Personal Finance

Cheap, Good Food

Comments 6 Comments


I refuse to admit how much my family has been spending on groceries and restaurants every month. I'll only say that the total exceeds the pre-tax monthly paycheck I received when I started working as a mechanical engineer at Memorex in 1985.

We are cutting down on expenses, and it turns out that one of the easy places to trim the fat (both literally and figuratively) is our food budget. Fortunately, it's been fun to save money on food, because we've become more involved with the production of our food. I've been buying heads of cabbage for $1 each at the local farmer's market and making sauerkraut out of it. Dried organic beans are very cheap when you buy them in bulk at Costco or another big box store. They taste great with the yogurt we make, especially when you add garlic. Our kids like making tortillas and pasta from flour and eggs we collect from our small flock of hens. Later this fall, we'll harvest honey from a small beehive.

Living on a budget sucks if you feel as though you are depriving yourself. The only way I'll be able to stick to a budget is if it's more fun than blowing the budget.

I'd like to hear your ideas for enjoyable ways to live on a budget.

Mark Frauenfelder – Editor-in-chief of MAKE magazine and the founder of the popular Boing Boing weblog, Mark was an editor at Wired from 1993-1998 and is the founding editor of Wired Online.

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  • ana

    My husband and I are trying to get to the point where we never have to buy food. Specifically, we’re trying to do a lot of gardening and canning. If it works we’ll be rich, but even if it doesn’t we will save some small amount of money.

  • Glenn Powers

    I tend to buy whatever is on sale. This gives me unexpected variety, plus produce is usually on sale when it’s in season, so it’s better tasting.

  • dunn
  • MrsBug

    We have a bread machine and a really great bread machine cookbook (“The Bread Lover’s Bread Machine Cookbook” – LOVE IT!!). I can honestly say I can’t remember the last time I bought bread. So good, so easy, so much better than that…stuff you buy at the store.

  • ksaulter

    Try new recipes – focus on making food that’s interesting to you. I’ve never actually liked cooking but I don’t have money to fix my camera or buy new paints right now so the kitchen is my new creative outlet (I now consider it a performance art). A couple of days before we go grocery shopping for the week I browse blogs/websites looking for inspiration (thekitchn, epicurious, bitten on nytimes) or when that fails I check out restaurant menus in midtown manhattan where I work. Menu-copying has led us to some great ideas, especially from those restaurants where the menus change seasonally – wonderful flavor pairings (even drink ideas) plus a great indication of what I will find at the farmers market come saturday. Lastly – invite others to witness you turning pennies into a feast and take a bow before your awe struck audience. I’m not gonna lie, the a kudos are gratifying.

  • SusanO

    I grow veggies and fruit, eat homegrown eggs and buy my gas on Wednesdays (typically the cheapest day of the week). However, I think one really fun trick for me has been using Mint to track my spending. I’ve been using it for 6 months now and haven’t tired of allocating my purchases across various categories, viewing my spending habits as pie charts, and watching Mint track my credit card debt as it rolls down to $0. I really don’t want to see any of my budget categories go over the red line, so Mint helps me avoid impulse purchases at the grocery store.

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