Category Archives: Frugal Foodie

Frugal Foodie: Eating Well on a Budget

Learn the frugal foodie tactics and strategies on how to slash your food bills while eating well!

The Art of Being a Frugal Foodie

How much do you spend on food? 

If you’re like most families, chances are it’s a big part of your budget. 

The USDA puts together a monthly report that looks into average food expenses.

They break it down into thrifty, low-cost, moderate, and liberal spending plans based on how old your kids are. 

And the monthly costs for a family of four vary from $567 – $1296.

Like I mentioned last episode when you’re working as a family towards financial independence, you have to look for big wins. 

Mastering your food expenses is a big win, but….

If you think I’m going to tell you to skip eating out or only make these basic dishes, I’m not. 

Food is something I don’t like to skimp out on.

We want to eat better and enjoy our meals, whether it’s at home (which is most of the time) or when we’re out. 

So if you look at our budget, it’s a big category for us relative to other expenses.

But it doesn't blow our budget and we’re still able to save for other important goals.  

And looking over the past year, our spending is around the USDA’s thrifty and low-cost plan. 

The challenge – besides being smarter with money – is also finding ways to get meals up and ready in a relatively short time. 

After work it’s tempting to grab some food on the way home. 

So we need to have things set up so preparing a tasty meal is a snap. 

And when we do it out – because yes, we like to go out sometimes, we try to maximize the experience. 

So if you want to get a handle on your food bill and still have a good time, I think you’ll enjoy this episode. 

I’ve recruited some others to help. 

Besides having a masters in nutrition, author Shanah Bell is also a busy mom of five.

Finding meals are all of her kids enjoy can be tricky, but she has strategies that make meals less stressful, healthy, and fun. 

Patrick Livingston is also a foodie and loves trying new things that are off the beaten path.

He also has some creative ideas on how to make those nights out even more special while still sticking to your budget. 

We’re going to look at this from two sides:

  • How to make tasty, quick and affordable meals
  • How to enjoy a meal out so that’s it’s special and you’re not breaking the budget

Let’s get started!

Resources to Become a Frugal Foodie

If you're looking to eat better while sticking to your budget, here are some resources to check out:

Thank You to Our Sponsor Coastal!

Support for this podcast comes from Coastal Credit Union! If you’re living in the Raleigh Durham area and looking to bank better, come check out Coastal today.

If you're looking for a rewards card that fits you, Coastal has a Signature Premier Rewards Visa Credit Card with some great benefits!

Eating Well (and Prepping a Meal Quickly) at Home

Elle Martinez: I hope it’s not shocking news to tell you that eating more at home is both a wallet and waist saver.

One way you can set yourself up for some food wins is by making sure your kitchen is stocked with the essentials so you can whip something up fairly quickly.

Nope, you don’t need a ton of fancy tools or ingredients. Actually one of the best investments you can make is typically some of the cheapest items you can pick up at the store – spices and herbs.

Note: You want to save even more and have something fresh? You can also grow your own, either in a back yard garden or in container pots around the house!

Shanah Bell: Spices and herbs for us said the biggest thing that a lot of people don't think about that we use as staples are a diverse blend of spices.

We have a huge cabinet full of a lot of different herbs and spices because there was not a lot of nutritional value and do different things for your body and your overall health but they completely change what a dish can taste like.

So even if you're making some like rice and beans and rice and beans happen to be things that we keep on hand it can be done here one day to the next depending on what spices we put in there and what else we put in and it can be a completely different meal.

Elle Martinez: This may seem like a small tip but I can not overemphasize how important it is to have these essential ingredients in your pantry.

You can have a dish – Shannon mentioned rice and beans – but by changing the urban spices you can have several different dishes and mix it up every week.

Thinking Like a Chef

Another related idea and tip that you can use when you're shopping?

Think of items that you can use in several dishes.

I'll give you an example of three kinds of categories of food where it's the same thing on paper but when you're cooking it can be completely different each time. Pizzas tacos and stir fries

I'm just going to use Chipotles and as an example, we're going with tacos.

Yes, it's a simple dish but depending on the meats the vegetables even the seasonings that you use it's like a different meal each time.

So when you go grocery shopping don't get items that you can only use for one meal for the week actually go for items that you can use repeatedly.

If you have the herbs and spices to mix things up it will help. You not only save money because you're getting that discount buying in bulk but also reducing waste.

Elle Martinez: You can really make a lot of different things on your own with herbs and spices for example.

Support the Podcast!

Thank you so much for listening to the podcast! If you enjoyed this episode and found it helpful, here are some ways to support it.

  • Spread the word! If you enjoyed this episode and think it can help a buddy get on the path to dumping debt and become financially free, please share.
  • Leave a review. Honest feedback and reviews make a big difference and gets the word out about the podcast. Leave your review on Apple or Stitcher.
  • Grab a copy of Jumpstart Your Marriage and Your Money. My book is designed for a busy couple to set up their finances in 4 weeks. Get tips and tools that have worked for other couples on their journey of building their marriage and wealth together!

Music Credit

Like the music in this episode? Our theme song is by Gentle Regime. Additional music by Lee Rosevere.

this episode was originally released July 2019.

Frugal Foodie: How to Level Up with Homebrewing and Gardening

Just because we’re at home doesn’t mean we can’t still be frugal foodies.

Today, we’ll look at how you can jumpstart a garden and start making craft brews at home!

Frugal Foodie at Home

Frugal foodie is back! If you’re new to this series, it’s where we explore ways you can eat well without breaking the budget.

For some though, when you hear frugal. It means cheap. I get it. Maybe, you know, someone who brags about getting the absolute lowest price on everything. Whether it’s good or bad.

While you can save money being frugal, the real focus is getting the best value.

When it comes to food and really life, he don’t want to settle for less just because it’s the cheapest. You want to get the most out of what you have.

With this series, we look at ways that you can make your dollar go further. We’ve talked about getting great deals on food, whether it’s grocery hacks, meal planning, or even going out to eat.

Today, we’re going to look at another way you can enjoy fantastic meals and still keep things affordable.

We’re talking about gardening and home brewing.

What was interesting was how incredibly relaxing these hobbies, where especially last year.

Many of us had more time at home in the usual options weren’t always available.

Family trips, checking out the museums or festivals were all off the table. We had to find ways to keep ourselves busy and have some creative outlets.

For us that included making home brews and being out in the garden.

We had home brewed years ago, but when we had two toddlers at home, it became more of a hassle so we took a hiatus.

Thankfully, we still had the equipment in our basement so when we felt like starting that back up last year, it was fairly simple.

The other hobby gardening is something we’ve been working on year after year, especially with this house. We have our main space Outback, where we grow hot peppers, tomatoes, different green strawberries and more.

2020 was still… you know, 2020, but it was good to have a project to work on.

While I don’t think all of our hobbies have to be productive or optimized, I do feel like there are some great benefits with making and growing your own food.

If you’re really looking to make meals at home, more enjoyable and special, it’s hard to beat something that you grew or made yourself.

Today, we’re going to look at what it takes to get started so the two of you can level up and become frugal foodies.

In this episode, we’ll go over:

  • how you can set up an easy to maintain a garden in or outside your house
  • Explore the fun of home brewing craft beers
  • look at the numbers and see how they come out.

Are you ready? Let’s get started!

Resources to Become a Frugal Foodie

If you’d like to try out your handy with gardening or homebrewing, here are some handy resources to help you get started! 

Gardening

Home Brewing

Thank You to Our Sponsor Coastal Credit Union!

Support for this podcast comes from Coastal Credit Union. If you’re living in the Raleigh Durham area and looking to bank better, come check out Coastal today!

We’ve been members for years and love their service and competitive rates on checking and savings accounts!

What You Need to Know to Get Started with Gardening 

When you’re talking about being a foodie, you can’t ignore how much better dishes are when you have ingredients. 

Whether you enjoy meals at home or out, what makes a meal superb is what goes into it. Fresh ingredients, locally sourced are popular trends, but really what’s more fresh and local than what you grow at home?

Even if you focus on just growing herbs, you can elevate your dishes. 

So why don’t more of us garden? 

I think many of us, which a few years ago including myself, feel like it's complicated or you have to have some sort of natural ability. 

Gardening doesn’t have to be complicated. 

Once you understand the basics It's a lot easier to build a garden that fits you and your space

But there are several great reasons why you should try it out. 

  1. Health and mood boosts. Gardening outside can give you some exercise as you tend to your spot and it can help with reducing stress
  2. Encourages healthier habits. 
  3. Gets your kids eating better too. Another bonus to having a garden? You may help your kids develop a habit of healthier eating. One study found that college students who had some garden experience growing up ate more fruits and vegetables in their diet

So if you want to get started, here’s how to make things much easier on you. 

Before you add anything to your garden space, you have to understand a few key things. 

For plants to grow, they need a certain amount of 

  • Sun, 
  • water, 
  • Soil

Depending on what you want to grow, they’ll have different requirements.

If you’ve had plants die on your before, chances are you weren’t able to meet one of those three key ingredients. 

So let’s look at how you can set yourself up for success and ways to keep your expenses in check.

How Much Should We Water Our Plants?

I’m going to start with one of the most common mistakes gardeners make – not correctly watering your plants. 

If you’re using containers with no drainage for your indoor garden, you’re at higher risk for overwatering. If you’re outdoors, you may not be watering enough. 

How can you figure out what’s enough for your vegetables, herbs, and fruits? Check the soil. Using either your finger or shovel gently push aside some soil to see how deep the water has gotten. 

Keep your outside garden adequately watered without having your bills through the roof  with  these strategies. 

  1. Focus on the roots. If you’re using a soaker hose or a drip irrigation system, place near the plants’ base. 
  2.  Water in the morning. Higher chance of getting soaked by the roots rather than evaporated and give time to dry, which helps prevent fungal diseases
  3. Use mulch. You can certainly pick some up at the story, but if you don’t mind waiting, you can get some free mulch by calling your local tree company and see about getting on their list. We’ve gotten two batches of mulch. Using the prices I saw online, we saved almost $1,000 between the two batches. 
  4. Reclaim rainwater. We have a rain barrel system that allows us to collect 50 gallons of water. Reusing that water not only saves money, but it’s also environmentally friendly. 

Solar Power Gardening

Second key ingredient for garden success is the proper amount of sun. 

Full SunSun/Shade 
Tomatoes, Okra, Melons,
Sweet potatoes, Hot Peppers, Green Beans, Cucumbers, Zucchini, Pumpkins
Basil, Lavender, Stevia
Spinach, Chard, Leaf Lettuce, Peas, Radishes, Kale, Arugula,
Green Onion, Bush Beans
Cilantro, Parsley, Lemon Balm

Soil: It’s Not Just Dirt

One thing you quickly find out when it comes to growing your garden is how much soil matters. 

Soil is much more than dirt. In general, all soil is a mix of silt, sand, and clay. When you hear people talking about their soil being clay, sand, and silt, they’re giving you information about the soil texture and the particles.

We have lots of sandy dirt toward the far side. When it rains the water washes parts of it away, exposing rocks and stones. Basically, it’s like a rocky beach.

Closer to the house we’re practically at the opposite end – hard clay. Some areas have moss while others are bare spots.

Not sure what you have? Start with your hands and eyes. Get some of the soil and see how it feels. You can do a few do it yourself tests to get an idea of what you’re dealing with.

You can also do a soil test with a home kit.  You can purchase one at your local hardware or garden store. They can give you a ballpark figure about the macro-nutrients Nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P) and potassium (K).

If you want a more detailed analysis, you get your soil tested by your state’s cooperative extension. If you have to pay, it’s usually a small amount (in North Carolina it’s $4 during their busy season which is between December 1 and March 31).

When a clear idea of what your soil lacks or has an overabundance of, you can amend it to address those needs. 

Using Compost to Feed Your Garden

Whether you have an outdoor space or your garden is strictly inside, you can improve it by composting. 

Composting is pretty straightforward for us. We have a pail underneath the kitchen sink where we put our kitchen scraps and any veggies or fruits that have gone bad.

Every day or so we head outside to add our scraps to our compost piles in the backyard. We use a geobin and a tumblr  tucked away behind some trees. 

They each hold about 200 gallons (around 12 lbs per gallon) so if we had to buy the equivalent amount of compost from the store, we’d have to pay $720 (basing on a 40lb bag being $24) to cover one bin.

Once it’s broken down you can then use that in your garden. So yeah, doing so good for the earth also means we get to save quite a bit of money!

Easy Plants to Grow in Your Food Garden

Now that you understand the essentials that you need, and your own space, it’s time for the fun part – choosing what to grow., 

I wasn’t joking about being bad with gardening. I used to be a person who kept a cactus because it was the only plant I felt I could keep alive.

Fast forward a few years and now I’m hunting through seed catalog picking out what we’re going to grow. It didn’t happen overnight, but it wasn’t as hard as I had thought.

A big part of what helped me was building confidence and practicing gardening skills with easy to grow plants.

Easy Herbs, Vegetables, and Fruits to Include in your Garden

Here are some of my favorite easy to grow plants: 

  • Rosemary
  • Mint
  • Thyme
  • Oregano
  • Basil
  • Carrots*
  • Sweet Potatoes*
  • Green Beans
  • Spinach
  • Peppers
  • Cherry Tomatoes
  • Onions

Should We Use Seeds or Seedlings?

If this is your first garden, I say grab both.

You can grab seeds for root vegetables. Tomatoes can be less stressful starting with seedlings while growing your herbs from seeds isn’t much of a big deal.

You also want to consider your budget. Seedlings are usually pricier, so you may want to pick and choose carefully.

Grow Your Garden

Hopefully you can see that it can be whether it’s indoors or outdoors, having a garden can be a fantastic hobby that doesn’t have to break your budget

With fresh ingredients you can prepare an exquisite yet affordable meal, the definition of being a frugal foodie!

Homebrewing: What You Need to Know to Get Started

Like many people who have had thoughts of making their own beer, the initial motivation for us was fueled by local brewery tours. 

Raleigh has some fantastic spots and we enjoyed hanging out on a weekend trying a new place. 

It was funny because at one point during the tour, the guide would usually mention how it got started with homebrewing. 

That intrigued us. 

After checking online with some sites and speaking with friends, we decided to give it a try.

The good news is that beer really just needs 4 main ingredients – water, grain, hops, and yeast. 

While we thought you’d need a ton of equipment to get started, that’s not the case. Of course, if you’re super into this and want to do huge batches, your equipment list may be a lot, but for most, it’s fairly affordable. 

Getting a Homebrewing Starter Kit

We grabbed a kit for a one gallon brew from Brooklyn Brewshop

The one gallon set up is a great option for those that don’t know if they’d like to homebrew on a regular basis, having a small kit can let you test the waters. It’s also handy if space is limited at your home. 

Having enjoyed that we then decided to get into making 5 gallon batches. We decided to look around and price shop for beginner’s kits.

Since we don't always agree on drinking the same beer, we wanted a set up that would allow us to brew two batches at a time.

The time added would be minimal and looking at costs, it basically came down to grabbing an extra bucket. 

Thankfully there’s a local brew supply shop right here in Raleigh, American Brewmaster.   

Using Recipe Kits to Explore the World of Beer Together

I’m proud of the different styles we’ve tried out so far. We each have our personal favorites and we have a few enjoy together like red ales, 

While we have created our own recipes, specifically when we were looking at meads and gluten free beers with our friends, we mainly use kits. 

If you’re  starting off with homebrewing, using a recipe kit makes the learning process a lot easier.

Recipe kits are prepackaged with pretty much all the ingredients you need to make a batch of beer, including malt (perhaps in extract form), hops, and yeast.

The correct amounts are included so you can simply follow the recipe included and be set.

We use a great local brew shop in the area, American Brewmaster, to grab most of our supplies and I’ve used Brooklyn Brew shop for my one gallon batches.

Are You Actually Saving Money Making Homebrews?

Recipe KitCostBottles Brewed (12oz)Cost Per Bottle/6pk
Honey IPA$159$1.67/$10.02
Dry Stout$34.5050$0.69/$4.14
American Amber Ale$33.5050$0.67/$4.02
Chocolate Maple Porter$1510$1.50/$9.00

I think you see two things right here:

  • The 5 gallon brews are very cost effective, with the prices being much better than what we find at the stores.
  • Using the recipe kits from Brooklyn Brew Shop is not the way to save money.

For around $40, you get the equipment you need and usually a recipe kit mix. 

While I believe that you can save money by brewing your own beer, I don’t think you should have it as a hobby if that’s your sole reason for doing it.

It does take time to brew and bottle your beer, which some people may find annoying. However it’s been a fun activity for us to share in as a couple and with friends.

Frugal Foodie: Can You Really Save Money?

Let’s run the numbers. 

The best part is not that you’re saving money, but you’re enjoying a hobby that enriches your life and makes meals at home more fun. 

Key Takeaways

Before we wrap I want to share some key takeaways from preparing this episode. 

  • Start small. Indoor herb garden or a small lot outside can be fun without a lot of hassle. 
  • Not all hobbies have to be money makers or savers. While you can save money, it doesn’t have to be your main reason. 
  • Community makes it better. While we are home more, these hobbies are a fantastic way to connect with others. 

There’s so much we can chat about with gardening or homebrewing, so if you’re into either or you want to get started, come join in our Facebook group  Thriving Families. 

We’re there to support one another with our family and financial goals. I’d love to share any tips I can and I know there are others too. 

We hope to see you there!

Support the Podcast!

Thank you so much for listening to the podcast! If you enjoyed this episode and found it helpful, here are some ways to support it.

  • Spread the word! If you enjoyed this episode and think it can help a buddy get on the path to dumping debt and become financially free, please share.
  • Leave a review. Honest feedback and reviews make a big difference and gets the word out about the podcast. Leave your rating and review on Apple Podcasts.
  • Grab a copy of Jumpstart Your Marriage and Your Money. My book is designed for a busy couple to set up their finances in 4 weeks. Get tips and tools that have worked for other couples on their journey of building their marriage and wealth together!

Music Credit

Our theme song is from Staircases. Additional music by various artists from Audiio.

Frugal Foodie: Enjoy Great Food & Save Money

Food is usually one of the biggest expenses families have. We dive right back in with ways you can save a significant amount of money while still being a foodie!

Becoming a Frugal Foodie

Frugal foodie is back!

During our first season last year, I did an episode eating well on a budget and becoming a frugal foodie

It was one of the most popular episodes by far. I had a lot of fun doing it because we not only looking at ways to save on food – which can be a huge expense but how to do it in such a way that you’re still enjoying fantastic meals. 

Simply going for the cheapest foods is not a smart option. For one thing, there’s a lot of highly processed food options out there that are cheaper, but not good for you.

Your health can take a dive which can affect your quality of life and really the since the podcast is called Simplify and Enjoy, you can’t take advantage of the second part if you’re unhealthy. 

And if you consider yourself a foodie, you probably want your meals to be not just healthy, but tasty and full of flavor. 

Now based on the last show, I saw that I missed a critical step for many on their path to becoming a frugal foodie. 

It’s that actual transition from regularly enjoying a meal out with friends to becoming someone who can invite buddies over for meals. 

What if you love food, but hate to cook? What if your idea of meal prep is ordering in? 

So in this episode, we’re going to get into:

  • essential kitchen items you need to whip up a fantastic meal with 20 minutes or less of work
  • whether grocery delivery services and meal planning services can save you money and quickly level up your cooking 
  • My favorite resources for quick and easy recipes

Let’s get started!

Resources to Become a Frugal Foodie

If you’re looking to eat better while sticking to your budget, here are some resources to check out:

Thank You to Our Sponsor Coastal!

Support for this podcast comes from Coastal Credit Union! If you’re living in the Raleigh Durham area and looking to bank better, come check out Coastal today.

If you’re looking for a rewards card that fits you, Coastal has a Signature Premier Rewards Visa Credit Card with some great benefits!

Support the Podcast!

Thank you so much for listening to the podcast! If you enjoyed this episode and found it helpful, here are some ways to support it.

  • Spread the word! If you enjoyed this episode and think it can help a buddy get on the path to dumping debt and become financially free, please share.
  • Leave a review. Honest feedback and reviews make a big difference and gets the word out about the podcast. Leave your review on Apple or Stitcher.
  • Grab a copy of Jumpstart Your Marriage and Your Money. My book is designed for a busy couple to set up their finances in 4 weeks. Get tips and tools that have worked for other couples on their journey of building their marriage and wealth together!

Music Credit

Like the music in this episode? Our theme song is by Gentle Regime. Additional music by Lee Rosevere.

5 Keys to Being a Frugal Foodie

Love to eat well and taste new dishes? Here are five essential tips on becoming a frugal foodie!

For most people, food is a major monthly expense. Some days are just so hectic, it seems easier to grab something on the way home or go out for dinner.

Even if you decide to make something at home, you're sometimes exhausted and stress so frozen boxed meals or having pizza delivered seems like an easy solution.

Becoming a Frugal Foodie

The good news is that you can enjoy fantastic meals in less time than it takes to eat out.

If you're ready to eat well without having to become a chef or spend your whole paycheck, here are five crucial keys you need to implement:

Know Your Priorities

Sounds simple, but you really need to think about how you define a fantastic meal.

Some people are looking for a fancy five-course meal every night. If that's you, fine. Others might want something that's delicious, healthy, and easy to make. This challenge is the latter.

Have a Budget

You'll more than likely save some serious cash with this Frugal Foodie Challenge, but you still have to spend money.

With a budget, you'll have an easier time deciding where to splurge and where to save.

I'll share ways you can save on key ingredients and staples so you can spend a little extra on a few of your favorite things.

Eating well and having fun can go together.

Master Fundamental Dishes & Flavors

No, I'm not saying you have fill your home with a ton of cookbooks or slave away in the kitchen for hours.

Instead, I want you to just pick four basic dishes, learn how to make it and 20 minutes, and see how a few variations of spices and flavors can make it entirely new.

I'll also share four easy sides you can throw in and use while your main dish is cooking. Again, I want the whole meal ready in about 20 minutes.

This will be a huge help for those nights when you're just exhausted and don't have the energy to make a big meal.

Meal Plan Like a Champ

Meal planning, as the name suggests, is about having a menu prepared for future meals. That’s it.

It’s so versatile – you two can adjust based on your budget, dietary needs, schedule, and personality.Some people can whip it up a month ahead (you're awesome!), but for us, we're looking in bite size, weekly chunks.

Again, I know time is valuable, so I'll show you how to do it in about 20 minutes.

Meal planning is crucial because you can save a tremendous amount of money and time by having a game plan. Less temptation to spend more and you're more likely to stick with your healthy eating habits.

Embrace the Fun

As you gain more confidence, you'll start seeing how you can adjust and make meals more enjoyable for your taste. Maybe you'll be out and have a dish that you absolutely love, but don't want to have to eat out every time to get it. Go try it at home!

Thoughts on Becoming a Frugal Foodie

I'd love to hear from you. Have you always been a frugal foodie?