Convenience versus cost

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New though this blog is, you’ve probably noticed a theme: my approach to building a more budget approach to my food involves making a stuff at home. I’ve switched from buying bagels to making my own bread at home, I’m making yoghurt from scratch, I’m making granola, I’m rummaging through my leftovers to put together a meal, rather than reaching for the takeaway menu or a microwave meal.

Of course, there’s a cost included in all of these activities beyond the straight up dollars and cents I’m spending on raw ingredients. There’s the cost of production (electricity, water, heat, use of resources, etc). And then there’s time. Making bread requires that you’re around for a good couple of hours. Yoghurt takes more like 14-16 hours to process. This isn’t all active time of course, but there is an investment that I’m making here.

I’m lucky enough to work as a freelancer and I can organize my time to set some of these projects going and then wander back to my desk on the other side of the apartment while dough rises or yoghurt incubates. While I might be cash-strapped, I’m relatively time rich, and I know that isn’t a privilege that everyone (or even many people) share.

So what do you do if you’re working a 9-5 job + commute + family obligations + hobbies + social life + trying to get some sleep, once in a while? (Believe me, I’ve been there).

Here’s a few questions to ask yourself if you’re looking to balance convenience versus cost in the kitchen: 

  1. What do you actually enjoy doing? There may be some home cooking projects that you already know you enjoy and you’d like to get back to. Maybe you’ve always had a thing for meal planning. Maybe kneading dough is a great stress relief for you. Maybe the idea of batch cooking and freezing meals for future-you fills you with joy. Start with what feels easy and what feels good.
  2. Look for small wins. Although some home cooking is time consuming, lots really isn’t. Take a look at your daily eating habits and see if there’s anything you could easily make for yourself rather than buying at inflated store prices. (Making your own granola or granola bars is a great example of this – super easy to do, cheap, and way more delicious).
  3. How else can you economize your food budget? It’s unrealistic to expect yourself to give up on all convenience foods. But are there ways you can cut down on their costs without making everything from scratch? Maybe you always buy brand name soda – could you switch to the store label instead? Do you find yourself stopping at the super bougie grocery store just because you happen to be passing – what if you tried to buy in bulk, or go on a trip to a local market on the weekend? There are lots of ways to cut down on food costs, not all of them involving hours spent in the kitchen.

Convenience isn’t the enemy – but it can sometimes eating up more of our grocery budget than we at first realize. What are your top tips for balancing cost versus convenience?

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