We all love both food and money, but food can cost a lot of money, and money is something we need to keep a tight rein on. While keeping food costs in check can be tricky sometimes, traveling can be even more complicated.
It can be tempting to eat out at restaurants as it is an important way of experiencing local foods. So how can we afford solid meals that taste good without breaking our bank accounts?
Table of Contents
How to Eat Good Food on A Budget
Avoid eating out at restaurants
The number one tip about eating on a budget is to avoid dining out. However, since restaurants and the food they serve are a big part of local culture, never eating out is pretty restrictive. Keeping that point in mind could mean eating out for some people and once a month for others.
Still, the point is to avoid eating at a restaurant, especially a fast-food restaurant, daily. A lot of money can be saved by not eating out regularly. Please keep it for special occasions or when there are offers on.
When you do go out to eat
Although we effectively have to dine out every once in a while to understand a foreign culture fully, there are plenty of ways to keep money in your wallet even when you’re dining out.
Ask for a takeaway container when the waiter brings your meal, then divide it into halves – one for now and one for later.
Look for lunch menus, daily specials, or all-you-can-eat deals, and evaluate prices and portions with the regular menu.
If you’re in a group, have everyone order a different appetizer in place of the more costly entrees, then pass them around so everyone gets a taste of each dish.
If you go to a fast food restaurant, stick to the cheaper options on the menu. Or find coupons like The Best Chuck E Cheese Coupons and Free Tokens & Tickets and Denny’s $2 $4 $6 $8 Menu, Including $4 All You Can Eat Pancakes.
Plan and stick to a grocery budget
First, set aside a certain amount of money for your grocery bill. When writing your list, check to ensure you don’t already have some of the ingredients amassed somewhere.
Next, you could plan your meals ahead of time, at least 1 to 2 weeks in advance, so you save yourself from having to make trips to the store every other day. In conclusion, take a calculator with you and add up everything as you go, assuring you stay within your funds.
Shop like a local
The grocery store isn’t the only choice, and even with discounts, coupons, and smart shopping, they’re not the cheapest either. Search out local vendors and markets in your area. Farmers’ markets are great places to stock fresh fruits and vegetables.
You’ll be able to find just about every type of local herb, spice, and sauce at ethnic stores. You and your friends can pool your money together to have fresh foods delivered from local organic farms.
This is a great way to eat healthier and keep in mind the people who shop at these markets are the life of the community you live in – getting to know them is a good idea.
Sign up for customer loyalty programs
All grocery chains will have a customer loyalty program in every country you have lived in or visited. Most people usually sign up for the card and, from then on, instinctively swipe their card at the checkout. Some people complain about getting junk mail from these programs.
The savings are there, and it is easy to build loyalty points every time you shop – however little you buy. Still, it pays off to take time and learn about incentives and bonuses like members-only pricing or shopping hours, double coupons, birthday/holiday bonuses, and general store discounts on DontPayFull.com.
Don’t forget to sign up for loyalty programs and membership cards at restaurants.
Buy store brands in bulk
Try and stick to generic or store brands with the same taste but a lower price tag than the brand name equivalent. Better yet, buy store brands in bulk. Keep leftover pasta and cereals in storage containers and packaged vegetables in the freezer (if you have access to one) for longer storage life.
Cook it yourself
Avoid pre-packaged meals and cook yourself. Yeah, they save you time but don’t necessarily save you money. You end up paying the cost of someone else preparing, cooking, portioning, and packaging your meal.
Suppose you buy the ingredients individually and cook the meals yourself. In that case, you’ll probably be able to eat the same food for half the price.
By cooking on your own, you can also determine exactly what goes into your eating, making them much healthier. If you use different herbs and spices, your meals will have more flavor too. This is also a great way to learn more skills in the kitchen, an essential part of development and independence.
When traveling, find attractions like Silver Dollar City, that allow you to bring your own food.
Cook in bulk
If time is holding you back from cooking your own meals, try cooking large batches of food when you have any spare time or on the weekend. Then section them out into containers or plastic bags that can be put into the refrigerator or freezer.
This way, when you’re in a rush during the week, getting in a solid meal is just a matter of reheating and eating. This is also a great way to keep those ingredients you bought in bulk from sitting around the shelf.
Saving money is essential when enabling us to live a good life while keeping our bank accounts in check. Look out for vouchers, promotions, and deals, and it is also a good idea to see if a store you’re in has a reduced section.
Rachel is an Austin blogger, educator, mom, wife, young breast cancer survivor writing about health, saving money, and living a happy life in Austin, Texas.
Rachel has written for HuffPost and Hometalk and has been featured on KXAN, Studio 512, Fox 7 Austin, and CBS Austin.