Monday, August 4, 2008

Tips for eating cheaply

Last September I made a drastic change in my life, I quit my very comfortable but slightly unchallenging profession as a bilingual customer service technician with moen and went back to school on a full-time basis. This entailed moving into the basement of some friends of mine for a very reasonable rent and living cheaply as I still had payments to make on the car, insurance, gas, etc...

I needed to make a budget that I could live with and this included being creative with my meal planning on a budget of $25 week. I began the exploration of the web, finding some neat tips to help out with the budgeting. Here they are in no particular order.

1- First plan out your meals. You will find that with a little meal planning you will be able to avoid eating out on the nights that you come home late and hungry.

2- When you do plan your meals, make double or triple the quantity and freeze it. This will come in handy when you don't feel like cooking. Of course a microwave is a staple here.

3- If you don't already have one, get yourself a crockpot. They are not that expensive and are a great investment. All you have to do is literally throw food in it and set it on low for the day. You can make some inexpensive stews, chili and soups. One advantage is that you can buy cheaper cuts of meat as the crockpot will cook it in its own juices and become tender. Here are some great
crockpot recipes to start off.

4- Sit down with supermarket weekly flyers. Plan out your meals based on specials and veggies that are in season.

5- Always make out a shopping list. Keep to the list.

6- And yes do eat before you go shopping this will cut down on spontaneous purchases at the till.

7- There is absolutely no shame in cutting coupons.

8- Compare the no name products to brand names, often you will find comparitive nutritional value for a fraction of the price of the brand name.

9- Buy less meats and start looking for meat replacements like beans, lentils, tofu etc..

10- If you use meats, use smaller portions, and provide plenty of vegetables. So you can use smaller quantities of meat and still have plenty of food.

11- This may be common sense but avoid the ready-to-eat microwaveable meals they are often expensive and loaded with sodium (on top of that I could probably eat 2 at one sitting).

12- Looking for apples or other produce? Look for the ones that are less expensive. For example instead of buying the Granny Smith for $1.29 go for the MacIntosh at $0.99 instead.

13- Try this one, host a pot-luck evening where everyone brings something be it an appetizer, salad, or desert. Usually there is quite a bit leftover for the host!

14- Don't underestimate the value of friendship and family....let them bring you care packages or treat you.

15- Start looking at your cuboards and fridges to come up with creative recipes so that you won't keep running to the grocery store as often. Tuna for example can be used in salads, pasta dinners, sandwiches and is inexpensive.

16- Visit the grocery store once or twice a week period. Any more than that you will probably overspend or bring back spontaneous purchases.

17- This may sound severe but when you are starting off take exactly the amount of money you budgeted out of your account in cash and spend only that. Forget about using credit or debit cards as you will not get a feeling for how much you are spending. If you don't want to go that route many grocery store chains have cards that you can pre-load with money.

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