15 Quirky Ways To Spend Less Money On Food
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.