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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:
  • 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.
Have you found other creative ways to stick to a tight food budget?


  1. We eat in mostly, on our special outtings involving alcohol, we try to hit the happy hour for drinks, also we we eat out we usually order water to drink, this usually saves around $6, $2.50 a pop, then tax and tip, I try to get restaurant gift vards for doing points, however if cash is an option, I will take that first, my survey, can consistently supply about an extra $10 a month with little effort. I still haven't tried the mystery shopping yet, but its on my list to sign-up. Also we try to split a meal and an appetizer too.

  2. My country´s reality is very different from yours, here we don´t have so many coupons, gift cards, mistery shopping, etc...I just wish we had :)
    I really save money by cooking from scratch. I buy fresh meat and fish and freeze it myself. Pasta dishes are also very frequent in my menu because they´re versatil, healthy and inexpensive. Vegetables soups are also good, they last 2/3 days and toguether with a sandwish or fruit make a complete meal.
    I often make breakfeast for lunch or dinner (eggs, saussages, toasts, burgers, etc). My biggest problem in food budget is eating out. Who resists having a good meal without much trouble, right? Reduce eating out is the categorie I must work on 2010.
    I often cook dishes that serve more than one meal (ex: stews, lasagna), it saves me time & money.
    All the best for your 5 target. It´s an impossible figure for me, specially because I have a child to feed.
    Regards, Mizé

  3. Marilyn - isn't it insane that a soft drink costs $1.50 and up at a restaurant when a 2 liter can be found for less than that! has been good to me. I've about passed the 100,000 point mark. I also do for the cash. If you haven't checked it out, another good site is e-rewards. The redemptions there are for magazines or travel points but they send out a lot of surveys.

    Mize- I'm hoping to do even better than $5, but that's less than half what I spent in 2009, so we shall see. I'm with you on falling weak to the restaurant meal. It's so easy, convenient, and tastes good. But for lunch...I just have to get out of the office and it's too cold to go to the park and too far to come home, so I eat out a lot right now for lunch.

  4. Yeah I do e-rewards too and swagbucks, fyi, you can find alot of free magazines posted on the internet, I never pay for them, we get TV Guide, Forbes, Business Week, Flying, Car and Driver, Hot Rod, Seventeen (from erewards) Marie Claire, Elle, Woman's Day, Weight Weighters and Cosmo for free, I've decided to let a few of mine expire since we weren't reading them! I really never would believe FREE!

  5. If your goal is less than half of what you spent last year than it´s a very ambicious goal.
    I also need to make meals while I´m working, specially due to my shift´s schedules. Many times, I cook at home and take a meal with me, others I just eat at the hospital´s bar. It´s more expensive but it´s a way to relief some stress because I get out of the workplace and get to talk with different people.
    Although our winter isn´t as cold as yours, I also think eating out in the park is out of question. We have a small room with a microwave to heat our meals.
    Have you thought about promoting your blog more? I bet there are other frugals out there who would enjoy reading your ideas.
    If you would like to exchange links with me just let me know, I´m creating a blogroll and I think it would be cool to include your blog.
    Regards, Mizé

  6. That would be great, Mize...and Marilyn, would you care to exchange links? It's been on my mind. I just haven't done it. I'll add a section right now and add your blog links. Would love it if you'd do the same for me. Thanks!

  7. Thanks for adding my link! It´s an honour to have a link of my simple blog among your "Blogs I Read" list.
    See you soon :)