When looking at our early budget we looked for things that we could actually change. For instance, rent was non-negotiable while entertainment was something we could opt out of. Our food budget was a big one that I looked at and just knew we could do something about. So I entered the world of scratch cooking.
Scratch cooking, to me, basically means trying to make that which you might buy at the grocery store and saving loads of money in the process. There are a lot of reasons, besides saving money, to jump into scratch cooking like…
- gaining useful knowledge in the kitchen
- avoiding preservatives and chemicals in processed foods
- knowing exactly what goes into your meals
But the sole reason I got started was simply because it saved us a lot of money. I started off by not buying boxed dinners, frozen meals, or those lovely rice and pasta mixes. I replaced these with similar homemade versions, with some help from our library’s cookbook collection.
A Little Scratch Cooking
Starting out, this phase of scratch cooking looks like…
- making a pot of rice instead of using a box.
- cooking homemade meat loaf instead of buying frozen.
- making your own pasta salad instead of using one from a box.
- making homemade chili with ground beef and canned beans instead of eating it from a can.
All of these are huge steps towards lowering your grocery budget and serving healthier meals. Basically eliminating any type of meal that comes out of just a box or a can will get you started on this phase.
A Lot of Scratch Cooking
Once the bulk of our meals were made by me I could really start to see the savings, and the health benefits. So I started looking at the staples we were eating to see what else we could stop buying and start making.
The first place I started was in making homemade bread. I figured out that our healthy homemade wheat bread was probably less than half the cost of a comparable loaf at the store. I then began baking all of our breads, muffins, and other baked goods.
Then I looked at canned beans. These are cheaper than meat, but making them at home can save you bundles. Because one pound of dried beans will cook up to the equivalent of three (15 oz) cans of beans, you can often times save 60+% just by buying dried beans and cooking them yourself. We love these slow-cooked pinto beans, for example.
Once those staples were out of the way I started looking at every little thing I could make myself and save significantly, like…
- homemade yogurt and save 75%
- homemade salad dressing and save 25-50% (find our favorite recipes in my spring cookbook)
- homemade jam and save 50%
- homemade applesauce and save 50%
- homemade naturally fermented soda for pennies
All of these things save us significant amounts of money, require more forethought than actual work, and allowed us to eat a mostly organic and local diet at the same cost of the average American diet.
So whether you are just dipping your toe into the scratch cooking pool or would like to jump into the deep end, this is one place that I highly recommend starting if you are looking to lower your monthly expenditures.