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Money saving tips for following your passion from a professional foodie

Together with Citi, we’re finding out how inspiring entrepreneurs saved to make their dreams reality. Find out the money saving tips recipe developer and food stylist Studio Jodi Moreno used to do it below, and get more information on how to be smarter with your savings here.

Ever wonder what a day-in-the-life of a professional foodie looks like? For Jodi Moreno, it could include styling one of the gorgeous meal spreads you see in magazines, dreaming up a menu for a new restaurant, or creating a recipe for pink beet hummus for her blog, What’s Cooking Good Looking.

But it wasn’t always all inventive recipe gigs for the culinary school grad. In fact, she started out in a corporate career as a head hunter, miles away from the food scene—and it took some creative savings strategies to make the transformation happen.

“I would find myself pining for nights and weekends so I could get back in the kitchen and experiment,” says Moreno. Then one night over dinner, a friend helpfully pointed out that Moreno couldn’t stop talking about food and cooking—and perhaps that’s where her real career aspirations were. That was the very moment I realized I should do everything I could to follow my dream of working with food full-time,” she explains.

This “aha” moment resulted in her slowly (but purposefully) saving in order to achieve her dream-turned-full-blown day job. “The first thing I did was create a separate, more focused saving strategy that was specifically geared towards funding the start of my new career,” says Moreno.

Keep scrolling to get a firsthand look at 3 money saving tips Moreno used to make her goals a reality.

money saving tips

1. Follow a specific budgeting plan

First, Moreno set up a separate savings account with an automatic transfer each month. “I asked friends and family for tips, and one of my friends recommended a 50/30/20 split,” says Moreno. With this format, you put 50 percent of your income toward fixed expenses, 30 toward fun, and 20 toward savings. 

Here’s how the first 50 percent was spent: “When I was first starting out, I just had rent and basic utilities. For transportation, I love to walk, so I wouldn’t even take a subway if I didn’t have to, and would avoid cabs,” shares Moreno. “I planned out my grocery spending, so I would spend $60 and that would last me an entire week.”

For fun—unsurprisingly—food was involved. “The one thing I would spend money on was going out to eat,” says Moreno. “For the vast majority of the time, I’d cook at home—but I would choose one day a month to splurge on a nice meal, because it also in turn was inspiring my future career aspirations.” If there was anything left over, that all went to savings (along with her planned 20 percent, of course).

money saving tips

2. Build your side hustle while you save

During a two-year savings process, Moreno started to put her foodie goals into place. “I started my blog as a way to start putting myself out there and also as a way to try to discover who I wanted to be in this new career choice,” she shares.

Volunteering at a renowned farm and restaurant outside New York City also helped crystalize her vision and meet other food professionals, which led her to start networking. “Since a lot of what I was doing was online and with social media, it was really easy in the beginning to reach out to others, to meet up, form friendships, share advice, and talk about career strategies,” she says.

This outreach helped her start landing small gigs with brands she admired to cushion her savings, which she was able to leverage into bigger opportunities down the line. For example, a major beverage brand initially found Moreno through her blog and hired her to take photos at a culinary event. “Almost four years later, they’re one of my best clients,” she says. “Now I do huge projects for them, like big photoshoots and food and tabletop styling. I’ll do recipe development where I create a menu to pair with their beverages. That all came from just one time taking photos on my phone for them.

jodi moreno citibank

3. Become a savvy grocery shopper and meal-prep master

While Moreno enjoyed her once-a-month splurge on an amazing dining experience, she mainly cooked at home to sharpen her skills and test recipes on friends—and found ways to save in the process.

“Choosing where you buy your groceries can make a big difference,” she says. “I’ll know one place where I can get produce for cheaper, but then I’ll go to another store because I know they have good sales on pantry staples.” Another tip? Buying in bulk. “I stock up on dry goods like quinoa, rice, lentils, and beans, and buy nuts from the bulk bins,” she says. “With things that have a longer shelf life, like tomato paste, you can get multiple jars for a fraction of the cost. I love to buy olive oil in big jugs—you can get good quality organic olive oil in huge vats at bulk discount stores.”

With your pantry fully stocked, that makes cost-effective meal-prep easier. “Planning to make multiple meals out of what you have will not only make sure you’re using everything in your fridge, but will also make your budget go that much further,” advises Moreno. “Make a big lasagna, and you can freeze half of it and have backup meals on hand when you’re in a pinch.”

Which brings us to DIY. “Flours, nut milks, and nut butters you can all save money on by making from scratch, which is also better for you as well to avoid unnecessary additives,” says Moreno.

Overall, it’s about finding ways to save—like Moreno’s creative food game-plan—that keep your dream top of mind. “Constantly remind yourself of the things you are looking to achieve,” she says. “That makes saving feel very satisfying and even joyful.”

Presented by Citi

Photos: Jodi Moreno

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