Having a family of five we’re always looking for ways on how we can save money on every day, common expenses. We like to be frugal in many areas so that we can spend money on other things we enjoy and ultimately that comes down to making hard choices about how we spend our money. While we have come up with a number of ways, the possibilities are really limitless in terms of saving money and ultimately come down to what you value and what kind of lifestyle you choose to live.
Anyone who has been to the grocery store lately can attest to how difficult it has become to stretch a grocery budget. There are numerous reasons behind it, but most point back to the drought last year and we’re now starting to see the effects of it when it comes to our final grocery bill. While many people already use coupons and know about matching prices, my wife and I have implemented a few more ways to help us stretch our grocery budget further.
If you've felt like your grocery expenses have increased in the past few months, you'd be right on the money. Food prices have been on the rise worldwide. Affording the same groceries without increasing your spending is getting more difficult — but if you're willing to be flexible, there are ways to reduce your grocery bill. All it takes is some planning, self-control, and careful shopping.
I have something to admit. I hate grocery shopping. I hate it more than almost anything. However, it is something that you have to do from time to time. Last night I was hungry, so after a seven week hiatus I made the trek to the grocery store. It got me thinking…
Benefits of Groceries
Going to the grocery store can save you money. While the $175 hit last night seemed like a lot of money, it will provide me at least two weeks of lunches to take to work ($7 on average x 10 = $70), about two weeks of breakfasts ($5 on average x 14 = $70), and about 14 dinners ($10 on average x 14 = $140). So, while $175 seems like a lot, it is less than $280. That is over $100 in savings.
Also, I keep Kosher. Many products I buy cost more than ones other people buy. Also, I am lazy. Wacky Mac is delicious and pre-prepared, but I could probably make something from cheaper ingredients that would cost less and taste better if I were not lazy.
I can control every single ingredient when I cook for myself. Other than the occasional Asian influenced dish, I will use less salt and sugar than a restaurant. I only buy lean meats and never buy real butter.
I also only buy for a healthy menu. I may head to a Mexican restaurant with the best of intentions, but cheese enchiladas taste a lot better than a salad. At home, I don’t buy the cheese so I force myself to eat better.
The Lazy Factor
I woke up on Sunday after a late night of partying and really wanted a bowl of cereal. I had no cereal as I had not been grocery shopping. Then I wanted toast, but I was out of bread. Then I wanted to make a breakfast burrito, but was short on salsa and tortillas.
I ended up being hungry for an hour until the sandwich delivery shop opened. I would have rather cooked for myself (cheaper and healthier), but my lack of resources forced me to do more work to order the food, get dressed, and meet the delivery guy at the door. A bowl of cereal would have been instant and only involved a five second walk to the kitchen.
Benefits of Restaurants
I am a decent cook, but I don’t have an industrial kitchen or professional experience. A professional put together the menus at my favorite restaurants. They tested the dishes many times before the perfected the recipe. I know what I like so when I go to a restaurant it is going to be good and consistent every time.
I only buy healthy foods with a relatively long shelf life. As a single guy living alone, buying fresh vegetables or bulk foods does not make sense. So, rather than deal with the limited options of single guy cooking, I can pick anything I want if I go out.
Some days I want sushi, others I want Mexican, others I am in the mood for a sandwich, sometimes I am in an Italian mood. I never cook falafel and I don’t make humus from scratch. I do not have the ingredients for moo shoo or the patience to make a good soup from scratch. At a restaurant, I can get those options plus a whole lot more.
Doing the Dishes
The Best Combination
When you want to eat at a restaurant, go do it as long as you can afford it. If you have four kids going out to eat costs a heck of a lot more than when I go to the local Japanese bowl restaurant with a friend and split the bill. As long as you are within your means, you should enjoy your money.
On the other hand, eating out all the time is fiscally irresponsible and can lead to poor dietary habits in the long run. Make sure you have at least a few healthy, easy to make options at home at all times.
Test it out and find the right balance for your needs. I watch my grocery and restaurant budgets every month and make adjustments accordingly. It sucks to cook all the time, but it also sucks to not have food on hand when you are hungry.
So, learn from my laziness. Go to the grocery store more than every seven weeks. But don’t feel bad treating yourself to something good every once in a while too.
How do you find the right balance between cooking at home and going out to eat? What is your motivation and strategy? Please share in the comments.
Image by bradleygee.
The Psychology of Sales
The idea of a sale is simple. Stores try to unload products on you by marking them at a lower price, giving the impression that you are saving money when you purchase it. This is a fairly straight forward marketing technique.
The reason stores put items on sale can vary. At big box retailers like Target and Walmart, the stores will occasionally sell an item at a loss if it will bring a lot of customers into the store. Once you are in the door, you might buy something else that you were not planning on.
Sometimes retailers sell items closer to cost to clear shelf space for new products. These seasonal sales are popular at department stores and clothing retailers that have seasonal stock turnover.
Retailers might tie a sale price to multiple purchases, such as buy one get one free or buy multiple for a discount. Be careful about these, particularly at grocery stores, as you usually do not have to buy multiple products to get the discount. These sales are intended to encourage people to buy more of a product they would already have purchased.
It is a loungy Sunday morning and you just got the paper (who still gets the paper, right?) from the driveway. You pull out the Target ad and see that your favorite DVD season is on sale this week for $15 down from the regular price of $30. If you hurry to the store today, you can save $15!
But, if you had not seen that sale, would you have bought that DVD series anyway? Would you have waited for a few months and bought it? Is it something you really need anyway? Could you have streamed it from Netflix at no extra cost?
You didn’t really save anything. In fact, the ad just cost you $15 that you would not have spent had the item not been on sale.
Do not be deceived by sale marketing techniques. If you would have really bought the product anyway, more power to you. But if not, you just wasted money on something that you didn’t really want or need before.
Do you ever get caught up in the sale fallacy? I have to admit that I have on more than one Black Friday. What drew you in? If not, how did you resist? Do you have a friend/relative that you have tried to explain this concept to but failed? Please share your thoughts and experiences in the comments.
Photo by Roland.