I've mentioned this before, but food is one of our major recurring expenditures. Even being careful, we spend nearly as much money on fo...

Living on a Budget - Unpackaged

I've mentioned this before, but food is one of our major recurring expenditures. Even being careful, we spend nearly as much money on food as on rent. Still, we've cut down our food costs significantly in the past two years, which means more money goes into our savings accounts. Glorious.

Cutting out packaged foods has made a huge difference in our grocery bill. For example, we no longer buy crackers or cold cereal, opting instead for larger meals (not snack foods) and hot oatmeal. In fact, just the switch from cold to hot cereal has saved us a bundle.

The two of us eat a box of cold cereal every two days, plus the cold cereal required about a gallon of soy milk a week. Even with cheap cereal and milk, we were looking at $13/week for breakfast (not including bananas or other tasty toppings).
Now, we buy steel cut oatmeal (the most expensive kind of oats, and worth every extra penny). We go through 4-5# a week, with only a half gallon of milk, dropping us below $10/week. We use the extra money to buy walnuts, raisins and sunflower seeds, to make our breakfast more nutritious, delicious and filling, for the same cost.

Ok, maybe not the best example, but ultimately that breakfast provides us more calories, meaning we don't buy snack foods, meaning we save money.

I guess the lesson is that focusing our meals around large, filling, whole foods has helped us avoid more processed and packaged foods that used to fill the gaps between meals.

That being said, we do rely on some packaged foods because they are filling and inexpensive. For example, although our homemade vegan sausages are delicious, they are more expensive than buying Tofurky Italian sausages from Trader Joe's. When we throw in a load of potatoes and a bag of frozen veggies, we've got an inexpensive and well-rounded meal that is really quite filling.

Similarly, we buy some pre-made sauces, like soy sauce, peanut butter and sriracha. We simply don't have the time to make these things from scratch. We do combine these pre-made sauces into other tasty concoctions, like homemade peanut sauce for our stirfries. We also make all of our own salad dressings.

As an added bonus, less packaging means less waste!

Our top five packaged foods:
1. Peanut butter!
2. Soy milk
3. Bread (although I'm keeping an eye out for a bread machine on freecycle)
4. Tofu & Tempeh
5. Raisins

What do you buy in packages? Do you make your own sauces or buy pre-made?

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