The Frugal Foodie
Fun fact about me: I am a foodie. I love food. If I could I’d try, all the restaurants in the city. I would also learn to make all of the delicious things. One of my favorite things to do on the Internet is to browse food blogs. These days, you can find food blogs around pretty much any food theme you can think of. And many of us also live in places where we have access to ingredients to make recipes from almost anywhere around the world. It’s wonderful…..It’s also a little bit terrible. For me anyway. Let me explain.
I love to cook and I love to try new foods and recipes. I’m not the kind of home cook who has a go-to repertoire of staples and favorites that I rotate between. When I find a truly amazing recipe, I’ll return to it. But more often than not, I want to try something new. I keep a board on Pinterest called Yummies to Try where I’m continually adding recipes that I want to try out. I limit myself to only adding things I’m likely to actually make, but this board could easily get out of control if I let it. I want to try everything. If I weren’t blogging about developing a better relationship with money, I’d probably be blogging about food. It’s definitely in the “someday” bucket list. It’s not happening today or tomorrow or anytime soon, however, because time.
Cooking Takes Time (And I Love Cheese)
This won’t surprise any of you who plan meals for yourself and your families: cooking is really time consuming. And I’m not just referring to the actual time you spend in the kitchen. There’s also the time you spend at the grocery store. And getting to and from the grocery store. Many of us also put a significant amount of time into preparing our grocery lists. For me, food blog aficionado, I sometimes spend a lot of time searching my favorite blogs for possible recipes, opening up 22 browser tabs of things I’d like to make, and then agonizing about which ones I will actually get to that week. Some of us have already put hours into cooking-related tasks before we ever step into the kitchen.
During grad school, I lived just a short walk from an amazing grocery store. It was close, it was convenient, their produce was always fresh, and they had a remarkable selection of cheeses. Midwest girl here. Cheese is important! Dennis and I also had a short bus commute to and from campus, so we spent very little time commuting.
Traffic Stole My Suppers
The structure of our days changed significantly when we moved to California last year. I went from a short commute where I could read on the bus to an exasperatingly long California city commute and no good options for public transportation. We spend 2-3 hours of our days getting to and from work. Of course it’s not ideal, but it’s life right now. I’m sure some of you can relate.
We soon found that by the time we finally got home in the evenings, we didn’t want to get groceries. We were sick of driving, and going to the store just meant more time in the car. It didn’t take me too many weeks to realize the overall drain on my happiness was pretty high. I missed cooking awesome weeknight dinners, but it just wasn’t working for us here in California. On top of that, the temptation to get takeout in any given night was high. It would be far too easy to default to ordering in more often than our budget would (reasonably) allow.
Previously, I’d been aware of meal subscription boxes where a company would send you the ingredients for meals to prepare for the week. I’d always been dismissive of the idea though. Dennis had brought it up once or twice and I’d responded, “Why would I pay so much for something like that?” Since then, however, our lives had shifted. We were making more money since we weren’t grad students anymore, but our time was much more limited.
The Gift of Time (For $60 a Week)
I signed up for a meal subscription service exactly a year ago. And let me tell you, the value that it adds to my life has been more than worth the cost. On our current plan, we get three meals a week for $60. Since we get enough food for 2 (and sometimes have leftovers) that’s $10 per meal per person. Could I cook other meals at home for less? Absolutely. But cost isn’t the only important factor here.
What the weekly meal subscription provides me with is time. I no longer need to spend as much time searching online for recipes to try. I no longer have to drive out of my way to wait in line at the store if I need one or two ingredients for the night’s meal. I got to keep an activity I really value, cooking exciting meals on weeknights, in a way that is sustainable with my current lifestyle.
Each week, I get all the ingredients I need to make three delicious meals. The ingredients are typically high-quality, seasonal, and fresh. The meals almost always turn out delicious. And because they design the service so that it doesn’t repeat meals, I routinely get to try things I haven’t made before, or work with ingredients that I haven’t used much before. I absolutely love the variety, and it’s kind of fun to outsource the meal selection to someone else. I still make what I want on weekends.
No Guilt, No Regrets, Just Deliciousness
Now I’m generally an advocate for frugality. I am the Frugal PhD, after all. When we decide to order a pizza, I often suggest the place with the better deals rather than the one with the best crust. And when I can find a way to cut a few dollars off the weekly grocery bill, I’ll do it. But reflecting back on the past year, I have absolutely no regrets about signing up for a meal subscription service. I will absolutely continue with it, at least while we’re living in California and have a long commute. New exciting life things are probably on the horizon for us in the next year or two, but for now, I’m a superfan of the food subscription box. And I do not feel bad about it.