After housing and transportation, food costs are often a significant part of your budget. It is one area that can easily spiral out of control if you don’t keep an eye on it. Use the tips below to get a handle on this expense category and save money.
Saving on Groceries
Buy ingredients to cook your own food, instead of buying prepared. Buy the ingredients and make it for a fraction of the price at home. Trust me, it will taste better too. I use my Instant Pot to make a big batch of dried beans and uncooked rice in no time.
Don’t waste your money on convenience. What I mean by this is that purchasing cut fruit and vegetables significantly increases the costs. Instead of purchasing pre-package salad, buy your own lettuce, wash and trim it right away, and have it ready to use. It will still be convenient when you’re ready to eat, but will save you about 3x’s the cost.
Use coupons when buying groceries. They have an app for that, you don’t need the cut them out of the newspaper. Check out sites like coupons.com and your local grocery store app. Then check to see what is on sale each week at the local store so you can double your savings. Just make sure the sale price is less expensive that the regular price of another item. For example, brand A spaghetti sauce might be $1.00, and brand B might be $2.00 with a $.50 off coupon. That means brand A is still a better deal.
Don’t forget about rebate apps. Ibotta, Receipt Hog, Checkout51, and Walmart’s Savings Catcher are just a few of the great apps out there to help you save. These apps let you cash out your rebates. Just be sure you are only buying things you would normally purchase, otherwise the rebate may drive you to spend more money.
Meal Plan. Use the techniques listed about to plan your meals for at least a week, make list,and then go shopping. This will keep you from making impulse buys. It will also help reduce waste because your first step will be to take stock of what you have.
Saving on Dining Out
Make eating out a special occasion. For many Americans eating out has become a habit. It’s just more convenient than cooking. I’m not going to say stop dining out, but how about saving it for a special occasion?
Pack a lunch. One of the reasons we dine out so often is that it is often the simple solution. But packing a lunch does not need to be difficult. As previously mentioned, I’ll make a large pot of rice and beans once per week and portion it out. You can do the same thing with chopping fruits and veggies. Check out these cheap and easy lunch ideas you can easily take to work.
When eating out look for deals. Early Bird and Happy Hour specials are often a great way to dine out on a budget. Groupon and Restaurant.com are great places to find deals and discounts for your favorite eateries. And don’t forget to sign up for your favorite restaurant and franchise’s email list and birthday club for exclusive coupons.
Skip the drinks and appetizers. If you’re going to out to eat for the good, skip the up charges on drinks and appetizers. Have a salad before you leave the house, and save your money for the entree.
Give yourself an allowance. When planning your budget, allow a line item for occasionally dining out if you want. Just make sure that the amount falls in line with your financial goals.