Thanksgiving is over. While some of us have jumped the gun and started decorating for Christmas, Black Friday acts as the starting gun for the full-fledged marathon. We now have permission to hum “All I Want for Christmas” and other spiritual carols, erect plastic snowmen in our yards, and go shopping!
In general, I do not like to shop, especially for myself. I consider it a chore, not a recreational activity. But with our family’s birthday season in full swing and Christmas only a month away, I’ve been going outside my comfort zone—actually visiting stores and looking through catalogs. I have to admit, shopping for others can be pretty rewarding.
The current issue of “Real Simple” magazine contains the statement, “… members-only markets can be an indispensable source for saving on essentials, such as steak, shrimp, and [washed and bagged] salad greens.”
OK, here’s mom’s advice: If you are trying at all to cut costs, steak, shrimp, and bagged salads are not essentials. They are special treats, maybe even reserved for occasions such as birthdays or anniversaries.
Buying groceries at Sam’s, Costco, or similar store can definitely save you money. But remember, just because something is cheaper doesn’t make it cheap. This brings us to the question: is a membership warehouse always cheaper?
So you would like to spend less on food. This is one of the easiest places to trim the budget, but it will require a little effort on your part.
The single best way to save money on food is to learn to cook!
It is usually much cheaper to purchase ingredients rather than prepared meals. The results are more nutritious and frequently lower in sodium, fat, and calories. With a little bit of practice, your meals will taste a lot better than the packaged, frozen “convenience foods” available at the market. Cooking doesn’t have to use a lot of time or expensive ingredients. Plus, it just feels satisfying to serve a meal you made yourself.
Learning to cook isn’t hard. A recent Amazon search turned up 93,928 cookbooks, while a Google search turned up 98,400,000 hits for “recipe.” Most functional adults are able to follow at least simple directions for preparing a dish.
I never learned to cook when I was growing up, so I had to figure things out on my own. Since I was a college student at the time, it seemed totally logical to pick up a textbook and start reading. At the time, the most popular comprehensive cookbook was The Joy of Cooking, so that is what I read. It provided a solid foundation that still serves me today. The fun started when I got to the point where I could wing it, inventing my own recipes as I went along.