I revisited an old entry on our monthly household budget and I was ashamed when I saw how much we were regularly spending on eating out alone, an average of Php8,000! Ulp.
I'm happy to say though that we have since then slashed our restaurant budget in half and for the first time ever, we even managed to go under budget last month. For the past few months, we would go above our restaurant budget by a few hundreds or a thousand pesos or so, but last month, we actually had a few hundreds to spare, and we're also on the right track this month. Woohoo!
What really tilted the scales was our son's yaya who turned out to be a fantastic cook. Before, it was my husband who did all the cooking, and more often than not, after working the whole day, he would be too tired to cook lunch or dinner, so we would end up eating out or ordering in. Hence the astronomical eating out expenses. And take note too that this isn't even fine dining, just fastfood chains or our favorite hole in the wall restos. The tab would usually amount to Php400 - Php500 but multiply that by 3x-4x a week and you get quite a pretty penny.
So Sheila the Great turned out to be quite the prodigy in cooking and we promptly took advantage of her talent. We started planning weekly menus and although we didn't plan anything fancy, just the usual Pinoy fares like tinola, adobo, chopseuy etc, it was always such a treat to have a hot meal ready for me when I got home. Another benefit of getting Sheila to cook is that my husband is now inspired to cook more since it's no longer a daily chore for him. He prepared adobong bola-bola last week and it was out of this world! Next up is his chicken and potato salad. Yummeh.
I've also been cooking more and more. When I would crave for something different, I would search for the recipe or look through Panlasang Pinoy (the best Pinoy cooking blog IMHO) and try out the dish. I would usually get it right on the second try, but my first try is never so horrible that I can't eat what I whipped up. Apparently, I'm not as horrible a cook as I thought I was.
If I were to summarize how we were able to save money on food into a few points, it would be as follows:
1) Cook more, eat out less.
2) Plan a weekly menu
3) Be aware of what's in your fridge and plan a hodgepodge meal around it to prevent wastage (stirfry anyone?)
Another thing that I've been working on is looking for recipes to deal with our usual food excess, like bread. My usual attack on that was to create bread pudding, but I'm trying to cut out on sweets so I was inspired with a Jamie Oliver episode where he went to a person's house and taught her what to do with all the bread she was wasting. He had quick recipes for croutons, stuffing etc. But what really made my ears perk was his super simple recipe on bread and tomato soup. The recipe in his TV show was actually easier than the one in his website since it merely involved sauteeing garlic and onions, dumping in a can of tomatoes, letting that simmer and then throwing in torn up bits of the stale bread. Let that simmer for 10-15 minutes, season with S&P and you have a comforting soup. Ridiculously yummy and easy to do.
If someone had told me ten years ago that I would end up enjoying puttering around the kitchen, I would have said he/she was off his rocker. But apparently, cooking is not only a fun activity, it is also the easiest way to stretch a budget. Win all around!