Determining how to mindfully consume food is more challenging than you might think. When you've never looked at food as a budget item, how do you where to place your upper bound once you've eliminated (or reduced) delivery and eating out? Too low a number leaves you unsatisfied and hungry. Too high a number doesn't challenge you to really think about what you're putting on your plate and how it gets there.
If you're taking the HaveNotWant challenge for Lent, we're halfway through. Congratulations! Have you found it harder or easier than you thought?
Originally mindful consumption didn't cover food, as everyone needs to eat. After looking at our monthly food bills, mostly made up of delivery charges, I realized this was shortsighted and expanded my personal HaveNotWant challenge. And, discovered it's harder than it seems. I'm pretty sure everyone would agree that the convenience of delivery is a want not a need. But, is organic a want, not a need? Are desserts a want, not a need?
Most tips for saving money with food involve the obvious: eat less meat and use it all. They also include commonsense like planning ahead, but lack practical how to guidance. Even sample budget meal plans, like this one from Robin Bashinsky for feeding 4 people for $50, don't help. Why aren't they helpful? Because they don't share why they are making their decisions.
Most current budget advice seems to take each meal in isolation. That means you're less likely to use it all. Instead of leveraging components from one meal to make another, you're eating a reheated version of the original meal. Not very tantalizing to your taste buds. High likelihood your leftovers are ending up in the compost bin.
How do you stretch your budget dollars?
When it comes to thinking creatively with food and on a budget, cookbooks from the 1950s and the 1960s are a good starting point. Why? Because, they typically include plans for leftovers. Potluck Cookery is my favorite. It's not a traditional cookbook; rather it's a reference guide. Simply turn to the type of leftover you're trying to repurpose, find the ingredients you have in the house, and voila! You have one or more recipes you can make.
Over the next couple of months I'll be testing recipes from my cookbook collection and coming up with meal plans. We had our first meal, Creole Beef with Rice, last night; it needs a little work. I'll also be test driving Plan to Eat, a meal planning app, and I'll let you know how it goes. I'm going to be setting our monthly budget at $500, using the U.S.D.A.'s Cost of Food at Home statistics.
Bedside Reading is a monthly series, published the first week of each month (Monday for family-related picks, Tuesday for fashion, Wednesday for home, Thursday for food, and Friday for design), featuring books, magazines, or blogs that I enjoy.