questionshow do you keep your food costs low?

vote-for65vote-against
vote-for29vote-against

thanks mom and dad, dinner was delicous! see you in a couple days :)

vote-for11vote-against

Shop for a weeks worth of groceries at a time

Buy a George Foreman grill and lots of hamburger

vote-for4vote-against

Coupons, and only date supermodels. :) Oh, and veggies from the farmer's market.

vote-for23vote-against

Coupons and sales are helpful.
Cooking once or twice a week (mostly on the weekends) and making enough so that I have easily reheatable leftovers helps a lot too.
Chicken breast, George Foreman grill and frozen vegetables are good for a quick meal.
Scrambled eggs with some salsa and cheese (poor man's omelet) is another great, quick meal.

The trick with the Foreman grill is to put a very wet cloth into it right after you get done cooking your meat. Unplug the grill, close the lid and enjoy your food. After you're done eating, go back and wipe down the grill. The steam generated from the hot grill and the water on the cloth will do most of the cleaning work for you.

vote-for6vote-against

I, too, spend a lot on food, especially eating out. I used to feel guilty that I was not cooking for myself - then thought, well, why not enjoy a meal with friends out instead of eating leftovers and frozen dinners. The expense does not bother me so much any longer, because I came to the conclusion if I can afford it, and it makes life more pleasant, then go for it. A good rationalization is that I read we eat less when we eat with others - good for the waistline!

vote-for4vote-against

extreme couponing

get to eat/use name-brand products, and often overage (coupon values higher than item price) will carry over & eat into the non coupon items like produce & meat.

Also, never grocery shop before dinner, always when your stomach is full.

When I or the wife want a steak dinner, we often figure that for the price of 1 meal out, we can get the same quality/quantity of a steak dinner at a restaurant at home, and have money left over for a case of beer.

finally, if something you use frequently is on sale/special, STOCK UP.

vote-for11vote-against

Stick to whats on sale. Things that you need/ eat daily you'll need to buy no matter what so if it ever goes on sale, stock up (assuming it's not exceptionally perishable). If you dont care much about nutrition, you can go with a lot of frozen things.

One good middle ground between frozen and healthy is burgers. Take one out of the freezer, ten minutes on the stovetop and it's done. put on a slice of cheese, fancy up the bread with some condiments while its cooking...you've got a solid, relatively simple hot meal in ten minutes.

Microwavable meals are a good friend of mine too. Not like TV dinners, but microwave pizzas or hot pockets or something.

A good example: I'm vegetarian so a lot of my prepared meals tend to be a little more expensive than the meat alternatives. Grocery store had EVERYTHING I like on sale today. So I got a ton. I think on those alone I spend 20, 30 bucks. But I got food for just about two weeks. And that's not counting all the other food I bought.

vote-for4vote-against

Coupons, and checking the deals at the store. I use the store's "discount card". I don't buy what I don't need, and try to eat any leftovers.

vote-for3vote-against

We don't buy it if its not on sale.

vote-for6vote-against

The quickest way to break the eating out habit is to keep track of every dollar spent on food and see what it's costing you every month. That was my motivation to start taking a lunch to work, after realizing I can easily save $60-70 per month. Dinner is even more expensive.

And like others have mentioned, I often cook something big on the weekends and eat leftovers throughout the week. In between leftover days I eat quick and easy stuff that doesn't take much prep or cleanup.

vote-for11vote-against

I avoid eating out.

I buy items that will keep ONLY when on sale (I have plenty of storage space and an extra chest freezer in my basement). The chest freezer is manual defrost which helps avoid freezer burn. Everything that goes into the freezer gets wrapped properly so it will keep for weeks to months, if not longer.

I try to buy meat, fish and chicken in large ("family" or even larger) packages when on sale, then separate and wrap properly and freeze (you need to check if stuff has already been frozen, especially fish).

I always make extra when cooking so that I have leftovers. I freeze things like pasta sauces, chilis, soups and stews in single serving containers.

For lunch, I have leftovers or frozen dinners (Lean Cuisine, Tabatchnick, Healthy Choice, etc. at no more than $3 each). I keep six to ten such frozen things at work. If I have to work late, I eat another one shortly before leaving work so I'm not starving when I get home.

vote-for2vote-against

Hormel's Compleats dinners. Enough for a small meal. If you wish, add a salad or vegetable. The dinners are microwavable & don't need refrigeration. Can buy them for around $2.25-$3.00 each. Many varied entrees. Not excellent meals, but tasty & so convenient for 1 person who doesn't want to cook. When you do cook, be sure to make enough to freeze leftovers. Home cooked meals are always the best!

vote-for5vote-against

my big money savers- Rice and Pasta. i regularly cook rice in a large pot that will last me a week if portioned correctly, and throughout the week i use it differently, from mixing it into a soup, to adding butter and salt, to stir fries. Rice and Pastas are filling and cheap so i find myself wanting less meat and junk food. Publix (if you have one local) has great sales and usually has the frozen steam-in-bag veggies on sale once a month, and i stock up when they are. I mix ground turkey with cheap ground beef for burgers, and us a lot of frozen chicken on the george foreman (like others have said, get one!)I found a local guy who sells free range, brown, chicken eggs for $1.50 a dozen and go through at least a dozen a week.
I AVOID ramen, its horrible for you and it makes me sick to eat it more than once a day because of all of the sodium.

vote-for5vote-against

@sadsephiroth: No, and yes. Keep the noodles, throw away the sodium-er, FLAVOURING packet. Mix with condensed soup, add 1 can of water, heat in microwave for 3 minutes in large bowl, remove and cover. Let it sit covered for an hour. In that time, the noodles soak up the soup liquid and it's achieves casserole solidity and will be extremely filling. Not that nutritious, but it's lots more than what you started with for less than a buck more.

vote-for3vote-against

I usually add extras to boxed/canned stuff to stretch it farther too.
For example, we like the kraft deluxe mac & cheese, but our three kids are growing up and eating more, so to avoid using two boxes, I usually just add 1/2 cup of plain mac noodles from the bulk section at the grocery store. No one notices any reduction in cheese sauce-to-noodle ratio, and we save about $1.50 by not using a second box.

vote-for6vote-against

Eat more nuts and seeds.

The key advantages here are:

1)nuts and seeds are almost all healthy fats and proteins [not all fats are bad, and some types are essential because the human body can't make them on its own],

2)nuts are relatively cheap on a calories-for-dollar basis, and

3)they're easy to snack on and help suppress hunger, since all fats (healthier and unhealthier) tend to trigger the body's "I'm full" response.

Walnuts, almonds, and hemp seeds are all particularly nutritious, although a little on the expensive side. If there's a Trader Joe's near you, they have good deals on nuts.

EDIT: "Easy to snack on" is especially important during long workdays (which the OP mentioned).

vote-for-5vote-against

Rice. "Really great when you want 1000 of something." Rice makers are great all-in-ones. Ramen and other noodles go a long way, and make great filler when cooking with other stuff.

Feral cats are plentiful and renewable, and people will thank you. It is also the other-other white meat.
If wanting something a bit more, kids are also a cheap renewable food source that are often overlooked because of different connotations... btw, do NOT eat kids, that will end really badly for you even if you are helping keep the population down. That excuse only works for non-humans, or as I like to call them: the non-destroyers.

Also, coupons. Coupons go a long way, and there is no shame to using any. And depending on how tight you are for cash, if you ask a grocery store for a discount on meat that needs to sell by the day, they sometimes give it.
@havocsback - That is what I do! Udon is great for that, as it is already a huge noodle.

vote-for7vote-against

As to nuts and seeds (recommended above)....let me say that no one loves them more than I do. I like 'em so much I think I might have been a squirrel in a prior life.

HOWEVER, ya gotta be careful.

1. Nuts are so delicious you may wind up eating so many you'll gain weight.
2. I recommend pre-shelled nuts rather than nuts in their shells. I used to prefer buying them in their shells. But due to imperfect shelling, I've had 3 dental visits for repairs, at a total cost in excess of $3,000, as a result of biting into nuts I had not perfectly shelled. (If I was a squirrel in another life, my darn squirrel teeth didn't follow me into this life!)
3. Avoid salt to the extent you can.
4. Read up about the maximum number of certain types of nuts it is safe to eat. Too many Brazil nuts a day can do you harm as can a large number of almonds. (But a small helping of almonds is now thought to be deterrent to certain types of cancer.)

That's all the "nutty" ideas I have for ya. Happy chomping!

vote-for8vote-against

Lots of what's been mentioned above.

(*) Buy what's on sale at the grocery store and make your meals around that. This keeps cost down and gives variety from week to week.

(*) Start with your protein. See what's on sale and compare prices by the pound. You get more value with big cuts and family packs. Separate into smaller portions when you get home, precut or slice and/or marinate each portion. Makes it easier to quickly cook after work.

(*) Do the same with your vegetable. I buy vegetables based on what's on sale and what would make universal, easy sides such as broccoli, mushrooms, asparagus and corn.

(*) Keep staples at home that will help turn a few fresh ingredients into meals: rice, pasta, tomato sauce, eggs, garlic, milk, butter and a variety of sauces (soy, oyster, Worcestershire, chili). I usually make enough white rice to last the week.

(*) Consider a slow cooker.

vote-for3vote-against

If we are going to have some meal based on chicken, I will cook up more than needed & portion it up for later use. I do this with everything but fish. If you have your ingredients already portioned up, seasoned, pre-cooked, etc., it makes it less of a chore to throw something together after a long day at work.

I hate making salads, but we eat them at least once a day. So when I am washing up the green leaf, I prepare 2 extra bowls of the cleaned lettuce & then Saran wrap it. It keeps well in the fridge for the next day & is easy to grab and then throw on some tuna or mandarins, shredded chicken, etc. I really hate cooking, but making things simpler when I do spend time on food prep helps keep the budget in check.

Maybe make a list of the things you like to eat out & try making them at home to help with the transition. Many things are pretty simple to make at home.

Would you be into growing your own veggies at all? Lettuce, carrots, tomatoes are super easy & yummy.

vote-for3vote-against

Some very good answers. At my home, we keep an eye out for big protein sales, and we'll buy a bit more when it's at a good price becuase it will last longer at that same rate. So 10 pounds of chicken isntead of 5, etc.

We eat lots of pasta, too, and make large portions so leftovers can be kept for lunches throughout the week. Making a good meal when you have the time is the BEST way to keep yourself honest at work and the local burger joint sounds good. If you have great dinner leftovers, you may find you'd rather eat that, and save on gas and expensive food, both.

One thing I'm surprised no one has said is growing your own vegetables. I have a family member that has a backyard and a lot garden, and we get squash, onions, peppers, tomatoes, potatoes, and sweet potatoes every year throughout the summer. You can really fill out a dish with some extra veggies, and the cost is very low. You also learn a lot. This year we're starting our own garden as well.

vote-for4vote-against

I was in the same boat you were but I started cooking on the weekends so I would have stuff for lunch and dinner throughout the week without putting forth much effort. Soups are really easy and cheap depending on what you like. You can get a bag of lentils from the store for around $1 and they only take 30 minutes to cook, throw in some spices and vegetable bouillon (I'm vegetarian) and you're good to go, lunch for 5 days on a dollar! I'm also on a 500 calorie diet now so I don't have to worry about expenses like food these days lol!

vote-for3vote-against

My first recommendation would be invest about 100-150$ into a chest style deep freezer. Honestly these things are a godsend. Now prepare to use it.

Dependent on the store you can do this. I use Kroger, but im sure some other stores do the same. Look for near expiration items. Predominantly in the bread, meats (and I guess you can do the same for milk too, thought just dont freeze it) I know at Kroger have their own bakeries, you can get Kroger Brand bread typically for less than a 1$ a loaf/bun. However if you see a manager sticker that means your looking at closer to 25-50 cents per loaf/bunpack.

Same is true of the meats and milk. Only downside is hings you might not want will likely be your choices. Example I picked up a roaster chicken that would sell for 16$ for just under 7. Great price, but I live alone, so I have never even cooked a roaster chicken. Good price, not always practical.

Beyond that? Ramen, peanut butter, Store brands over name brands. Other common sense stuff.

vote-for3vote-against

Coupons, Watch sales,Store club card, Socking up on essentials.

vote-for2vote-against

Coupons, buying from discount stores (Aldi, Save a Lot), buying generic brands (which surprisingly to some people, are often as good or better than the namebrands). When I started shopping at Aldi instead of the one local grocery chain (Schnucks), my foodbill was chopped in half. Also, sometimes buying in larger amounts from Costco can help, but make sure to pay attention to (and calculate if need be) the per ounce prices.

vote-for2vote-against

If you aren't worried about health, fast food can be WAY cheaper than buying food at the grocery store. If you factor in grocery store food that goes bad before you eat it, getting a couple $1 double cheeseburgers from McDonalds or Burger King can't really be beat at the grocery store unless you just eat Ramen noodles. You can eat on $5 per day doing this (but it certainly isn't healthy...)

vote-for2vote-against

Also forgot to mention in my earlier post. The point of the deep freezer Obviously we know meat freezes pretty well. Bread freezes well too. You can either toast the bread or let it set out for about 2 hours and it will be ready to go. Sliced/shredded cheese also is good to freeze (just on sliced you may want to wash the cheese off and dry it off with a paper towel if it is not individually wrapped . These are all items that people have to buy a lot of because they spoil too quickly. So by quickly freezing the product it allows you to stock up on things, and preserve them better so your not constantly having to re buy the same things over and over.

vote-for2vote-against

The problem with a lot of these answers is that they make it seem like you can't eat healthy and save money.

If you want cheap produce to make your own healthy meals you should checkout ALDI or your local farmers market. You don't have to eat Top Ramen to save money.

vote-for2vote-against

@klozitshoper: It's alright, I'll upvote you. :p I obviously am not going to eat feral cats. They are far too stringy and lean. Yeesh.
Then again, I do find it odd that you objected more to that than the baby thing.

Ignoring the obvious jokes, I stand by my post. ^_^

vote-for1vote-against

@geredeth: As I said, you had me until the feral cats. I did not read beyond that. Double yuck, but I did give you an upvote!