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How Cooking At Home Can Save You Real Dough

Author: Andrew Williams

The following scene is common for many people after they've come home from work. They've had a stressful day, the whole family is hungry, and while the clock notes that dinnertime is fast approaching, they have no idea what to make or serve. Getting some fast food is the easiest solution to this problem and it's a great re when you're really in a pinch. However, relying too much on the drive-thru window can mean that you wind up spending $300-$500 a month on eating out. This cost grows even higher if you're eating out for breakfast and lunch too.

Even if you were to choose from the budget or dollar menu every time you purchased fast food, it's still going to be less expensive to cook at home. There are many ways that cooking at home saves money. If done efficiently, it can save time and in the long term, it's great for your family's health.

Save on Your Overall Food Budget

When you start making the majority of your meals at home, you'll notice that your grocery bill is getting higher. However, don't let this discourage you. Any increase in costs due to making most meals at home will be more than matched by the money that you save by cutting out restaurant and junk food splurges.

Remember, just purchasing a cart full of groceries doesn't automatically transform you into a home cook. You need to develop the habit of home cooking rather than turning to easy fixes like fast food or delivery. To save even more, discipline yourself to eat leftovers and get creative with whatever you have on hand.

Stop Wasting Food

It's frustrating to look inside the refrigerator and see moldy and rotting food items. Making home cooking a frequent habit helps you waste much less food, preventing you from throwing money (in the form of wilted lettuce) into the garbage can. You need to stock your pantry with basic long-duration essentials, and work on getting a good balance between having enough food at home and not having too much food waste at the end of the week. (For more, read: How To Save Money At The Grocery Store.)

Save Time

Your time is valuable, no matter how much you make an hour. Many individuals avoid cooking at home because of the time commitment they believe is involved. Yet believe it or not, cooking a simple meal at home often takes less time than going through the drive-thru or sitting down at a restaurant.

The drive-thru lane only seems faster because all you might consider is getting there and being served quickly. However, it may take over 30 minutes once you factor in the time it takes to drive to there, the time that you wait and the time it takes to drive home. Sit-down restaurants are even worse, especially on a busy night or when you're dealing with incompetent servers and cooks.

Becoming an efficient cook at home can help reduce your kitchen time to less than 10 or 20 minutes a night. It helps to prep meals in advance or by having quickly preparable but still healthy options available at home. A meal consisting of a bag of frozen rice, frozen vegetables and pre-cooked chicken strips takes about five minutes to heat up and contains higher levels of nutrition than many fast-food offerings.

If you have a bit more free time on the weekends, you can prep for the upcoming week by making several freezer meals and slow-cooker meals. The extra time required to make three lasagnas or a bigger pot of chili are minimal, yet these simple acts can shave an hour off your cooking time during the week. If you're new to the kitchen or haven't cooked frequently, it's going to take longer to put together meals at first. But the more you do it, the more efficient you will become.

Future Health Is An Important Factor

Little thought goes into future health costs when planning a monthly grocery budget. Unhealthy food might save you money and time now, but it can do costly damage to your health. Do you really want to be paying for expensive diabetes medication or frequent doctor visits in 10 or 20 years? Our eating choices today directly affect our health and well-being in the future. If your current diet is mainly cheap processed foods, you may reap some serious health consequences later. No other area of your budgeting has as much potential importance. Downsizing your house or cutting your cable package can help generate savings, but eating more wisely could possibly add years to your life. (See also, 20 Ways To Save On Medical Bills.)

The Bottom Line

Cooking at home saves money and time but ultimately, its greatest benefit comes from achieving better health choices in the present and future. Not good at cooking? Don't let this excuse stand in the way of saving money and improving your family's eating options. With enough practice and help, anyone can become a good and efficient cook. (For more about family budgeting, read: How Families Can Survive With Just One Income.)

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