Frugal food: 10 DIY tips to save money while eating better and healthier

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Here at Boing Boing, we're fond of all things handmade, and of clever ways to stretch one's household budget. As the cost of staple foods and happy indulgences like coffee continue to rise, now is a good time to explore ways to save money on food with DIY smarts. Here's a list of 10 proven ways I've managed to cut my household budget—feel free to share more of your own in the comments. Also, apropos of nothing? Cats.

1) Drink water instead of soda. And drink tap water, not bottled water. Soft drinks don't contribute much to your body beyond chemicals and empty calories, and there is growing evidence that both the sugary-sweet and sugar-free varieties are associated with a variety of elevated health risks. Water is essential to human life. Your body needs it. And why waste money on bottled water that sits around in questionable plastics, possibly transported from the other side of the world with a ginormous carbon footprint, when the stuff that comes out of your tap is safe and healthy? (People who live near fracking sites in the US, or in developing countries without potable tap water, I'm not talking to you.) Sink-mounted water filters or filtering pitchers are an economical option if you prefer filtered water, but come on, quit wasting your money on bottled water. It's dumb.

2) Get to know your local farmer's market. And eat more fresh fruits and vegetables. They're nutritionally dense and an excellent use of your food budget. Growers near where you live who sell in-season produce are your best friend. I also find that locally grown produce at the farmer's market tends to be fresher, yummier, and lasts longer in the fridge than what I find in stores. Plus it's fun, and you'll get some nice gentle exercise walking around checking out what's looking good each week.

3) Prepare food at home and bring it to work instead of eating lunch out. I guarantee you'll save money. It's also easier to maintain a healthy, nutritious, calorie-appropriate diet this way. And I always found that preparing lunch at home was a more efficient use of my time than waiting in line with a bunch of other wage slaves during lunch rush hour.

4) Font-free foods are the best. The less you buy in boxes, the happier you'll be, and the more money you'll save. So many processed foods aren't really food, but nutritionally lacking "food-like products" engineered to stimulate us to eat more, buy more, and ensure that big food conglomerates turn a profit.

5) Can you make it yourself? If so, you'll save money and gain flavor. Salad dressings are just one example: they're overpriced and underwhelming when pre-packaged at the grocery, but so simple to whip up at home. Even a basic vinegar and oil dressing will kick bottled dressing's butt if you're using quality ingredients. Feeling more ambitious? Things you enjoy making and eating—for some, baked goods or slow-cooked soup, for others, more exotic hobbies like home pickling—can become a pleasurable and money-saving habit. Another simple example: those single-serving containers of flavored yogurt? Not very economical. Compare the cost per serving (and the amount of sweeteners and other garbage they usually contain) with buying a large tub of plain yogurt and mixing in honey, nuts, preserves, or whatever you enjoy with each serving.

6) If you eat meat, consider reducing your intake of meat. Try integrating more plant-based proteins into your diet. If this sounds crazy to you, start with just one meal a week. Tofu and beans generally cost less, ounce to ounce, than chicken, beef, pork, lamb, or fish. And they need not be boring. If you're new to plant-based cooking, the web is full of wonderful vegan/vegetarian blogs and free recipe sites that can help you learn how to include these foods in your diet. You don't have to become a vegetarian to enjoy them, though you may decide you want to because they are yummy, satisfying, and nutritionally rich.

7) If you drink coffee, brew it yourself. Buy freshly roasted whole-bean coffee, and grind it and brew it at home. You don't need a thousand-dollar espresso machine to enjoy good coffee, either: espresso drinks aren't inherently superior to a well-done cup of drip. And a cup brewed at home (perhaps packed in a thermos to carry to work) is cheaper (and IMHO tastier) to that $5 crappucino you buy every day from Starbucks.

8) Start a garden. If you're new to gardening, start small, with things you know you'll actually eat. Even if you're in the city without a yard, things like herbs, tomatoes, and lettuces can be grown in containers.

9) Buy in bulk, but only when it makes sense. This is a good way to save money on staples like legumes, nuts, flours, and grains in stores that offer bulk bins. And Amazon and big-box stores like Costco are well-established sources of savings if there are packaged items you know you're going to use again and again. Buying in large quantity won't save you money if you're not going to use it, though. See number 10.

10) Waste not, want not. We throw away a ridiculous amount of food. Ridiculous! According to the EPA, in 2010, more than 34 million tons of food waste was generated in America. That's more than any other waste category but paper. Food waste represents 14 percent of the total municipal solid waste stream, making it the single largest component of trash we throw away from our homes. Take a look in your kitchen trash can: how much of that is food? Can you do more to reduce the amount of usable food you throw out, with better meal planning and less impulsive eating out? Think of your frugal ancestors and how little they likely wasted compared to us today. What would your great-grandmother do?

Eat what you buy, and buy only what you will eat.

(images: Shutterstock)


  1. I don’t know if it’s because I’m older (47) than many of my associates, or because I was raised by someone who remembers the depression, but I find myself constantly shaking my head when I see lists like this. Don’t get me wrong: of course these are good ideas, and all of us would be well-advised to follow through on as many of them as we can.

    What makes me shake my head is that there is apparently so many people out there who just have no clue about stuff this basic. Of course it’s cheaper and better for you to make your own lunches! I was fortunate enough to learn at least a modicum about how to cook before I left home. Actual nutrition I picked up myself later on (my mom is pretty much a meat n’ potatoes kinda gal), and I’ve discovered over the years that I actually like cooking. A lot.

    I guess this kind of list makes me want to pull my hair out simply because it perfectly illustrates how illiterate our culture has become about food. I know a depressing number of people who literally have no kitchen utensils whatsoever beyond a can opener and maybe a pot or frying pan, but their microwave gets a good workout every day, heating up ‘food-like’ products.

    1. It’s possible  our culture has always been this illiterate about food (avicturate?). And it’s why such lists aren’t so new. Don’t pull your hair out just because the culture has recently gotten itself all intertubed-up and that we get to see that which we hitherto took for granted.

      Good Times!

      1. Yeah, it’s not like the 1950s were any better.  Or the 1920s.  They weren’t.  I don’t know why people think they were.  It’s just that we have more choices now.

        1. I’d point out that crap like Spaghetti-Os, Hamburger Helper, Chef Boyardee, Campbell’s soups, etc etc etc have been staples of the American diet for a long time.

          1. Yeah – and people wonder why the average American’s weight is going up year after year too….

        2. I don’t think the point was that it was better… quite the contrary. My mom grew up during the war (I’m from Europe), and all my ancestors before that were more or less poor, so I do get what Suburbanhick is talking about. It is definitely not about it being better then, it’s about the lessons learned by previous generations of frugality and making do with whatever you have. These lessons are passed on to the next generation, but… living in abundance they do get forgotten by each generation following.

          In my childhood home you did not throw away food. You just didn’t. The echoes of war, of rationing and not having enough food, was still hanging around.

          1. I’m another in this group.  It really is like we speak a different language or something, one that does not seem to be passed down to the next generation.

            I used to have to make a “Depression dinner” at least a couple of times a month when I was growing up, so that I would “know what it was like”.  Basically, a couple of the cheapest veggies — carrots, cabbage, potatoes and onion — boiled in water to make soup.  No garlic even: just salt for seasoning.My kids know that wasting anything – but especially food – is a cardinal sin to me.  Most of the time I’m happy that they have no idea what hardship really is, but I also worry they don’t have the survivor skills that could become necessary once again.

    2. With the cat pictures, I was half-expecting this to turn into some kind of joke article.

      I’m 25, but I’m not American. Although many of the points do apply here, I think most people would be aware of the money and health cost of processed food.  We waste a lot of food too, although supposedly the biggest culprits are the supermarkets who throw out slightly-blemished fruit and vegetables.I have the receipt from yesterday’s supermarket trip here.  I spent £10.55 on fruit and veg, £4.73 on a piece of lamb, £2.70 on cheese, 79p on a baguette.  I think the only processed foods I buy regularly are canned tomatoes, dried pasta (if that counts) and canned beans.

      1. Yeah, the supermarkets-tossing-food thing IS a real problem, for sure. They only toss it because people won’t buy it, however. We’ve been so trained to think that everything we eat has to look absolutely perfect that we will bypass even slightly pockmarked or blemished produce. I worked in a supermarket for a few years in high school, and our produce manager used to despair at the amount of food she had to pitch every day. And the even-stupider thing is that she wasn’t even allowed to GIVE any of it away, thanks to idiotic health regulations – we just had to throw it out, and then the store dumpsters were thoroughly picked through by street folk.

  2. Is any of this new?  I already know all of this, and I think anyone reading BoingBoing is well aware of this entire list, as well.

    The problem isn’t not knowing what to do; the problem is doing it.  How does one get motivation?  Especially when you’re busy?  Not everyone enjoys cooking, no matter how some want to make it seem like everyone should LOVE IT*, so sometimes getting the motivation is hard.

    And what about people like me:  Single and living alone.  It can be quite the challenge not eating out.  Cooking for just myself is not always that fun, for one.  Sometimes it can be, but most often I’d rather be doing something else. 

    So, any tips on getting the motivation? Bah! That’s my problem, and I think the problem of most people.

    *Not everyone loves to cook, ok? I mostly find it tedious and time-consuming. No matter how much you insist that I will fall in love with cooking if only I gave it some time and tried your recipe, it ain’t gonna happen. It can be enjoyable sometimes under the right circumstances (which generally does not include cooking for myself), but I am never going to love it.

    1.  For the motivation, start small like make your own Salsa.  Or, pick something like an Indian dish that you like but would rather not have to order out like Tika Masala.

      Fresh salsa is always great, and works if you invite people over, or just want a nice big bowl of bachelor chow in the form of advanced nachos.  The ingredients are simple, and it’s mostly chop & mix, no cooking/heating involved really.  It also helps if you’re excited about something that tastes good that you’re not going to get somewhere else.  Make it a little “event” in the day. 

      1. Yeah so what about when all this fails?  It’s not that I haven’t tried.  It’s just that I don’t really enjoy cooking all that much, except for certain occasions.  Also, the occasional fun recipe is fine, but I couldn’t get that excited about cooking more than once a week even if I tried.

        Also, no matter how delicious fresh salsa is, it isn’t a meal.

        1. And as a single person living alone, I’ll echo that it’s impossible to just dip your toe in and start small. To make economic sense and eliminate as much waste as possible, you can’t just make a meal or two a week. The waste and extra expense that cooking for one creates is considerable.

          1. Which is seriously not going to happen.  I don’t have time to cook EVERY single night, nor the motivation.  I do try to make at least one meal a week that will have leftovers I will want to eat, but it doesn’t always work out.  I try and eat other easy meals, but that doesn’t always work out.  Trying to cook when you’re single and live alone is just not an easy thing for most of us.  And quite honestly, I’d just rather do something else.

          2. Single guy here, who hates and bites at cooking:

            Focus on the fact that cooking is cheap, easy, and healthy.  Get some cheap tupperware, a big pot, some cheap beans/lentils/rice/veggies (perhaps dried)/meat of your choice.  

            Make a big ol soup, portion it out so you have it to eat for one meal a day for the next 4 days or so. 

            Congratulate yourself on saving $20 or so, and eating healthy.  Save time and money if you can make this into a working lunch.

            Other easy ideas that can last for several meals include chicken with some sort of curried sauce.

          3. It’s not impossible at all!

            I’m single, live alone, and don’t particularly enjoy cooking. But I have a few staple dishes that can be made from scratch in five to ten minutes (pasta with onion-garlic-tomato sauce sprinkled with cheese is a favourite).

            Still, that can get boring quickly.To get some variety, I’ll cook a big pot of something once a fortnight (or even two big pots simultaneously, starting from the same base) and then freeze it in portions. Stock up the freezer, ta-da. You just have to find a few good, simple recipes that you enjoy the results of. 

            Alternatively just make a basic sauce and then add fresh products to it when you reheat it.

            I also often make enough veggie salad to last two or three days and store it in a container in the fridge.

            Sure, it’s not as good as making everything fresh just before you eat it, but it’s miles better and cheaper than buying processed food or take-away.

          4.  @boingboing-5e751896e527c862bf67251a474b3819:disqus , until recently I thought it was cheating to buy pasta sauce in a jar.  For years I always cooked it from scratch, going all the way back to bachelor days. Then, when I found some sauce that didn’t have corn syrup(?) and tasted good, I figured “it’s not like I’m growing the tomatoes, garlic, and herbs myself etc. etc.” So now I take the easy way out.

            I never really used one very often, but another good tip is to use a slow-cooker (e.g. a Crock Pot). If you like chicken, put one in the cooker, set it to low, leave it while you go to work, when you come home your dinner is cooked and the place smells like grandma’s house (my grandma’s house, anyway)

        2. Seriously? I used to make pasta almost every night when I was a student. It takes about 10 minutes.  Boil pasta, buy pasta sauce, grate on cheese = finished.  Most of the time I’d do “single pot” cooking. Asian style is great for this too, very simple and fast, most of the effort is cutting. My sister would jazz up instant noodles with frozen vegetables.

          Yes, it takes a bit to start up a kitchen, investing in ingredients and pots etc, but there are heaps of recipes on the internet, you can search by ingredients, and there are a huge number of books. 
          Cooking takes an effort, and if it isn’t your thing then it can be a drag., however its more fun with two, and you can “reward” yourself with yummy treats like pancakes and stuff.

          My girl and I cook every night at home (it seems weird to me not to! plus expensive) and if you make enough you can have it again the next day for lunch, or freeze it and keep it.

           If you really can’t stand cooking, you could do a weeks worth of something in one go and freeze it.

          1.  It’s a bit disingenuous to suggest it’s more fun cooking with your girlfriend or wife who lives with you – @boingboing-fbcce68c3853e923f0983996eee5573e:disqus  acknowledges this but doesn’t currently have such a companion!

            My problem is that leftovers are rarely appetizing, and Campbell’s Chunky soups (which are pretty good nutrition-wise if you pick carefully) cost $1.50-2 a can and with some oyster crackers (also cheap) and extra spices are more than good enough for a “bachelor chow” meal.

            The cost savings of making something similar from scratch are minimal (if cooking just for yourself it will probably cost more, even if you make big batches) and compared to waiting three minutes for your soup to heat up in the microwave there’s a huge time cost – time we could be using to read BoingBoing. I mention this because I’m currently eating some Chunky soup while reading BoingBoing.

            So to echo marilove’s point, cooking from scratch and Xeni’s tips are great – but it’s difficult when you live by yourself. We need a separate list of tips for our specific lifestyle, perhaps :)

            I do like to make things myself (especially sandwiches with fresh bakery bread), don’t get me wrong, but there’s usually not much motivation to.

          2. My problem is that leftovers are rarely appetizing

            That seems to be an national preference. As far as I can tell, those of us from British backgrounds prefer leftovers to first-night food.

          3. Leftovers are definitely the best bit of cooking, didn’t know that was a UK thing. All the effort is already made, and things like curries and pasta sauces taste so much better after a night in the fridge. Anything that doesn’t capture the imagination can usually be chucked into a pot with some stock and boiled up into delicious soup.

        3. Cook in bulk on the weekend and freeze it.  In single portions. After a couple of weeks, you’ll have a choice of different healthy meals to defrost and enjoy when you get home.

    2.  Can I recommend getting a small crockpot? You throw items in (meat, veggies, spice mix, water) and then it cooks on it’s own. You’re not tethered to the stove or oven waiting for something to finish. I usually do it right before bed and by morning, it’s cooked. I get a lot of spice mixes at the indian store and I think McCormicks makes some also.

      There are crockpots that are for appetizers (fondue/meatballs, etc.) which are just right for one person.

      Also not everything has to be fresh. For example, I can make a very fast burrito filling with 1 can low-sodium beans, 1 jar salsa, frozen corn (thawed) and then chop up tomatoes and lettuce. heat in the microwave, put in a tortilla and you’re done. Once I got more comfortable with it, I started making my own salsa and now I’m playing around with beans (but this is a year into making this dish).

      1. I love the crockpot idea. I’d actually meant to do that years ago but FORGOT until right now, if you can believe that. It sounds easy, cheap and actually tasty, without requiring 2 hours of time spent cooking every day.

        1. I got one for Xmas.  I’ve only used it a couple times, but it’s nice.  There are website out there with basic recipes too.

          1. Nice, and crazy easy! Seriously – you need absolutely NO cooking experience to use a crockpot. If you can use a knife to chop stuff up, you’re good to go. There is a jillion websites out there with super-simple, healthy and delicious recipes, and many of them fully appreciate that most readers will be new to the world of crockpot cooking, so they totally walk you thru it. I’ll often prep stuff the night before and literally toss it in the pot in the morning, turn it on and forget about it until I get home…when the whole house smells like fresh stew/beans/soup/roast/pilaf/whatever. Yum!

          2.  My understanding is that one can use a rice cooker as a “fast crockpot”, though I haven’t tried mine for anything other than grains… Ebert put out a cookbook of sorts a couple years ago, and I’m sure the web boasts all kinds of resources.

      2.  Crock pots are great for people who don’t like to cook.  Not only do you not have to really cook, but you don’t need to much in the way of prep.  You can usually start with completely frozen meat.  If you’re feeling really lazy, you can skip most of your chopping because 8 hours on low will make everything tender enough to break apart with a spoon.  The only veggies that I ever chop before cooking in a crock pot are potatoes and onions (and even then I only cut the onions into quarters).  Everything else gets “chopped” by some vigorous stirring right before serving.

    3.  I have a horrible combination of “Doesn’t like to cook” and “Doesn’t really have a lot of taste buds anyways” and “Chronic sinusitis so I can’t even smell half this stuff”. Probably the first is a product of the other two. Season lightly with brain damage resulting in short-term/long-term memory transfer problems, and I’m just not a cook.

      I do cook myself breakfast every morning, largely because eggs are one of the things I can reasonably appreciate (more a mouthfeel thing than taste and smell) and coffee-smell drills through my sinuses, but I’ve gone to Weightwatchers frozen dinners for lunches, and something haphazardly thrown together for dinner when I remember to, usually from bulk frozen meats and bulk frozen veg, or another frozen dinner.

      I don’t like the waste packaging from my lunches at all. But at least I’m not eating out much, and the portion-controlled dinners mean no food waste. And it’s not in cans, and it’s cheaper and less fatty than takeout or restaurent food (especially fast food).

      But if I needed a sodium-restricted diet I’d be screwed…

      1.  Indian food? Less fattening, make a week’s worth on Sunday, I can still taste it with a cold, reusable tupperware.

        That said, yay coffee. I can’t pretend to be human without it.

    4. The motivation for myself is that buying premade meals is not an option. The thought of eating a premade meal is so offensive to me that I NEVER buy them in the store and I can rarely bring myself to spend the money to buy food from a restaurant.
      For someone like you, who finds cooking tedious, there should probably be another top ten list How to Make Good Food In Less Time Than it Takes to Poop a Frozen Pizza:
      1. Food Processor- The number one time consuming job in the kitchen (after washing dishes) is cutting stuff up. But you’re probably not so particular about the angle of your carrot pieces. Invest in a decent food processor with a wide range of attachments for different sized slicing and shedding. Rip veggies apart, place in heating element with salt and butter, place in mouth.
      Blenders are the same as food processors but different. Smoothies are food, and they are the easiest food by any measure.
      2. Crock Pot- It requires a little bit of planning, but the noble crock pot was the original “set it and forget it” kitchen gadget. It will slow cook your food while you live your life and keep it warm until you get hungry. Meats, vegetables, grains, they all taste unbelievably better when they’ve cooked on low temperature for eight hours (in barbecue sauce? why not!).
      3. Make your grains ahead of time- The other thing that takes FOREVER in the kitchen is waiting for your rice or quinoa or barley or whatever to finish cooking. Make up a gallon of grains at the start of the week and add them to everything.
      4. Seasonings- Don’t try to make health food. If you’re cutting premade foods out of your diet you are probably going to be eating healthier no matter what you do. Use as much butter, lard, mayonnaise, cream, oil, salt, cheese as makes you happy. Also explore the wonders of sriracha and other hot sauces, horseradish, spicy mustards. Don’t worry about those fancy dried herbs, they just get stuck in your teeth.
      5 . . .
      anyone got any other time saving tips?

      1. Dinner one night is lunch the next day. Always make enough for two meals. But don’t make giant pots of food if you can’t stand it after 3 meals.

        As for the crockpot — insert one whole frozen solid chicken. dump in a tablespoon of salt. set for 10 hours and walk away (before bed or before work). Eat chicken, chicken sandwiches, chicken whatever until just bones are left in the crockpot. Add water to fill the pot and more salt. Set for 10 hours, walk away. Voile! Chicken Stock.

        Stir frying old rice in olive oil refreshes its edibility.

        Never wash a cast iron pan. Just stick it back in the oven. Wipe it out with a paper towel when it gets too ashy. saves a lot of time.

        Get a watch with a timer so you can leave the kitchen while foods that cook themselves do their thing — like pizza, bread, roasted chicken, soups. otherwise, burnt misery awaits you…or you can multitask; while something bakes, you can pasteurize yogurt and prep bread dough for the next day or just clean up.

        food processor: amen. who cares what my veggies look like, I just want them bite sized.

        when in doubt, don’t over season. salt is usually all you need and maybe a bit of pepper. and yes to fat. everything I cook would “make the paper turn clear”, but we shell out for olive oil and grassfed butter so our cholesterol levels are superb.

        egggggggggsss. two eggs fried in cast iron in olive oil on high. <4 minutes? delicious. eggs are always done before the toast is ready.

        to cook steel cut oats, dump the oats and water together before heating–I use a steel saucepan. bring to a boil with a lid on the pot. (make coffee while the water boils). when it has a rolling boil, turn off the heat, leaving everything on the burner with the lid on. by the time you return from getting dressed 20-30 minutes later, they are all ready to eat and not burnt. no stirring required.

        when in doubt, melt cheese on top.

        when you eat out, ask yourself if you would like to have that food a lot. then just copy it using a combo of google and the Joy of Cooking. pick the simplest recipe that has ingredients you're likely to possess. if you like it a lot, making it will become routine.

        after a while, you won't have to measure anymore. that saves time too. a teaspoon more or less is more or less fine.

        you'll improve with practice. sometimes, you'll ruin food. laugh and eat out then.

        get 'er done.

      2. I make a crock pot full of stew and eat it all week.  My time-saving tip is that you can just let the crock pot cool off a bit and then put it into the fridge rather than transferring the food to other containers which you’ll then have to clean.

        Also, a half bottle of Two Buck Chuck Merlot makes a cheap, easy soup stock.

      3. 5  & 3:   Pressure Cooker!    All your favorite grains, legumes, or pulses go from dried to delicious in under one hour.

    5. Not everyone enjoys washing clothes, or paying the bills, or scrubbing the bathroom either.

      Eating is mandatory.  Cooking is the easiest, cheapest way to do it (unless you live in NYC).

      Forget all the modern recipes which call for 15+ ingredients, a specialized pan, and a pinch of 5 different spices you will never use again; instead, take a look at an old basic cookbook such as The Joy of Cooking.  Most of the recipes have no more than 5 ingredients.  That’s what you want: basic nutrition with minimal effort.

    6. You know what’s easy and delicious and a staple? Meat. Like, a steak. You can cook that sucker perfectly in 6 minutes total with only salt and pepper. You’ll love it, and make this dish again and again. 

      Me, I’m vegetarian and love to cook, but cooking for the boyfrined made me realize how low-effort / high-reward preparing meat is. If you’re vegetarian, cook stuff that requires little prep, like asparagus or potatoes. Everything tastes fantastic with just a little butter or olive oil, salt and pepper.

      Cook simple, familar food you love. Avoid unfamiliar spices (you’ll only use them once) and anything that requires a lot of chopping. 

    7. I can understand your struggle to find the motivation. I think an additional challenge is a reassignment of priorities. In a culture that praises and often demands instant results slowing down to cook dinner or pack a lunch can be daunting. I’ve been using strategies like this for a year now, and fortunately it works with my lifestyle but I know I’m in the minority. The motivation comes from the costs of not making these daily choices, if that doesn’t apply to you then sure it’s not a priority. 

    8. oh I forgot! The best place in the world to pick up meals for one person is Trader Joe’s. I’m not a fan of their labor practices but their food rocks. Hopefully you have one near you. 

    1. I think it’s just disapproving of the type of tomato.
      “Dammit, I told them plum tomatoes, NOT vine-ripened!”

    1.  Yup, I kept waiting for one tip to be “Cat’s are a great source of protein and can be purchased cheaply at most animal shelters.”

      1. Like hell – cats are fairly expensive as meat goes – a 10lbs cat would probably be $75 or $100, and that weight is before you dress the carcass. And think about what a cat eats – do you want to eat something that eats rats and mice? For that matter do you want to eat something that eats Friskies? That stuff is pretty foul.

  3. These lists almost always assume you are comfortable enough with money that doing these things is not a necessity – that you can afford to eat out for lunch, have access to  transport to the farmer’s market,  have access to enough sunlight for container gardening – and that depresses me. 

    1. Good points, all.  I have plenty of space for some small items on my balcony, but no real sunlight.  My apartment is completely surrounded by trees. And when I didn’t have a car (in Phoenix, for 8+ years), trying to get groceries of any kind was really, really difficult and time-consuming, and I didn’t have a family.

      1. “And when I didn’t have a car (in Phoenix, for 8+ years), trying to get groceries of any kind was really, really difficult and time-consuming”

        Yeah, another consequence of the big-boxification of our world. Force all the neighborhood mom n’ pop grocery stores to close and build all the super-megalomarts on the outskirts of town. How dumbass is that?

      2. I’m confused. If you can’t get groceries, how do you get food at all? I mean, you still have to buy all the processed stuff…or did you live off deliveries exclusively?

        1.  Despite the fact that there is often no dedicated food retailer within walking distance in any urban area in America, there is usually a gas station or liquor store within a mile or so. They have things that resemble food.

  4. Good tips, all. My fiancée’s boss apparently buys six to nine onions a week and never uses them. We now have about fifteen onions waiting to be used for various things – at least she gave them away rather than throwing them away!

    I guess the short version is don’t buy it if you’re not going to use it, and don’t pay someone else to do the parts of the supply chain that you’re willing to do yourself. That’s probably wide enough to be applied to any activity :)

    Speaking of which, buy some tools and learn to fix your car! Changing oil and brake pads can be done on a lazy afternoon and saves a fortune! Search your favourite ecommerce site for “ELM327” and enter the world of engine error codes, too – you can find out what “check engine” means and it’s usually stuff you can do yourself :)

    1. Changing oil is something I “used” to do.  I’ve found the best way to save money is to make a lot more of it in the first place.  Then you have more time to enjoy life (unless you enjoy changing oil).

      1. Agreed re oil changes, but for a different reason.  I can do it, but I don’t want to.  And the last time hubby tried it, he made a huge oil spill in the garage.  I’d just rather work an hour or so at something & get paid for that, and then pay a pro to change my oil. 

        It’s not that expensive, there are always oil change coupons flying around, and specials at the corner garage.

    2. Not everyone has the room.  I live in a tiny apartment in the city and they would not appreciate me working on my car in the street.

      1. They being your landlord? because if it’s in the street they have no say in that – safety issues are another thing… but the majority of repairs to a car’s engine don’t really need more than a few feet of space in front. 

        1. Mostly I’d rather not get run over or hit!  There just isn’t a lot of room.  Can you imagine trying to change your oil on the streets of New York, for instance?  Not all places that people live have lots of space.  I actually live in Phoenix so it might be easier for some, but I live on an awkward curve and I don’t trust the people who speed through.

          I actually JUST did my oil at my boyfriend’s place, but I can’t always do that.

          And honestly, I can usually get it done for $20-30 within walking distance from my apartment, which leaves me time to catch up on reading or even go home and do laundry while I wait.

          Sometimes time IS money (it takes me forever to change oil lol AND it’s messy, as I am clumsy).

          When it comes to other repairs, I’d rather pay someone who is competent (sometimes a mechanic, or a competent friend), rather than fuck it up and then have to spend more money. I’m not a confident nor competent mechanic. Not everyone is, or can be, or should be.

          1.  I changed my own oil when I lived with my parents and they kept the used oil in their garage. It made sense and was easy.

            But yeah, it’s only worthwhile if you can store the oil so that the disposal fee is worthwhile. The cost to buy oil and a filter at retail is about $17, last I checked, and is a $13 premium worth it? Now I get my oil changed at a place for $30, in about 15 minutes, on my lunchbreak, without even getting out of my car. And it’s supposed to be better for me to do it myself and pay to dispose of the oil?

            I do love the people who say “just change it yourself, and you can dump the leftover oil in the sewer for free.” As in, I  don’t love them.

          2. I have three vehicles to maintain, and usually keep four, so I get a good bang for the buck changing all the oils at once, and doing my own maintenance.  I certainly wouldn’t find fault with someone not wanting to go this route:  it is hard, dangerous, messy work, and takes a substantial investment in equipment.  But for me, I can keep my vehicles in top shape, with the biggest benefit being that I don’t pay any interest on auto loans to keep reliable vehicles.  Plus, about every other time I try to have someone else do the work, they play games with “we can’t let it go out without fixing ___”, or trying to up-sell additional services.  So this weekend I’ll spend Saturday replacing most of the cooling system on my BMW, but after spending all week on a computer, I’m ok with that.

          3.  @boingboing-d0d0d9eccd83b4ba0a7c64e872ef663b:disqus in many states (NY and CA at least, the two I’ve lived in) service stations and so on are required to accept used oil from anyone for disposal – for no charge. They have the facilities to store used oil and then to get rid of it somehow and it’s not a big burden to accept oil from people.

            Why a state would allow (or mandate?) disposal fees for such a nasty substance is beyond me. If you don’t want people disposing of it in the sewers or wherever, don’t make it cost money to dispose of properly!

            I mean even if there is a disposal fee, you could just sneak around to a service station late at night and leave it there. What are they going to do, toss it down the sewer instead of putting it with the rest of their used oil?

        2. In Chicago, it is against the law to work on your car when it’s parked in the street. So unless you’re a landowner with a driveway (and $200k worth of house), you have no choice but to hire a mechanic to fix your car.

  5. One very solid food investment is good quality reusable containers. Acquire a sufficiently large collection that every full meal you cook can then be sorted into convenient leftovers as part of the kitchen cleanup. Most of the top shelf of our refrigerator is devoted to this purpose. This not only makes work lunch very cost-effective money-wise, but also time-wise as well.

    If you’re concerned about BPA and similar, Pyrex is an excellent choice. We’ve built up a large collection of their brand of storage containment fairly cheaply, largely by visiting outlet stores when traveling.

    1. And remember that these containers of leftovers can also be put in the freezer, so instead of eating chili 4 times in one week, you can eat it once a week for a month.

  6. I like the font-free-foods idea. I generally refer to a similar concept as the calories-to-commas ratio; I try to ensure that the more commas an ingredient label has, the less of that food I consume.

  7. I’d add the caveat that sometimes, doing it yourself is not easier, cheaper, more efficient, or healthier.  It’s worth doing the math.

    1. Speaking for myself, the satisfaction gained by doing it myself far outweighs the potential extra costs. And that doesn’t even consider the fact that it’s likely going to taste better and be healthier

      1. Right, for yourself.  As I said above, I am never going to greatly enjoy cooking, especially when I’m only cooking for myself.  And it doesn’t always taste better, nor is it always healthier (it depends on your resources and abilities). I can get satisfaction from a lot of things, but cooking just isn’t one of them.

      2. The article was specifically about saving money. Not about satisfaction by DIY outweighing extra costs. A lot of people don’t have a choice about paying extra for that satisfaction.

    2. Like pizza, It’s very time consuming and difficult to make a delicious and cost effective pizza at home.  Much better to but a slice especially if you live in a good pizza town.

      1. I’ve had great experiences with the pre-made pizza dough you can buy at Whole Foods – not the pre-formed frozen ones, but the same fresh dough they use to make in-house pizzas. It only costs a couple dollars and tastes great.  I cut each one in half, and each half can be stretched into a 10- to 12-inch, thin-crust pizza, perfect for two (or a second meal for one). Just takes some flower and a little practice tossing the dough.  Spread on some tomato sauce and fresh mozzarella, and even at Whole Foods prices it’s less than half the cost of ordering out for pizza of comparable quality.

      2. I disagree. I think it’s cheap, easy, and pretty quick if you have a decent mixer. The most expensive part for me is the jarred sauce I use ($2 and covers two large pizzas). I make pizza at home about once a week. It takes about 30 min prep time, and can be ready in a little over an hour if you rush the rising time (which I do). And I make extras which get sliced and go in the freezer for lunches later.

        I will concede that making pizza sauce from scratch is time consuming and not necessarily cost effective or delicious (depending on available ingredients).

  8. “Eat what you buy, and buy only what you will eat.”100% Impossible for a single person while avoiding processed foods unless you’re willing to eat leftovers of the same meal over and over.

    Practically anything cheap that you can buy in small enough portions is heavily processed.

    1. Do you not have a freezer? You don’t have to cook an entire tray of chicken at once, you know. Separate the pieces, freeze them individually, then thaw n’ cook them one at a time as you need them. No leftovers, and a hell of a lot cheaper. It’s not that hard – it’s just doing it!

      1. I think he’s probably talking more about fruits and vegetables and other foods, and not meat, which we all know freezes well.

        I have a tiny freezer.  I can only fit so much in there.  And even frozen food only lasts so long.  This isn’t always the best option.

        Fruits and vegetables can be harder to deal with than meat when you are single and have a limited amount of space.

        1. That’s the kind of thing I meant when I spoke about food illiteracy. Most people just cook too much food at one time – hence all the leftovers. I remember one of my roommates microwaving a whole bag of baby carrots once (in the plastic bag, but never mind that!) and eating only half of it. I assumed she was going to save the other half as leftovers, but was astounded when she just tossed them out. When I asked her why, she said she thought reheated carrots were gross. I guess it never occurred to her to just cook half the bag in the first place!

          1. And our point is that it’s difficult to not waste fresh foods when you’re single.  I can almost never eat a bag of baby carrots before a good chunk of them go bad.  It’s not so much that I want to buy too much … it’s that there isn’t always an option for us single folk.  It’s REALLY hard managing food waste when you’re single. 

            Your friend was an idiot, but that’s not what we’re talking about at all. We’re saying that it’s really, really difficult not wasting fresh foods when you live alone. So I’m not really sure what your point is.

          2. I can almost never eat a bag of baby carrots before a good chunk of them go bad.

            Buying bags of food is a poor money-saving strategy if they go to waste. You’re better off buying an appropriate amount at a higher unit price.

          3. [I don’t see a reply link on marilove’s comment.]

            As I understand it, “baby carrots” are processed food.  They are normal carrots, peeled and cut into same-sized pieces.

            Actual carrots — the kind that have a little bit of dirt on — last for ages, and last a really, really long time in the fridge.  Even after they look a bit past-it, they’re still  fine for soup.

            If you can only eat 2 carrots in a week, only buy two carrots

            Next problem?

          4. But baby carrots are delicious!

            Actually, I buy both.  It just depends on what I need.  I try to only buy baby carrots if I know I’m going to use them all, but sometimes plans change.

          5. I don’t think it’s a universal truth that living alone makes it harder. I’m single and don’t have a problem with it.

            Actually I find that my parents and sister living as a family waste a LOT more food than I do living on my own. 

             The only problem is when I have a busy work period, and I travel every week- then it’s a question of buying EXACTLY the right amount of food, or buying food that can hold out for however long I’m gone.

            But on an every day basis, it’s just common sense. If you buy something that’s too big to eat before it rots, process and freeze part of it as soon as you bring it home. Maybe your problem is that you keep thinking that a single person is only allowed to cook single portions?

        2. There’s nothing in the world wrong with canned or fresh veggies (though some canned veggies are better than others).

          Most veggies (greens excepted) can be blanched and frozen quite readily.  

          Freezer bags can be obtained in quart sizes, and you don’t have to fill them all the way.   Your example baby carrots can often be purchased in smaller (like 4-ounces) packages.

          1.  Actually there is something wrong with canned veggies (although I’m not saying you shouldn’t ever eat them!).  Most of them have added salt, added preservatives and the cans’ interiors are coated with BPA which may have deleterious health consequences.  It’s worth keeping in mind.

          2. @boingboing-93106f2b3d83f77dbb5a098e014fad40:disqus  That might depend where you shop.

            The store-brand vegetables sold in the UK are just in water (I’ve checked with what I have: sweetcorn, green lentils, spinach and broad beans only contained the vegetable and water.  Chickpeas also contained an antioxidant.  Not store-brand chickpeas contained added salt).

            But the supermarkets have committed themselves to labelling unhealthy food, and they don’t want a big red blob on the front of their products.

        3.  Maybe this is a European thing, but if I only want one carrot, I buy one carrot.

          And as to the tiny freezer – you do realise you’re allowed to take stuff back out and eat it? (it will taste better if you defrost and probably heat it first).

          So much negativity today…

      2. I have a rather large freezer, and use it constantly.
        I didn’t mean to imply that you couldn’t eat healthier and still save money by avoiding processed food, I was only trying to convey that avoiding processed foods almost always leads to more food waste, and this fact is greatly exacerbated for singles.

        If you buy/eat TV dinners then you’ll have a lot of plastic and cardboard to recycle, but there’s virtually no waste because the entire meal keeps for months in the freezer.

        Once you start buying fruits/veggies/bread/butter/milk/eggs/etc…  then you’re BOUND to throw some away unless you’re literally going to the grocery every single day and not stocking any perishables.

        1. You’re right about a certain amount of spoilage, of course – it’s unavoidable in any situation, especially with produce being flown in from all over the world, in varying states of ripeness.

          My point (which *someone else* can’t seem to figure out) is that spoilage can be nearly eliminated by careful planning, a bit of preparation, and changing a few of our long-held cultural notions about food and its preparation.

          Look at much of the rest of the world, for instance – many cultures do grocery shop every day. It’s part of how they treat the food they eat. Here in North America, however, it’s been hammered into us for years that the best way to shop is in a supermarket, where everything is neatly packaged for us. Never mind that much of it is full of chemicals, hormones and other crap – it’s EASIER. That’s part of the problem with how we look at food.

          1. “Many cultures do grocery shop every day.”
            But those cultures generally have much less hectic lives than we have.  A lot of times we are forced to choose the more convenient option not because we’re lazy, but because we’re working longer hours doing more complex tasks.

          2. Huh? You have a more complex, demanding life than the average European who markets everyday on their way home from work? That’s what I mean by changing habits – it’s just a mater of mindset.

          3. That’s not what I said.  I said I live in PHOENIX.  Which is not known for being friendly to those who want to shop every day.  Do you know how much land mass my city takes up?  It’s ridiculous.

            When I didn’t have a car, trying to even find a grocery store on my hour and a half bus ride home was really difficult.  I had to order groceries from once a month and have them delivered, to help out.  It’s easier now that I do have a car, but that’s because of where I live.  Not everyone lives close to a grocery store in the Valley.

          4. Exerpt from Europe v America:  “According to the OECD a typical employed American put in 1,877 hours in the year 2000, compared to 1,562 for his or her French counterpart. One American in three works more than fifty hours a week. Americans take fewer paid holidays than Europeans. Whereas Swedes get more than thirty paid days off work per year and even the Brits get an average of twenty-three, Americans can hope for something between four and ten, depending on where they live.”So yes, I believe our lives are more complex/demanding.  :D

          5. [in reply to phor11, but I can’t see the reply button]

            So yes, I believe our lives are more complex/demanding.

            No, you just work longer hours. That’s gotta suck. It’s talked about with fascinated horror on this side of the pond.

          6. But those cultures generally have much less hectic lives than we have.  A lot of times we are forced to choose the more convenient option not because we’re lazy, but because we’re working longer hours doing more complex tasks.

            I don’t think that leading a hectic life — one that keeps one from doing the simple things in life that make it possible — can in any way be called “convenient.”

            Long hours, no time to do simple things.


            Seems to me that those residing in “hectic” cultures have been sold a bill of goods, an they’ve consumed it happily. In the name of “freedom” and “options” all that they’re able to “choose” is working insane hours to feed the machine. They thought they were working for options, but they ended up with very few.

          7. One of the nice things about SF was that I could be a euroshopper.  I could walk a couple of blocks to the butcher, the baker, the produce store, the cheese shop, etc.  I shopped every day.  Here in Palm Springs, Trader Joe’s is the closest thing to a village shop.  Rather depressing.

        2. Are you aware that the fruits, vegetables, butter, milk and eggs on sale at the supermarket are more than a day old?  They’ve been refrigerated (except the eggs, which don’t need refrigeration).

          Eggs keep for about 2 weeks (after purchase) somewhere cool, or over a month in the fridge.

          Butter keeps for months in the fridge.  (Read about the still-preserved butter found it peat bogs in Ireland.)
          I don’t drink much milk.  It should last a week.

          What kind of bread?  The soft, pre-sliced loaves keep for a while, and thaw very easily if frozen (remove just the slices you need). 

          Some fruits last for a long time — citrus fruits tend to slowly dry out, but still be quite edible.  Apples do go bad, but I take 5 apples to work every week, and they’re still fine after a couple of weeks if I forget to eat them.

          Seriously, this isn’t difficult.  

      3. If you’re single and live in an apartment in a city.. chances are, you are damned lucky to have a tiny, unreliable freezer compartment in your fridge. if that. 

        1. I live in an apartment in Japan, near Tokyo – noted for its small apartments, fridges, everything.  I can also cook and save food for a week if I need to.  I recently upgraded my fridge, but the one I’d been using for the previous 5 years was 145L, and the one before that was even smaller (and 2 people shared it!).  Unless you’re using a dorm fridge, you shouldn’t complain.

          I think it comes down to a mental block.  It seems difficult, messy, generally too hard.  So people avoid it.

    2. I usually manage.  A voracious appetite helps.  Frequent repurpousing of dishes and sauces (Guess what stew?  You’re gonna be a curry next!).  Big spice/condiment selection helps.   If you’re sick of it, freeze it for  a week until you’re hungry.  Fruits on the cusp become frozen for future smoothies.  Wilted vegetables can still be soup.  Stale bread is foodprocessed into breadcrumbs.  When you start doing it, there’s more waste, but the more it’s a habit, the less gets wasted.  It’s also being aware of what you have, what you’ll actually cook and what you’ll actually eat.

      1. Yeah I’m not always home a lot, that’s part of my problem.  Some weeks I’m home all week, but other weeks I spend most of my time at the house of the guy I’m seeing, or elsewhere, or I’m just busy doing a lot of volunteering or something.

        It’s sometimes difficult to plan if it’s just you, because your schedule isn’t always as set as people with families.  And then if you travel a lot for business or something….

        1.  Maybe he likes to cook?

          I think my wife has made dinner/or anything about 5 times since we have been married.  I do all the cooking, but I enjoy it for the most part.  I just hate deciding what’s for dinner.

        2.  It’s harder when you’re not there all the time.  I like to cook, which makes it easier of course.  My recent two favorite flavor options are coconut milk frozen into icecube trays, just pop one in for a lot of flavor and fat.  Also, liquid smoke, previously talked about on BB, adds a lot of flavor. 

           I don’t think shaming anyone here is helpful.  My GF doesn’t like to cook, she finds my disinterest in vacuuming problematic at times.  Everyone has interests and disinterests.  If you don’t have cooking skills and want to, find a friend or relative who’d like to teach you.  If that’s not an option, the internet is chock full of people who’d love to help you cook something.  Googling for ingredients at hand changed how I eat, for the better.  I was already doing everything on this list except the farm bit, though I sometimes keep a pot of basil going. 

      1. Not everything comes in small portions, and sometimes you try to plan but then plans change. Then try to cook for one. It’s not always easy, especially since most recipes don’t cater to the single person. Then you’re left with leftovers, and I’m not always great at eating those, nor do I always have the freezer space.

      2.  Small portions tend to be stupidly expensive, however. the price per lbs on a pack of 4 and a single pack can be staggering.

      3. Celery and Lettuce are two examples that come to mind right away.  

        I can’t get through more than about a quarter of a head of lettuce before it’s time to toss it.  And pretty much every method I’ve tried to preserve it longer ends up wasting an incredible amount of my time and costs more money than just tossing it and grabbing another.

      4.  Only if you have a deep freeze. The frost free freezers suck the moisture out of everything due to constant thawing/refreezing cycles.

      5.  If you can go to a butcher, he will sell you small quantities of meat.  That’s how I’ve always done it.  the idea of having raw meat festering in my fridge for days grosses me out…

          1. Many (most?) supermarkets have a butcher-like area where you can buy meat and other things by the pound, and they’re happy to sell you a small amount.

            And actually, most places probably do have butcher shops, but they probably aren’t close to the supermarket and modern big-box-store part of town – but are probably just down the street a bit, so not hard to access. I can think of two nearby me and I’m sure there are more (I’ve never bought anything from them, but they’re there).

          2.  @Antinous_Moderator:disqus  I don’t know how it is over there, but if we assume someone can access a butcher counter at a supermarket they can also access the supermarket – the concept of food deserts coming up again. 

          3.  @penguinchris:disqus Is that true for all parts of the area you live in, or just the good parts? Because yeah, there are palces with ready access to food is easy but then others where the only place anywhere near, with near being a very relative value, would be the big box store.

    3. “Eat what you buy, and buy only what you will eat.”100% Impossible for a single person while avoiding processed foods unless you’re willing to eat leftovers of the same meal over and over.

      I respectfully disagree.  I grew up in a household that ate simple but homecooked meals every night.  When I left home and lived alone I cooked for myself every day because it was the only way I was used to living.  Lots of foods keep very well, without refrigeration: pasta, onions, rice, potatoes, dried beans and lentils, eggs, tinned fish, tinned tomatoes…  You buy a little bit of meat or a nice bit of veggies on the way home, and cook it with what you’ve got at home.  Although some things take time to cook (potatoes, rice, beans…) the actual time you need to spend doing stuff in the kitchen to make the meal happen doesn’t take more than 20-30 minutes, including cleaning up.  And it isn’t like you can’t be talking on the phone or watching telly while you’re cooking.

      I think that many people have grown up so habituated to eating out (and ordering in) that expectations of what a meal needs to be are exaggerated.  A baked potato with cheese, an omelet, a steak — these are just not hard to whip up.

    4. I did it just fine for nearly 20 years.  It helped that I couldn’t afford to waste food.  Also, I shopped like most of the rest of the world: stopping by the local store on the way home to pick up a couple of items instead of driving to a big-box store, where even the veggies are pre-sealed in “economy” sized packages.

      1. Awesome if you have a local store left, and one that is open at the times you are able to access it….

  9. While the food is without a doubt fresher, healthier, and tastier from the farmer’s market, here in SF buying veggies at farmer’s markets is MUCH more expensive than the supermarket. It’s not a way to save money.

    1. Only if you go to the Ferry Building Farmer’s Market or one of the micro farmer’s markets in Noe Valley or the Castro.
      Alemany Farmer’s Market and Heart of the City Farmers Market are both much cheaper than the grocery store.

    2. I was going to recommend driving out to another, perhaps slightly more rural, bay area farmer’s market, but with the price of gas…hardly worth it. Except for the fun, I guess. Santa Cruz used to (and probably still does) have a kickass farmer’s market. It was a good excuse to go on a nice drive down 1 and spend some time there :-D

    3. Go to any of the local independently owned produce markets, they usually have great deals on produce (much cheaper than safeway).  I can usually get my several pounds of veggies a week for like $25 total (usually some type of leafy greens, lots of tomatoes, squash, oranges, bell peppers, onions).

  10. Also, it’s important to remember that getting decent kitchen supplies can be expensive. An item here and there might not be so bad, but trying to get enough supplies to cook consistently, and so you can cook a variety of foods (which makes it more likely that you *will* cook), can be expensive, and time-consuming if you’re trying to save money.

    Good pots and pans aren’t cheap, and getting cheap ones means you’re going to ruin them in short order.

    1. If one is willing to do a little searching, cast iron pans can be purchased quite cheaply at thrift stores and reconditioned quite easily.  They last pretty much forever, and work well for a wide variety of foods (though if you make tomato sauce or chili do it in an enameled pan, else your dinner will taste like metal).

      1. I have a cast iron!  A couple in fact.  I love them!  But that’s not always the best option for cooking, especially every day, and they can be heavy and hard to store.  I can’t really fit any more in my tiny kitchen, though I’d like a cast iron pizza pan.

        Other things like good knives can be somewhat expensive.  It’s more about having to plop down what can seem like big money to someone who is broke (like me) on a damn pan, ya know?  I was lucky and found a REALLY nice non-stick on clearance at Target for $26 (originally $70), but that doesn’t happen often, and even $26 is a lot of money for me at once, especially with gas prices now.

        1.  You need one good knife, which will be expensive, one cast iron frying pan (cheap), a pasta pot (aluminum, very cheap) and a saucepan with a lid (NOT non-stick, with a reasonably thick bottom — prices vary enormously).  A wok is nice if you make stir-fries, and are cheap in chinatowns.  Like maintaining an active lifestyle, cooking for oneself is not especially hard nor does it need to be costly.  If you hate doing it, that’s another issue entirely.

          1. On the subject of pans: having had quite a lot of choice over the years (for various reasons), I’ve chosen to put away the more expensive options and pull out my old Revere Ware pans again.  Surprisingly excellent cookware.  You can buy a full set for less than dinner-for-two at a nice restaurant.

    2. Horsefeathers.   You need one of each of the following:   12″ cast iron skillet,  3-quart stainless saucepan, large stock pot, glass or stainless mixing bowl , colander, 3″ paring and 8″ chefs knife (Victorinox),  non-glass cutting board,  spatula, tongs,  and three wooden spoons, one with a flat edge.      

      No plastic handles on anything other than the knife,  and no teflon anything.  The spoons will last the shortest – maybe 2 years of daily use. Your kids or your cats will inherit the cast iron.

      All that can be assembled for under $200,  or less than $100 if you’re thrifty and patient,  and is 95%  of everything you need to prepare everything Julia Child ever prepared, ever.

        1. But you have it to spend unnecessarily on “food”? You save more than that the first couple of months you don’t buy pre-packaged garbage.

          Seriously, folks, this is neither rocket surgery nor brain science…

          1.  You did check the link, right? the gist of it is that the lack of ability to invest leads to spending more money overall.

        2. But you don’t have to buy everything at once. The skillet alone will make any meal that you don’t have to boil (or boil much of). If you get one that’s not rubberized at all, you can even throw it in the oven.

          1.  It’s still an investment – a good quality skillet vs. the cheap knockoff that’s gonna have the handle fall off in 3 months and scald you, that price difference can mean eating for the rest of the week, or being able to commute.

          2. @Mari Harju: I’ve been pretty damn poor at various points in my life, and I don’t remember a time (while I had a roof over my head) that I couldn’t manage to save up $10-20 over an indeterminate period of time. There’s really no point in spending $100 for a brand-new cast iron with thrift stores, craigslist, and flea markets (largely) available.

        3. When I started university I needed some cooking equipment.  My mum said she wouldn’t buy me any for the first year, since I’d be sharing a kitchen with 20 other students and it could get ruined/stolen.

          We went to a charity shop (I think you call that a thrift store?) and bought two pans for 20 pence each, and some cheap knives, plates etc. I doubt we spent more than £20 in total, and plenty of it wasn’t really necessary.

          It wasn’t great equipment, but it was still far better than anything that existed a century ago.  If the alternative is buying prepared meals, there should be sufficient savings within a few months to buy better equipment.

          1. nah, charity shops where I am, too.  :P 

            again,  even that can be a lot to someone – these things are all relative. 

      1. my dad use to call colanders – ‘potato stop – water go’ , and according to a doctor I knew – cast iron frying pans are a good source of iron (not kidding).

        the list is all good common sense points – 

        what would be interesting to know – is how many people here complain about food prices – and yet think nothing of paying hundreds of dollars per month for smartphones, cable, internet – none of which existed pre-1970 and food was more like 25-30% of the budget than the 9% it is now.

    3. I rent a condo with a crap kitchen. I haven’t touched the oven/stove in the five years that I’ve been here. I cook in the crock pot, on the George and in the microwave. I eat very well.

      1.  My $7 Goodwill toaster oven is one of the best things I’ve ever bought. I always felt like a jackass putting tiny little meals into ovens that I could crawl inside of.

    1. I have a pitcher filter, but it’s just for the taste of plain water. I don’t know why everyone thinks that (especially urban) tap water is going to murder them.

    2.  I was raised on pure spring water out of the tap. end result is I am a horrible water snob who thinks 90% of water tastes utterly foul. I think evian tastes like pants, and most tap water is almost impossible for me to drink because it tastes so bad.  End result: I consume a lot of specirfic kinds of bottled water because it’s better than no water consumption at all.

  11. We had a very interesting TV show here in Germany recently. They compared three groups of people each eating 2500 cal per day.
    One group with fresh mediterranean food, lots of vegetables, noodles, few meat,
    second with “german” food with bread, potatoes, lots of meat, some salad or vegetables,
    third group with fast food, burgers, fries …
    ALL THREE GROUPS had enough vitamines and minerals and did NOT change in weight and health after the test period.

    But the fast food people tended to be hungry all the time because the concentrated calories in their food could not make them saturated while on the other side the mediterranean group even had problems to eat their big portions.

    So its not important what you eat, but if you eat lots of refined food with much fat or lots of sugar (especially in the soft drinks) you eat concentrated calories and you will tend to eat too much and that is the problem which makes you thick and sick.

    Conclusion: Eat everything you like, but try to eat things which fill your stomach and are saturating.

  12. Farmer’s market? Here in Northern California shopping at a farmer’s market will often cost much more than similar quality foods at a grocery store. Don’t always assume they are fresher or tastier either. I’ve spotted many booths in the late summer still selling early season peaches/nectarines that have certainly been in cold storage for a few months. You can get tastier longer lasting food at the farmer’s market, but you have to be knowledgeable and have extra money.

  13. As much as I’d like to be one of those people and see the value in it.  I don’t cook, my fridge only has liquid, and yogurt, and I prefer to eat out because I’m too lazy to cook.  But for those who can do it, God bless you.

  14. Mmmm… The cat does look tasty. And cheap, without a doubt! 

    Plus catching cats is a good DIY project for the whole family!

  15. It’s enough to make me weep:   It took two hundred years of effort to build a nation where potable water comes out of every tap at near-zero cost, and it took less than twenty years of advertising to convince everyone to abandon that achievement.    

    Also – what’s with all the comments whining about the difficulty of eating well if you’re single?   I never had more time or disposable income than when I was single.  Turn off the TV and go learn a basic human skill.   You think it’s hard now?   Try cooking well when you’ve got two adult workday schedules to sync up, a dog who has been indoors all day, and a toddler who may take anywhere between 15 minutes to an hour to feed, and then 30 minutes to bed,  smack in the middle of the dinner hour.    Yet I still do meals with a veg, protein, and a complex-carb 5 nights a week, and fancier meals on weekends.    Suck it,  complainers.  

    1. It’s great that you had both the time and money, but I am not you and I do not. I rarely watch TV, but nice assumption (I didn’t even have a working TV for a while, even though I get free basic cable where I live). I actually don’t spend much time at home. Good to know you know how I live my life and how much TV I watch! (Assumptions: They make you look like an ass.)

      The problem with being single is that you have more flexibility with your time, and so plans tend to change a lot. I honestly have no idea what my plans are for next week. Will I even be home enough to cook? Maybe, maybe not; it all depends on a few factors.

      That’s not to say my life is harder or better than yours … just different.

      I imagine having a family brings its own set of problems when it comes to planning meals.

      1. You’ve spent an hour posting on this discussion, which is about as useful as watching TV. 

          1. I’m not. :-). And dinner was 10 minutes, between we warmed the leftovers, which were nearly as fresh as yesterday, when I mixed rice, steamed leek, fish and onion boiled in Greek olive oil. Well, actually it only took so long because I made fresh orange juice.

            So I have lots of time to read this fascinating thread on how impossible it is too cook.

    2. “Suck it, complainers”?
      You are obviously a better person than I am, because you are married and have a family, and manage to cook complete (and even fancy!) meals. Perhaps insinuating that I watch a lot of TV bolsters your feeling of superiority.

      I don’t have a lot of spare time or disposable income, either. Maybe I should suck it and learn how to make more money and have more free time, that’s obviously what I’m doing wrong.

      1. I don’t have a lot of spare time or disposable income, either. Maybe I should suck it and learn how to make more money and have more free time, that’s obviously what I’m doing wrong

        You got the wrong take-away from the post, I think. The point is not that you should earn more money have have more free time. The point is once you get married with kids (if you do), you’ll have even less  than you do now.

        Scarey, I know, but it tends to be true.

      2. “I don’t have a lot of spare time”
        Why not?  (I’m curious.)

        I sometimes feel I don’t have time to do things, but I know I waste a lot of time on the web / Facebook etc.

        For example, it’s 24 minutes since my recent post on this discussion, so I’ve probably wasted half an hour on this discussion already this evening.  Oops . . .

        1.  I value the time I spend on the computer very highly, and don’t consider it a waste – even (or especially) just reading BB, because it’s intellectually stimulating. If facebook or cat pictures was all I did on the internet, of course that’d be a different story (I don’t really do either one of those things).

          I spend time doing a lot of other things, but I gauge myself based on how far behind I am on reading BB. If I get several days behind I evaluate what it is I’m doing and slow things down if I can.

          That said, I do take time out of my busy reading the internet schedule to do things like cook nice meals or to make something or do various projects or exercise or whatever, but the value of these things to me is equal (or less) to the value of reading the internet.

      1. Where did the poster ever imply that a single’s life wasn’t meaningful? They just gave examples of crap a single person didn’t have to deal with.

        1. “Turn off the TV and go learn a basic human skill” comes off as pretty much assuming anyone single has nothing more imprortant than mass entertainment consumerism going on. 

          1. Not really, you’re just reading too much into it. Watching TV is what everyone wastes most of their time on, whether or not they are single. The poster was talking about disposable time- which everyone has, in varying amounts, and which can be filled with things meaningful. Such as learning basic human skills like cooking instead of whining about how there’s no time to do it.

          2. Because of course everyone who says they have no time to cook is totally unable to cook and everyone spends their disposable time the same way and no one needs time to rest and recharge but has to be productive all the time. Sure.

          3. *sigh* Because saying something extreme which I didn’t say and act like I said it makes your argument valid. Sure.

    3. I never had more time or disposable income than when I was single.

      Fascinating since you were almost certainly paying more for housing and higher taxes.

      1. Huh, if that’s how it works, I should get myself with a partner and a baby pronto. Oh. Wait. Cost of living increases when you start a family. Time is filled with obligations when you start a relationship. And when you and your partner finally decide to share the costs of living, that living has  already become more expensive. 

        In other words, I also find that being single increases my disposable time and income, since I am the only person whom I have to spend time and money on. I feel this especially now when jobs and income are hard to come by. If I had commitments to a partner, a family, an apartment large and comfortable enough to accomodate such- I’d be completely screwed right now. But because I am single, I manage.

        1. How has the choice become single or not single with children? It’s cheaper to live with other people, whether you’re fucking them or not. Unless you’re renting it out for ads, a child is a drain on expenses.

          1. Sorry, I assumed children was where you were getting the lower taxes thing from? or is that about being married? I have no idea what you meant, actually, wouldn’t mind a clarification.

            But still, okay, forget the children-it doesn’t change all that much. Yes, living with someone can be cheaper, which is why I used to have six people in my one-person apartment, and why I rent out a room as a workshop to someone. However, having roommates is not the same as having a partner. Roommates either share in my expenses or pay me for the room they rent. A partner may also do that, but they will add their own expenses which I will have to share in, and they will take up time.
            So, like I said, being single, the only person I have to spend time and money on is myself.

  16. I think it’d be a good idea to remind people that there are other choices of meat other than the usual cuts. Chuck and brisket are fantastic and cheap. Chicken breast isn’t the only edible part of the chicken. Pork belly is super easy to make and delicious.
    We live in Stockholm, Sweden and we have some of the best quality of water coming out of our taps. It’s crazy to see people reaching for bottled water. All those vitamin waters are just a waste of money. Get your vitamins from fruits and vegetables!

  17. Thanks for addressing the myth that eating healthy cost more. I hate hearing “oh, the poor people can’t afford fruits and veggies”. It is just not true. We actual started doing many of the suggestion in this article a few years ago and saved a load of money.

  18. Quick note: Tomatoes can be easy IF you have enough sun, properly prepared soil (dig deep and refill with a mix of dirt compost, lime, and some swear by traces of other things), and the right variety. I grew tomatoes last year, but most varieties would not have fruited in my back yard, which gets limited sunlight. “Market Miracle”, despite the name, really is one of the varieties most tolerant of marginal conditions.

    Much easier if you have a friend with experience talk you through it the first few times.

    1.  One easy crop that really can give you bang for your buck is lettuce — the leaf varieties can be harvested just a few leaves at a time, which allows my family (with a tiny tiny vegetable garden) to have “free” lettuce greens for months.  It’s also much tastier than the stuff in the green grocer.

    2. Where I live zucchini grows even better than tomatoes, but I do OK growing both.  Nothing like fresh picked ‘maters and squash stir-fried with butter and garlic, over a bed of orzo.  That reminds me, I need to clean out my beds.

  19. I have a half formed hypothesis that all this “do it yourself”-ism is a symptom of a malfunctioning economy.

    Its labor specialization in reverse.  Shouldn’t make sense, but somehow it at least seems cheaper for people do do lots of things themselves rather than have a specialist do it far quicker.

    Perhaps because the extra output from the productivity is all being siphoned off by the top 1%?

    Thinking of oil changes more than food. Food is, I think, something of a different case both because freshness is an important attribute and various tradeoffs of health vs flavor vs production cost.

    1. I don’t know if there was ever a time when having someone else do something for you was cheaper than doing it yourself.

      I can change my oil in 30 minutes, or I could pay someone to do it.  For a lot (and now a days, that means A LOT) of people the convenience of having someone else do it for them is worth that extra money.  Of course social changes and pressure have certainly escalated this.  Look at how many lawn care services there are.  Sure I might pay for one to come out and make my lawn green(er), kill all the weeds, ect..  But after everything gets sorted out I can mow/water/fertilize it myself.  I see lots of people just paying someone to mow their yard…which i think is insane.  But when your neighbor has green grass society has groomed us to think we NEED that green grass as well.

      1. I charge out my time at more than $200/hour. I also enjoy changing my own oil, maintaining my own lawn, and doing my own home reno’s (about the only thing I can’t do is taping and mudding – other than that, I can – and have – pretty much build a house). But, it came to a point where I had to decide between doing that OR spending time with my kids and paying someone else to do it.

        Easy choice.

        1. You can actually do chores WITH your children. And even make them do some of the chores. It’s an excellent way to keep them from growing up to be useless prats who are detested by all their roommates.

          1. Oh, I do, and will expand that role as they get older. But I also like reading to them and playing with them, while they’re young enough to do that with. My point is, right now, given my life circumstances, I value my recreation time with my children sufficiently highly that it’s worthwhile in my opinion to pay someone else to do some of the jobs I am quite capable of doing. Someone else might well choose otherwise; more power to them.

      2. It’s always cheaper when you don’t have the skill and knowledge to do the thing yourself. Cost is time as well as money. Of course, mowing a lawn is trivial. So is sorting out my bicycle before spring cycling season, but even though I know how to do it, I prefer not to spend several hours on it and risk breaking my bike (I know how clumsy I can be). Cheaper to leave it at the service station for a day.

        1. Hiring specialized labor and infrastructure for yearly tasks is efficient. For daily tasks, less so.

          Having the accouterments of a bike shop laid out around them, and having done that same task a dozen times already that week, gives the bike shop a great advantage. But almost all of us have more than a workable bike shop’s worth of kitchen in our homes. (And an even greater proportion eats more often than they ride.)

          You don’t outsource your core competencies; that’s true for both types of corporations, meat and mitt. And being animals, feeding is most definitely our core competency. In fact, unlike all the other needs-meeting we do (shelter, medicine, socializing, mating) it’s the one we do on a daily basis as a non-negotiable fact. For those that can afford such luxury, please remember to tip well.

          1. Agreed. I wasn’t comparing bikes to cooking, just giving an example of how it could be cheaper to swap money for time and skill.

    2. There are two options for food.  First, fancier food (which is what we normally want when we pay for food).  We still want a large choice, and a carefully prepared meal.

      The second is mass-produced food — like in a canteen, such as the kind that some companies (and most schools) run for their staff / students.  The last figures I saw showed that British schools spend around £1 (80p-£1.40, I don’t remember) on each meal.  But, there’s very little choice. However, the meals are (supposedly) healthy.  That’s comparable to what I’d spend cooking for myself.

      (Personally, I like the idea of this.  But the only real times I’ve read about such a thing have been in communist societies, or desperate times elsewhere.)

  20. @boingboing-fbcce68c3853e923f0983996eee5573e:disqus
    You’re clearly very engaged with this issue, but at this point, I’m not sure what answers you want from the rest of us. I acknowledge that cooking alone can be easy to shirk—I lived on cheese and sprout sandwiches, coffee, michelob and bagels pretty much exclusively when I was single.  Why not? no reason not to.

    And now that I’m not single, we cook almost every meal at home and yes, it takes time. But, it only takes 30-50 minutes each evening after a few years of practice. And that includes making our own bread and yogurt. Everything I cook is optimized for ease. The laziest cheapest bread recipe, a ton of stir fried food, lots and lots of fried eggs (we eat around 3 dozen eggs per week–they’re local and cost less than grocery store eggs), lots of simple sandwiches…

    Everything I cook is quick and simple because I don’t enjoy cooking. It’s been 6 years and I haven’t learned to love it and have given up expecting to love it. *but I do enjoy eating.* The food we eat is much higher quality than anything I could buy premade. Most of our food is organic, local and/or wild. Consequently, we don’t save much money either. We probably spend $400+ per month on food for two people. I feel sure someone could probably live on fast foods for the same amount of money. I spent much less on food when I was single.

    *I cook to eat.*
    And I eat to live…and cycle and work and climb and ski and discourse and intercourse and meditate and sleep…

    It’s your choice. I don’t change my own oil either.

    1. Yeah, I’d say that meal planning/shopping/cooking is a skill, and it takes several years to get good at.  Despite my best efforts, I was miserable at it at first, wasted tons of food, etc.  You eventually figure out a sustainable medium of things that are simple enough to fix, versatile enough that you can eat them frequently or repurpose them if bored, etc.  If you’re having to prep something complicated every night, you’re doing it wrong–I focus mostly on foods I can throw together in 15 minutes.
      If anyone on the thread is looking at getting better at cooking for yourself, Mark Bittman’s summer recipe piece is a good start.  Nothing on it is really bad, most involves fairly cheap ingredients, and it introduces you to thinking up dishes that involve few ingredients and can be fixed quickly.

  21. On the topic of ways to save money; I’ve been completely grokking on keeping stale bread and using it to cook with.  Stale bread keeps (in a stale state) a very long time.  You can buy the day old loaves at the bakery (which are usually very cheap), eat some before it goes unpleasantly stale, keep the rest, and when you’ve got enough make stuffing, or soak it in soup, or crush it over some veggies with a bit of cheese and bake.  

    Another cheap trick it to buy veggies that are marked for quick sale and boil them up immediately.  When they are soft puree them (easy with one of those hand blender things) and serve as soup with a garnish of salt and cream.  Some spices/herbs are a good addition too.

    1.  Bread dumplings rock. Something like these, but made with just about any stale bread. My Bavarian girlfriend cooks them. I eat them. Until I’m fit to burst. They’re at their absolute best when kept for a couple of days, sliced, and fried (ideally in leftover meat fat). The triple-cooking (baked-boiled-fried) is entertaining to, if you don’t think too hard about the carbon footprint!

  22. I made vacuum-pot again last weekend after getting lazy and making drip for a few. No comparison, drip really isn’t that great.  But fresh is.  Even the best coffee I make and put in a thermos will be awful by the noon caffeine cutoff time.

    Also, while many of us can cut down on meat, I hate the veg agenda – I will NEVER eat tofu as I find it revolting at any price, although hummus is a go-to snack with some veggies for me.

  23. marilove,

    You keep poo-pooing, but with containers I cook once or twice a week, dump the stuff into the containers, and freeze/refrigerate.  Cheaper and it takes less time than buying out 7 times. 

    I don’t particularly like cooking, but it takes me less effort to cook than eat out.  I buy food on the way home.

    Takes awhile to build up.  I started slow in school (chili, soup, rice), and my repertoire increased with time.   But you have to be motivated to invest the 2 hours (maybe 3 with cleaning) once a week to cook the food – and it’s easy to not be motivated enough.

    Personally – eating out once costs more than a week of groceries.   That was enough motivation for me. Multiply the savings times a month (I still eat out with friends 2-4 times a month) and it’s a LOT of money.

    Again, I’m not a fan of cooking, but after a little while…it’s just very easy. I don’t know remember when it changed, but it did.

  24. Request for some service/science journalism!

    I’m a healthy person. Do all the stuff on the list above. Heck, I teach others how to can!  But I’ve got a deep secret addiction.

    Soda Pop!  Man, I can knock back three cans of Tab a day without thinking about it. I’ve tried to quit; and it’s hard! And I quit smoking 13 years ago.  

    Any advice on how to quit soda?  Any science as to why that schnit is so addictive?

    1. I’m partial to lemon flavored soda water.  It isn’t as frugal as tap, or carbonating my own.  But it does provide the oral fixation of the fizzy bubbles in your throat, without anything but filtered water and a couple drops of lemon juice.

    2. Stick with ginger ale. I consider it a problem when people aren’t addicted to ginger ale.

    3. Any advice on how to quit soda?  Any science as to why that schnit is so addictive?

      Caffeine is an addictive drug.  My cousin had to be detoxed off Coke under a doctor’s supervision in the early 70s.  He was drinking like four gallons a day and acting like a speed freak.

    4.  I go in and out of caffeine addiction depending on how much I consume – if you come off it slowly (and assuming you’re not drinking four gallons of Coke a day as Antinous’ cousin apparently did) you might get a headache a few times but it’ll pass.

      However, when I’ve been not drinking soda what I really miss – and what I’m truly addicted to – is the carbonation. It’s just so much more satisfying (and palate-cleansing) to drink carbonated stuff. I tried plain soda water but without some sort of DIY carbonation setup it’s more expensive to buy by the bottle than flavored soda!

      I consider my current habit of a few sub-$1 bottles of store-brand diet soda a week not that bad, really, and not too different from people who drink tons of coffee (which I very infrequently drink).

      Still, I am considering coming off of it and trying plain soda water again, but if I’m honest I’m not really sure why. If you’re drinking Tab (sugar free) and enjoy it, why bother trying to quit it? If it’s a matter of cost, don’t buy it in cans.

      (cue replies pointing to diet soda causing cancer and other nasty things)

      1. It’s just boring – in flavour and texture. There are more interesting things to marinate. I have not yet eaten tofu and been excited by it. Pulses I love, in so many different forms, but for me, tofu has always seemed more like packing material.

    1. Have you tried tempeh? A lot of people think it’s kinda the same thing, but it’s not. It’s not cost effective relative to meat, though (at least where I live).

      1.  Seitan is a lot easier to make, but I never really priced it out in comparison to meat.

    2.  I think if you think of tofu as a substitute for meat, you’ll invariably be disappointed.  If you think of it as a flavored fried bean cake, it’s more palatable to me.  I marinate it in mirin or orange or lemon juice with chilis and soy sauce and roast it in my cast iron pan, tastes pretty good.  

      1. Or cut it into cubes and leave it in the ‘ fridge marinating in tamari & sesame oil. Pan-fry a handful of the cubes and use them as a topping on damn near anything!

  25. ~For 1 month, write a reverse grocery list, write down anything and everything edible you didn’t eat, EVERYTHING. This includes what’s thrown in the trash, garbage disposal and compost. Don’t focus on why, just write it down. If it didn’t make it into your mouth, write it down. The only exception would be breakage/powerfailure and the like.

    ~Refrigerate your unused fresh brewed coffee and drink it iced. 

    ~Like Suburban hick mentions, heat in portions only. 

    ~If you live in an area that has a high Hispanic population, there’s usually a grocery store owed by them or caters to them. If so, Wednesday is the day fruits and vegetables are on sale. No coupons or ads are usually issued, it’s tradition.

    ~The most difficult? Become familiar with the complex and misleading food-labeling language. Please save your money, don’t spend more of it on “Free Range”, “Freshly Baked”, “Homemade” or “Artisian”. It’s all crap.  

    Example. FDA’s definition of  FREE RANGE or FREE ROAMING: Producers must demonstrate to the Agency that the poultry has been allowed access to the outside. 

    “allowed access”, that’s the ruse. Why not:

    FDA’s definition of  FREE RANGE or FREE ROAMING: Producers must demonstrate to the Agency that the poultry has been outside.  

    Save your money. Know your grocers values. 

  26. I never learned to cook as a kid and now as a single grown 38 year old adult with two kids it started to bug me so I got into the game. 

    I have to recommend two things on the internet that really got me up and running on the whole “cook your own food” thing.

    Giannis North Beach : . This is probably not so frugal in the end, but I find this man and his love for food utterly inspiring!

    Foodwishes : The youtube channel for this is great. The food is usually very easy to make and tastes fanie. And again, the love for the food shines through and I’m pretty sure you can do most of this food frugally, so to speak.

    After I spent some time with those two things there is no turning back for me anymore, cooking is just too good.

  27. I don’t know about some of the money saving claims of this article. Between the CSA box, the deliveries of grass-fed beef, the free range eggs, the organic whatever-else-is-useful-and-tasty, my wife and I spend a lot of money on food. Way more, I am sure, than if we ate fast food and got the bulk of our calories from processed carbohydrates. BUT, we are willing to pay it because we think it is worth it. I think the better argument is ‘spend your money on good quality food today or spend it on healthcare tomorrow’.

    1. I agree. I explained to my boyfriend, whose somewhat ignorant of these things, about what processed food is: 

      “Think of a bird regurgitating food.”

      A vital digestive step is removed when we eat processed food…..The damn processing!

      1. The ironic thing is that you’d probably be better off eating bird barf than most packaged food. At least the barf would have some nutrients still left in it!

    2. CSA box, the deliveries of grass-fed beef, the free range eggs, the organic whatever-else-is-useful-and-tasty

      I never said you have to do these things, or that you’ll save money by doing so. Where in the article do I specify this? There are expensive yuppie ways to obtain good quality, fresh, wholesome ingredients, and there are cheaper ways to do so. 

  28. I am happy to say that my family does – pretty much everything on the list –  make our lunches, (except the kids are on a hot lunch program at school which is inexpensive and healthy – and saves us a lot of time preparing lunch they often didn’t eat)  we go to the local farmers market nearby (in the summer months) – which by the way is not cheap , grow our own vegetables (potatoes, peas, beans, salad mix, everbearing strawberries, raspberries.  We have a fig tree and grapevines (you can tell our house used to be owned by an Italian family) We make our own wine, beer.  AND Yet, we still manage to waste a lot of food. ie. the kids don’t finish their meals.   Or vegetables go bad in the crisper, because we don’t use them up in time – and all our meals include vegetables.  (My wife and I have a disagreement on whether veggies in plastic bags last longer if they’re left out or in the plastic bag. My feeling is that the plastic bags cause them to get soggy.)

    1. You would be right. The plastic traps the moisture and directs it back to them. my carrots went from being good for less than a week for lasting FOREVER by takking the bags off. Brown paper bags are excellent.  

    2. The best way I’ve found to store green leafy veggies is in a drawstring cloth bag that you can keep damp. Most veggies don’t need to be in any bag at all – once you get ’em home from the store, take them out of the bags and just put them in the crisper. Some veggies (squash, turnip, potatoes) don’t need to be refrigerated at all, of course.

      1. Wrap apples in newspaper and store in a dark temperate place, like a basement. My grandmother and I did this, we put the box behind the furnace and accidentally forgot about them, it was only going to be for about 3 months. 6 months later, they were a bit wrinkled but  still moist, and very  much edible. 

        1. We never wrapped ’em in newspaper – just put them all in a big wooden crate down in the cold cellar. We’d lose the odd one to mold/rot, of course (it helps to go through them periodically), but always had a supply clear through ’til the Spring. The newspaper is a fantastic idea for those not blessed with a cold cellar, though – thanks!

      1. Not here on Arrakis. Everything goes into airtight containers to keep the moisture in. An unbagged carrot in the refrigerator would be dead in a day.

    3.  If you have a decent amount of veggies going bad near the same time (and they’re not covered in mold or liquefying) it’s dead simple to make vegetable broth out of them.

  29. Is filtering my water at home less impactful than buying bottled or in jugs?

    Does anyone have a citation on that? The filters need replaced and I don’t think they can go in regular recycling. Buying water filtered at another site and shipped in recyclable 2.5 gallon jugs may be better. I don’t know.

    1.  You can recycle them, but you’ll need to check what kind of plastic it is to see if it needs special handling.

      Here’s some information on bottled water. I’m not really sure what the embodied energy on a filter is, but even Brita only recommends replacing them every 40-100 gallons (depending on the type you have), but I normally just replace them when it starts tasting like tap water again.

    2. I live in Phoenix Arizona, the water is shit. We invested in 1 five  gallon water jug,  crock and stand. We purchase a punched card and get the jug filled. It’s only $1.25. But you don’t list what you filter your water for. Some people are happy if the water is boiled and use the filtered water for drinking purposes. 

      There’s other secondary costs too. Cleaning or replacing an electric coffee maker, coffee maker filters, Jet dry or extra for spot free dish washing. 

      We considered all of this, our local Water & Ice Store is perfect. Crocks are known to keep water cool too, compared to the room it’s in. Don’t know why, but it does.

  30. Something not mentioned that really helps me to save cash on food is this: make a menu. Instead of having a nebulous list of things you think you need from the grocers’ and then standing before your fridge wondering how to combine the odd items you picked up, write out 5-10 meals that you want to eat and will cook in the next 7-12 days. Then just buy the ingredients that support the production of those dishes so that nothing gets waylaid and let go to waste.

    What follows is an example. 10 days ago I had an excess of leeks, parsnips, and brussel sprouts mouldering in my fridge. I planned out the following menu, to be cooked and eaten in whatever order I see fit:

    1) Brussel sprouts steamed, then sauteed with bacon and brie (wound up adding a parsnip and rosemary).
    2) Chorizo soup
    3) Roasted pork shoulder with steamed frozen broccoli
    4) Chicken stew
    5) Mushroom curry
    6) Roasted salmon and veg
    7) Meatloof with roast root veg
    8) Greek yogurt übersalat
    9) Bacon and leek soup
    10) Pork and beans

    9 made 6L soup, it’s still being eaten for lunch four days later. 3 made many sandwiches, and turned into 10. The roast root veg in 7 are coming from what root veg I didn’t use to pair with 4, 5, 6, or 2. Dishes like 2, 4, and 5 allow me to improvise and cook with whatever veg haven’t been used with the meaty dishes. Cooking these dishes takes me about 25min/day and feeds 3 people fairly well. Leftovers can be both lunches or scambled into eggs for breakfast. Total cost for prepping this menu was $160, grocery peripherals like picking up soy milk included.

  31. This is one HUGE thread!!!  I’m going to read all of it.  Before I do that, I just wanted to say great call Xeni.  Great to post up stuff like this.  It really hits at what people think about every day: eating and living.   Second thing, because I’ve read a lot of replies from people who hate to cook.  I like to think of it this way.  I LOVE TAKING A WHOLE ROASTED CHICKEN OUT OF THE OVEN, PEELING SOME OF THE CRISPY SKIN OFF AND EATING IT RIGHT THERE HOT AND FRESH.  Nothing compares.

    Or if you’re vegetarian, there is nothing yummier than roasted cauliflower slices fresh out of the oven.  Slice a whole caulflower into huge 1/4 inch thick slabs, douse it with olive oil and some tamari, bake it till the edges are brown.  Then when you take it out, oh man, nothing compares to that.

    Or homemade cassoulet.  Or homemade lasagna, the sauce & noodles made from scratch…  OH HOLY MOLY!  It’s work, but that good feeling you get from an awesome meal… you just can’t get that in a restaurant.  You *can* get it from mom or a relative’s great soul food cooking.  But mom’s not around every day.  To teach yourself to do it yourself?  Oh, that’s even better than any treat you can buy.  To turn these raw ingredients into something sublime without too much complication.  That’s honestly, priceless, and that’s no exaggeration.

  32. There have been NUMEROUS mainstream reports regarding the ish in tap water. NO THANKS!!!!

  33. I have a slight qualm with #7, being an espresso drinker. I’ve been a coffee drinker all my adult life and through the years I’ve tried all different types of brewing and by golly I’ve settled on espresso and I love it. That said, it will vastly simplify your life if you pick one coffee and stick to it. Maybe it’s worth keeping a drip pot in case you have to entertain, but for day-to-day drinking, if you prefer espresso, by golly that’s all you need.

    Also, I can do you one better for #5. I live within walking distance of my job, so not only do I prepare my own lunches, but I walk home to do it! It depends on long lunch breaks but it’s worth it if you have the time and live close.

    1. I like the fact that you walk home and MAKE LUNCH on the spot, probably without a menu or meal plan in advance… just go home, do it, eat, come back.  That’s awesome.  A guy can dream…

  34. Sorry, but soda is delicious. Substitute with water? I think not. If you can find a way for tap water to taste like the sublime nectar that is ginger ale, Cherry Coke, root beer, Mr. Pibb or Jarritos, then I’m all ears. Until then, I’ll avoid the clear stuff that burns my throat when I drink it and absolutely destroys the flavor of meals, rather than bringing out the flavors.

  35. For the record, I love cooking and I am very good at it. It is because I love it I know how damn hard it can actually get; how things are not just about not wanting to invest the time and being too lazy to do it – quite often, a lot of things are simply not possible. 

    Edited for flagrant dash abuse.

    1. You do that, and I’ll see if I can find my old copy of this hilarious crockpot cookbook put together years ago by my mother’s church group – it’s called “What a Crock!” Yeah, they all had a pretty warped sense of humor!

  36. Learn to love hummus. If you have a little food processor you can make a full load of it in 5-10 minutes. You’ll realize really quickly how insane the mark-up is in stores.

  37. You can even shop frugally at Whole Foods, especially when you check out their private label  “365” brand items.  Best buy: a full case of their beef & liver cat food –  20% off the already low price of 59 cents/ can, and it’s the best cat food I’ve found for my crystal-prone feline fuzzball – all meat/ no fillers!

    Likewise their mussels at @2.99/lb – that’s around 2 dozen, and a few cups of fresh clam broth to add to your clam chowder from Trader Joe’s – yum!

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