For the past 10 weeks I’ve cooked all my meals, and even though the motivation behind it was more fitness driven, I’ve seen just as big of an impact on money and time saved in the kitchen.
It’s more expensive to eat out than to cook at home, but if you don’t do the math it’s easy to ignore just how much more expensive it is. Between breakfast, lunch and dinner, I could spend around $35/day when I bought all my meals. Now that I cook my own food, it’s probably closer to $17/day, and that now includes two snacks as well.
When you cook for a whole week you can save money by buying in bulk. Plan what you want to cook and try to base it around two or three protein sources since those tend to be the most expensive items on a shopping list. I usually use chicken for my lunch dishes and beef for dinner. I try to mix in fish once or twice per week as well. Vary what you have as side dishes and it won’t feel like you’re eating the same thing all week.
Another pleasant surprise I discovered was the amount of time I saved from not having to cook every night. If you have a big enough grill you can cook all the meat at the same time and have it all done in 30 minutes or less, depending on what you’re cooking. Steaks and other red meat only need to be seared on both sides and they’re done—you’ll be heating them up in the microwave before eating, so they don’t need to cook all the way through on the grill.
While the grill is going, you can use your oven to cook some sides. Roasted sweet potatoes with a little cinnamon sprinkled on top are always a tasty, healthy option. Trader Joe’s also has a lot of good frozen options that require no prep work. Their vegetarian rice biryani is cheap and delicious and can go straight into your food container with the rest of the meal.
If you have a plan of attack and a menu that isn’t overly complicated, you could cook meals for a week in less than two hours. I don’t pre-cook my breakfast food since that usually consists of scrambled eggs and sausages, which don’t take very long to make. Everything else is packaged and stored in the fridge, and whenever I’m ready to eat, my meal is only three minutes away.