As we all well know, the way to lose weight is to make the amount taken in (calories you eat) less than the amount taken out (exercise). In a similar way, the way to save money is to make the amount taken in (job, passive income, business) MORE than the amount taken out (expenses like house, utilities, clothes, car, and food).
While there are many ways to increase the amount of money you bring in, like negotiating you salary, job hopping for a higher salary, or creating a side business, there are also many ways to reduce the amount of money you spend. Like realizing you need less house than you thought, driving older used cars or forgoing cars entirely, cutting or negotiating your utility bills, or other weird things that work for your lifestyle.
A big expense that literally everyone has control over and could bring down is one which we also require to keep living: food.
Food is a broad category, which could include eating out, happy hours, lunch with coworkers, home cooked meals, potlucks, delivery and take out, or monthly cooking subscription boxes like Blue Apron, Plated, or Hello Fresh. Everyone has different ways of managing these expenses, from whipping out the credit card and never thinking about it, to detailed line items in a budget spreadsheet.
Now, as the Budget Epicurean, I obviously will never advocate for eating only cardboard-flavored clearance items for the rest of your life. I LOVE FOOD. This entire website is proof of that fact.
We also don’t eat like kings every single day. In fact, we very rarely eat outside the house at all. Luckily, I naturally enjoy cooking, the hubs also likes (most of) what I cook, and we both love leftovers. So our food spending is pretty low compared to most people’s. But even we have some room to “cut the fat”.
One of the best ways to decrease overall spending is to find staple meals that both are cheap, and you actually enjoy. If the thought of a peanut butter and jelly sandwich makes you nauseated (or you’re allergic to peanuts…) then that is probably not a good choice for your frugal food budget arsenal. There are literally infinite articles in the world on frugal/cheap meal ideas. Google a bit, and note down a few that sound good. Then make them, and see how you like it.
This recipe has become my absolute favorite breakfast go-to meal: Cinnamon Sugar Raisin Oatmeal.
Oatmeal is very filling, due to its high level of soluble fiber. It is fantastic for your heart and digestion, and contains many minerals needed for overall health. It is a blank canvas on which you can paint a rainbow of textures and mix-ins. From seeds and nuts to dried and frozen fruits, white sugar, brown sugar, or maple syrup, oatmeal variations are endless.
It is also dirt cheap.
Bought in bulk, online, or in canisters from the store, oats are one of the cheapest per-calorie whole grain options out there. If you can handle the flavor of plain cooked oats, man, your heart and wallet will thank you!
But I have to have at least a little flavor. My “fancy-pants” oatmeal involves raisins, cinnamon, salt and sugar and tastes divine. It also costs two quarters per serving!
Every day I choose to eat this rather than buy a breakfast sandwich, bagel, or any other kind of fast food alternative, I’m saving more quarters to add to my investment accounts or put towards big life goals.
Here’s how the costs break down:
- Oats: 2.39 for 42 oz
- Per serving: 8 oz = 0.45
- Raisins: 1.49 for 16 oz
- Per serving: 1 oz = 0.09
- Cinnamon: $1 for 2.5 oz
- Per serving: 0.25 oz = 0.10
- White sugar: $1.89 for 4 pounds
- Per serving: .5 oz = 0.01
- Salt: 0.54 for 26 oz
- Per serving: .25 oz = 0.005
Total per serving = $0.56
The easiest way to prep this is to make a big batch every other week in a mason jar. I fill it 3/4 of the way with oats, pour in some raisins, cinnamon, sugar and salt. I put the cap on, and shake-shake-shake!
Then I take it to work, stick it in my desk drawer, and it is waiting for me every morning. Sometimes I do make breakfast at home, like a smoothie or a granola bar or some microwave eggs benedict. But when I don’t have the time or energy, I know I will still have a nice warm bowl of oatmeal just the press of a “hot water” button away.