If you want to save money on food and drink, “bringing your own” is the answer! Here’s how to jump on the BYO bandwagon:
* BYO wine. Restaurants add steep markups to bottles (and glasses) of wine. Patronize establishments that let you bring your own bottle.
* BYO lunch. Bring your own lunch to work, and save $5-$10 a day (that’s a few thousand dollars a year!) over the cost of eating out.
* BYO snacks. Those vending machine bags of pretzels and chips can cost twice the grocery store price! Save your money, and bring ziplock bags of your favorite snacks to work (or school) instead.
* BYO beverages. It’s much more economical to buy soda, juice, and water in bulk than from vending machines and convenience stores. Carry a reusable bottle, and refill it from larger containers at home.
* BYO coffee. That daily latte from the coffee shop adds up! Brew your own java at home, and enjoy it on-the-go with a travel mug.
Planning meals is a proven way to lower your food costs. It helps you shop more efficiently, and lessens the likelihood that you’ll stop for takeout.
Sit down with pen and paper (or at your keyboard), and write out a menu for the week. Include breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks, and beverages. It helps to keep a database of favorite recipes at your fingertips—either on index cards, or on your computer.
Take a quick inventory of your refrigerator and pantry, and determine what ingredients you’ll need. Then make a shopping list, so you’ll know exactly what to buy when you’re at the store. That’ll reduce your trips to the supermarket; and hopefully, keep impulse items and convenience foods from finding their way into your cart!
If you need some ideas to get started, check out the following links:
Two Week Menu – Love Food Hate Waste
Menu Planning – Hillbilly Housewife
Sample Weekly Menu Plan – Menus4Moms.com
Love to dine out, but hate the high cost? Use restaurant coupons!
You’ll often find them in local newspapers and ad mailers, as restaurants try to attract new customers, or drum up business during slow periods.
Alternatively, try the internet. Visit the websites of your favorite restaurants, and see if they’re offering any discounts. If you don’t find anything online, try emailing them—it never hurts to ask!
Coupon websites often have vouchers for national chain restaurants. If you patronize any of these larger eateries, do a quick search online before your next visit.
Finally, Restaurant.com sells certificates for participating establishments at deep discounts. You can purchase a $25 gift certificate for only $10, redeemable at over 13,000 restaurants nationwide.
If you do your homework before you dine out, you can have a lovely meal without breaking the bank!
Have you ever been tempted to purchase those 100-calorie snack packs? They may be cute and convenient, but they’ll slim down your wallet even faster than your waistline!
The unit price of these small, prepackaged servings can be double or more the cost of the “normal” size. In essence, you’re paying someone to divvy up your cookies and crackers for you. (Which, when you think about it, seems like a ludicrous way to spend your money!)
Instead, buy normal (or economy) sizes of your favorite snacks. (Check the unit price to determine what’s the best bargain). Then simply divide them into ziplock bags or plastic containers.
You’ll have the convenience of a pre-measured, grab-and-go snack—without all the extra cost!
Save a fortune on your grocery bill with these ten frugal shopping strategies:
1. Shop solo. The less family members who tag along, the fewer items that end up in your cart.
2. Shop less often. The fewer times you visit the supermarket, the less likely you’ll be to splurge on impulse items and convenience foods.
3. Make a menu. Plan your meals before you go shopping, to prevent overbuying and waste.
4. Shop with a list. Supermarkets are designed to promote impulse buying—shopping with a list is the best way to avoid it.
5. Don’t shop hungry. Go to the grocery store after a meal or snack; when your stomach is growling, everything looks appetizing!
6. Shop by unit price. Don’t assume that bigger means cheaper; check the unit price (read the price label, or do the math) to determine which size is the best bargain.
7. Cut out the convenience foods. Don’t pay a premium for things like frozen dinners, flavored noodles, or prepackaged peanut butter and jelly.
8. Cut out the candy. Don’t waste hard-earned dollars on empty calories.
9. Buy generic. Don’t pay a premium for a brand name or fancy packaging—the food inside is often identical to the generic version.
10. Use coupons wisely. Don’t let them tempt you to buy brand names or convenience foods; use them only for items you would have bought anyway.
If you’d like to save big bucks on your grocery bill, cut out the convenience foods. They may decrease your preparation and cooking time, but they’ll cost you a pretty penny.
Furthermore, they’re full of sodium, preservatives, and saturated fats—and give you very little bang for your nutritional buck.
Of course, you don’t always have time to cook everything from scratch. In some cases, it makes sense to use convenience foods strategically—such as canned stocks and sauces, or frozen vegetables when fresh is out of season.
But there’s no sense in paying a premium for things like flavored noodles and prepackaged peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. It’s just as easy, and much more economical, to prepare these things yourself.
If you’re not quite at home in the kitchen, get a good cookbook and learn the basics. It’ll be effort well spent—and a good investment in your health, as well as your finances.
If you love cereal—but hate paying $2-$5 per box—avoid the high cost by making your own.
When you buy commercial cereal, you’re paying for fancy packaging, advertising campaigns, and sprayed-on vitamins. Worse yet, you get a lot of extra sugar, sodium, and preservatives in every spoonful.
Instead, make your own, healthier version for a fraction of the cost. It’s easy: simply purchase large boxes (or bulk quantities) of plain granola, flakes, or puffed rice, and add your favorite nuts, seeds, and dried fruit. Mix together, and store in sealed containers to keep fresh.
Do the same with oatmeal. Instead of buying instant packets, start from scratch and design your own. Cook plain oats on the stove or in the microwave, then add your favorite flavorings—like raisins, dried fruit, maple syrup, honey, brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, or other spices.
It’s a frugalicious way to start the day!
Save a cow, and you’ll save on your grocery bill!
Contrary to popular belief, a daily dose of meat is not necessary to satisfy our nutritional needs. You can build a healthy (and less expensive) diet with fruits and vegetables; whole grains like brown rice, oatmeal, and barley; and nuts and legumes, like beans, lentils, and chickpeas. Add tofu, eggs, and fish for a well-balanced, protein-rich, meatless menu.
Decreasing our meat consumption is better for our bodies: it reduces our fat intake, cholesterol levels, and exposure to antibiotics, hormones, and other toxins. A less carnivorous lifestyle is also thought to reduce the risk of heart disease and certain types of cancer.
What’s more, it’s better for the environment; raising cattle is an energy-inefficient process that causes wide-scale land degradation, water pollution, and significant greenhouse gas emissions.
Need some ideas and recipes for meatless meals? I recommend Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything Vegetarian or Deborah Madison’s Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone. They’ll tell you everything you need to know about putting together scrumptious plant-based meals: from how to select the best produce, to preparing, cooking, and spicing it up.
If you don’t want to go cold turkey, consider becoming a flexitarian. This strategy focuses on vegetarian foods, but also allows for occasional fish and meat consumption. If you’d like to read more about it, Dawn Jackson Blatner’s The Flexitarian Diet: The Mostly Vegetarian Way to Lose Weight, Be Healthier, Prevent Disease, and Add Years to Your Life is a good resource.
At the very least, try cutting your meat consumption in half. Alternate “meat days” with “veggie days,” or limit your meat intake to once a week.
Eat less meat, and you’ll save on your food costs today, healthcare costs tomorrow, and environmental costs in the long run!
Trail mix is a great, on-the-go snack that’s both satisfying and healthy.
Buying it prepackaged, however, can be expensive; even a small bag can set you back a few dollars.
How can you enjoy this tasty treat for less? Make it yourself! Buying dried fruit, nuts, and granola from bulk bins is far less expensive than purchasing packages of trail mix.
Better yet, you can select your favorite ingredients, and leave out what you don’t like. Some ideas include cashews, almonds, pecans, walnuts, sunflower seeds, and dried fruits like raisins, cranberries, apricots, ginger, cherries and bananas. Add chocolate chips (in moderation!) if you have a sweet tooth.
Mix everything in a large bowl, then use ziplock bags to divide into convenient serving sizes.
Since your DIY mix won’t have the added salt, sugar or preservatives of commercial varieties, it’ll be healthier as well as cheaper!
If you eat out frequently, often stop for take-out, or have a freezer stocked with frozen dinners, I have good news for you: you have a great opportunity to save some serious money.
At the average restaurant, an entrée, beverage, and tip will set you back about $20 per person (add an appetizer and dessert, and you’ll spend even more).
Take-out isn’t cheap, either—figure about $7-$10 for a medium-sized pizza, Chinese entrée, or prepared foods from the grocery store.
Even frozen dinners cost roughly $2.50-$5 each. By contrast, you could cook a delicious dinner for the whole family for roughly the same price.
There’s no need to be a great chef to produce something edible. If you’re a novice in the kitchen, pick up a basic cookbook to learn the fundamentals. My personal favorite is Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything. I also like the Food Network Kitchens’ How to Boil Water, and Jamie Oliver’s Jamie’s Food Revolution: Rediscover How to Cook Simple, Delicious, Affordable Meals.
Start with the easiest recipes—your confidence will grow quickly as you realize it’s not rocket science. You can tackle more complex dishes as you gain experience, but this is hardly necessary—some of the tastiest, and healthiest, dishes are the simplest.
Don’t be put off by the “time” it takes to cook something. When you think about it, eating out is hardly a time-saver: by the time you drive to a restaurant, park the car, order your meal, and wait for it to arrive, you could have cooked a nice dinner at home for a fraction of the price.
So put on your chef’s hat, and get cooking. You’ll gain a wonderful sense of accomplishment and self-sufficiency, while fattening up your bank account!