The PBJ Theory, Please Quit Complaining About Food Budgets

Peanut Butter and Jelly Theory

I’m about to save you thousands of dollars.

All the money you spend in your life, or even an average month. Chances are one of your largest expenses is food. It happens, literally to everyone.

Eating Out Is The Worst For Your Wallet

So when people start to track their budgets, they always come to the same conclusion. “I need to quit eating out more”. Get this, the average person eats out 4.5 times per week costing them $12.14 per meal on a national average according to a 2016 survey conducted by Zagat.

“the average person eats out 4.5 times per week costing them $12.14 per meal on a national average”

That means the average person spends $54.63 eating out a week or $218.52 a month on just eating out. Unless you earn lots of money, is the obvious answer to eat in?

What About Eating In?

Most people think they can quit going out to start having nice and relaxing meals in. Here’s the thing with eating in, the movies get it wrong.

It’s not always a romantic and soothing experience.

Often times it’s a “Crap, I need to eat. What should I cook?” experience that you pray to the food gods you have the right ingredients in your fridge and dishes are clean.

Let’s face it, we are busy in our lives and don’t have the time to visit the store every day buying new ingredients for a new recipe we found on the internet.

In fact, according to the Harvard Business Review, researcher Eddie Yoon over two decades collected data as consultants for consumer packaged goods companies. He found that:

  • 15% of people say they LOVE to cook
  • 50% of people say they HATE to cook
  • 35% of people say they are ambivalent about cooking (mixed feelings)

If you’re one of the people that hate cooking, you should create a meal plan to make it as easy as possible. Plan a week in advance what you’re going to eat for each meal and know how to cook it. This way you’ll have the ingredients and can plan accordingly for time.

However, not all plans work out.

Introduce The Peanut Butter and Jelly Theory

When meal plans fail, let me introduce Peanut Butter and Jelly sandwiches, otherwise known as a PBJ.

Let me first admit that I have an addiction to commenting on Finance forums, Facebook Groups, and Blogs. The mechanics of building wealth are simple and I’m always happy to remind people that things are often more simple than they appear. Like how I responded this comment and created “The Peanut Butter and Jelly Theory”.

I get it, you want to start saving money on food and you’re looking for suggestions from the personal finance community to help.

Answers ranged from getting a crockpot to make meals simple, cooking large meals on Sunday and eating leftovers throughout the week, to buying frozen meals that may not be great for you, but easy to prepare.

All of the responses skirted around the idea that a solid weekly meal plan is the best option to help you save money on food. However, sometimes these meals don’t work out for a number of reasons and one fall off the wagon can end up at the local McDonalds.

So I introduced the Peanut Butter and Jelly Theory. The cost-effective, quickest meal ever to keep your budget on track.

This is easily the most actionable thing you can do to start immediately saving on your food budget. In many cases when people eat out, it’s due to convenience because they don’t have anything at home that sounds appealing. That’s when the Peanut Butter and Jelly Theory comes in handy.

Stash emergency PB&J supplies in your kitchen. When hungry but have nothing else, eat a PB&J. If you’re not hungry for a PB&J, wait 2 hours until you’re hungry enough to eat a PB&J.

Sometimes a PBJ isn’t exactly what you’re craving and your favorite restaurant sounds better, or your “husband would not be happy about that” (see comment). Well suck it up, you’ll soon be out of debt and you can buy your husband a jet ski. Everyone loves a jet ski.

Try the Peanut Butter and Jelly Theory

If you want to save THOUSANDS on food budgets, you should try the Peanut Butter and Jelly Theory! Meals cost less than $1 to make, you’ll save time and money. Most importantly, you’ll have a secret stash of PBJs to make when you get those cravings to go out and spend money.

You’re welcome.

Disclaimer: Wallet Squirrel did not invent the Peanut Butter and Jelly sandwich, just an advocate of saving money. Wallet Squirrel was not sponsored by big PBJ corporations to promote their superior and delicious product.

14 replies
  1. Dividend Diplomats
    Dividend Diplomats says:

    Wallet Squirrel –

    What’s funny (and most of my family members and friends would candidly agree), is I would be lost without peanutbutter. PB sandwiches are my lifeline. Using PB in oatmeal is damn good too, FYI. Tallest container of oats = $2.39 and my 40 ounce PB jar is $2.89 and each lasts a few weeks (oats last me much longer). Saves time, money, has fiber, protein and good fats.. and tastes damn good too. Great theory that I support WS!


  2. MrDoublingDollars
    MrDoublingDollars says:

    I’ve got a PB-J stache at the office! (That’s PB, no J)

    If I am ever hungry I make a PB sandwich instead of buying a snack or getting in on a takeout order. Cheap, tasty, and keeps me going.

    Great idea WS, my bank account thanks you!

    • Wallet Squirrel
      Wallet Squirrel says:

      Hey Mr. Doubling Dollars!

      That’s such a good idea! I may be lost without jelly though. I’m going to see about starting my own PBJ stash at the office.

      Then again, I only live 7 blocks from work, so I normally walk home for lunch. =)

      Thanks for commenting!

  3. Emilie
    Emilie says:

    This is a very unhealthy suggestion. Most inexpensive breads, peanut butters and jellies are terrible for your health, full of sugar and unhealthy carbs. Especially a terrible suggestion considering the number of people with blood sugar issues, autoimmune diseases and food allergies. To make a healthy version of a PB&J for a person with these or other health issues it can easily cost 5x as much. While this solution is a good idea ONLY if the person is healthy and doesn’t do it more than a couple of times a week, the reality is that the very people who are the ones struggling with these budget issues are the ones most likely to either not be able to eat a PB&J or end up too busy 4 nights out of the week to make dinner. Add to that the complexity of feeding children. Most likely the kids that don’t have allergies have already eaten a sandwich for lunch, making this an unattractive and extremely unhealthy solution for people with kids.

    • Hayes
      Hayes says:

      It’s better than a lot things that people eat and snack on such as pop(especially diet soda), chips, candy bars, and other high sugar foods.

    • Wallet Squirrel
      Wallet Squirrel says:

      Hey Emilie, thanks for commenting!

      Perhaps I’m buying the inexpensive/unhealthy ingredients, but I’ve always made PBJs since I was a kid. I think most things are OK in moderation. I actually ate tons of these while training for a couple of marathons, they are cheap and fast. Maybe the unhealthy effects were offset by the exercise.

      In most cases, this is a very common approach by people looking to save money. I’m not sure it’s the healthiest thing in the world, but I believe it’s better than going to McDonald’s for both your health and wallet.

      We probably shouldn’t create an entire meal plan of only PBJs, but it may be a good emergency meal when something in your meal plan falls through. =)

      Thank you,

  4. Ciara
    Ciara says:

    I love this advice! It has worked for me and my family of 6. Okay so a few years back when my now 9 year old was 4 all he wanted to eat was PB & J and as a younger/new mom it made me panic, I was worried he wasn’t getting enough of everything. I made a doctor appointment (yes, I was that type of mom -.-) to specifically address this. His doctor chuckled a bit when I was clearly worried… He said it was completely fine and normal that he gets protein, fiber, iron and other good stuff from it. I can laugh at it now. It’s fast and inexpensive, no complaints here.

    • Wallet Squirrel
      Wallet Squirrel says:

      Hi Ciara,

      I think PBJs are foundations of every childhood. They definitely were of mine. My mother made them for me all the time. I think it’s a mom thing to do. =)

      Thanks for sharing!

  5. Tristan Taber
    Tristan Taber says:

    As much as I enjoy peanut butter and jelly, I fear that if such a diet became commonplace in a persons routine, they would end up paying significantly more — these in the form of health care. I completely agree that eating out multiple times a week is a significant inhibitor to savings, however it is my belief that food should be an area that people spend money on for a high quality experience. Food is intrinsic to your composure and while the occasional sandwich at an odd hour due to an empty fridge is excellent, I think this is only a bandage and does not address the core issue of bad food habits, which boils down to the prevalence of food deserts and food swamps and a lack of ability/training/education regarding food preparation. In such, cases I would instead suggest something like a community supported agriculture (CSA) program. A CSA would supply a person with and force a person to use the ingredients that they have or thrown them out and seeing their money go down the drain.
    In addition, I would say that going out to eat is likely not solely driven by hunger but rather is a social experience that is reflective of an increasingly connected, but distant culture we live in. In such a context, it may be that what a person needs is not PB&Js but rather a board game night or a pickup soccer game.

    • Wallet Squirrel
      Wallet Squirrel says:

      Hi Tristan!

      I think most people would agree PBJ should not be your planned meal, for every meal plan. There are other great alternatives for meals plans like you suggest the Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program, although I’m not sure they’re in Denver, maybe?

      The keyword would be “emergency” PBJ supplies. For me personally, a PBJ wins every debate if I think I should go out or not. It’s supposed to be a band-aid to your meal plan, not your actual meal plan. lol

      Everything in moderation.

      Thanks for commenting!

      • Tristan Taber
        Tristan Taber says:

        Good response. Yes, I understand the emergency PB&J as a resource for such times and I think that it is definitely a good recommendation.
        Denver definitely has CSAs for those of you in that area.
        Regarding the social context of going out to eat, I think that this remains a serious issue. I have seen many a co-worker or other associate go out to eat although they have packed a lunch for that day. This would indicate that there is an issue in the social context. Now I don’t believe you alone could solve this Andrew and the other half of the Wallet Squirrel team, but I think it is critical to think about as part of the confounding factor in such an analysis.
        Love you website
        And as you said everything in moderation : )

  6. Bryna
    Bryna says:

    There is nothing wrong with your suggestion! People would save more money if they used up everything in their pantry,cupboards, fridges, etc. Personally, we utilize all of our leftovers! For example I slow roasted a whole chicken the other day(I do this a lot) and I made several meals out of it. Roast chicken with all the fixings, scalloped chicken, a couple chicken wraps and then homemade chicken pot-pie. Use as much as you have before going to the store to restock.

    • Wallet Squirrel
      Wallet Squirrel says:

      lol I’ve never slow roasted a chicken before, sounds intense. I totally agree though about using everything in your pantry. I’m currently saving money by eating the last bit of canned soup in my pantry. I went on a soup binge once….

      Thanks for sharing!


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