Top Five Ways To Cut Your Food Bill in 2009

As I’ve mentioned before, my biggest area of wasted money is eating out. Well, this year that’s going to change. One of my New Year’s resolutions for 2009 is to cut back on eating out. The food bill is one of the most common areas of wasted money because most of us have bad habits regarding food. Interestingly, most of us are also overweight. Coincidence? I think not.
Here are the top five ways to save money on food in 2009:
5. Stop Snacking—Snacking not only puts unneeded calories in our bodies, it wastes money. Yet most of us snack in some way or another. For me, I drink Diet Pepsi all day long, a costly “food” with absolutely no nutritional value. For other people it’s the potato chips or bag of cookies or extra beers in their diets. The best way to cut back on snacking is to stop buying snack food. If it’s not in the house, you probably won’t eat it. This year, identify one area where you snack and stop buying it. It takes 21 days to break a habit—in 21 days, you’ll be free of a bad habit and saving money too.
4. Identify Areas of Waste—Pay attention when you throw food out. Is this a habit? If so, it’s probably an area of waste. Here’s a fail-safe way to become aware of wasted money in your food budget: For a month or two, write down everything thing you buy, how much it cost, and where you bought it. Also write down when you throw food out. Pretty soon, patterns will emerge. You didn’t realize you were over-paying for chicken breasts at one store when another store regularly has them for 30% less. Now you will only buy chicken breasts at the cheaper store. You didn’t realize that you threw out a half a pot of coffee every Sunday morning. Now you will make less coffee on Sundays. The key to saving money is to first know where it is going. Only then can you make changes.
3. Grow a Garden—If you have a little space and some sunshine, odds are you can grow some food for yourself, even if it’s just in a pot. It’s the best way to get healthy, organic, fresh food for almost nothing. A pack of seeds costs $2 and you can end up with $50 worth of food. In 2009, consider trying out a garden. You will be richly rewarded.
2. Make It from Scratch—Making food from scratch is almost always cheaper than buying it readymade. That doesn’t just go for dinner, but other things as well. Homemade cleaner costs a fraction of the store-bought stuff, so I make my own. I also make my own seasoning mixes, broth, pizza dough—the list is long and put all together, it saves us a lot of money. If you buy a pre-made salad in a plastic bag from the grocery store, you’re not just buying lettuce, grated cheese, croûtons, and a little bit of dressing, you’re buying the convenience of having that all put together for you. Making it yourself is not hard, doesn’t take long, and will save you money. For 2009, let’s identify where we can switch to DIY cooking.
1. Stop Eating Out So Much—Eating out is the most expensive way to eat. It’s also the most fun, which is why it’s my biggest problem area. But this year, I’m going to do better. I’ve picked an amount I want to spend on eating out and I’m going to stick to it. And it’s not just dinner out that you have to watch out for—it’s those $4 lattes that could be made at home for $1. It’s the $7 lunches that could be brown bagged for $2. It’s that $3 sodas at the movie theater that could be skipped (or smuggled in for a quarter). In 2009, start saying no to eating out. It doesn’t mean you can’t ever go out, it just means cutting back so a fun thing doesn’t become a money drain.
There you have it, the top five ways to save money on the food bill next year. I’ll be working on it too. If you have a similar resolution for the New Year, good luck. Keep checking back here and we’ll see how we’re both doing on it.

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