Here’s What Happened When I Tried Cooking At Home All Week On A Budget

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Posted on: 4th May 2018

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No takeout, no delivery, no excuses.

Hannah Wong / BuzzFeed

Hey! I'm Hannah — and I've been trying to find ways to save more money on food.

Hey! I'm Hannah — and I've been trying to find ways to save more money on food.

After rent, food is my biggest monthly expense, and I spend most of my paycheck on it. I recently crunched the numbers and I realized that in an average week, I spend about $210 on food.

To break it down: My boyfriend and I cook at home about three nights per week, and split a grocery bill of about $70. When we don't cook, I order in or eat out three or four nights per week, spending about $120 total on delivery or at restaurants. For lunch, I spend about $35 each week. And breakfast — on things like on-the-go smoothies or yogurts — about $20.

Hannah Loewentheil / BuzzFeed

Last month, I challenged myself to make dinner all week for $30. Now, I wanted to see if I could make allll of my weekly meals myself — again, for way less than I usually spend.

Last month, I challenged myself to make dinner all week for $30. Now, I wanted to see if I could make allll of my weekly meals myself — again, for way less than I usually spend.

I knew any money I'd save could go toward upcoming travel (including an Iceland trip that I have planned for summer), so I felt super motivated.

FOX

On top of all that, I was recently gifted an 11-piece Tasty cookware set, so now I literally have no reason not to cook more at home.

On top of all that, I was recently gifted an 11-piece Tasty cookware set, so now I literally have no reason not to cook more at home.

The set is a kitchen starter pack: It comes with a frying pan, two sauce pans, a deep sauté pan, a Dutch oven, and a stove-top griddle. Everything's nonstick — with stainless steel bases and silicone handle grips. Mine is the gunmetal color pictured above, but it also comes in copper or blue. You can pick up the full set from Walmart for $99.

Walmart

My plan for the week? I would cook breakfast, lunch, and dinner at home for the entire week, no exceptions.

My plan for the week? I would cook breakfast, lunch, and dinner at home for the entire week, no exceptions.

I gave myself a budget of $50 to do all of my grocery shopping. If I could stick to it, I would be saving $160 in a single week. (And if this budget meal plan was actually doable, I knew I could stick to something similar each week until my trip.)

NBC

To prep, I outlined the recipes I'd be making for the entire week. I started by writing down the foods I love to eat and already frequently make — like eggs, sweet potato, and chicken.

Then, I filled in my grocery list with other foods that work well with my staples. I avoided pricier add-ons like nuts or cheese, and for meat, I stuck to the two options that are usually cheapest: ground meat and rotisserie chicken. I also based a lot of my meals around pasta and rice since they're inexpensive, tasty, and versatile.

Hannah Loewentheil / BuzzFeed

Hannah Loewentheil / BuzzFeed

Hannah Loewentheil / BuzzFeed

I had enough left over for lunch the next day, too.

I had enough left over for lunch the next day, too.

Hannah Loewentheil / BuzzFeed

Hannah Loewentheil / BuzzFeed

Lunch: Leftover rotisserie chicken fried rice

Lunch: Leftover rotisserie chicken fried rice

I'd already put away a portion of leftover fried rice Monday night, so Tuesday morning all I had to do was grab my Tupperware from the fridge.

Hannah Loewentheil / BuzzFeed

Hannah Loewentheil / BuzzFeed

Hannah Loewentheil / BuzzFeed

Lunch: Leftover pasta with spinach and mushrooms

Lunch: Leftover pasta with spinach and mushrooms

Leftovers are a lifesaver. Plus, pasta for lunch is just what I needed to get me through hump day.

Hannah Loewentheil / BuzzFeed

Sidenote: I think my dog is a big fan of me cooking at home.

Sidenote: I think my dog is a big fan of me cooking at home.

Safe to say that Hudson thoroughly enjoyed his dinner.

Hannah Loewentheil / BuzzFeed

Hannah Loewentheil / BuzzFeed

Not only was this breakfast great, but it taught me an important lesson: I should probably forego the $15 brunch plate and make eggs at home more often because they taste even better on the couch in my pajamas.

Not only was this breakfast great, but it taught me an important lesson: I should probably forego the $15 brunch plate and make eggs at home more often because they taste even better on the couch in my pajamas.

Also, yes, I unabashedly eat my scrambled eggs with ketchup and I strongly suggest you do the same.

Hannah Loewentheil / BuzzFeed

Hannah Loewentheil / BuzzFeed

This was definitely a step up from my typical homemade salads, thanks to the roasted chickpeas and homemade dressing.

This was definitely a step up from my typical homemade salads, thanks to the roasted chickpeas and homemade dressing.

But it was worth it.

Hannah Loewentheil / BuzzFeed

Soft-boiled eggs make everything better.

Soft-boiled eggs make everything better.

Whoever invented instant ramen, please know that I love you.

Hannah Loewentheil / BuzzFeed

Hannah Loewentheil / BuzzFeed

It wasn't quite a NYC bagel, but it certainly wasn't bad either.

Hannah Loewentheil / BuzzFeed

These were a bit lighter than typical meatballs because I didn't have bread crumbs, but they tasted great.

These were a bit lighter than typical meatballs because I didn't have bread crumbs, but they tasted great.

I served them over rice with the last of my tomatoes and spinach. This meal was really filling. It made four meatballs in all, which was too much for me to eat in one sitting in addition to the hearty rice bowl. You know what that means...more leftovers!

Hannah Loewentheil / BuzzFeed

Cooking all of my meals at home really wasn't that bad, and I spent so much less than I usually do. The hardest part was figuring out a menu for the week that would be interesting and filling, using affordable ingredients. Once I was able to do that, the rest fell into place.

Some other tips, if you're thinking about trying the same thing:

Watch for cost-drivers: If you're someone who likes to eat meat for every meal, it's going to drive up your budget. I was able to get the most bang for my buck by sticking to vegetables, grains — and just a little bit of meat.

Know that you'll be tempted to cheat: By Saturday, I was definitely ready to go out for brunch or dinner, and it took a bit of self-control to resist. But focusing in on a specific goal (in my case, an upcoming trip), helped me stay on track.

Plan according to your schedule: On Sunday, I laid out my plans for the upcoming week and organized my weeklong menu so that it made sense with my schedule. If you know you'll have an early morning or a late night, plan for less time-consuming meals. You can also meal prep even more than I did to reduce cooking time throughout the week.

All in all? The end result was worth it. I saved a lot of money. Like, a noticeable amount of money. I realize budgets are a personal thing and differ from person to person, but I was almost shocked when I looked at my bank account Monday and realized how much I reduced my typical expenses just by cooking at home. In the future I want to find a happy medium between the top — still eating out or ordering in just one or two nights per week, but cooking all of my other meals at home.

Hannah Loewentheil / BuzzFeed


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