Eat for Less Than $3 A Day

At the end of the month, since its the only payday of the month - I like to take a look back at things and assess. Additionally, since its the end of the 3rd quarter of the year, its also a good time to estimate expenses for the quarter or year, and what to expect coming up.
Today, I figured out that we spend an average of $2.81 a day each on food, me and DH (and the dog - her food and treats and toys are included in that too). We have spent $869 this year on household supplies, and groceries at the store. When you add our eating out at restaurants it brings the average per day to less than $3 each. Can you believe it? I thinks its pretty great. If I figured this month alone, it would be even lower, about $1.82 each. Here's how we do it
  1. Use coupons - I get 5 newspapers every Sunday and 3 other people at work bring me their coupons on Monday's. So with 8 coupons I can match up the sales with the coupon to save over 90% on all my grocery store purchases. I used to shop at Walmart and Target for household supplies but not in the last year. Publix can always beat those prices with BOGO sales, advantage buys and stacking manufacturer coupons with Publix store coupons.
  2. Stockpile - when there is a sale of products we use regularly, I use all my coupons and get at least 8 of the item. This usually lasts until another similar deal comes along (most sales rotate every quarter). I stockpile pasta, sauces, mixes, croutons, salad dressing, coffee, creamer, cereal, soda, condiments, paper supplies and dog food. If chicken goes on sale for less than $1.99 a lb, I'll stock up.
  3. Cook at home - a great way to minimize food expenses is to prepare your meals at home - breakfast, lunch and dinner! Using the products we stockpile, we can make plenty of food, enough for leftovers which brings me to the next tip.
  4. Eat leftovers - we usually have leftovers at least 2 nights a week which help minimize cooking time and expenses.
  5. Shop at produce stands or start a garden - we usually stop at a produce stand when we're out motorcycling in the countryside to get fresh, inexpensive vegetables for our salads and cooking. We do have a garden with our Earth boxes, but we've found that it costs more than it produces - so its really just for a hobby. But so far our boxes have nice large tomato plants, green peppers, green onions, cucumbers, celery, and yellow squash. The harvest will be about 2 months from now.
  6. Brew your own coffee - We both love our coffee every morning and it helps to brew our own. Coffee is something that is often available for a great deal when you watch for a BOGO sale. This is definitely something I'm always watching for to stockpile, you can never have enough in your stash. It would kill me to pay a high regular price for it. We also use flavored coffee and creamers so it tastes just like Starbucks. We occasionally get a Starbucks in the airport or when we travel, but we always use a free gift card for that.
  7. Bring your lunch to work - Bringing your lunch to work can save you $2000 a year. We make 10 salads every weekend and its easy and fast to pack a lunch with salad, yogurt and soda to eat at the office.
  8. Bring your snacks to work - Another way to cut expense is to bring your own snacks to work, avoiding the vending machines. Fresh fruit, granola bars, trail mix, cheese sticks and baked goods make great healthy snacks. Of course most of these can be purchased for a few pennies with coupons.
  9. Limit eating out at restaurants - we only eat out on Friday and Saturday nights at our favorite pub. Any other time is with a free gift card we get from AMEX reward points, or for a secret shop where the meal is reimbursed. When we go out for our usual weekend chicken wings we also pay with our own allowance, in cash. It's not considered a "house" expense.
  10. Eat & drink less - we don't starve ourselves, but we eat and drink only moderately. We can make a pizza last 2 meals, and we limit ourselve to one soda per day. Most of the restrictions we place on ourselves are to help maintain our healthy, active lifestyle - but it helps to stretch out your food supplies. We don't waste food and we are not gluttons. Its usually better to take a normal serving, and if we're still hungry then have seconds. We usually only eat when we're hungry, not necessarily when the clock says its a meal time. I don't eat anything after dinner, no night time snacks.
To be frugal and minimize expenses is a lifestyle, not a recipe to be followed for one week. Anyone can cut back expenses with very little effort. It just takes willpower to keep it up for a couple weeks to make it a habit.
Try it.

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