I’m at it again! Eating macaroni and cheese from a box when I should be having a balanced meal…at least that’s what my mom would tell me. But how can I do any better? After tuition, putting gas in the car, paying rent and utilities and buying my books, there’s almost nothing left. I work full-time at a fast-food place and can get meals at a discount there, but the kinds of meals I get aren’t real healthy.
I go grocery shopping focused on buying the fresh, healthy stuff but it’s more expensive than the boxed stuff, right? I would really like to save a bit of money and eat better. Any suggestions?
Tired of fake cheese
Eating healthy isn’t easy. It’s easier is to cook up a box of macaroni and cheese or go out to eat. I think that’s why the restaurant business has thrived for so many years. Everyone is busy, no one wants to cook, and it’s just easier to have it made for you.
But I’ve noticed something since America has come upon hard times. Less people are going out to eat. I know this because when I go out I see only a scattering of people eating. I went to a pretty popular restaurant with my daughter just a few weeks ago. We were one of two tables in the entire restaurant with people in them.
People aren’t buying and when they go shopping, more and more are shopping the ads and using coupons. Most of us aren’t buying those extra things, including those higher priced ventures to our favorite restaurant. We can’t.
So what do we do?
Shop the ads and use coupons whenever you can. Even if you don’t get the paper you can still find the store’s ad online. Just type in a key word and if the product is on sale it will be found for you. Find out what’s on sale and clip the products corresponding coupon that comes in the newspaper. Again, if you don’t take the paper, enlist the help of someone who does but who doesn’t use the coupons and have them save them for you. PinchingYourPennies.com is a great site that updates the coupons currently available. Product names are alphabetized, making it easy to find a coupon to match the store sale.
People who use coupons are no longer the geeks they used to be. Now saving money is a cool thing. The only drawback is that it does take some time to get your coupons together and to go through the ads, but the money saved is well worth it.
Plan a menu. Make a list. There’s nothing worse than wandering throughout a store trying to remember what you need. Planning a menu forces you to write down only those things that you need. You never buy eggs when you don’t need them because you forgot you bought them the last time. You’re never a sucker for the latest new cereal because it’s not on the list and you only buy things that are on the list. And usually you don’t forget to put something on the list if you’ve checked in your fridge and cupboards for what you need before making the list.
Never go shopping when you’re hungry. What do you usually buy when you’re hungry? Eggs? Hardly. It’s usually the sugar variety. Sugared items are usually more expensive than the healthy, fresh food choices anyway, and you’re trying to get away from the junk food, right?
Buy in bulk when you can. Some things, like apples, hold for a while if they’re kept in a cool and dry place. Healthy canned or bagged stuff like chili or refried beans or rice, hold over for a long time. The price for a large bag of rice is usually more, but in the end you’re spending less because you’re not making frequent trips for the same smaller bagged item.
Buy for a week or two at a time. Eliminate the small trips for the milk or bread. Buy what you need and save some money.
Go shopping alone, if possible. It’s amazing what our good friends will convince us that we need.
Eat Salad. Make your own dressing. There are so many varieties of salads, so many ways to make it, that you can never get too bored. Using leftovers like peas, peppers and chicken are great in salads and keep your fridge from growing mold. I have stopped buying dressing. I make my own refreshing dressing by squeezing 1/4 a lemon, a little olive oil and a pinch of salt on top. Mix together and enjoy.
If you have to eat out, search online or in the paper for money saving coupons for your meal. Many restaurants have a buy one get one free deal these days. Invite a friend. Share the cost of one meal.