Many people have asked, “How do you keep your food expenses so low?” That’s easy; we cook and eat most of our meals at home. We enjoy eating out, too, but we usually go out just a few times per month. In May, our grocery bill was $466. That’s about average for us in 2017 and pretty reasonable for 4 people. I got an interesting comment from a reader, though.
What?! Are you guys eating ramen every meal or something. 🙂
Heh heh, no we don’t eat ramen every meal. Fresh ramen is awesome, but I assume he meant the cheap Cup Noodle instant ramen. Those instant ramen noodles are the worst thing you can eat. The noodles are fried and have a ton of saturated fat. The seasoning packet has MSG and more than 50% of the daily recommended sodium. They are terrible snacks and nobody should eat them every day.
Actually, we eat pretty well and today I’ll share some of our meals with you. Some of my favorite personal finance bloggers have been showing off their home cooked meals so here is my entry. See the end of this post for a list of those posts. Maybe we can have a cook off at the next FinCon or something like that. I’ll also compare the cost of cooking a meal at home to a comparable dish at a restaurant. It really is much cheaper when you DIY.
On the grill
I’ll ease into it with some BBQ and then branch off into more exotic Asian dishes.
First up is the pulled pork sandwich. The pork roast is one of the most affordable pieces of meat you can buy. The picnic roast costs less than $2 per pound at our supermarket, that’s cheaper than tofu! I got a small half roast for less than $6 and cooked it in our slow cooker. Mrs. RB40 made coleslaw and this was our dinner last Sunday. At a BBQ restaurant, a pulled pork sandwich would cost $12 each. We made 4 sandwiches and had plenty of pulled pork left. The slow cooker made this meal super easy as well.
Next are baby back ribs and sides. This is one of my favorite dishes to cook in the summer. It’s perfect for the summer holidays. Here is our dinner from Memorial Day. We had BBQ ribs, baked beans, collard greens, corns, potato salad, a local IPA, and some cherries to top it off. The ribs cost about $12 and the rest maybe $8. That was a great meal with plenty of left over for $20. This meal would cost $55 if we had gone to our favorite BBQ joint.
One of RB40Jr’s favorite meals is a hamburger. I usually buy a chuck roast and ground it myself with our KitchenAid mixer. (The food grinder is an awesome attachment.) I don’t trust the ground beef from the grocery store because who knows what went into that package. This time I made an extra patty so I can have loco moco for lunch the next day. Pictured above is Joe’s special loco moco – burger patty, fried egg, caramelized onions, and pickled red onion on top of white rice. I didn’t put gravy on top because I’m not a big fan and it’s more work. This lunch costs less than $2. I could get the same dish from a local food cart for $9.50.
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On the stove
Okay, enough with the grill. Let’s move on to some interesting Asian dishes.
This is Bah Jang, my mom’s specialty. It is made from sticky rice, Chinese sausage, chicken or pork, garlic, dried shitake mushroom, and sweet preserved radish. Everyone’s Bah Jang is a little different and you can find many different recipes on the internet. You’re supposed to wrap this in bamboo leaves to make sticky rice dumplings, but we never do. That’s extra work… We eat this with peanuts, sliced egg omelet, and plenty of greens. I’m not sure about the cost on this one because there are some specialty ingredients. Probably around $10 for a big Pyrex container.
Stir fried bitter melon & chicken with black bean sauce. Yum! This is Mrs. RB40’s favorite dish, NOT! She said “So not my favorite. Would be thrilled if I never saw another bitter melon again!” Heh heh heh. Bitter melon is really good for you, but as the name suggests, it is bitter. I didn’t like the bitter melon when I was a kid, but I love it now. Mrs. RB40 grew up in the US and never had bitter melon until she married me. Unfortunately, I don’t think Mrs. RB40 will ever acquire the taste for the bitter melon. RB40Jr still has a chance so I’m forcing him to eat this dish to build up his tolerance for bitter food. I’m sure he’ll love this dish when he’s older. This diner costs around $5. We’d probably spend at least $20 at a Chinese restaurant for the same.
Most of my cooking falls into this stir fry category. It’s a simple technique and there are endless variations. I’ve made broccoli beef, long beans and chicken, Pad Thai noodles, and many other dishes. The ingredients change a bit, but the technique is the same. This is the easy way to make dinner.
The Yum Canned Sardine is an unusual dish from Thailand. This is sardine salad and I’m so addicted to it. However, Mrs. RB40 doesn’t like this dish much either. She said you eat sardine with crackers and she can’t handle this concoction. Yum Sardine is made from canned sardine in tomato sauce (check the Hispanic food aisle), red onion, green onion, cilantro, lime, fish sauce, sugar, and Sriracha hot sauce. You don’t even need to warm it up. This takes less than 5 minutes to put together and it is ridiculously delicious! The sardines are loaded with healthy Omega 3 and it is very cheap. This dish cost about $2. I have to eat this for lunch because the family won’t eat it for dinner… I doubt you can find this in a restaurant. So good..!
This one is Vietnamese lemongrass beef salad roll. First, I marinated a flat iron steak in minced lemongrass, garlic, brown sugar, fish sauce, olive oil, and ground pepper. While the meat marinated, I went to pick some mints and lettuces from the garden. I also cut up a cucumber, carrot, and green onion. Once I cooked the beef and boiled the noodles, it was time to wrap it up… This one was quite delicious and everyone liked it. I’m not sure how much this would cost in a restaurant. Maybe around $8 for 2 rolls? We ate about 12 rolls so it’s definitely a lot cheaper to make at home.
Keep your food expense low
It’s simple. To keep your food expense low, you need to cook at home. I usually cook Asian food and Mrs. RB40 cooks Mexican and Italian, such as enchiladas and lasagna. We have plenty of variety and we have become pretty good cooks over the years. Cooking is a skill that you can learn and it will serve you for a lifetime. It’s cheaper to eat at home and a lot healthier to boot. It’s even easier today because the internet is an awesome resource for home cooks. You can find a ton of recipes and cooking videos online. Everyone can become a good cook if they keep at it.
Some PF blogger chefs
These PF home cooks always make me hungry. Check them out! Bloggers, send me your post with mouth watering pictures and I’ll add them here.
- Mr. Take Escapes cooking at home.
- [email protected] Root of Good always posts a bunch of delicious looking food pictures in his monthly financial updates.
- Mr. Crazy Kicks cooked his old hen – Coq au Vin.
What about you? Do you cook at home or eat out all the time? Home cooked meals really are much healthier.
For 2018, Joe plans to diversify his passive income by investing in US heartland real estate through RealtyShares. He has 3 rental units in Portland and he believes the local market is getting overpriced.
Joe highly recommends Personal Capital for DIY investors. He logs on to Personal Capital almost daily to check his cash flow and net worth. They have many useful tools that will help every investor analyze their portfolio and plan for retirement.
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