Let’s talk about food!
I would love this space to be where we post recipes we’ve tried out (and loved), and talk about how we all balance what I call the holy three: the food we want to eat, our health, and our budget.
Food is a big part of our lives. Let’s talk about how to do it in ways that make us happy without draining our coffers. Or, if it does drain our coffers, let’s make sure it’s an intentional choice.
Note: We all have different eating styles. I want this to be a happy place where we all can post about our food warmly and openly, and there is no judgment. We’ve all come to how we eat through years of exploration; this is a place of respect, not just for how you eat, but for you. If all you eat is pop tarts, let’s talk about how to get them on sale. If you’re vegan, neat-o! If you only eat shark meat dipped in grass fed butter, that’s new to me, but hey, you’re welcome, too.
I do the cooking for our household, an arrangement that suits both Roommate and I very well. I eat meat, but Roommate (who is my domestic partner, not just a typical cohabitant) prefers to eat less of it, so we try to balance occasional meat meals with meals that have meat as a topping I can add and she can not.
This has been a bit of a challenge, but challenges can be fun.
Roommate is gone for the next three or so weeks, though, so my meat consumption has gone up. Yesterday for the first time in my life I cooked a steak.
It was an experience. Very tasty, but also annoyingly $$. I think I paid about $10 for 1 lb (it was labeled “pasture raised” which is something I try to endorse). So while I enjoyed the experience, it will definitely not be a regular on my meal schedule. Just too darn pricey.
I like this question. I’m a recent grad (if you can call almost one full calendar year recent) and I’ve had a huge impulse to cut back on my grocery and eating out bill. Not like I was a huge spender while in college (never the whole foods fresh juice type) but I bought coffee/snacks on the go a LOT. If I think about how much I spent at Starbucks in undergrad, I WILL start crying. I’ve been following a gluten free diet for medically necessary reasons since I was a teenager, so that’s a factor that has the potential to increase food spending (although I do work-arounds so I don’t let it).
All this lead up to say that my #1 tip that has helped me reduce my grocery bill is: … Oatmeal. This is obviously very basic but I was never a huge breakfast eater before I realized that maintaining stable blood sugar and keeping full throughout the day is important to not making hungry impulse purchases. I started going with oatmeal for the reason that it is very cheap and takes 2 minutes in the microwave in the morning (gluten free oatmeal is slightly more expensive than regular, but again, still cheap). The unexpected benefit to this is the hunger-satiating benefits throughout the day. I don’t have a regular office job (yet) and I live in the middle of a city. I often find myself exhaustedly running across town and the last thing you want in that situation is hunger pains because A. gluten free food is slightly harder to find so B. you end up spending $7 on stupid unfulfilling (and not very healthy) snacks at 7/11. If I know I’m going to be out all day I will force myself to eat 2 bowls of oatmeal for breakfast.
Plain oats with a little bit of honey on top is not very glamorous but it is healthy and it kind of makes me feel tough to start my day with something so simple (like if the apocalypse hit tomorrow, my breakfast would be the same and I wouldn’t be giving up nutella french toast with berries)
Oh my gosh it’s so true. My big way to prevent myself from running down to the grocery store at a work break and buying snacks is to pack enough food. Because when I’m hungry the “just tough it out” approach does not work on me. My willpower drops like a stone.
Didn’t have enough time to eat breakfast? I pack that. I pack lunch. I pack snacks. If I don’t eat it all, no big, I’ll have it for the next day, but having too slight of food available? catastrophic.
Thank you for bringing this up! Eager to learn more. I started my career in cooking in kitchens for “health retreats”* and also cooked large-scale meals in numerous co-ops/for food not bombs, so I’ve generally been good at cheap, efficient, boring, cooking, but the thing I still struggle with in food costs is 1) reducing oil consumption and 2) not eating the same thing every time. I tend to get stuck in ruts. When I’m depressed and/or stressed, I spend more money on bad-for-me food (like eating an entire bag of ghost pepper potato chips in one sitting.)
I’m actually about to start a long-form fitness experiment (for my youtube channel) and one of the big things I’m trying to do is document my food expenses that are explicitly supplements/protein powders because I think many fitness videos focus on expensive foods like juicing, cleanses, supplements.
I’ve had a farm share for the past ~10 years which has been a really exceptional way to cut costs - for $250 for a 22-week season half-share, it provides 90% of my vegetables during Oregon’s long growing season. But this is the first year I won’t since we’ve been traveling too much to keep up with it.
I forgot to mention, my #1 tip for blood sugar issues is that I eat tacos for breakfast every morning. $.22 cents per taco, takes 8 mins to make, and eating 4 of them per morning kept me full for my hour-long bike commute. Here’s the “recipe” if you can call it that.
Yay! The infamous tacos, hahah!
I agree – for me treating breakfast as “just another meal” and not being tied to breakfast foods was a revelation. Lately I’ve been just eating whatever leftovers I have around. It really seems to help, as I think often traditional breakfast foods are either quite sugary or don’t have enough calories to really get ya through.
This is my biggest frustration when I travel and do not have tacos available. I started taking chocolate unsweetened protein powder on business trips with me because even if all I have is a hotel keurig, I can make a delicious cup of hot warm protein chocolate, and it usually keeps me going an okay amount (would be better if I had a slow-burning carb too). If possible on work trips (schedule and location allowing) the whole foods hot bar is my go-to for fast, relatively affordable (compared to dining out) breakfast - their tofu scramble usually hits the spot for me and I can get out of there for under $5.
It’s soy-free (pea protein + brown rice protein)! It’s vega chocolate protein powder. It does contain stevia, though, so it’s no-sugar but still sweetened, I should clarify.
It’s stupid expensive though so I only use it when I’m traveling or crashing hard and need a fast pick-me-up. The trader’s joe’s chocolate protein powder is about 1/2 the price and not nearly as tasty, but ~okay. It’s hemp protein.
Oats are amazing. I don’t even cook, I get the quick oats and dump in bowl with almond milk and wait a moment to soak a bit. I add a little fine dessicated coconut, almond meal (or other but meal), dried fruit, whatever I have on hand… Or eat plain.
Steel cut oats are one of the few things that are so easy I don’t mind batch cooking (especially with my instant pot)! And pretty tasty with the right toppings - I find a banana really elevates it, along with berries (usually frozen and defrost overnight), walnuts, almonds, flax, chia, and a few raisins for good measure. And it sure is filling. Sometimes I’m just not in the mood though… probably time to try your taco recipe!
I think breakfast is the easiest part of this for me… I rotate between nut/seed butter on rice cakes, rice cakes and hummus, baked beans and potatoes, and smoothies (I get addicted and then sick of each option. I don’t rotate day by day). On a day with good leftovers I eat those, and I have protein powder or granola bars to grab if I run out of time.
I’m gradually getting better about lunch and dinner but I struggle with fatigue and dietary restrictions. Especially on 8-14h days plus a bus commute and a physical job. I make a super creamy thermos oatmeal that is great, or tofu and rice in my thermos I will always finish. But sometimes I just can’t pack enough. So I do factor that into my budget.
I make lists to beat this feeling! In fact, I need to make new lists for lunches, dinners and out food because I’ve been sick of my old options. If I have a list it preserves willpower
My most successful breakfast has been egg cups. I fill muffin tins with cooked ham cubes, eggs beaten with some milk, and some shredded cheese. Cook at 375 for approximately 18 minutes (oven dependant). I wanted to get out the door quicker in the morning so making these on Sunday has helped a ton. They heat up quickly at work. I also bought tiny reusable bottles to bring some milk with me.
I used to also include Vans waffles with peanut butter, but I cut that recently to be more low carb early in the day.
Tonight I was planning on making a spaghetti squash casserole, but I do not have a spaghetti squash! Rather than go out again to get one (driving is gross out, and there are 30 mph winds today that make walking… unpleasant in winter weather), I’m just going to adjust my plans. I have things in my freezer/pantry to work with.
New plan: saag (1 bag of frozen spinach, 1 bag of frozen collard greens, spices, onion and garlic) + sweet potato ‘noodles’ with a side salad.
If I’m feeling on top of things I might also do an egg bake (eggs, sweet potatoes, peppers, spices) to have in the mornings.