Your food bill can be a big part of your monthly budget and the less careful you are with how you spend your money on food, the more it can eat away at your funds. If you’re scheduled is jam packed, you don’t like to cook, or you find you’re too tired at the end of the day to make anything, you may be tempted to grab takeout more nights than not. But if you’re living on a tight budget, it might be time to start looking for ways to cut back on your food bill. One of the most significant things you can do to start saving is to dive into the world of home cooking. But where do you start?
Well, you can’t cook without ingredients, and knowing what to buy is a big part of cooking on a budget. So we’ve identified four staple items that you can use to make up the backbone of a tasty, healthy, and inexpensive diet. Each one is relatively healthy, inexpensive, and versatile.
But we can’t ignore the matter of knowing how to actually use these items. It’s one thing to know what food to buy, it’s another to know how to turn it into something that tastes good and is convenient to eat. This is even more true for a home cooking novice. You might have a huge bag of raw rice and a fridge full of fresh veggies, but what are you supposed to actually do with them?
We’re going to take a look at these four inexpensive items and talk about a few ways to go about using them to make home cooking simple and achievable.
Rice is one of the most widely consumed grains in the world, with 490.27 million metric tons of rice consumed worldwide during the 2018/2019 crop year. For a lot of people, it’s one of the main staples of their diet. It’s also extremely flexible, inexpensive, and can be used in all sorts of different dishes. It’s clear why it’s a kitchen staple for someone trying to make cheap home cooked meals.
How inexpensive is it? In 2018, the price for a pound of white rice in the U.S. was $0.71 on average. While there are a number of different kinds of rice that you can find at different price points, they’re typically relatively inexpensive.
So now that you have your rice, what are you supposed to do with it?
One of the easiest ways to cook it is in a rice cooker, which you can often find at a secondhand store for only a few dollars. The process of using one is simple. Start by adding rice to the cooker and then cover it with the appropriate amount of water. The bowl of the cooker should have a line indicating how much water you need for that type of rice. Then you hit the “Start” button, and the cooker does all the rest! You’ll end up with a batch of cooked rice to have on hand for the next few days. If you don’t have a slow cooker, you can make rice on the stove, you’ll just need to be a little more vigilant throughout the process.
Now that you have your cooked rice, you need to find ways to use it. Fortunately, there’s no shortage of rice dishes to try out! For example, you could:
Basically, if you have a protein and some veggies, there’s a good chance you can put a tasty dish together involving rice. It’s that easy.
Beans are great for anyone trying to start home cooking on a budget. They’re versatile, simple to prepare, nutritious, and cheap!
The more common varieties of dried beans can be bought for around $1 to $2 a pound based on a supermarket price review done in 2015. It’s also important to keep in mind that after you’ve soaked and cooked your dry beans, they’ll be double or triple the size. This means that you’ll really be paying between $0.33 and $1 per pound of cooked beans, depending on what kind of beans your cooking.
The process of preparing dried beans is simple. Start by putting the dried version of any type of bean you like in a slow cooker, cover them with water, and give them time to soak overnight. After they’ve soaked, you’ll need to drain them. cover them again with fresh water, and then do a quick search to find out how long to cook that particular type of bean. Turn the slow cooker on low for the appropriate amount of time, drain them, and you’ll be left with a batch of cooked beans!
Similarly to rice, there are all sort of uses for beans. You could:
Oatmeal is a great way to start off your day, as it’s cheap, healthy, and can be prepared the night before or made quickly in the morning.
Quick oats will typically cost around $2 per 42 ounces and rolled oats will be about $2.50 for the same volume. Steel cut oats are a bit pricier, costing around $1 per pound (16 ounces). And like beans and rice, oats will double or triple in size when you cook them in water, so you’re really paying about half the price for cooked oats.
There are few different ways to cook oatmeal. One of the easiest ways is to put your steel cut oats in a bowl, put twice as much water in, cover the bowl, and put it in the microwave for about five minutes per half cup of oats. Stir the oats up after the five minutes, and microwave for another five. Rolled oats are even simpler. Just put half a cup in a bowl with a cup of water, cover the bowl, and microwave for three minutes.
If you want to prepare them overnight, you can throw your steel cut oats in a slow cooker, add water and a some other ingredients to spice things up, and turn it on low overnight.
Oatmeal can serve as a blank canvas for you to add your favorite spices and fruit. If you want it sweet, toss in some honey, brown sugar, or maple syrup. Like it spicy? Add some nutmeg or cinnamon. After it’s seasoned to your liking, throw in some fruit, nuts, and/or raisins. Keep it as simple or creative as you’d like!
Eggs are so readily consumed in North America for a reason. They’re full of protein, tasty, generally easy to prepare, and can be used in all sorts of dishes.
While there are different kinds of eggs available – free range, organic, etc. – the average cost of a dozen eggs in the U.S. in 2018 was $1.60. This breaks down to about $0.13 an egg.
There are a number of different ways to prepare your eggs, like:
While these are three of the easier ways to prepare your eggs, it still might take some time to master them if you’re new to home cooking. Don’t worry though, even if you make a mistake, you’ll still usually be left with something edible.
Eggs are great when you eat them in the ways we’ve already discussed, but there are still plenty of ways to jazz them up.
Home cooking may be an intimidating prospect, but if you’re living on a tight budget, getting your hands dirty in the kitchen can be a great way to cut back on your food bill. These four items can go a long way in making sure you have a good foundation for an inexpensive and healthy diet. They’re also easy to prepare, as most of them can be made in a slow cooker overnight or while you’re at work. They’re also all versatile and can be used in so many different dishes.
Get these items in your fridge and pantry, do some more research on different dishes you can make with them, and start cooking!