15 Quirky Ways To Spend Less Money On Food

ForbesWeekly - - NEWS - BY ALEXANDRA TALTY, FORBES CONTRIBUTOR FW FOL­LOW ALEXANDRA TALTY AT www.forbes.com/sites/alexan­dratalty

With the hol­i­days around the cor­ner, food is at the fore­front of the mind. But eat­ing well doesn’t have to break the bank. From per­sonal fi­nance ex­perts to savvy chefs, here are 15 tips to spend less money on food.

1. Delete Seam­less, GrubHub and other food de­liv­ery apps. Af­ter spend­ing nearly $300 on food de­liv­ery in her first month in New York, The Fi­nan­cial Diet Manag­ing Edi­tor Holly Tran­tham de­cided to delete Seam­less. Now, when she wants take out, she has to re-down­load the app, mak­ing her think twice be­fore or­der­ing.

2. Pick up your take out. De­liv­ery ser­vice costs ex­tra money. In ad­di­tion to a tip, cus­tomers can of­ten­times find them­selves or­der­ing ex­tra dishes, to make the min­i­mum. Spend the five min­utes to pick up your de­liv­ery food on the way home from work and save $5.

3. Join a lo­cal CSA. Sign up for Com­mu­nity Sup­port Agri­cul­ture, or CSA, share for fresh pro­duce straight from the farm. Mem­bers pay a lump sum at the be­gin­ning of the sea­son di­rectly to the grower, en­ti­tling them to a weekly dose of what­ever is fresh. Since con­sumers deal di­rectly with the farmer the cost is of­ten sig­nif­i­cantly less than at a farm­ers mar­ket or gro­cery store. Fresh veg­eta­bles don’t have to break the bank. An added bonus: a weekly share of veg­gies can help mo­ti­vate the home cook.

4. Each month, tally your eat­ing-out ex­pen­di­tures. The best way to stay on top of your per­sonal fi­nances is to keep track of spend­ing. Bobby Hoyt, fi­nance blog­ger be­hind Mil­len­nial Money Man, checks his credit card state­ments ev­ery month to make sure he and his wife aren’t spend­ing more than they re­al­ize on eat­ing out.

5. Keep dry goods like rice or legumes on hand. New Yorker Cathy Er­way didn’t eat out for two years, doc­u­ment­ing the no restau­rant chal­lenge on her blog. Not able to rely on con­ve­nient foods like pizza or bagels, she per­fected the art of al­ways hav­ing some­thing around to whip up into a quick meal. Her big­gest tip: Keep low-cost dried goods like pasta, beans or rice on hand at all times. They don’t go bad and are cheap to buy. Try mak­ing a legume-based meal once a week, for a healthy, in­ex­pen­sive din­ner.

6. Sun­day meal prep like a boss. Per­sonal fi­nance ex­perts, home cooks and fit­ness fa­nat­ics are all in agree­ment on this one: Plan your weekly meals. It is the best way to stretch your food dol­lars fur­ther. By mak­ing sta­ples like hard­boiled eggs, rice or lentils in ad­vance, it is easy to throw them into work lunches or use them to make a fast din­ner. Meal prep is the cor­ner­stone of spend­ing less money on food for mil­len­ni­als.

7. Make a weekly date with the gro­cery store. If there is a pack of mac­a­roni and cheese in the cup­board, you’re less likely to or­der-in Chi­nese food. Hit up the gro­cery store on a reg­u­lar ba­sis and you’ll have easy din­ner op­tions at hand. “If we go at the same time ev­ery sin­gle week, we spend a lot less money” on eat­ing out, says Hoyt. His wife hates to shop, so they do it once a week. It helps them with meal plan­ning and also makes sure they don’t just stop for take­out on the way home from work.

8. Buy in bulk. While many mil­len­ni­als’ houses or apart­ments might not ac­com­mo­date monthly Costco trips, you can still buy in bulk at the gro­cery store. Opt for big­ger pack­ages and, over­time you’ll be spend­ing less money on food.

9. Make a bowl. Er­way rec­om­mends think­ing sim­ply when it comes to home cook­ing. One of her fa­vorite, quickie dishes is a grain bowl. “If you just have some­thing like quinoa at home all the time or a bunch of fresh veg­eta­bles from your CSA you just picked up that day, you just cre­ate a bowl,” says Er­way. For pro­tein, she rec­om­mends to “top some­thing off with a nice fried egg.”

10. Cook din­ner with lunch in mind. In­stead of mak­ing enough food for just din­ner, dou­ble (or triple) your recipe, so that you can bring that yummy pad thai to work the next day.

11. Love your left­overs.

Dur­ing her eat­ing out fast, Er­way learned to re­pur­pose foods in fun ways, keep­ing her taste­buds in­ter­ested. “Once you have lit­tle pieces of left­overs, you have a half-head of broc­coli, you have left­over rice maybe you can turn it into fried rice the next day,” says Er­way, who ad­mits, fried rice re­mains one of her all-time fa­vorite dishes. “Ev­ery­thing is much eas­ier once you start cook­ing and you have th­ese things on hand and also you have a lit­tle more know-how. It just gets eas­ier over time,” she says. Get­ting cre­ative with your left­overs will help you spend less money on eat­ing out. And im­prove your cook­ing skills.

12. In­vest in qual­ity Tup­per­ware. In or­der to bring meals to work, you need a prac­ti­cal con­tainer. Whether it is Tup­per­ware or a su­per cool bento box, a good ves­sel is in­te­gral to brown bag­ging like a champ. They also come in handy for any cel­e­bra­tion, es­pe­cially Thanks­giv­ing.

13. Opt for veg­gies over meat. Meat is more ex­pen­sive. And while we’re not say­ing to go full-on veg­e­tar­ian, sup­ple­ment­ing your diet with more veg­gies will boost your sav­ings. “I am not ve­gan or veg­e­tar­ian or any­thing like that. I know most of my read­ers aren’t,” ad­mits Hoyt. “But re­ally, the price dif­fer­ence is hard to ar­gue with.” If you’re a full-blooded car­ni­vore, con­sider try­ing the Meat­less Mon­day chal­lenge to dip your toes into plant-based meals.

14. Use the freezer. If you’re cook­ing for one and make a big meal on Sun­day for the rest of the week, it can be a drag to eat the same meal six times. In­stead of trudg­ing through Tup­per­ware, freeze half of it. Then, you’ll have a per­fectly prepped home­made din­ner wait­ing for you on those nights when the idea of crack­ing an egg seems im­pos­si­ble.

15. Go for brunch in­stead of din­ner. Mil­len­ni­als like restau­rants. In Aus­tralia, colum­nists are re­fer­ring to them as the “Smashed

Av­o­cado Gen­er­a­tion,” in ref­er­ence to a pop­u­lar brunch item that the age set loves to con­sume. In­stead of spend­ing too much on eat­ing din­ner out, con­sider brunch. Hoyt and his wife spring for it once a week, as they’ve found it to be cheaper than a Fri­day night din­ner.

ALEXANDRA TALTY

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