How to Save On Your Bills: Groceries/Eating Out
In our third installment, we touch on what's probably the easiest place to save significant amounts of money in your budget.
Food is one of the necessities of life. You can only live for approximately three weeks without food.
If you're single, the whole food thing can be tricky. It's easy to determine that it's cheaper to eat out everyday than it is to cook at home.
You can also determine that it's difficult to cook for one on a daily basis. Most recipes are to feed between three and five people and making all of that food at one time seems to be wasteful.
However, there are ways for single people as well as non-single people to save money on eating out and the grocery bill. Here are a few ways:
1. Become More Like a Caveman
For millennia, our ancestors didn't have grocery stores, restaurants or road-side farmers markets to purchase food. At the worst, they would barter some beads or precious gems for food, but for the most part they were hunters and gatherers.
I know, some in the audience may not be all about the killing of innocent animals for meat. If that's the case, I understand and would encourage you to gather berries and other necessities from the area around you or use idea number two, which we'll get to shortly.
For now though, let's focus on the tried and true method of hunting. You can put hundreds of pounds of meat in your freezer for pennies on the dollar if you are successful. You can hunt small game such as squirrels or rabbits or large game like bear or deer.
Another often overlooked means of putting food on the table is fishing. Imagine being able to eat salmon, trout or bass on a daily basis through the winter due to your expert ability to fish. That can sustain you for long periods of time.
I've never been a gardener in my own right, I'll admit. However, I know many people who are and the rewards of their hard work are delectable.
For a few dollars, you can plant vegetables, herbs and root-based plants that can help sustain your pantry for extended periods of time. If you have a green thumb, this turns into extraordinary savings.
Often times, people with gardens or small farms grow so much food that they can't possibly take it all. This would present the harvester with a bartering opportunity, or with a gift to some neighbors or friends. It might even turn into a small opportunity to make a few extra bucks on the side.
3. Eating Out on the Cheap
The single people reading this know that eating out at a bar or restaurant has turned into a $30 affair in most places.
If I go out and get two beers, wings and fries, my bill before a tip will most certainly be in the $25 range and probably closer to $30 if I'm drinking microbrews.
Do that twice a week for a month and all of the sudden you've spent over $250 on eating out. That's absurd.
The easiest way to saving on dining out is to not dine out. However, there are times when you just need to get out and eat somewhere else that your kitchen table. Even more important, it's nice to get out and socialize. This holds especially true in colder climates when the Winter Blues set in.
If you do choose to eat out, try to stick with water. It's free and is better for you physically, mentally and is much friendlier on your wallet.
If you are getting drinks though, try to stick to the cheaper options. You can often times get two domestic drafts for the same price as a microbrew. Well liquor should be the choice as well, if you are a non-beer drinker.
4. Brown Bag
The average American spends $10 on lunch, according to MoneyUnder30.com. If you do that every day for a week, that's $50 per week. Over the course of a year, that's $2,600.
If that's your current situation, there are plenty of places to improve. You don't have to go cold turkey (no pun intended) and stop with your lunch outings with your co-workers. Try just trimming back to three times per week at first. Go to lunch on Monday, Wednesday and Friday for three months. Skipping those two days per week for 12 weeks would come to a savings of $240. If you do that over the course of the year, you've saved nearly $1,000 which is a good starter emergency fund if you haven't started that.
Maybe you're currently just going out twice a week. If that's the case, try to cut back to once a week for three months, then stop going completely and keep your money in your pocket.
A brown bag lunch of two turkey sandwiches and a yogurt costs less than $2. That's an enormous savings over the course of a year.
5. Bulk Grocery Shopping
If you're in a situation where you have a lot of pantry space, or a deep freezer this is the option for you to see the biggest savings.
You might remember at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, you couldn't find toilet paper anywhere. What if you had been bulk shopping at BJ's or Sam's Club though, you probably had a 24-pack in the closet that got you through those strange times.
Bulk shopping not only allows you to get mass quantities at one time, it also allows for you to stock up on staple items that come out to being a fraction of the cost that you would typically pay.
The average American drinks two cups of coffee per day, or 730 cups of coffee per year. The Walmart cost is $496, while the Sam's Club cost comes in at $306 for a $190 per year savings.
Maybe $190 per year doesn't sound like a lot. That same cup of coffee costs you at least $2 at Starbucks. If you just drink that same cup of coffee every working day for a year, the total cost is a whopping $520. But wait, you drink two cups per day, so that total is actually $1,040.
Moral of the story, drink your coffee at home and buy in bulk. That's where you'll find the biggest savings.
6. Outlet Shopping
I know, you're thinking what does outlet shopping have to do with groceries. When you think outlet, you're typically thinking about Gap or American Eagle, but it actually does apply to groceries as well.
Find the stores where you can get staple items for the cheapest. Where I'm from, we have a store called Sharp Shopper. For people like me, Sharp Shopper ranks in the top three places that I've ever been to. It's like a Mecca of savings. You have to be careful with dates, but you can walk out of the store with a cart full of groceries for $70.
Other stores like Save-A-Lot and Aldi are other options for big savings. You won't get the national brand names at these stores, but you will find huge savings on everyday items.
Shopping at the chain grocery stores might save you time overall because it's one-stop shopping for literally anything you could want. But that comes at a cost. You might be able to coupon and save significantly, but that savings will still pale in comparison to the savings you might find at a store like Sharp Shopper, Aldi or Save-a-Lot.
7. Change Your Diet
Are you on one of the new fangled diets of the day? If so, there's a good chance that you are spending out the backside on groceries. Organic this, keto that, no-carb this, vegan that. It all adds up and adds up in a hurry.
The Dave Ramsey formula says to go to a Rice and Beans, Beans and Rice diet. I can tell you from experience that a diet of international staples like this is extremely affordable. However, that diet is also bland and not very flexible.
If you want to give it a try, go for it. You'll save an incredible amount of money, but you probably won't be healthy in the long run if you maintain it.
Come back next week to learn more about cost savings from our series or visit timleister.com to learn more about how you can make your money work for you and begin living the life you dreamed of.