Monday, September 26, 2011

Grocery Budgeting: It's As Easy as $1, $2, $3

Managing a complicated grocery budget can be a pain in the neck, especially when you're busy and on the go. But what I call the $1, $2, $3 method is a really easy way to get a handle on your spending on food.

Ready? Here it is. Spend:

$1 for breakfast,
$2 for lunch, and 
$3 for dinner. 

Now, some of you expert frugalites out there might be thinking: "Six dollars a day?! I can do way better than that!" Yes, you most definitely can. BUT for those who are just starting to budget -- or too busy to cook things from scratch -- the $1, $2, $3 Method is a great starting place. There are several estimates out there that say that it costs $200 per month for food for a single person living alone; this puts you right under that and can help get you in the habit of watching what you spend.

Here are some $1, $2, $3 ideas to get you started:

My favorite cereal, Oatmeal Squares,
sells regular-price at Target for
$3.36 per box, and lasts me
seven days! 
A box of cereal, costing $3.50 per box, could last you a week, which comes out to $.50 per breakfast, plus the cost of milk. 

Oatmeal is even cheaper than cold cereal per bowl - and more nutritious! :) 

A package of saltine crackers can be gotten for around $1.00, and you can pick up a can of tuna for as little as $.65. 
Macaroni and cheese is often $1.00 or less per box, and if you spread it out over two days, you can include hot dogs! 

Who doesn't love a
dinner of chicken
Caesar salad? Especially
when it comes out to
A "bag salad" can be as cheap as $2.50 - and  your remaining $.50 can go towards a package of chicken you can cook and toss into this salad -- as well as eat in three or four other dinners (or salads) throughout the week. 

For the TV dinner fan, you could eat up to three $1.00 Michelina frozen pasta meals for one dinner and with tax, still be pretty close to the $3.00 range. 

Heck, even a 6-inch Veggie Delight sandwich at Subway is $3.00 plus tax! 

The $1, $2, $3 Method is particularly handy when it comes to being tempted to buy pre-made food at a grocery store's deli or visit a drive-thru. Often, these choices are more expensive than $1, $2, or $3. The good news, though, is that isn't hard to meet these limits at all if you're willing to throw something in the microwave yourself!

Want to start budgeting your groceries? Just remember - it's as easy as $1, $2, $3! :)

Here's to another money-saving week, friends!

Monday, September 19, 2011

Birthday Giveaways: Where to Get Free Stuff and Coupons on Your Birthday

Well, readers, this last Saturday was my birthday, and I got a bunch of stuff -- free stuff and coupons, that is!

Want to score some stuff on YOUR birthday? Check these links out:

Arby's - Sign up online for Arby's Extras, and they'll e-mail you a coupon for a free 12 oz. milkshake when you purchase anything on their menu, good for the week before your birthday (it expires on your birthday).

Baskin-Robbins - Sign up for the birthday club online, and they'll e-mail you a coupon good for a free 2.5 oz scoop of ice cream (coupon expires five day after your birthday.)

Biggby Coffee - Register for their e-wards club online, and they'll mail (snail mail) you a postcard coupon for a free 20 oz. beverage of your choice.

Best Buy Reward Zone - If you're a member, you can earn triple or quadruple points when you make a purchase around the time of your birthday.

Chicken of the Sea Tuna - Sign up for the Mermaid Club online, and they'll send you a coupon in the mail (snail mail) for $.25 off a can of tuna on your birthday.

Cold Stone Creamery - Join the My Cold Stone Club online, and they'll e-mail you a buy one-get one free ice cream coupon.

IHOP - Join the "Pancake Revolution" club online, and they'll e-mail you a coupon good for a free Rooty Tooty  Fresh 'N Fruity -- or any other menu item of equal value. Coupon valid up to one week after your birthday.

Also: If you go to Denny's on your actual birthday (they may ask for ID), you can get a free Grand Slam!

What could be a better birthday present than some awesome deals?! Here's wishing you all a very happy, and frugal, week!

A special thanks to friends who gave me the heads up about some of the places featured here. Thank you, all!

Monday, September 12, 2011

Cut Down Expenses by Cutting Down on Meat

Many folks in today's world know that meat is expensive. But let's take a serious look at just how these prices break down, and then look at small changes you can make to trim down your grocery budget without losing real value -- nutritional value, that is!

According to MSN Money, these are some average prices of popular meats by the pound in the U.S.: 

Cheapest Ground Beef                       $3.00
Boneless Chicken Breasts                   $3.40
Canned Tuna                                      $2.00

Compare this to their price estimates for non-meat protein items: 

Dried Beans and Lentils                      $1.00
Rice (tasty mixed with beans)              $.69
Tofu                                                   $1.80

So, what are we supposed to do with this information? Not everybody wants to become a Super Vegan or something, right? (OK, well, I sure don't.) But here are some ways even meat-eaters can benefit:

  •   Challenge yourself to eat just one dinner per week without meat.  Try black beans and rice (basic recipe here), red beans and rice (basic recipe here), or eliminating meat from a dish you already cook (for instance, making spaghetti without meat, or making tacos with pinto beans instead of ground beef.)
Ham and bean soup, courtesy
of New Gourmet
  • Let meat share protein duties with non-meat. Choose a meat protein and then find a recipe that mixes it  with  a plant-based protein. This will require less meat overall, and will save you some money in total costs. For example, you could make chicken chili or red beans and rice with sausage.
  • Keep in mind that completely "going vegetarian" (depending on what a complete vegetarian diet entails) isn't always a money-saver. Be sure to check prices and to look at different options! 
...Here's to another happy week for your wallet -- and your stomach! 

Monday, September 5, 2011

Save Money On Laundry! Some tips from "Everyday Cheapskate" Mary Hunt

Recently, I skimmed through Mary Hunt's book Everyday Cheapskate's Greatest Tips: 500 Simple Strategies for Smart Living. The whole book is full of great advice, but here are some laundry-related tips from the book that you can use:

* Wash your clothes inside out. Your clothes get just as clean, but it reduces the wear on them and will help them last longer.

Suave shampoo, often only
$.88 or $1, makes a cheap
pre-wash for laundry.
* Use cheap shampoo as a pre-wash before throwing your laundry in the washing machine.

* If you spill something on your shirt, don't worry about having a name-brand stain remover stick handy. Instead, use a bit of hand sanitizer (available in three packs at the dollar store!)

* If you use fabric softener sheets, cut them each into four strips: You only need one strip to do the job, and the box will last four times as long!

For more helpful hints, be sure to check out Mary Hunt's book! Here's to another happy week for your wallet, peeps!