Eating on a budget—especially eating well—can be a challenge. But by using frugal recipes and other tips, you can even enjoy steak meals on a budget!
How much do you spend on food? If you’re like most Americans, it’s around 9–12% of your income. That’s actually a lower percentage than any other nation spends—mainly because we grow so much food here—and is right in the ballpark for what many experts recommend you should spend if you’re eating on a budget.
If you’re trying to cut down on your grocery bill—or at least plan your meals on a budget that’s predictable—there are plenty of tips out there (and we’ll give you some). And it doesn’t have to mean cutting out those simple pleasures like a good quality steak.
Eating on a Budget: Tips
Eat at home. Dining out is a real budget-buster; you’re paying someone else to prepare your food, paying far more than double the cost of your beverages and paying someone else to serve it to you. Save the restaurant for special occasions only, and make cooking at home the norm. For that matter, you can even splurge on luxury ingredients once in a while and enjoy restaurant quality at home for special occasions.
Plan your meals. On Saturday, take some time to plan your meals for the next week, and do your grocery shopping. On Sunday, spend a few hours making frugal recipes you can make ahead (like soup stock, sauces, etc.) to save time during the week. Meal planning makes eating on a budget much easier and less stressful.
Cook more; eat less. When preparing your meals, always make extra. (If cooking for two, make enough for four.) That way you’ll have enough for lunch the next day, and can save money by not going out for lunch. If you make something big like a pan of lasagna, set aside tomorrow’s lunch portion and freeze the leftovers for future meals on a budget. Avoid waste by eating smaller servings; refrigerate extra servings before eating to avoid the temptation to eat seconds.
Less meat, more veggies. Yes, we know we sell meat. But we sell the good stuff, and want you to eat it sensibly. Incorporate less-expensive protein sources like eggs and beans into your diet through frugal recipes, eat plenty of fresh veggies and whole grains, and don’t make meat the center of your plate. A 4-ounce filet mignon is a perfectly reasonable serving, especially when you have other great food on your plate to balance it. Instead of a huge serving of cheap steak, treat yourself to a smaller serving of more enjoyable premium aged beef.
Look for deals and coupons. Check your local store flyers online or in the newspaper for seasonal buys and money-saving coupons, and use these to form the basis of your meal planning. Buy frequently used items like beans and grains in bulk, and eat fruits and vegetables in season when they’re freshest and least expensive. You can even save on that premium aged beef by using Tender Filet coupons.
As we mentioned earlier, just cooking more at home will go a long way toward eating on a budget. Keep a variety of frugal recipes on hand, like a favorite rice pilaf, a go-to pasta sauce or a never-fail method for cooking that broccoli you found on sale. Make sure you have enough in your repertoire to keep things from getting boring, and planning meals on a budget will be a snap.
Some of the best recipes are those that let you get more satisfaction while using less meat. One way to do that is to amplify flavors so the reduced meat portion has more impact, like this excellent jerk marinade for chicken, pork, fish or shrimp.
Many cooks stretch their meat budget by using meat more as a flavoring than as the main ingredient. The most successful frugal recipes will use a bulk food like pasta as the backdrop while showcasing the protein in a more neutral sauce that lets the meat’s flavor shine through, as in this creamy shrimp alfredo.
With a little planning, a little cooking, and a few money-saving tips, you can get your food budget under control. Yes, you can even enjoy premium steak on a budget.