It has been far too long since I have written a post with a number of great ways for you to save money so I thought since I had some new ideas, now would be the perfect time to share them! Like some previous posts, these ideas for saving money all revolve around food. While these ideas can potentially save you thousands, if you want to save even more on what you eat, I suggest checking out the previous food related posts that I have done such as 16 Secrets to Saving Boatloads of Cash When Eating Fast Food and 18 Tips to Stop Wasting Money at the Grocery Store and Still Eat Well. Anyway, without further delay, here are 5 tricks I have come up with for saving money on food.
5 Clever tricks to save a wad of cash on food.
Take your lunch to work.
Eating the lunch they sell at work or going out to lunch every day can get expensive. Where I work, we usually pick up lunch from somewhere, typically a fast food joint or local restaurant. The cost of that per person usually ranges between $5-10 per meal. With some crafty grocery shopping, you could bring your lunch to work and probably only spend $2-3 a day. After a year of doing that, you could easily have an extra $500 or more sitting in your bank account just from taking your lunch to work. Also, bringing your lunch makes it a lot easier to eat healthy because lets face it, most fast food places you may pick up lunch from don’t really have much in the way of healthy options.
Drink regular coffee.
One of the nice things about not being a coffee drinker is that I don’t spend like $5 a day if not more at Starbucks or somewhere similar. However, I know that pretty much everybody else has an addiction to it so this particular one is for those people. If you want to save money and still get that caffeine to wake you up in the morning, try drinking just a plane cup of coffee. Whether you make it yourself or get it at the gas station, regular coffee (you can still get various flavors and creamers and stuff of course) is a lot cheaper than getting all of your fancy cappuccino drinks with the soy and the foam and all of the other things you can get thrown in there for a small charge. Doing this can easily cut what you spend on your morning pick-me-up in half and if you do that every day, by the end of the year you will probably have saved $700 if not perhaps more!
Eat out one less time each month.
One of the most expensive habits I have is that I eat out a LOT. Not only do I go out to lunch every day at work (luckily work covers that expense), but I typically bring home dinner or go out to eat 6 nights a week. Depending on where I eat, that can get quite expensive! While most of the places I eat are fairly cheap like Little Caesars with their $5 pizzas (I eat there twice a week), there are some places I like to eat on occasion that have been known to cost me up to $45 for a single meal! If you eat out a lot like I do and want to save a little money, just eat out one less time a month. Especially if you eliminate one of the more expensive nights out, this can save you quite a bit of money since you can still eat quite well at home for less than $10 and that includes desert!
Take extra condiments home.
Do you ever go to a fast food restaurant and they bring you more packets of ketchup, mustard, salt, ect than you need? Instead of leaving them on the table and hoping somebody else gets some use out of them, take them home and use them yourself! Why buy bottles of those things for home if you can get all you need from fast food places for free? I know people that go to places like Wendy’s where they have big things of plastic wear just sitting out that take a handfull of them home with them so they don’t have to buy plastic utensils themselves when they need them. You probably aren’t going to save a ton of money this way like you can with the previous tips ideas but a few dollars is still a few dollars!
Don’t shop for groceries after work.
In the previous post I mentioned earlier about 18 ways to save money at the grocery store, I mentioned not shopping while you are hungry but I recently found out this applies to when you are tired too. Apparently, when your body and brain is tired (like it tends to be after a hard day at work), it craves fatty and sugary foods similar to how when you brain is hungry, it craves carbs. So if you want to stay away from those cookies and crackers that are adding on the pounds and making your wallet a little smaller, don’t go grocery shopping on your way home from work or any other time you are tired. From my personal experience, I find it is best to go grocery shopping in the morning when I’m not really hungry (I always go after breakfast) and have lots of energy. Not only does it cut down on those impulse buys of Goldfish crackers, but there are usually a lot fewer people shopping at that time so it is easier to get in and out of there quickly.
Do you have any suggestions for how to save money on food that I haven’t covered here or in those two previous posts? Let me know in the comments below!
Share this with anybody you know who could be spending less on food!
Are you tired of feeling guilty after eating fast food? Do you hate the feeling of regret you have whenever swing by a fast food joint to grab something to eat and try to justify it by telling yourself you just don’t have the time to eat like you should?
Its bad enough you aren’t able to eat as healthy as you want to or should, but you shouldn’t feel guilty for spending more than you should when you eat fast food.
Everybody always says it is cheaper to eat at home than it is to eat at a fast food place (and those people aren’t wrong), but there are ways to leave your favorite fast food joint without spending a ton of money. The best part is that not only can you spend a lot less than you are spending now, you can still leave feeling full!
To help you make sure you aren’t spending a penny more than you have to on fast food, I have compiled a list of 16 of my favorite tips and tricks to spend less and get the most bang for your buck when grabbing a quick bite to eat. If you have any that I have missed, please share them in the comments so we can all benefit from them!
16 Ways to save money on fast food:
Perhaps the easiest way to save money is with coupons. Whether you cut them out of the ads from your local newspaper or take them from the websites of your favorite fast food restaurants, you can score some amazing deals with coupons. Many times you can even score free food with coupons which is a great way to get the best bang for your buck.
Subscribe to e-mail newsletters.
Speaking of getting coupons from the websites of your favorite places to grab a quick bite, sign up for their e-mail newsletters too! Many restaurants send out coupons exclusively to their e-mail lists so if you want in on those deals, make sure to sign up! Also, many of the major restaurant chains will send you special deals for your birthday like a free desert, so if you want a free slice of cheesecake or something, that is also a great reason (and my personal favorite) for signing up to restaurant e-mail newsletters. Most places won’t flood your inbox so that shouldn’t be to much of a concern and you can always unsubscribe if they do.
Buy promotional items like calenders and coupon books.
Some companies such as Chick-Fil-A sell special promotional items like calenders that feature coupons for each month which are a great way to save on the things you like to eat. Not only are you getting a calender (which you would probably be buying anyway), but you can score some free food and drinks or at least a discount on the stuff you normally eat. I have also seen some restaurants sell coupon books that are a fantastic deal. For example, my local Little Caesars pizza place sells coupon books for $1 with the proceeds going to the local Crime Stoppers (a program the police around here run to let people give tips on crimes anonymously while still offering them a reward). Not only do I get great deals on their food valued at more than I spent on the coupon booklet, but I am also helping out a very good community initiative designed to help fight crime in my city.
Take surveys to get free food!
When you buy food at a fast food joint and they give you your receipt and ask you to take an online survey, do you do it? Most people don’t and those people are throwing their money away. Not only is it your opportunity to give valuable feedback to the restaurant on how it can better serve you, but many offer free food just to do it! My local Burger King is always asking me to fill out their online survey and as a thank you, I get a coupon for a free Whopper. If you are bored and just surfing the web, why not take a minute and earn yourself some free food? You would be foolish not to!
Take advantage of special offers!
If you watch commercials on TV or check out the in-store displays for your favorite food quickie joints, you will notice that they are often running some sort of limited time special offer. Paying attention to these special offers is a great way to spend less and get some real bang for your buck. For example, I have seen fast food giants like Burger King and Carl’s Jr. do some great buy one get one free specials with some of their sandwiches. I have taken advantage of such a special at Burger King twice in the past week myself! You may not need two sandwiches for yourself but you can always feed a friend, family member or homeless person (they seem to gather around fast food places like flies where I live) with the second one.
Play the promotional games!
Speaking of promotions that can score you some free food (among other prizes), keep an eye out for the times when restaurants have games that can win you stuff when you buy certain items. McDonald’s is perhaps the most well known for this with their annual Monopoly game where you can collect Monopoly properties to win cool prizes or even win some free fries or a drink. It can pay to play!
Eat from the dollar menu!
One of the best ways to fill your tummy on the cheap when you don’t have any coupons with you is with the dollar menu. Sure, you don’t get all of the fancy ingredients on your burger like you do with the burgers that cost $6, but if you don’t mind plain old cheeseburgers and smaller portion sizes, make your eyes wander over to the dollar or value menu. Its a much cheaper way to eat than just ordering one of the big combo meals.
Take a limited amount of cash.
Speaking of spending as little as possible on your food, one of the best ways to do that is to carry small amounts of cash on you. The less you carry on you, the less you have to spend which will force you to buy cheaper items. Of course this trick doesn’t really work if you use plastic for all of your purchases instead of cash but if you are a cash guy like I am, this trick works great! Also, the less you money you have on you, the less the muggers can steal which is an important thing to keep in mind if you live in a bad neighborhood.
Drink free water or take your own!
Another great way to save money when you eat is by just drinking water. If you dine in, just ask for one of their courtesy cups for water rather than buying a giant fountain drink that will set you back a couple bucks and send your sugar levels through the roof. I have known a number of people that have lost significant weight just by cutting the soda fountain out of their diet so if you are looking shed a couple of pounds, this is an easy way to do it. If you don’t go inside, and prefer to use the drive through, bring a bottle of water with you from home so you aren’t tempted to buy one of their drinks or bottles of water.
Know what you want before you get there!
One of the worst things to do when you stop to get food is to not know what you want before you get there. They always say to never go to the grocery store hungry (one of the things I mentioned in my guide to saving money at the grocery store) and to make a list so you don’t buy what you don’t need when you get there. Well, that advice applies pretty well to the fast food joints too. If you get to the cash register or drive though without knowing what you want ahead of time, you will usually end up buying more food than you need and picking more expensive items because they often sound the best. Whether you are looking to save money or just cut back on how much you eat, this is a very important piece of advice!
Buy dinner or desert but never both!
Along the lines of the last point about knowing what you want before you get to the restaurant, one of the things you need to decide is if you are there for dinner or desert. If you do both, you will end up spending more than you wanted to and consume far more calories than you should. Personally, I would just stick with dinner as most restaurant deserts are ridiculously overpriced although there are times when I would gladly skip dinner and go straight to the cheesecake. Just remember, if you don’t want to feel guilty or like you have overeaten when you leave, stick to one or the other.
Always count the calories!
A couple of years ago, I let my weight go as high as 235 lbs. I was terrified that my pants were going to pop a button at the worst possible time and that is when I decided it was time to start paying attention to what I eat (my previous philosophy for watching what I eat was to look at it before I shoved it in my mouth). I still eat fast food almost every day like I did back then, but I was able to lose 25 lbs that year just by eating lower calorie items at those same fast food restaurants. I never did any exorcise or anything, I just found lower calorie items on the menus that I enjoyed and switched to eating them. One of the things I also noticed when I started paying attention to my calorie consumption was that the higher calorie items almost always cost more so not only did I lose weight, I started saving quite a bit of money!
Choose the cheapest item you enjoy!
Along the same lines as the previous point, try to stick with buying the cheapest item you enjoy. It is fine to splurge on occasion and get one of the fancy $7 burgers but but if there are cheaper items you like, stick to those and that will save you a ton of money in the long run. It is also likely to save you from eating a lot more calories than you need too! In addition, there often isn’t a huge difference between the sizes of the meals so stick with a small or medium instead of a large. If you eat inside, most places offer free refills too so you can easily get the value of a large drink by just refilling a medium drink once.
Buy the kids meals even if you are an adult.
It may feel a little awkward buying a kids meal for yourself but it is a cheap way to get a complete meal that would cost you a lot more if you ordered off the adult menu. You may not get as much food but at least it can save you money and score you a toy at the same time! I’d suggest comparing this to the value menu as there might be little if any difference other than the toy (which you can always find a kid to give it to).
Split large orders up family style.
Speaking of kids, another great way to save money is to split up large orders among several people. Whether it is a big bucket of chicken or a pizza, splitting a meal up with others can save you money. Whether you are splitting a pizza or just a large order of fries, it makes sense to just get one order and split it instead of each getting their own and feeling fat from over eating afterwards. We do this often where I work with pizza as it is much cheaper to buy 2 pizzas for 4 people (which works out to around $3.25 per person) than to buy each person their own big order anywhere else and nobody walks away hungry.
Avoid the drive-thru like the plague!
Finally, one if the biggest ways to save money is by not going through the drive-thru. This seems a little odd at first because the menu prices are still the same but this time I am not talking about saving money on the food directly. I am talking about how much you are wasting in gas while you spend what seems like an eternity in the long line for the drive-thru window. I have found myself sitting in drive-thru for 15 minutes for just one car in the line in front of me to move and I am sitting there with my engine idling the entire time. Doing that is a huge waste of gas (it will kill gas mileage your vehicle gets) and it does nasty things to the environment at the same time. However, if you do decide to go through the drive thru for some reason (perhaps the line inside is all the way out the door), don’t be afraid to turn your engine off while waiting for your order or for the cars in front of you. As memory serves, as long as you are sitting there for at least 10 seconds, you will save fuel by turning your engine off.
If you follow these tips, you can easily save thousands of dollars a year on fast food!
If you found these tips and tricks on how to save money and get more bang for your buck at fast food restaurants useful, please share this article with everybody you know who could benefit from it!
Are you tired of coming home from the grocery store and feeling like you have little to show for the money you spent? That is because you are wasting money at the supermarket!
With prices on food constantly going up (the hot dog buns I buy have doubled in price in the last year), it is easy to feel depressed when you come home from grocery shopping only to find your money didn’t stretch as far as you had hoped it would.
What if I told you that you could fix that?
What if I told you that you didn’t have to feel that way every time you walk out of the supermarket?
You can easily fix this problem TODAY and you never have to feel depressed and defeated when you walk out of the grocery store ever again!
Below is a list of 18 tips and tricks that can help you save big at the grocery store and have more food to show for your money! Lets start saving!
#1: Never shop when you are hungry!
This should probably go without saying but you should never go to the grocery store on an empty stomach. The hungrier you are, the more everything in the grocery store is going to look good to you and you will just end up buying a lot more food than you went in there for. It is best to go to the store after you have eaten but if that is not possible, just make a list and be sure to stick to it.
#2: Make a list and check it twice.
Santa isn’t the only one who should be making a list and checking it twice. Before you go to the grocery store, make a list of everything you are going there for and stick to it! Not only will this serve to keep you from forgetting to pick up a key ingredient to the dish you are planning on making but it will help keep you from buying stuff you didn’t go in there for. It is important to get what you are after but make sure you aren’t buying something you don’t need!
#3: Pay attention to sales!
When you are making your list of things you are planning to buy when you visit the supermarket, always make sure to check the store’s local circular first to see what is on sale. If you don’t have a brand preference on an item that you need, you may find that another brand is on sale instead of the one you normally buy which can save you a lot of money.
#4: Don’t leave home without coupons, digital coupons and your loyalty cards!
Speaking of saving lots of money, perhaps the easiest way to save money is coupons, digital coupons and loyalty cards. Many stores only offer their sale prices to people who have signed up for their loyalty programs so make sure you never leave home without your loyalty card. Not only that, many grocery store chains work with local gas stations to give you a discount on gas when you buy a certain amount of stuff from the grocery store so the loyalty cards can even save you big bucks outside of the grocery store! One of the major grocery stores where I live also lets you buy 9 cups of coffee and get the 10th free at one of the local gas station which is nice if you drink a lot of coffee. However, loyalty cards aren’t the only way to save lots of money as you can easily find coupons for lots of items in your local newspaper (usually on Sundays) and online. Speaking of online, some stores even have their own smartphone apps or mobile websites that offer digital coupons that can save you even more so make sure you take your phone with you when you go shopping.
#5: Stock up on sale items with a long shelf life.
When you find some good deals from your grocery store of choice (and don’t be afraid to go to other stores for more money saving deals), feel free to stock up on the item if it isn’t going to spoil right away and you know you will eventually use it. Canned goods and other non-perishable items like toilet paper are the perfect candidates for things to stock up on when you find a good sale. Just make sure you are going to use what you buy!
#6: Only buy in bulk when you will use it all!
One of the biggest mistakes I see people make when it comes to shopping is buying stuff in bulk only to end up throwing most of it away because it didn’t get used before the expiration date. If you are going to buy a giant sack of potatoes or anything else with a short shelf life, make sure you have a plan to use them all before they go bad or they will end up in the trash which is the same as throwing your money in the trash. Buying in bulk can save you a ton of money as long as you make sure that you are going to use what you buy.
#7: Ask for a rain check on sold out items.
How many times have you made it to the grocery store to find the item you wanted that was on sale to be gone or the person that got there 3 seconds before you took the last item? When you encounter this situation, ask one of the employees if you can get a rain check on that sale item and still get the sale price when it comes in? Many stores will do just that and even if they don’t, it doesn’t hurt to ask and it can only save you money!
#8: Beware of the inner isles.
Have you ever noticed how the main things you go to the grocery store are on opposite sides of the store? For example, at my local Safeway, at one end of the store is the fresh produce section while the bakery is on the opposite end. Grocery stores have this type of layout because they know they can get the hungry and weak willed to browse the isles between those sections and end up selling them more food than they had intended to purchase. However, if you stick to your grocery list, this shouldn’t be a huge problem for you.
#9: Don’t just buy items at eye level!
If you find yourself in an isle looking to buy a particular item, make sure to look up and down on the shelves for the best buy before you put the item in your cart. Often, grocery stores will put the more expensive items at eye level while the cheaper stuff is higher or lower on the shelves. They may not be the same brand as what you were looking for but if you are a little flexible, you can save big by buying the cheaper brands that aren’t right in front of your face.
#10: Don’t be afraid of buying the store’s brand.
One of the other big mistakes I see people make is they usually reach for the popular brand names and ignore the store brand thinking the quality or taste may not be as good which is often not the case. Store brand items are often little more than re-labeled brand name products so don’t be afraid to compare the ingredients lists as there is often no difference between the two. Also, it is a myth that store brand stuff doesn’t taste as good as the big brand names. Just this week, I bought a 1.5qt container of vanilla bean ice cream that was the store’s brand (Safeway in case you were wondering) and I liked it just as much as the vanilla ice cream from Ben & Jerry’s that I usually buy. However, there was one big difference and that was the price. A pint of the Ben & Jerry’s cost around a dollar more than the 1.5qt container of the store brand ice cream. Not only did I get a lot more, I paid a lot less too!
#11: Compare the unit price of items.
Speaking of comparing prices between brands, don’t just look at the price of an item, look at the unit price too! The unit price which is usually on the side of the price tag will tell you the cost of the item per ounce. Knowing how much you are spending for what you are getting is one of the best ways to compare prices to make sure you are getting the most bang for your buck.
#12: Avoid pre-made foods.
No matter what it is, if you don’t do it yourself, you are paying somebody else to do it for you. Pre-made foods can be really convenient if you just want something take home and eat with no more preparation than perhaps throwing it into the microwave for a couple of minutes. Unfortunately, if you don’t take the time to cook something yourself, you are going to end up paying somebody else to do it for you. You can often save yourself quite a bit of money if you buy the ingredients and make something yourself rather than having it made for you. This also has the added bonus of improving your skills in the kitchen too!
#13: Never buy prepackaged salad.
Speaking of avoiding pre-made food, salad is one of the biggest offenders for costing you a lot more money than you should be spending. Pre-made salad can often cost you 3x what it would if you were to just make it yourself. Salad doesn’t take long to make so spend a lot less and just make it yourself.
#14: Avoid grated cheese.
Same thing with as above but cheese is also a major offender when it comes to buying cheese that is already grated. Buy a block of cheese and grate it yourself as needed. It takes only a few seconds to grate the cheese you need so save the money and just do it yourself. Just don’t cut yourself or the resulting medical bills could make grated cheese the cheaper option.
#15: Buy fruit that is not already cut.
Not buying fruit that is already cut feels a bit redundant after the last couple of points stressing that you shouldn’t buy pre-made foods but fruit is a bit of a special case. Not only do you avoid the same costs of having somebody else cut your fruit for you like I mentioned on the points above, but fruit that isn’t cut tends to last a lot longer. If you are going to eat your pre-sliced fruits and veggies right away it isn’t that big of a deal but if you aren’t going to eat them within a day or two, they will end up going bad and end up in the trash while fruit that wasn’t cut yet will last you a few days longer.
#16: Avoid out of season fruits!
Speaking of fruit, if you are looking to save money, it is important to stick to buying the fruits and vegetables that are in season. Buying something like strawberries in the middle of winter compared to summer is going to end up costing you a lot more and they often don’t taste as good when they aren’t in season. Speaking of fresh food that is in season, don’t be afraid to shop your local farmers market. You may or may not save any money, but at least you will be supporting local farmers and local food often tastes better as there is less time between when it is picked and when you buy it.
#17: Avoid spice mixes.
Another great way to save money is by not buying pre-made spice mixes. Not only is it cheaper to make the mixes yourself (and you get to try all kinds of cool recipes you find online), but you will often already have some of the spices in your cabinets at home that you haven’t used up yet which you can use to make your own mix without spending more money.
#18: Grow an herb garden.
If you really want to save on what you spend at the store, why not just grow your own stuff? Growing a large garden full of your favorite fruits and vegetables might be a little more work than most people want to put into their food but herb gardens don’t take much work and you can grow your favorite herbs in pots around the house and never have to worry about buying herbs at the store. The more you can grow yourself, the less you will have to buy at the grocery store which means the more money you will save.
Those are just some ways you can save money at the grocery store but when you combine them, you can save thousands at the grocery store every year!
What tips do you have that people can use to save money at the grocery store? Share them in the comments below! Make sure to sign up for the mailing list below so you never miss a way to save money!