As you've seen on some of our other blog posts, it's back to school time! Do you have favorite value tips that keep your food budget on track when heading back to school? Share them with other customers on The Whole Deal™. If your tip is chosen to feature here on Whole Story, you'll receive a $25 gift card! Without further ado, here are some excellent tips from grad student, Julie who knows how to stretch a dollar!
My husband and I are both full-time graduate students so we have to be really careful with our food budget. It would be really easy to fall into the trap of not eating quality food but we make the effort to make sure that doesn't happen. Our effort goes beyond checking fliers for multiple stores and taking advantage of the best deals on organic food that week. Here are a few things that save us a lot of money: 1) Eat meatless meals 5 times a week. People may find this boring but these are some of our most interesting meals. Some of our staples are chickpea curry, lentil curry, salads, stir fries with tofu, Thai peanut noodles with tofu and frozen vegetables, scrambled eggs with onions and zucchini, and vegetable stir fries with whole wheat pasta.
We save even more money by buying large quantities of dried legumes, preparing about two lbs worth at a time, and then freezing them in 16 oz containers (only one ounce bigger than the cans) so that they are easily accessible for our recipes. 2) We almost never eat out and we make many things from scratch. It does cost quite a bit to get all the ingredients to do this but it pays off big in the long run. Some of the items that save us a lot are our homemade salad dressings, homemade hummus, homemade marinades for meat and tofu, homemade pasta sauce and satay sauce, and homemade naan. I can't remember the last time I bought any of these items already made and they taste so much better when they are fresh. I also make large batches of healthy muffins (whole grain, sweetened with honey, etc), wrap them individually and place them in a freezer bag in the freezer. This is great for rushed mornings and so much cheaper than having to buy something on the run. The other thing that saves us a lot of money is using oats instead of cold cereal. If you aren't in the mood for a warm breakfast, no problem. Take equal parts of your favorite yogurt and rolled oats, mix them together and let them sit overnight in the fridge. Then, in the morning, add fruit, honey for plain yogurt, and nuts. I will make big batches of this in the summer to eat over the course of five or six days. 3) We pack our own lunches to bring to school with us. I make big batches of soups, chili, stews, etc. Then I put them in individual-sized leak-proof containers and store them in the freezer. I will also make a batch of quinoa and vegetable salad to last a week so that I can switch things up. Or, my most common lunch is organic almond or peanut butter (the freshly ground ones from Whole Foods are so good!) with organic blackberry jam, on whole wheat bread. We also save money by not buying packaged snacks. I buy things in bigger containers (plain yogurt, trail mixes, etc) and then take the time to make them into transportable individually-sized portions. 4) Buy meat in bulk. This is by far the cheapest way to get meat. I get home and divide the meat into two-person portions by placing them in freezer bags and throwing them in the freezer. Similarly, buy blocks of cheese and slice it or shred it yourself. The per unit price is substantially lower. 5) Only eat produce that is in season and be careful not to buy more than you can eat. Admittedly, it takes more work to eat well on a budget but it is well worth it in the end. If you stick to it, you will eventually develop some amazing culinary skills in the process.