Being budget minded has never been a strong attribute that I subscribe to. Budget has always being a southern word meant to request a cold beer. So when my wife decided to leave the military and go to college I had to cut ties with my southern linguistic skills and find creative ways to limit expenses.
Our biggest down fall was our food costs. We were eating out almost every night and in some cases two times a day. For two people the cost would range from $50 to $100 a day which is $1,500 to $3,000 a month. This was a cost that could no longer be considered affordable and had to be dealt with.
The quick answer for this problem was obvious, stop eating out. The harder answer meant that someone was going to have to pick up a frying pan. With my wife a full time student it only seemed fair that I handle the task. I'm no chef Irvine and after a few dinners, my wife fully agreed. I always thought blanch was one of the ladies on the Golden Girls. Guess I was wrong.
Over a period of time my cuisine education had improved. What did not improve were my shopping habits. I would walk up and down the aisles stacking stuff into the basket. I made all the typical rookie mistakes such as shopping while hungry, not going with a planned out list and thinking that buying in bulk was a price saver. I figured we were cutting costs no matter what I bought and for the most part we were. Going from $1,500 a month to $600 was awesome.
Following a recipe one day, I reached into the spice cabinet and noticed I had three jars of ground cumin, unopened. I had no clue what the stuff was in the first place and now I had three of them. Like a frying pan to the head I realized I needed to be more organized when shopping.
The first step was to take an inventory of the things I already had. Some of it was expired and most of it I had no clue what it was or how to use it. We decided it would be best to do weekly shopping trips with a planned out menu for the week. This included all three meals for both of us.
I decided to start the list based on expiration dates of things we already had. Then I search the internet for meal ideas using the item and go from there. With a planned out menu we have noticed that there are fewer left overs going bad and that we tend to eat a lot healthier. We have cut out a lot of the quick and easy meals in exchange for meals that are just as easy to make yet cost a lot less.
After a few months, the cabinets and fridge appear to be empty but our food costs are down to $300 a month. By applying more attention and focus on our food costs we have saved more money than planned. This extra money has allowed us to pay off other expenses a lot sooner than expected. A very surprising yet very happily found treasure I might add, we both have lost weight due to this change.