. In a new normal, one study found that on average, it was five times more expensive to order take-out from a restaurant than it was to cook at home. But you should also keep in mind that a meal kit is almost three times as expensive as cooking a meal from scratch.

When you cook, you get to control what goes into the dish and can therefore choose only the best ingredients. You can make adjustments to make it healthier and less fattening.  Research has shown that cooking at home leads to healthier choices as the more people cook at home, the healthier their diet, the fewer calories they consume and they are less likely to be obese or therefore, less prone to develop type 2 diabetes.

On the other hand, ordering food takes a minute whereas cooking a meal will take much more time so you want to be mindful how you use appliances around the kitchen and be mindful of your energy and water usage to save on your Duquesne utility costs.

2. How To Feed Your Family on a Budget

Feeding a family is an expensive affair either way but with the right approach, you can do it even when the budget is tight.

Make a meal plan

Planning out your meals helps you minimize impulse purchases and allows you to center your menu around discounted ingredients, lowering your grocery bill. It will also allow you to prepare your meals ahead of time, dramatically lowering your cooking time during the week.

Use less meat and dairy

Meat and dairy are expensive proteins whereas legumes such as beans, lentils and chickpeas are healthier, cheaper and friendlier to the planet.

Stock up on frozen vegetables

Frozen vegetables are not only more affordable but if they are organic, they are often more nutritious, as they are frozen within hours of being harvested. You can steam them as a side dish, or use them for soups, sauces, stir-fries, stews and sautés.

Make it from scratch

Did you try making a home-made granola? It’s so easy, it costs less and is healthier than the store kind as you can replace sugar with honey or maple syrup.

Leftovers are your friend

Freeze your leftovers if you cannot think of what to do with them straight away. You can use them as a side-dish and they’ll be of great help when you haven’t made anything.

3. Simple Cooking Tips

The bottom line is that cooking is like any skill, the more you do it, the better you’ll get at it.

There are many ways to step up your cooking game.

Preparation is key

Read the recipe ahead of the time to ensure you have all the ingredients and to de-freeze or melt your butter. Everything should be washed, chopped, diced, minced and set out on your countertop prior to cooking to avoid any burning your fingers or cutting yourself while trying to do something quickly.

Food doesn’t like to be crowded

In order to release moisture, food needs space. Give your food ample room in the pan and if the pan is too small, just cook in several batches.

Don’t skim on the ingredients

Your food can only be as good as your ingredients. You get what you pay for.

Use exact measures

Cooking and baking are both blends of art and science. Invest in a set of measuring spoons as not getting the measure right can ruin a dish, especially when you bake.

Clean as you go

Cleaning will be much easier and less painful if you clean along the way as opposed to allowing mess to pile up, making you regret cooking altogether.

Takeaway

Even great cooks had some serious flops so don’t be too hard on yourself. Always have a frozen pizza in the freezer just in case. When you’re a beginner, just use the magic that recipes provide us with and you’ll become a cook who can make delicious budget-friendly meals in no time.