|Flickr: ilovebutter. CC-BY-2.0|
1. Buy ingredients you can use in almost any dish.
Especially if you have only one mouth to feed, using up produce before it goes bad can be difficult. For instance, will one person really eat an entire bunch of green onions in one meal? Most stores sell them in bunches, so if you need a few morsels for a soup recipe, you will have 3/4 of it left over. Adding the onions to salads and baked potatoes will make your produce investment worthwhile.
Tomatoes are my favorite item to use in a wide range of dishes including soups, pasta, tacos, sandwiches, and bruschetta. Potatoes, bell peppers, corn, and zucchini are all vegetables I use in my favorite dishes and have no trouble finding uses for the leftovers.
2. Find inexpensive meals you can enjoy often.
Getting into a buying, cooking, eating routine will help you save money and help you avoid spending unnecessary money on specialty items. Almost every time I go to the store I buy the same items. That may sound boring, but using the above tip, those items can be turned into dozens of recipes. Here is my some of my favorite cheap and healthy dish:
1 can chicken broth $1
1 potato: $.40
2 roma Tomatoes $.40
1/4 bunch green onions $.25
2 suasage links $.50
Cost per meal: $1.35
3. Don't do all of your shopping at the same place
This can vary from chain to chain and location to location, so what is cost effective for me, might be different for you. It might make sense to shop for produce at your local farmer's market and buy your breads and pastas at a chain store. I have found that one grocery store near me had incredible low meat and produce, while their packaged items like crackers, frozen items, and soups are almost double the price at competing stores. Buying the few packaged items you eat at a place like Costco, Safeway, or Walmart will get you the best prices.
Spending money on food is like spending money on gasoline. It is a consumable item that leaves you with nothing tangible. Your mortgage, car payment, and clothing money are all expenses that will hold some value after being purchased. I can buy a $20,000 car, drive it for 5 years, and sell it for $14,000. However, when I buy a $20 pizza, it is money that is forever gone. Hard earned money, never to be seen again!
In order to build towards the minimalist goal of financial independence, it is imperative to get monthly expenses down, especially consumable ones. The grocery bill should be your first battlefield.