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At some point or another, we find ourselves spending way too much money on eating out. Looking at my bank statement, I can easily find the answer as to where my paychecks go. Chipotle, Starbucks, Dunkin’ Donuts, Harris Teeter, Tupelo Honey Cafe, Sushi Blues. All of those have been in the past week. That’s a real screenshot from my bank statement above.

There’s nothing wrong with spending your money on good food if we’re being honest. My Starbucks habit is a lot worse than I would like to admit. I probably eat Chick-fil-A more than I should, and Goodberry’s has become a staple in my diet. However, I know I could be saving a lot of money – and calories – by utilizing what I already have at home.

I know; it’s hard to meal plan. We all have SUPER important jobs, and families, and lives outside of wondering where your next dinner is going to come from. As mentioned before, that’s usually the reason I do end up having to pick up something while I’m out. Why would I get up an hour earlier than I have to just to cook some eggs? I’m with you.

Nonetheless, I’m here to tell you that you can still be somewhat health-conscious without wasting any time. All it takes is one trip to the grocery store at the beginning of each week. Depending on your palate, this will vary, but I try to keep a list of 10 things in my pantry/refrigerator at all times. When I’m hungry, I’ve found that having any of these things handy makes for an easy, healthy meal without having to run out and spend money on food. Or worst – calling in a pizza.

Obviously you and I might not have the same taste buds, but I hope these suggestions will give you a few ideas to keep in mind when you’re trying to stretch your money to the next paycheck.

  1. Eggs – I put this first, because there is so much you can do with eggs. Hard boil them for a quick 70-calorie, protein-packed snack? Yep. Want to make an easy omelette with the veggies that are about to go bad in your fridge? Use eggs. My favorite is egg salad, but I’m sure that grosses some people out. Regardless, breakfast for dinner is NEVER a bad idea.
  1. Your Favorite Vegetables – This one should be a no-brainer. Even if you aren’t the fondest of vegetables, I’m willing to bet that there’s at least one that you don’t mind. Personally, I like peppers. You can buy the variety pack of red, green, and yellow at most grocery stores. Peppers are great to cut up and use in a stir fry, make stuffed peppers out of, or even dip into hummus for a snack. Carrots, broccoli, and celery are other good options for when you want a healthy snack or side.
  1. Broth – If I had one word to describe stock, it would be underestimated. I prefer chicken broth, but there are many other flavors. If you’re wondering why this item is essential to keep at all times, it’s because there are multiple uses for it. I use broth to flavor my alfredo sauce, but you can also put it in your rice or make a soup from it. A quick Google search, and you’ll agree.
  1. Beans – When you think of beans you probably think of burritos, right? Wrong. I make sure to have a few cans of beans in my pantry at the beginning of the week. They offer an abundant source of protein, and there are so many options to choose from. My favorite are black beans, because I can simply mash them up and throw together a black bean burger in a matter of minutes using those + breadcrumbs + spices. Throw them on top of lettuce to make a taco salad, or pair them with cheese to make a quesadilla.
  1. Rice – Rice should go hand in hand with beans, because it’s essentially timeless. My dad is convinced that the world is going to end in some crazy fashion, and keeps bags of rice stocked in the pantry at home if that says anything about his confidence in rice’s ability to keep us sustained. Moving on. If I want to make an easy dinner for myself, I whip up red beans and rice with turkey sausage. I often use rice as a healthy side option, but also enjoy making chicken fried rice using a few things left over in my fridge.
  1. Whole-wheat Pasta – Notice how I said whole wheat, people. My college days of having an ever-present box of Kraft Mac & Cheese are sadly over, but I still make sure to always have some type of pasta in my pantry. It takes no time to cook, and all you essentially need is your favorite sauce to make a meal out of it. With that being said, you can also add in some of your favorite veggies to make yourself feel a little bit better about the fact that you’re eating a meal composed of carbs in the first place. You can make a pasta salad out of elbow macaroni for a side, or mix in a protein to keep you fuller for longer.
  1. Rotisserie Chicken – The beauty of the rotisserie chicken. Grocery stores always put them on special at least one day a week, and I’m obsessed with them. If I started to list all the things that I use rotisserie chickens for, I would leave you with a novel, so I’ll spare you. Instead, here’s a quality list. Personally, I find myself making chicken salad for lunch or using the chicken for a homemade BBQ chicken pizza at night. Everyone wins with rotisserie chicken.
  1. Greek Yogurt – I always make sure to have Greek yogurt on hand, because I have a sweet tooth. My favorite is the Greek God’s Greek Yogurt brand in Honey Vanilla. At night I like to cut up some strawberries and blueberries and mix them in with the yogurt instead of eating a carton of ice cream. Greek yogurt is also great for smoothies, dips, is a healthy substitution for sour cream, and more.
  1. Your Favorite Cheese – This sounds like a no-brainer, but there have been so many times when I’ve opened up the refrigerator only to realize that I’m out of shredded cheese. My go-to snack is a small cheese quesadilla, because it takes a total of one minute to make. Let’s be real – cheese goes well with pretty much everything. It also is a decent source of calcium that strengthens your hair, makes your skin look nice, and supports strong bones. More cheese, please.
  1. Peanut Butter – Last but certainly not least, peanut butter should be a given staple. Make sure to stick to the serving size, however, because it definitely does contain its fair share of fat. Regardless, peanut butter adds protein and flavor to things like toast and oatmeal in the morning. Need a snack? Peanut butter pairs well with celery and apples as well. If you’re really trying to be healthy, opt for almond butter but be prepared for a slightly different taste than what you’re used to with peanut butter.

Hopefully, I’ve inspired you to take a trip to the grocery store by now. All it takes is a few minutes and a few ingredients each day to be saving yourself some major dollars. You don’t have to follow my list to a tee, but find some items that you enjoy and stock up. No, that doesn’t mean Cheez-Its and Goldfish.

Try it for a week and let me know what you think. Your wallet and your waistline will thank you.

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