- During the holidays I bought a few gift cards that came with special offers. For example, I bought a $20 Chick-Fil-A gift card and received a free calendar. Each month comes with a free food coupon (no purchase necessary).
- I can also choose restaurant gift cards as gifts in the Thank You Rewards program with my Citibank credit card.
- Mystery shopping. This is the best way to satisfy my eating out craving without hurting my budget. While most of the shops are limited to fast food, I've eaten at half a dozen casual restaurants in the last two months, free of charge.
- I shop almost exclusively at Aldi. Where else can you get a gallon of milk for under $2?
- Dining out is almost always reserved for lunch. I still haven't figured out why restaurants jack up their prices after dark.
- I use coupons when I eat out. I buy the Entertainment Book each year as well as the Enjoy the City book sold by local schools. Why pay full price when I can buy one, get one free and just split the price with my lunch buddy?
- I am faithful to the Dollar Menus. My current favorites: Burger King's Double Cheeseburger, Sonic's Chicken Strip sandwich, the new 5 layer burrito at Taco Bell, and Wendy's Junior Bacon Cheeseburger.
- We prepare most of our own meals, and rarely buy pre-packaged foods. Meat is usually a side item, not a main course. Whole grain pasta and brown rice and inexpensive and easy to prepare, so those are featured at many meals. Beans, potatoes and other vegetables are healthy and not nearly as expensive as meats, poultry and fish.
- Rather than eliminating alcohol, we stick to Winking Owl red wine. Both the Cabernet and the Shiraz, at $2.99 per bottle, are surprisingly good. We have 2-3 bottles per week.
Friday, January 8
Eating Like a Frugal Miser
One of my 2010 spending goals is to reduce my daily food budget to $5.00. This is less than half what I spent in 2009, so I've been thinking a lot lately about how to do this without feeling deprived. Here are a few of the strategies I am using: