Are you dreaming of preparing gourmet meals, but with COVID-19 money is even tighter than it was before? With rent, utilities and other rental living expenses food is always something that seems to be adjusted, usually downward, in your monthly budget.
During normal times rental living can be financially stressful, but given the world's current climate it's especially stressful. While we're all on some kind of a budget, some planning and a few tips cooking can still be fun. There is also an abundant about of time to find and test out some tasty recipes!
You don't have to give up much, if anything, to have a great time while cooking, even on a budget. Following are a few tried and true tips for cooking budget meals.
- Plan Meals Ahead
Enlist the help of the other people you live with to design and write out a menu for a week, or even a few days, in advance. Make it easy on yourself by designating certain days for certain meals. For example, “Taco Tuesdays” or “Pasta Thursdays.” Take it a step further and make a list of the ingredients you’ll need for each meal to have on hand when you go shopping. Then display your menu in a prominent place for everyone in the household to see.
- Make Your Meals From Scratch
This may sound counterintuitive, but buying fresh, quality ingredients can actually be less expensive than pre-packaged meals and healthier too. Usually time is of the essence in Chico or Redding rental living - but with being stuck inside, you have all the time in the world to find the best recipes and get good at making them! If you don't love the idea of cooking, then take an afternoon to prep your food for the week. Chop up the fresh veggies so they are ready to go for stir fry or as healthy pizza toppings. Make it a fun time by enlisting your family or roommates in helping, after all they'll be eating the food too! Fresh food and knowing exactly what goes in your meals will make you feel that much better when you sit down to eat, and you did it all at a cheaper price.
- Go On A Scavenger Hunt In Your Cupboards
When was the last time you cleaned out your kitchen cupboards? Do a quick inventory of your cupboards and refrigerator every couple of weeks and see what you can dig up. Often you’ll find tasty items you forgot you bought to use in your meals. Challenge yourself by preparing a meal with only what you have on hand in your home.
- Learn To Love Leftovers
Have leftovers? Don't waste food and money by tossing them into the trash. If you live in a rental home with roommates, you might each cook on your own. Refrigerate your leftovers and combine them together in some creative way for a meal later in the week [often referred to as a 'Everything But the Kitchen Sink' recipe]. You can even take it a step further and actually plan to have leftovers by cooking extra. Things like spaghetti sauce, casseroles, and meats freeze well and all you’ve have to do is take them out to thaw.
- Figure Out Your Frequent Purchase & Buy In Bulk
Durning this "shelter-in place" edict, going out is reserved for things like exercise and grabbing the essentials. This means that the normal trip to the grocery store each week may not be happening for you. Make a list of the items you tend to use on a regular basis and the next time you go to the store buy it in bulk. There are times where buying in bulk seems like a waste as you're not sure if you'll get through it all. But with being stuck inside you're more likely to go through it all, especially if they are items you eat all the time.
- Learn How To Be A Savvy Shopper
Stores use all kinds of gimmicks to get you to buy more items and spend more money. (It's no accident the Oreos are not far from the milk!) Pay attention to where the products are placed and how they are displayed. Learn how to spot the better buys, clip coupons, and only get what’s on your shopping list. Then give yourself a pat on the back for being a smart shopper!
- Shop Local When Possible
Instead of buying at big national and regional chains buy some of your items from the local Chico Certified Farmers Market or Shasta Grower's Association Certified Farmers Market. During times like these, farmers markets are essential public service just like your local grocery store and are taking all the needed precautions to keep you safe and healthy. A benefit of going to a farmers market is that along with getting your needed groceries, you'll also get to take a walk in the fresh air. Purchase quality, fresh food from your own neck of the woods and help to support local businesses.
- Buy cheaper cuts of meat and fish – You can save money by buying cheaper items but will also have fun cooking them because you'll have to find ways to liven them up a bit. Visit the local butcher - The Butcher Shop and Chico Locker & Sausage are great places to try - for the best kind of meat at the best price you can afford.
Chico and Redding rental living has its challenges, just like anywhere else, and making your food dollars last longer is definitely part of that challenge. With some planning you can make cooking on a budget fun. Then once all of this ends, you'll be able to invite your family and friends over to get a taste of your delicious culinary skills.
Do you live in a Hignell Rentals property and affected by COVID-19? Click here to learn how we can help you during this time!