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When Spending on Food Puts You in a Pickle

Written by J.R. Weiland

As much as I like to exude my inner confidence and independence as a woman, when it comes to my man, I melt like butta! And speaking of butter… boy, does that man love to eat…

By day, I’m a pretty headstrong financial professional, but after work and to my husband, I’m simply his loving wife. Over the years I’ve learned the one thing he appreciates most is a home-cooked meal. However, I also realize that when I spoil him with the extras – like alcohol, expensive cheeses, or desserts that I didn’t bake myself – the food costs (and our waist lines) start to grow. A lot.

This topic struck a chord with me because it highlights a pickle for everyone trying to be smart about their spending: eating is something you can’t cut out of your budget – no matter how much, or how little money you have.

So how do you feed yourself, stay healthy, and maintain an acceptable food budget – especially when your budget is small?

There are plenty of tricks to this, but the key to saving money and staying healthy (which also saves more money in terms of health care costs) is to simply: PUT EFFORT INTO IT.

Channel your inner-ego and think of your body as a shrine… a well-oiled machine. It’s the only one you’ve got, so you should worship it and fuel it with only the most pure, best sources of energy possible. (I use that line to get my husband to drink more water, which by the way is extremely healthy AND cheap!)

The most pure foods are the freshest – opposed to pre-packaged or prepared foods. A rule of thumb that you can count on is that grocery stores, food manufacturers, restaurants, etc. generally make you pay extra for the convenience of preparing your meals.

The next time you’re tempted to take the easy route and buy something already made for you, consider the cost of that particular meal and compare it to the cost of buying the ingredients and making it yourself. It will soon become obvious how much more you’re paying for convenience.

Also, when you prepare your own food, you know what you’re putting into your body (hopefully). A rule of thumb I try to live by is that if I can’t pronounce the ingredients or know what they are, then they are not welcome in my stomach.

Believe it or not, pizza is a great example of how you can be healthy, make your own meal and save money. I love pizza, and used to order it from restaurants until my mother encouraged me to make my own. I already owned a dough mixer, which came with a recipe for the dough. Plus I keep things like salt, flour, and olive oil in my kitchen anyway.

Ingredients for pizza dough are CRAZY cheap and making it is easy. One batch of dough makes about three pizzas – and you can freeze some of the dough and use it another night if it’s too much.

So instead of spending $14-$20 for 1 possibly frozen pizza with mystery-grade toppings, I spend the following:

One bag of flour: $3.39

1 packet of yeast: $0.76

1 jar of all natural tomato sauce (I can pronounce all ingredients): $2.79

Black olives: $1.49

Green pepper: $0.89

Organic pepperoni: $4.79

2 bags of shredded Italian cheese (on sale): $2.78

2 locally-grown tomatoes: $2.69

A grand total of $19.58 buys me 3 pizzas made with fresh homemade dough, organic toppings, and plenty of flour and sauce left over for next time.

It may be cheesy to say, but it saves me quite a bit of... dough. (Insert laugh track here).

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