Confident home cooking
Ten Signs

Ten Signs You’re Wasting Money on Food

by Nick

There’s a huge amount of Internet material about how to save money on food costs. So I thought I’d take a bit different approach in this post and list some signs of wasted money on food.

After all, if you know where you’re wasting money, it becomes a whole lot easier to save money!

1) Your Freezer is Empty. Freezers are kitchen savings accounts. Food equals money right? Freezers let you put food (and therefore money) in a place to use it later. So, if you aren’t using your freezer to store soups, meats, and even some baked goods, then you’re probably throwing money away.

The freezer is like an emergency fund. For your stomach.

2) You Never Make Soups or Stocks. Using leftover veggies or even scraps to make a simple stock is one of the best ways to extract more use out of your food (why do you think restaurants do it?).

You can also use spare onions or spices to mix up a nice winter soup for very little cash. I made a double batch of this kidney bean soup last year. It cost me under $10 (I did have most of the spices I needed). The soup fed me and Betsy for 3 dinners and we froze half of it for later.

3) You Buy Things in Boxes. If everything you buy is square then you probably aren’t buying enough bulk ingredients and whole foods. That means that you’re paying other people to process the food for you. Even the box of pre-washed spinach has extra costs over the stuff you have to wash yourself.

There are probably exceptions to this one and some things only come in boxes, but it’s not a good sign if your grocery cart is like a game of Tetris.

4) You Cook Things Quickly. Think about things that cook quickly: Pre-made meals, seafoods, and expensive cuts of meat. Think about things that cook slowly: dried beans, cheaper cuts of meat like roasts, and even cheaper veggies like potatoes. Generally, things that take longer to cook cost less.

Of course, there’s a time and place for a quick meal. Just know that in a lot of cases you are trading time for money (which is maybe what you want to do). Also, turns out that those slow cooked dishes tend to be really delicious.

5) Your Credit Card Statement Looks Like a Yelp Search. There’s been some debate about the fact that eating out is more expensive than cooking, but I think it’s definitely true. Even if you’re eating crazy-cheap fast food, I believe there are hidden health costs which will surface later.

Meanwhile, if you stock your kitchen with reasonably inexpensive bulk ingredients, you can make a number of meals with a fairly low $/meal cost.

6) You Never Eat Beans. For their versatility and nutrition, beans are about as good as it gets. And they cost, well, beans. Even the canned varieties are very reasonable. If you get used to making a batch of beans once a week, it’s a great way to trim inches off your waist and put dollars in your pocket.

Some good bean recipes to get you started:
- Tostado Stacks
- Three Chile Quesadillas
- Spicy Black Bean Patties

7) Boneless Skinless Chicken Breasts are Your Standard. Honestly, I don’t get the appeal of this cut of meat. I find it completely flavorless. But I know it’s very popular. Because it takes a lot of time to process (and wastes a lot during processing), it’s one of the most expensive cuts you can buy.

Just buy the breasts with the bone in and skin on and you can cut down your weekly grocery budget.

8) You’re a Picky Eater. If you’re picky, it’s harder to buy seasonal food. It’s harder to buy the stuff on sale. Basically, it makes everything harder. This might be a difficult thing to change, but if you can learn to try new things you might be surprised with what you like. And you might be able to save some money in the process.

9) You Only Shop at One Store. Some stores mark up certain items and discount other items (loss leaders). But there’s not always rhyme or reason to what items stores discount. An example: Spices are one of the most expensive things you can buy in a normal supermarket, but if you go to a bulk store or some ethnic stores, you can get them for a fraction of the cost.

The point is, if you have the time, try to figure out what stores discount what items.

10) List? What List? I have a hard time with this one sometimes. As a food lover, I find myself wandering through aisles like a kid in a candy store. If I don’t start with a list, I spend $10-$15 extra dollars in the store without fail. I can’t be the only one.

Spend ten minutes before you hit the stores planning your menu for the week. I use a Google Calendar for this that way I can go back and look at previous menus.

I’m sure this list is just a start. What do you all think? What are some signs of wasting money on food?