Food Cost-Cutting Strategies for Every Lifestyle
If it seems as though you never have enough money to consistently save some of it for emergencies — consistent, regular deposits out of every paycheck that go straight into a savings account — perhaps it’s time to consider that you’re handing over your savings to restaurants, drive-thrus, diners and coffee shops. Think about it.
No matter your lifestyle, I am confident that with the right strategies, you really can reduce the amount of money you’re spending on food.
MORE TIME THAN MONEY
If yours is a single-income household struggling to survive in a two-income world, keeping food on the table and the bills paid can be quite a challenge. The good news is that time is on your side. The one not working outside the home has the time to plan, track sales and cook in order to keep household food costs at rock bottom without sacrificing quality.
All grocery stores and supermarkets have tremendous weekly sales. And they announce these details in their weekly flyers in print and online. Grab the sales from a number of stores.
—Eat the sales
Buy only loss leaders and items that are on sale. You won’t starve and you’ll have a huge variety of food items to choose from and in every department.
LITTLE TIME, TIGHT BUDGET
For dual-income families with kids, time becomes an especially valuable commodity. Kids are in school plus all of their extracurricular activities. Then there’s church and weekends filled with sports and just playing catch-up to get ready for the next week. You don’t have time to visit every store, to take advantage of a variety of sales.
—Pick a store
Your best bet is to identify the grocery store or supermarket in your area that is known for having the lowest everyday prices, then stick with it.
Plan menus around what’s on sale in that store each week.
PICKY EATERS, DIETARY RESTRICITONS
You have the time and the skills to cook at home. The problem is making meals that actually taste good given the long list of ingredients your picky eaters will not touch. Or you need to produce menus and dishes that match someone’s dietary restrictions otherwise known as “doctor’s orders.”
This meal-planning site offers variety and flexibility, allowing you to pick the recipes that best fit your needs that week. eMeals.com can’t go so far as to cook dinner for you but it gives you a plan and creates a shopping list so you can shop yourself or skip the grocery store by sending your shopping list directly to Amazon, Walmart, Kroger, Instacart or Shipt. Then you choose pickup or delivery.
Start with a free 14-day trial, choosing the meal plan that fits your family best: Gluten-free, diabetic, classic, heart-healthy, slow-cooker, 30-minute meals and so many more. The cost of eMeals.com is as low as $4.99 a month for a 12-month subscription.
Here is a website service for picker eaters that stands out because it is so unique. PlateJoy.com is a membership site that takes your lifestyle, learns your family’s tastes, health goals and time constraints and then creates custom-designed meal plans that will greatly simplify your life. It will make mealtime your happy place.
Once a week you get your custom recipes and grocery shopping lists. You can choose from 50 different data points (paleo, vegetarian kid-friendly, clean eating, etc.) and then create a specific list of what I call our “do-not!” ingredients. PlateJoy costs $69 for six months.
MORE MONEY THAN TIME
Young professional DINKS (dual income no kids) often, for whatever reason — insane work schedule, enrolled in graduate school and working full-time, crazy commute, you name it — do not have time much less the desire to shop for groceries beyond running in to pick up a six-pack of Red Bull and chips. And they’re the first to admit they lack the basic skills to prepare it if they had the time to shop for it.
Because they see themselves as having more money than time, DINKS routinely default to the most expensive eating style of all — restaurant, fast food, diners and drive-thru and not because going out again for the 12th time this week is particularly enjoyable. It’s a necessary burden to avoid starvation.
Before you skip past the idea of meal delivery services, you have to learn about Home Chef. It is neither expensive nor unreasonable and that is saying a lot coming from your humble columnist who loves to cook, has time to cook and lives within one mile of Costco.
Home Chef is not for every lifestyle. But for a family of two adults with say, two kids, this is the only meal delivery service I would consider.
Here’s how it works: You join (cancel anytime you want). You sign up for the number of meals you want in the week and the number of servings. Then you choose your meals from 13 different options (they change weekly).
Here’s what you get delivered to your doorstep even if you are not there to accept it: Everything. Seriously, everything you need to assemble, heat and eat. The base cost for Home Chef is an astounding $9.95 per serving.
The packaging is beyond belief it is so precise. Just follow the simple well-written instructions that even a fifth grader could follow. Meals turn out exactly as presented and pictured. The ingredients are remarkably fresh and beautiful. Go to EverydayCheapskate.com/homechef to get a $35 coupon if you would like to try it out. Of course, you can cancel anytime!
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