Post your favorite Personal Finance Strategy
First post here. When I really started getting interested in personal finance, I got the Mint app to see a breakdown of where my money went. The most significant sink was spending money eating out.
The solution appeared to be to eat at home more often, but I found myself buying groceries for the week, not completely following through on eating at home and watching them go bad in the fridge. It ended up costing even more money than just eating out exclusively to begin with.
Instead of going all-in, I started small by making a batch of lunch for the workweek reasoning that I could get some immediate payback and go from there.
It worked. In addition to saving money, there were a few other benefits I wasn't expecting:
- The time spent procuring food was cut drastically. I didn't find myself having to leave the building for lunch or going down to the cafeteria every day. Cooking for myself was a major timesaver at work that cut out interruptions.
- Anything I prepared was healthier than anything I bought out. Restaurants pad their food with enormous amounts of calories to make them taste better (Chipotle puts oil in their rice for example), and you're less likely to account for this when you're buying a dining experience. Additionally, making food myself allowed me to have an accurate picture of what I ate as well as what I spent.
- Choosing meals suited to batch preparation was a huge timesaver at home in that two hours of prep time on Sunday afternoon fed me throughout the entire week. There was no having to prepare a lunch every night for the next day.
Having recognized these benefits, I tweaked the approach into something that could work for breakfast, lunch and/or dinner on an ongoing basis with minimal grocery buying. I'd like to share it here:
Pyrex containers, preferably with lockable lids. I started with the Pyrex brand containers, but their lids had a tendency to absorb dish soap odors over time. The better option I go with now are the IKEA brand with lockable lids. They're $5 each, but the payback period is actually short compared to plastic containers that wear out or are thrown away often.
Steel cut oats sweetened with agave.
Steel cut oats are more nutritious, and their long prep time is negated by preparing batches and refrigerating them. Cook, sweeten with a bit of agave and store for later. Go for a generic brand of oats to save money- you won't notice a taste difference.
You can also prepare scrambled eggs for the week in this manner. I generally use two eggs for each day and cook them in one skillet until done. They definitely do not taste as good as freshly prepared eggs, but are on par with cafeteria scrambled eggs and definitely serve as inexpensive protein.
Chicken and Quinoa with Street Kitchen seasoning.
1 cup of dry quinoa makes about 4 meals. Buy in bulk to save money if you use it often. I use frozen organic chicken for this dish because they trim the fat off and the individually wrapped packets are easy to thaw. The Street Kitchen seasonings are excellent and can be rotated each week to keep from getting tired of any one thing.
Almonds and Dried Cranberries
Prepare in a ziplock bag. Brand name cranberries are worth the price in my opinion, but not brand name almonds.
Peanut butter, frozen bananas, frozen mixed fruit and yogurt blended in a Ninja or Nutribullet.
You will notice that dinner is missing from this list, and that's because I still eat out for that meal (usually chipotle) in the evening. I'm comfortable enough with the money/time savings elsewhere to enjoy a reward after going to yoga, the gym or my volunteer shift in the evenings and not feel bad about it.
I do keep frozen salmon and frozen vegetables onhand to prepare for dinner when I don't go go out in the evening, and the choice of it being frozen echoes almost every other item on this list: it does not expire if you fail to prepare a meal and will be good for use at a later date.
Strategizing my diet like this has been the most financially beneficial thing I've ever done, and as an added benefit I barely have to think of it anymore because it's become a predictable routine. Recently I started ordering groceries online with store pickup to save even more time that would have been spent hunting and pecking the store to buy this stuff.
Contrary to being monotonous, it's freed up enough time and energy to enjoy other things that I really don't care about eating the same thing week to week. Prepared meals are more of a tool to get through the week cheaper and faster.
I'd like to see what strategies other people on here use for personal finance, feel free to add to this thread!