SAVE MONEY ON FOOD; How to Not Eat Through Your Wallet, No Matter How High the Fiber Content

By in Budget, Guest Post, Saving | 21 comments

NEW MONEY SERIES FOR THE SERIOUSLY BROKE COLLEGE GRAD; Part 2

Welcome to our new guest contributor, the Broke Bitch. She is a recent college grad with a minimum wage job. Enjoy her irreverent tips for saving and spending. Caveat; Her ideas are her own and I bear no responsibility for their content!

Be sure to check out Part 1 of the Broke Bytch SeriesTrue Confession About My Housing Arrangements and Other Cheap Living Options

Cheap Food Ideas

When I lived on my own (ah, the good-old days of freedom) to save money on food I exercised a few strange strategies to save money. One creative approach was going to a dollar store for food. Obviously, I wouldn’t advise doing your entire shopping there, but buying items like canned food or cereal are generally less expensive than in grocery stores and are relatively safe (relatively being the key word).  Although it can be a good option, I cannot stress enough how important it is to be careful about what you buy.  I’m begging you to please not be an idiot and buy a week’s worth of meat at any dollar store.

For other items, I suggest buying in bulk or sale items. Be sure to study the unit price. Store policies vary and some groceries place the unit price next to the cost of the item, at other markets the unit price is not so easy to uncover. Make sure you find the lowest unit price in order to get the best deal because sometimes the bulk items might have a higher unit price and in that case, it isn’t an actual bargain. (Barb’s comment, I’ve found the unit cost higher on the larger size than the smaller one more than once) It’s also important to remember that buying the cheapest item isn’t necessarily the best value.  Choose food that’s filling and can be used in a variety of different ways so you don’t get bored. Rice, peanut butter, and pasta are cheap and filling options. Oh, and any food that’s healthy is probably a good idea too (still working on this one).

Food Lessons

Here are two instructive food lessons from my own life. Once I bought a ridiculously large block of cheese because I love cheese. I put it on everything. Why did I get the jumbo size? Cheese is filling, it was on sale, and it is normally way out of my price range.  However, on the flip side, cheese is not super healthy in large amounts and I ended up gaining weight and getting these awful cheese headaches all the time. Thinking about it now, I suppose if I just practiced moderation, things would have turned out much better for me. Oh well.

Another time I got an insanely large bag of generic fruit loops (I believe they were called crunchy fruit). Like an idiot, I carried that bag around with me wherever I went.  It ended up being such a poor decision because sweet cereal so bad for you and its not filling.  Carrying the bag around had the added benefit of causing people to give me weird looks that seemed to say, “Girl, you do know that you aren’t eating actual fruit, right?”.   After much trail mix and error, I finally found an item good in bulk, rice. It’s good but boring so there isn’t much to say about it.

Healthier Food Options

Trying to save money on food, I ended up eating junk food because its so cheap.  This is unfortunately indicative of a larger trend in our society, the healthier something is, the higher it costs.  In order to have at least a little nutrition in my diet, I get frozen fruits and veggies, which are usually cheaper than fresh fruits and veggies and still hold good nutritional value.  Also if you have the luxury, farmers markets generally offer fresh produce at cheaper prices than the typical chain grocery store.

Best Shopping Tip

Although it seems like a no-brainer, before you go to a grocery store, you need to make a list.  My friend’s family would just wander through the aisles and pick up whatever looked good and/or cheap.  However, they ended up overspending because they bought multiples of things they already had (Barb’s comment; I’ve done that too). Imagine a home with three full fridges and two pantries overflowing with food. Their electricity bills must have been through the roof.

Reevaluate what you want and see if there is a cheaper option.  For example, instead of buying bottled water, get a water filter instead.  Or if you hate water, suck it up and drink it because its good for you.  Fun fact, a lot of times when you think you’re hungry, you’re actually thirsty.  Also not eating is a good way to save money on food.  I feel like there is a downside but I can’t think of it….I’m so hungry……..

Do a Cost-Benefit Before You Spend

At the risk of sounding patronizing, oh who am I kidding, I’m on a blog, narcissistically touting my advice on saving money which has thus fore sagely included “buying sale items”, clearly, I’m at no risk of sounding patronizing, I am already patronizing.

Um, that weird rant out of the way, I want to mention the worth of doing a cost-benefit analysis of the food items you buy because it can greatly cut down the amount of money you spend on “treat” items.  For those who don’t know, a cost-benefit analysis is when you compare the cost of an item with how much you need it, or how much it will benefit you.  If the price is higher than the benefit, scrap the item.

An item I usually debate is laffy taffy candy (yes, I have the taste buds of a five-year-old). I decided if its 50 cents or lower I can have one, if not, no candy for me.  I wish there was some sort of science or math equation to help make these decisions easier or perhaps a personal robot to tell you whether or not you can afford things or just do your shopping for you. But who am I kidding, you are probably too poor to afford one anyway.

Eating Out on the Cheap

In general, I advise buying staples (the food, not the office supply) from the grocery store over eating out.  However, if you are going to eat out, do some research on the best happy hours in your town.  I know one restaurant near me has a two dollar taco night on Thursdays which is muy bueno.  In some cases missing happy hour is inevitable.  I experience this sucky-occurrence when my friends want to go out to eat after work.  In those situations I tend to eat beforehand.  That way I eat less than I normally would and spend less dough.

Also if you’re going to be out all day, pack a snack so you don’t end up spending twice as much on a sandwich or granola bar (wow, I totally surprised myself with that non-sarcastic advice).

My last tip about food is kind of a no-brainer, but it needs to be said: try and seek out (free) events with free food.  Consider attending events you’re not interested in.   True, this takes a somewhat unchaste person to sneak out of a boring event after getting their fill of the spread but a truly flagrant individual will bring glad-ware and ziplock baggies.   And yes, in case you’re wondering, I have done that and yes, I’m proud of my utter shamelessness.

Until next time……..

-The Broke Bitch

Part 1 of the Broke Bytch SeriesTrue Confession About My Housing Arrangements and Other Cheap Living Options

Can’t Get Enough Saving?

What are your tips for saving on food? Ever done anything to save that you’re embarrassed about?

 

    21 Comments

  1. Hey There Barb,
    I know what you mean, There are definitely healthier and cheaper ways to eat than with fast food. But in reality, couples and families love to splurge a little and go out for some cheeseburgers or perhaps grab a sandwich from Quiznos or Subway. However, saving money on fast food can be possible with the help of these easy tips.
    Keep up the posts!

    healthy eating

    May 23, 2012

  2. @Healthy, Thanks for reminding us that splurging is okay and even recommended on occasion. And, overdoing the fast food is definitely not advised.

    Barb

    May 23, 2012

  3. haha I’ve made some of these grocery shopping mistakes before, like the massive block of cheese and the crappy generic fruit loops. I also do the cost analysis with my treats too. If ice cream or a chocolate bar is on special I might give in, but if not I use some restraint. Mostly I’ve found it comes down to finding a bunch of cheap meals that you enjoy. In the past I would just go with whatever meal I felt like and didn’t really take the costs into consideration. Now thought I consciously get the cheaper meats and some frozen vegetables. I eat out way less than I did in the past too.

    Modest Money

    May 23, 2012

  4. I don’t have a big food budget because I don’t eat meat and that really cuts back on a huge chunk of what I’d need to spend if I did.

    I find shopping around is really good for saving money – ie going to Walmart for dried goods, the farmers market for fresh fruits/veggies. It’s just the time that it can consume to do it!

    Daisy

    May 23, 2012

  5. What great ideas! I am not a fan of going to the bulk stores like BJs since there are only two of us (minus two cats) and we ALWAYS end up in the candy aisle! We buy meat in bulk at Restaurant Depot and we split it with hubby’s mother. You’ll be surprised how fast chicken wings, chicken breasts, and chicken filly goes between five people… =/
    As far as healthy goes…well I’m still working on that too. Hubby does not eat any veggies like mushrooms or spinach or peppers or well anything aside from peas, tomatoes and cucumbers!
    I love to go to Aldi (cheap store and good food)save A LOT when I go there. I also wait for two for 5 or buy one get one free cereals in Rite Aid plus with my 20% off wellness points, it kind off adds up. Anyways sorry for all the writing, thank you for your tips and time!

    Amy

    May 23, 2012

  6. Lots of great tips! But… a cheese headache?!?! lol. I’ve never heard that one before!

    Julie @ Freedom 48

    May 23, 2012

  7. @Modest, Sounds like you are moving in a smart financial direction. Personally, I love pb&j, pasta, and veggies. I make several meatless meals per week. Like the broke bytch, I’m not opposed to stocking up at the $$$ store.
    @Daisy-I like that same strategy, and find with gas so high, I’ll shop around at various stores over several weeks to save on gas.
    @Amy-I’ve had the same experience at the bulk stores. WE ended up buying more junk food in big packages! I love Aldi!!!! Try putting cheese or oil on the veggies for the hubby.
    @Julie-Thanks for chiming in 🙂

    Barb

    May 24, 2012

  8. Ha ha ha, have to laugh at the notion of attending free events you are not interested in for the food but I have stayed for lunch at free conferences and talks that were boring me before 🙂 so I know where you are coming from.

    I am finding more and more that I can cook better food at home than out and for a posh lunch nothing beats having cheese (brie is good), fresh bread, olives and something like hummus on hand. I often enjoy that far more than a sandwich or lunch meal from a cafe / restaurant and what better surroundings than a local park or lookout over the city!

    Forest

    May 25, 2012

  9. haha .. You have pointed out some good ways i think .Not often do we try or think like this , and more often we forget to keep our selves in a limit .. I will always keep your tips in mind …

    Wilium Shatner

    May 25, 2012

  10. We used to spend way too much money on food every month, over $1,500 a month. It was insane. Now we cook at home more and have saved a ton.

    Michelle

    May 25, 2012

  11. Forest, That meal of brie, humus, olives, & bread has my mouth watering. I’m putting all the items on my shopping list. We eat out on the patio, for atmosphere and relaxation.

    Barb

    May 25, 2012

  12. I take snacks with me when I go anywhere–cheese and bread, water, fruit, nuts/chocchip/banana mix from bananas I dehydrate/nuts I have frozen/free chips. Often, I carry a small container of milk and one of oj, poured from my larger containers at home. I keep chicken cooked at all times, so I might just pull off a chunk and make that my first thing I eat since it will spoil.

    I have a low blood sugar problem, so I will buy anything if I start to crash.

    I have eaten so much cheese that I have gotten a cheese headache=migraine. Now, I try to moderate my intake, even when I get free cheese.

    Practical Parsimony

    May 27, 2012

    • @Practical, I like the idea about keeping cooked chicken on hand. Great snack. That mix sounds delicious. Putting the chocolate chips in makes anything taste wonderful. I usually go with a bottle of water (or diet coke if I’m tired) to keep in the car.

      Barb

      May 28, 2012

  13. It’s a perfect patio meal! Sun dried tomatoes is a good addition too but they can be pricey.

    Forest

    May 28, 2012

    • @Forest, Last night we tried garlic humus, garlic stuffed olives, brie, crackers and veggies on the patio while playing a board game. Heavenly….. and a great light meal. Thanks for the tips, Barb

      Barb

      May 28, 2012

  14. Great post Barb.

    Healthy eating is quite important to us so we use many of the tips you mention. We also meal plan and cook at home all of the time. This saves a ton of cash and keeps us healthy. I find picking recipes that are only 30 minutes or less a real life saver. We wouldn’t do nearly as well with our eating if we had to come home after a long day and prepare a complicated meal.

    With our system, the two of us are the healthiest we have always been. Going vegetarian has always helped.

    • @Miss T- I can’t seem to accomplish the “meal Plan”, but eating healthy at home works out on so many levels.

      Barb

      May 28, 2012

  15. @Modest Money: I totally agree, I’m always on the lookout for some cheap ideas for tasty. meals.

    If you (or anyone else) have any suggestions for cheap, tasty (and simple) meals please post them!!!

    @Daisy: Good tip about dried goods at Walmart, thanks!

    @Amy: No need to apologize, you gave us some awesome tips!! I completely forgot about Aldi, you’re right, its da bomb! I love you’re idea about Rite Aid, every penny counts!!

    @Julie @ Freedom 48: Thanks!! I’m so happy you haven’t faced a cheese headache…it basically comes from when you eat WAY too much cheese and subsequently get a headache. Its not common, I’m just overindulgent in my need to consume massive amounts of cheese haha!! I don’t recommend it!

    @Forest: Although I’m an awful cook, sticking to the basics like the bread and cheese you mentioned as well as finding some helpful cooking videos online makes me feel like I’m a regular Emeril!!

    @Wilium Shatner: Awesome name, dude! Thanks for the complimentary post!!

    @Michelle: That’s amazing! If you can think of any recipes you recommend, please post them!!!

    @Marcos T. Rodrigues: Thanks for reading, hopefully I will continue to inspire you with new tips on how to save money, keep reading and let us know what you think (even if you don’t like the post)!!

    @Practical Parsimony: Wow, I totally respect your snackage!! Two questions: what are frozen/free chips and aren’t you afraid of your milk spoiling when you take it with you (do you keep it in some sort of ice container?) Thanks for the post!!

    @Miss T @ Prairie Eco-Thrifter: Please post some of your favorite recipes, I know I am always eager for new ideas!!

    Everyone, thank you for your posts it is so amazing to hear people actually are reading what I write (its also a little scary). please continue to keep reading and posting!!! Hope y’all continue to enjoy my semi-logical rantings!

    Broke Bytch

    May 31, 2012

  16. I meant that the bananas are reduced bananas that I dehydrated. Frozen nuts were free or cheap. Chocolate chips were free or cheap. What I wrote made no sense…lol.

    Lots of times, I plan to drink the milk within an hour. Besides, warmish milk is not going to sour even if it is not palatable. Sour milk is not dangerous. When my blood sugar starts to drop, I will gulp warmish milk to save me.

    I do have a square soft cooler with the harder plastic liner and a blue ice thing to stick in for the day. I put a Coke, oj, milk, apple, cheese, banana, sometimes homemade yogurt with a dab of homemade jelly on top, and off I go, secure for the day. I can stick in a chicken sandwich with spinach and Miracle Whip and be reasonably sure it won’t spoil. I am a serious grazer!

    If I am rushing out without breakfast, I stuff the chicken in my mouth for the protein and stick the milk, oj, and snack in a canvas bag and run.

    Practical Parsimony

    June 3, 2012

  17. @Practical-I like the idea of a cooler. Sounds like you have a whole buffet going!!! How do you get free nuts and chocolate chips? Where can I get them?

    Barb

    June 3, 2012

  18. I like the idea of saving money by not eating at fast food restaurants and eating healthier of course, but I do love cheese and I love it in large amounts. I don’t know why, I mean it is healthy, but I do agree that large amounts are not really healthy. When I used to eat Subway every day I ordered extra cheese every time. Now that I stopped eating at subway, I have lost 35 pounds and I feel like it was because of the cheese. I have completely changed my diet and that has given me a lot of freedom to save money because Subway is expensive.

    Freedom To Save

    September 24, 2012

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