It’s pretty clear that if you want to eat well on your salary, you will need to cook the majority of your meals, not order or eat out.  Depending on whether you will be going to a command that regularly feeds you, or whether you will be finding ways to feed yourself, your situation will differ.

  1.  Write out a shopping list and stick with it, so you are not buying more than you need.
  2. Shop at the Commissary—depending on where you are stationed, the prices can be much lower than local supermarkets and you don’t pay sales tax.
  3. Prep foods as much as possible.  Dedicate one day to chopping veggies for the entire week, then put them together quickly for your meals during the week OR spend time in the frozen veggie section of the store.
  4. Cook once a week and freeze portions for meals throughout the week, including lunches.
  5. If you have a roommate, team up with 2 more JOs and have everyone responsible for one meal a week that will feed all four of you.  That will take care of the majority of the dinners for the week.
  6. If you want to eat dinners out, do the research.  Buffalo Wild Wings has BOGO days, Olive Garden offers $5 pastas with an entrée purchase (eat one, take one home), and many stores have $5 Rotisserie chicken.
  7. Meal kits are also good for a healthy dinner, and if you get the meal for two kit, can use the leftovers for lunch later that week.  Some of the more popular ones are Hungry Root, Blue Apron, Hello Fresh, Home Chef, etc.).
  8. Use online recipes for ideas—they’re FREE!  Two popular sites are Allrecipes and Food Network
  9. Don’t forget the spices and extras:  salt, pepper, garlic powder, ginger, Chinese 5 Spice, Old Bay Seasoning, Olive oil, Tamari or Soy Sauce.
  10. Make large portions of several meals, divide them up and freeze:  Italian sausage, onions and red peppers, Chicken Stir Fry, Pork chops with olive oil and McCormick’s Zesty Herb seasoning, Thai Curry Chicken, Baked Salmon with olive oil, balsamic vinegar and garlic, Spaghetti sauce, Meatloaf, Rice, etc.