In addition to saving money by cutting back on portion sizes and stretching ingredients, you can save a great deal if you're a smart shopper at the grocery store. Coupons are an easy, go-to resource. Try not to be partial to a brand so you can use more coupons to save more money.
You should also pay attention to sales in your local grocery store. Try to plan your menu for the week based on the foods that are on sale. Meats are usually a more significant portion of the cost of a meal. If you ever run across a sale on meats, buy them in bulk and freeze them to use later. You could even freeze some of the meat in a marinade. As it defrosts, it will absorb the flavors for a quick and delicious meal.
Another big chunk of your grocery bill is fresh fruits and vegetables. Those that are in season are always fresher and generally less expensive, so remember to cook based on the season. If you can't live without a certain ingredient, try buying it canned or frozen for cost savings. If you're only cooking for one or two people, frozen fruits and vegetables are extremely convenient.
You might also want to find a local farmer's market for your fruits and vegetables, where you will see significant cost savings from buying directly from the farmer. If you have the space and time, you could also grow your own vegetables. Maintaining the garden will help you get your exercise and relieve stress. And, there's nothing quite like the taste of something you grew in your own back yard.
You can also invest in inexpensive and healthy staples to always have on hand in your cupboard. The shelf life of ingredients like beans, rice, oatmeal and whole-wheat pasta is longer and these foods are much better for you than fast food. On top of being convenient, they're healthy and filling -- the perfect combination. And cut out the soda and go with filtered tap water instead. It's free, good for you and eco-friendly.
With these tips, you'll never have an excuse to go through the drive-through again.
- Bittman, Mark. "Is Junk Food Really Cheaper?" The New York Times. Sept. 24, 2011. (Oct. 9, 2011) http://www.nytimes.com/2011/09/25/opinion/sunday/is-junk-food-really-cheaper.html?scp=1&sq=mark%20bittman%20fast%20food&st=cse
- Christian Science Monitor. "Is eating out cheaper than cooking?" MSN Money. 2006. (Oct. 9, 2011) http://articles.moneycentral.msn.com/SavingandDebt/SaveMoney/IsEatingOutCheaperThanCooking.aspx
- HelpGuide.org. "Eating Well on the Cheap." (Oct. 9, 2011) http://helpguide.org/life/healthy_eating_on_budget.htm
- Johnson, Heather. "10 Tips for Eating Healthy on the Cheap." Moneying.com. August 22, 2008. (Oct. 9, 2011) http://moneyning.com/frugality/10-tips-for-eating-healthy-on-the-cheap/
- Lee, Sandra. "Sandra's Saturday Savings." CookingChannel. (Oct. 16, 2011) http://blog.foodnetwork.com/fn-dish/category/sandras-saturday-savings/
- Miller, Robin. "Robin's Helpful Hints." FoodNetwork. (Oct. 16, 2011) http://www.foodnetwork.com/shows/robins-helpful-hints/index.html
- Nelson, M.S., Jennifer and Zeratsky, R.D., Katherine. "Home economics -- Fast food vs. homemade." Mayo Clinic. Feb. 20, 2009. (Oct. 9, 2011) http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/fast-food/MY00574
- Pino, Darya. "10 Tips To Save Money While Eating Healthy." Summer Tomato. May 20, 2009. (Oct. 9, 2011) http://summertomato.com/10-tips-to-save-money-while-eating-healthy/
- Sood, Suemedha. "Weighing the Impact of 'Super Size Me.'" WireTap Magazine. June 29, 2004. (Oct. 9, 2011) http://www.wiretapmag.org/stories/19059/
- Sterling, Justine. "Is Home-Cooked Food Cheaper Than Fast Food? Yes." Delish.com. Oct. 5, 2011. (Oct. 9, 2011) http://www.delish.com/food/recalls-reviews/eating-home-cooked-food-is-cheaper-than-fast-food