I’ve been going down the Personal capital rabbit hole and found out that my biggest expense is Rent. Since my wife says we can’t fit 5 people, two dogs, two cats and a frog into a tiny house in Southern California, we’re stuck with the 4-bedroom house we are living in. Besides rent, food is our next biggest expense. If I am going to attack my debt, this is where I need to aim my financial fists. My goal is to not eat any restaurants. Last month we spent the equivalent of thirty-two dozen pink boxes of donuts on restaurants. Doughnuts look like zeros and no one wants to see what doughnuts do to their waistline or bank statements. It’s easy to take a vow and say I’ll never buy fast food again just like it’s easy to say you will give up drinking while hugging a toilet. In practice, it takes a lot more work. The first step is I took was to recognize why I spent so much money on food. I decided that there are basically 3 problems that I need to fix if I am going to avoid spending this much in the future.
Cooking Takes Too Much Time
Time is the most valuable resource. Of course, cooking at home will probably give you more time in the long run versus stuffing your face with fat, salt, and cholesterol from your favorite burger joint. We all saw how the guy from Supersize me damaged his liver by eating McDonald’s three times a day, so why do we still do it? You night say, I am really in the mood for a big juicy bazinga burger with a delicious side of the other cancer sticks, French fries.
Yumbo! The thing is, there’s nothing stopping you from making this crappy food at home either, except for time. Cooking takes time. It involves cutting, slicing, dicing, seasoning and thermal dynamics. You have to turn on the oven, or fire up the stove…I can’t take the heat so I’ll get out of the kitchen. Worse yet, doing all those dishes is a huge pain in the ass. Besides… who has time to cook after a hard day at work? The kids argue over homework,, need to get kicked at karate, and get to bed on time. You won’t have time to relax and watch the Real Housewives of WTF?
Luckily, my wife found a solution to this. She found a cookbook on Pinterest for $30.00 that gives you specific meal plans, shopping lists, and a way to print labels with instructions. Most of them are
cooked in the ultra-efficient, simple to clean crockpot. Some of them are in foil baking sheets, and skillets, but most of them can be stored in a freezer for up to three months using generic freezer bags. We already have a freezer in the garage. It set us back five hundred bucks a the Sears Outlet, but that’s almost what we spent in fast food last month. So now, in about 12 hours (including shopping time) we have enough meals to last us to the end of the school year prepped ready to be defrosted and placed into the crockpot.
My goal is to not have any fast food for the next two months, hopefully longer. Last summer, I started reading the 4-hour chef, by Tim Ferris. I learned a lot of interesting ways to cook and how to memorize 50 numbers of Pi before I finally decided that was a huge waste of time. TF gives some simple cooking advice. Prep and Pickup. Cooking does not have to be so time consuming if you look at prepping and picking up as two different tasks.
Why It’s More Efficient
Imagine if we just cooked every night. I would wash a million dishes every night I cooked. Every time you set up your kitchen to cook, you need to get out the cutting board, gather your ingredients, dirty a 3/cup, throw away your trash–all of this stuff over and over again. Since we prepped our food for the next two months, we only had to do the prepping once. It took us 12 hours over two days, but That’s a better deal then 2 hours five times a week for eight weeks (80 hours) This is not including shopping time either. You also waste more time by taking more rips to the store. We did all of this in about an hour and a half. It’s better than fast food. It’s home-cooked, already prepared, easy to put in the crockpot food.
In the 4-hour Workweek, TF calls this batching. For example, you can save time by batching your emails and only answer them once or twice a day, thereby limiting the amount of time you spend on emails. You can also batch things like shipping your items once a week if you have a business, et cetera, et cetera. In this case, we bathed our meal prepping and spent a fraction of the time we would have spent cooking. In the book, Ferris talks about someone who outsources this meal prepping, He hired someone on Craigslist to prep Indian meals for five dollars a meal plus the cost of food. I think this is a great idea, but I am trying to pay off debt and I enjoy cooking anyway, So I couldn’t see doing that. We still get the same result. My wife and I have outsourced our future meals to our past selves. This is a much better date night than going to some fancy restaurant!
I’m Not Home
Another issue I have is I go out to run some errands at ten o clock, and by 12 o clock, I’m hangry and I just want to pour calories down my throat. I make a run for the border and buy beans in a bowl. Normally, beans are the cheapest food you can eat unless they are made by a pimple faced teenager. Then you just threw thirty dollars down the drain. To combat this, I have done to things. First, if I am going to run errands an expect to be hungry before I am done, I pack myself a lunch. Usually this is a sandwich. I also pack an apple and some string cheese, but it just depends on what I have at the time. I then keep it in my insulated lunch pail with a cold pack. Problem solved. There’s no need to go to get the fast food anymore.
The other problem I have when away from home is that I sometimes, more often than n I would like to admit, forget my lunch on the kitchen counter because I am running late for work. To fix this, I now keep a couple cans of Progresso lentil soup. It’s pretty good and it contains 18 grams of powerful protein. I also keep a plastic bowl and spoon with it. That way, when I forget my lunch I can just go to my car and open the can (it does not require a can opener) and place the lintel filled plastic bowl in the microwave. It holds me over until I get home. If I had a job that made me go to the same place everyday, I would just keep some soup there, but I work at various places and don’t really have a place to put my stuff other than the back of my car.
It’s a Special Occasion
This one is a bit harder for me. I have a birthday in my family coming up this month and I know we are going to have to go out to eat. I refuse to be a deadbeat We are getting separate checks and I will order a small appetizer, hopefully during happy hour. I’ll fill up on cottage cheese or Greek yogurt before I go out. Before I met my wife I listened to Tom Leykis suggest eating before you go on a date and then just order a side salad and tell the woman you’re watching your weight. The idea is that she will not want to order a big-ass meal when you only order a salad. Now a salad will set you back almost twenty bucks and it will contain enough calories to sustain a small donkey for a week. Appetizers are still reasonable, especially during the half-off happy hours. I’ve thought about bringing a flask with me to, but I’d rather just wait and have a beer when I get to my In Law’s house.
Thanks for reading. What are some of the ways you save money on food? I’m open to any other money saving ideas. In the next post, I will put together some of my favorite quick, cheap and easy meals. Peace, Love and satoshis.
I ♥ ฿⚡tips!