Saturday, May 27, 2017

Cutting Expenses -- When You Think You Can't (Part IV: Saving on Food And Dining Out

Hopefully this current series on cutting expenses, even when you think there's no breathing space, has been of help. The Brick and I have lived on a limited income for much of our married life. We spent modestly, even when we didn't have to, so he could retire at age 60, and we could do some things we've always wanted  -- like spend three weeks in Panama, and travel the country in a 5th wheel. We're currently looking at the possibility of a round-the-world cruise in 2018 -- provided we find tickets at the right price, that is. 

You've thought about the basics (Part I), ideas on money and interest (Part II), and everyday expenses (Part III).

Now comes one of the hardest areas to consider:  FOOD.

Like pizza -- one of the best budget foods out there, if you make it yourself.

We all need it.  
(And if it's Tostitos with Lime chips, plus the Brick's wonderful coffee, want it!)

How can you save on it? 

I've studied this area extensively. (My chubby belly proves it.) I've written several articles on this, including:

*spending $30 (or less) a week 

Here's a three-part series, Thriving At Rock-Bottom, that should help:

Part I is here.   (What to buy -- and where.)

Part II is here.    (What to do with what you buy.)

Part III is here.     (Easy-to-make meals)

Protein, fruit and greens... yum!   :)

Here are some more ideas:

*Make do with what you have... 
     Even if it's not perfect. Or you'd prefer something else. 

     *Keep to a set amount. How much can you afford? That is what you have to spend. (Yes, within limits, you can hold to an extremely modest budget -- and still eat well.)

 *Unless it's absolutely essential (like milk or eggs), don't buy groceries unless they're discounted, or on sale. (Take advantage of every freebie you can -- like King Soopers/Kroger's Friday Download program.) For now, at least, use up what you've already got stashed.

     *Buy flour and sugar. Learn to make your own bread, cake and cookies. Our food blog can help, with plenty of thrifty recipes.

     *Buy meat and cheese thin-sliced...or slice it yourself.

     *Go vegetarian -- though I am not convinced this is the absolute best way to save. Too many 'organic' and 'gluten-free' specialty products shove their way in -- and unless you're buying directly from the source (like a farmer), they're not always a good buy.  Plus, whether you like it or not, your body needs protein and fats for best health. You can't always get those from vegetables.
     I would advocate a balanced diet, instead -- plenty of veggies, but some meat and a few carbs mixed in. To make your meat (which admittedly is expensive) go furthest, here's an interesting guide. 

     *Keep something quick on hand. A few cans of soup, purchased on sale, make an easy meal, next time you're sick or have to work late. (Buy your favorites -- this is no time to skimp.)

     *Make your own coffee or tea. (Get the brand you like. Even if it's more, it won't equal Starbucks' price. Get a coffeemaker you can program to automatically start in the morning -- ours came from the thrift shop, and was $10. You'll save that amount quickly.) Stock up on your favorite soft dinks when they go on sale. (Like Memorial Day or the Fourth.)

     *Don't go out to eat. Yet. If you absolutely must, because of company or business, order an appetizer, salad or bowl of soup -- and drink water. Or get the special. Eat half -- and save the rest for tomorrow's lunch or supper.  (My favorite restaurant hack: get the Tavern Double from Red Robin: $6.99.  Eat a third of the burger, then fill up on the unlimited fries. Ask for tartar sauce -- it's thick, creamy and full of crunchy stuff to dip your fries in.)

     *Take the opposite approach:  go out to eat less. But pay more. Trade two quickie fast food meals a week for one at a better restaurant -- you'll probably get more food -- and better-- for the money! Take this even further, and dine out once a month, but at a much more upscale restaurant, steak or seafood place. Use a Groupon to make your money go even further. Or:

     *Gift cards are a good way to pay for dining out -- provided you got them on sale, or with a bonus of some kind. Buy them when you can afford to; use them when  you can't. (See Part II of this series for more.)

     *Use up leftovers.  Like this fudge: cheap, fast and delicious. Oh my.


1 can sweetened condensed milk*
4 cups chocolate chips**
1 teaspoon vanilla
chopped nuts, dried cranberries or raisins

*or use this homemade version, instead.

**or what I used tonight: a chocolate Santa no one would eat at Christmas, 2 broken chocolate bars and two cups of chocolate chips.

Melt the chocolate in the microwave -- about 3- 3 1/2 minutes. Stir in milk and vanilla, then pour into a greased round or square 8" pan. Top with nuts, etc. Cool in the refrigerator until firm. That's it!

Good food, well presented, can help you and your family get through a lot of uncertainty and hard times.
     Edith Schaeffer taught me this in her wonderful book, Hidden Art -- and she's right.

Next time:  Saving on the Inevitables -- insurance, medical and funeral expenses

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