Dining out is one of the fastest ways that a household can drain its cash supplies. Got an extra $100? Take just a couple friends out to one of the mid-priced restaurants, that will take care of it. A single person can easily spend $15 with the meal, appetizer, drink, and tip. You know how to avoid getting the drink when you eat out, but what happens when you’re really trying to save some money?
When I first started my personal saving money adventure, my goal was to spend no more than $5 per person, per meal. With the two of us, this meant that I had allocated $30 per day for food. This type of budget seemed unreasonably high, though there were times when we blew our food budget for that day. It’s easy to do it when going out/eating at convenience stores for each meal.
Since those times, we’ve pared the expectation down to $5 per person, per day (instead of per meal). We’ve chopped the budgeting for our food habit down to $10 instead of $30, and although we are not eating out as often, we are definitely saving money and making our money dreams come true. We have a secret weapon which pretty much allows us to meet this daily goal every single time.
Frugal Cooks Secret #1: Rice
Rice is one of the cheapest, easiest foods to make. It takes around 30 minutes for a nearly unlimited supply of cooked rice, and its versatility is astounding. Rice is cheaper than ramen per serving, which means that it’s a great resource for college students (who have access to limited cooking facilities) everywhere. The average meal of rice and something costs around $1.50 total for two people, too.
Basic rice recipe (for white rice):
- 1 cup rice
- 2 cups water
Boil the water. While it is boiling, put in the rice. Turn down to simmer and wait 20 minutes. Fluff it up to separate the grains. Serve. This recipe is scalable, too. Just put in double the amount of water for the amount of uncooked rice that you are making. It’s the same 20 minutes, regardless.
Best place to purchase rice:
Grocery stores are awful for rice. Even Aldi. The best deals for this wonderful grain can be found within ethnic stores and bulk stores. With a bit of searching, you can get the price down to around 50 cents per pound, and a pound of rice is technically 5 servings. We purchase ours at either the Indian store or at the Asian store, and there’s a variety in the types of rice that you can get.
Who wants to eat ramen? You can get 2 packages of ramen or a pound of rice for fifty cents. Most people eat two packages of ramen within a single sitting, though they might find it difficult to eat nearly 8 cups of cooked rice. Those ramen packages are filled with plenty of salt, while the rice itself does not come with that much sodium. Ramen should be a treat, not a necessity.
A pound of rice costs 50 cents.
A cup of cooked rice with a meal costs 10 cents.
For those who love rice, you’re still spending only 20 cents per meal.
There are 2.5 cups of rice per pound, translating into 5 servings.
Rice is Versatile
The meal opportunities for rice are nearly limitless. Rice goes with every food group – yes, even fruits and dairy. There are very few meals for which rice cannot be served, and even then that’s a personal choice rather than a testament to the functionality of this wonder grain.
Rice is the best, most easily accessible, cheapest, most versatile grain within any frugal cook’s arsenal. For those who are minimizing their costs, this makes the perfect complement to any meal without breaking the bank.