Ultimate Penny Pinching Guide Part One – Food!

And now, for the series of posts you’ve all been waiting for – the Ultimate Penny Pinching Guide! I will be posting daily on general categories of spending that I bet us income streamers can spend less on – freeing up more capital for more income streams!

Today’s category is food. The interesting thing about food is that it is possibly the most flexible area of non-luxury spending. Everybody has top eat, but eating can me one bowl of ramen a day (which is RIDICULOUSLY unhealthy and won’t even save you money in the long run) or you could chow down on caviar and lobster every night. As such, it’s a great place to begin this series as I firmly believe very reader can gleam at least one money-saving strategy.

Without further ado – let the saving begin!

1. Eating out should be a luxury, not a necessity

I’m not going to begin this post by telling you all to swear off restaurants – that’d be silly, and a good steak can be one of the finest joys in life. However, the average American definitely takes these joys to excess – spending $3008 annually on restaurant food, according to the Bureau of Labour Statistics. If we could lower that spending down to one nice dinner out a week, or about $1300 annually, investing that $1700 saved would lead to $26832 in inflation adjusted savings every decade, and we’d probably be a lot healthier too!

2. When you do eat out, make it count

The above calculations presume you’re going to spend $25 on your meal – which is quite the nice steak for one person! To really get the most bang for your buck, it’d make sense to switch up restaurants every week and shop around. I’ve found that local, Mom and Pop restaurants can serve meals costing $10 that out-do the Five Star ones in my area. Furthermore, if you’re eating out at national chain, chances are you can most likely buy a gift card to that restaurant at a discounted rate – sites such as Raise allow people with unwanted gift cards to sell them to people like you!

3. You are bringing lunch to work, aren’t you?

Like I said, one $25 meal out a week could lead to enormous savings in the long run – but I’m really hoping you’re not squandering that $25 on a Subway meal at work every day! Preparing your lunch the night before can allow you to have far nicer meals for much cheaper – and consciously picking out what you’ll eat will likely help you make healthier choices, too.

4. Take advantage of free food!

Free food offers abound thanks to company promotions, and so long as you don’t make it a habit to visit the restaurants that offer them, it could allow you to score some free meals and stretch your food budget a little farther. Check if the restaurants you visit have email clubs, as these often come with welcome meals or birthday meals. Second, check out TubularJohnny’s website freefoodguy.com. A lot of his tips help me out when I’m craving a treat but don’t want to break the bank, and there’s something satisfying about hunting around for a good free meal and striking upon one.

5. Coupon!

Now that we’ve cut out the easy fat in our food budget – eating out – it’s time to see what we can shave off the grocery budget. The first step to saving money on groceries has always been and will always be couponing. A good place to start is your local newspaper, but if you would like to shop around from the comfort of your computer, there’s plenty of options:

Couponing sites like the Krazy Coupon Lady, Passion for Savings, Hip2Save, and SheSaved present deals in an engaging blog format, while RetailMeNot and MoneySavingMom allow you to search by product and store for specific coupons in their database. Browser add-ons like Honey can programmatically search for coupons when you’re shopping online.

6. Earn money back for your shopping

Making money to shop is a great way to reimburse your grocery purchases, and there’s a million ways to do it. The most well-known is mystery shopping, where companies will pay for your products in exchange for you buying them and reporting on your shopping and usage experience with the product. However, I have found few food-related offers in this area.

The other option for this is using phone apps that pay you back for sharing information about your experience with a product. Cashback apps like Ibotta will reimburse you for purchasing advertised products, while receipt scanning apps like ReceiptHog will pay you for sending a photo of your receipt, which allows them to gather information on which products are frequently bought together.

7. Shop for nutritional value per dollar

Lastly, a simple approach to saving money on food could be “Buy ramen in bulk and suck it up,” but study after study shows that ramen leads to metabolic and cardiac issues, which will be VERY expensive to treat (and also painful and dangerous, evidently). Instead, savers should look to buy foods with some of the best nutrition to price ratios. Rice, beans, lentils, lettuce, potatoes, water, and bananas all provide much more nutrients than pre-processed foods and sugary drinks and tend to be a fraction of the cost. Add in a few spices and you could prepare nice East Asian revolving around rice and lentils, or traditional Irish ones to enjoy those nice ‘tatoes. If you MUST have meat in there, which tends to be a very expensive food compared to its protein and vitamin content, fish and white meats are at least less expensive per gram of protein – and are less likely to lead to cardiac issues and various types of cancer.

8. Use a reusable water bottle

Alright, guys. I tend to be pretty gentle with my suggestions on this site – “Consider purchasing…”, “Try out…”, “Look at…” are my go-to lead offs. But I’m going to be blunt with this one.

Buy. A damn. Reusable bottle.

Bottled water costs 2000 times as much as tap water per milliliter. Bottled water is murdering our environment needlessly. And reusable bottles are super, super cheap. This would be a great place to invest that Amazon money you’re making from the phone and laptop earning I talked about a few days ago – it’ll definitely save you money in the long run, and prevent me from punching you in the face for using bottled water.

Phew! Do you have any other methods for saving money on food? How are you going to use these savings? Am I being too aggressive about the bottle thing?

(But really. Please get a reusable bottle).

That’s it for now, and look forward to a guide on saving money on transportation tomorrow. As always, stay earning streamers!

For more wonderful works of monetary magic check out @StevesStreams on Twitter

Part Two can be found here!

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