The PBJ Theory, Please Quit Complaining About Food Budgets

Looking to save money on monthly budget? Here is the Peanut Butter & Jelly Theory that is a quick thought on how you can save money on quick recipes for your family. #budget #savemoney #personalfinance

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”. 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. That doesn’t even include the additional cost of tipping.

That means the average person spends $54.63 eating out a week or $218.52 a month on just eating out. Unless you have a side-hustle that makes you lots of money. The obvious answer is to eat in!

What About Eating In?

Most people think they can easily quit dining out, and start cooking delicious meals. Here’s the thing with cooking for yourself, 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 clean dishes.

Let’s face it, we are busy in our lives and don’t have the time to visit the store every day buying fresh 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 to 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 once you fall off the wagon, you 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 to sound appealing. That’s when the Peanut Butter and Jelly Theory comes in handy.

“Stash emergency PBJ&J supplies in your kitchen. When hungry, but have nothing else. You can have a PBJ. 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 family would not be happy about that. Well suck it up, you’ll soon be out of debt and you can buy your family 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 and everyone is a stack of cash saved from eating out!

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.

18 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!

    -Lanny

  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!

  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.

  4. 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.

  5. Wallet Squirrel
    Wallet Squirrel says:

    Hey DD (Lanny),

    This was a fun post to write. I agree peanut butter is amazing! I would probably avoid the oats myself but glad you enjoy them. =P

    Awesome job, saving money!
    -Andrew

  6. 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!
    -Andrew

  7. 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,
    -Andrew

  8. 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.

  9. 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.

  10. 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!
    -Andrew

  11. 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!
    -Andrew

  12. 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 : )
    -Tristan

  13. 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.

  14. 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!
    -Andrew

  15. DNN
    DNN says:

    If someone is complaining about their food budget and building a side hustle from the ground floor up with or without a bridge job, all they have to do is either like you said eat PB & J like I did when I started building the side hustle. Or visit their local food closet for free food by searching in Google for food pantries located in their community.

  16. Adam
    Adam says:

    PBNJ is awesome especially for people who don’t know how to cook. Most of what people call cooking is actually food preparation. A very small part of cooking is the exposure to heat. The PNJ theory works because it’s a simple recipe anyone can make. I think you could take it further with simple recipes that are just as cheap and give your PNJ theory some variety.

  17. DNN
    DNN says:

    hey Andrew,

    Stopping by to check up on you. Hope all is well. Are you on Facebook by kids? I’d be more than happy using your friend request! 🙂

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