Thursday, January 15, 2009

The Foodie's Guide To Frugality

Yeah so if you took a gander at my flickr yesterday you may have seen the joyous news about my 401K account. My earnings for the year? -40%.

Aw yeah aw yeah.

Whatever it's not worth getting mad about since it is a long term investment and it IS an investment, not a savings account. And many of us are in the same boat I am sure. We've all made adjustments to deal with the bad economy -in some cases huge sacrifices, in other cases just little every day decisions that add up to being able to save a little money. That is my kind of thing. The more money I can throw into my savings, the better . So I thought I would throw down a few little things I have done that have been saving me cash. This time around it's the food edition.

The Foodie's Guide To Frugality

Last year I picked up this pink Igloo soft-sided personal cooler from Target.

I needed something to bring my lunch to work in that could potentially keep it cold all day if the fridge was full (as it tends to be especially the day after big meetings when it's stuffed with leftover food). This small cooler is the PERFECT size. It holds a sandwich or Tupperware of leftovers, a can of soda, snacks, and the top has a compartment to stick an ice pack in to keep everything cool. I find that even without the ice if I put something cold in there, it stays cold for a good 3-4 hours. It was a great $15 investment and ensures that I don't waste money on buying lunch. With all the money I spend on groceries, it's nonsense to also spend money buying lunch every day. SO when we finish dinner at night I automatically pack the leftovers into Tupperware, stick them in the coolers (Adam has the same one in blue), throw in a special k bar and some snacks and stick it in the fridge so we're good to go in the morning. Last week alone Adam and I saved about $80 total by not buying lunch every day. Not a bad deal! Checkout or to score one of your own.

ECS had a great idea of posting some lunch recipes/ideas for the times when you don't have leftovers. There are definitely times when I don't have any leftovers to pack. A few ideas are:
- Make a batch of Uncle Ben's Whole Grain Ready Rice (90 seconds in the microwave) and then nuke up some frozen veggies from a stir fry mix. Combine and enjoy! It makes around 2-3 servings so you can portion it out for and have lunch for a few days!
- Turkey and Laughing Cow sandwich. I love to sub in a wedge of light laughing cow cheese instead of mayo or mustard in a sandwich. It really adds a little kick!
- Perdue short cuts + bagged salad = super easy and hearty lunch.
- If you have time one night, whip up a batch of hearty and healthy soup to have for lunch throughout the week. I am a big fan of Weight Watchers Black Bean Soup and their Vegetable soup easy to make and super tasty
- I love a bean salad, inexpensive and protein packed. Try a combo of chickpea, lemon juice, tomato, cucumber, parsley, salt and pepper.

Speaking of groceries, another great resource is I always check this site for coupons before I go grocery shopping. If I can save $2-$3 or even $5-$6 by perusing a website for a few minutes and printing out some coupons, why not do it? I do believe that store brand products are always a better deal (especially on things like canned or frozen veggies!) but there are a few items that I insist on brand names for. And to my knowledge Hannaford doesn't even have a store brand hummus and I almost always find a hummus coupon on there. Good deal!
Many supermarket websites also offer coupons and moneys saving tips on their websites. Hannaford's website offers this fab list of delicious (and budget friendly!) meal ideas and recipes..some as low as $1.50 a serving!

Another worthy investment is a decent coffee maker and travel mugs.

My parents gave us a fabulous grind and brew coffee maker for Christmas and neither of us has darkened the doorway of a Dunkin Donuts or Starbucks since. Having a coffeemaker with an automatic timer ensures that you have to be pretty damn lazy NOT to have fresh coffee in the morning. Just set it up at night before bed, set the timer and in the morning you have fresh ground, freshly brewed coffee. As far as beans go, I do have a Starbucks gift card to burn though but when that runs out I don't see myself spending $10 or more on a bag of beans every week. Luckily I have discovered
Eight O'Clock coffee, sold at supermarkets, that costs $5 a bag and comes in yummy flavors like french vanilla and hazelnut. Delicious!! Not to mention we are saving at least $20 a week, maybe more since we both sometimes made a Dunks run more than once a day. The one we have is on super sale at Costco for $70! If you drink as much coffee as we do it basically pays for itself in less than a month.

What if you are the type who likes to dine out a lot. Don't let trying to save money cramp your style, just be smart about it. For one, if the restaurants you dine out to regularly have an email list - get yourself on it! You will be the first to know about specials, and be privy to special discounts that people not in the know won't get. One of our favorite local dives has 25% off your meal on Mondays. Another local haunt sends out emails regularly advertising But one entree get one free if you print out the email. Nothing wrong with that!

Then check out for discounted gift certificates. You can get $25 to an array of places for just $10. Sure it doesn't apply to alcohol (sorry drunkies) and usually there is a minimum you have to spend to be able to use the gift certificate but it ends up being a great deal and if you are smart about what you order you can save so much!

And then, if you can book a reservation on, DO IT. You earn points for each reservation you make and honor , from 100 to 1000 points. And you can redeem every 2000 points you earn for a $20 gift card to any participating restaurant. That's drinks on the house right there just for making your life easier by reserving online!

And for my winos out there, I have not forgotten about you.

First you should definitely regularly check out the websites of local liquor store. (For South Shore locals I recommend and and Many larger wine.liquor stores offer regular tastings that are either FREE or really inexpensive ($5-$10). And at most of these tastings you can then by the wines being sampled at a discount of up to 20%! Sign up for their email lists and get the heads up. And for drinking I have a few go to wines that are really inexpensive and still quite good.

Georges DuBoeuf Cuvee Blanc - a delicious white table wine that I have been serving at parties for over a year and is always a big hit. But at $11-$15 for a 1.5 ml bottle it's not a big hit to the wallet,
Barefoot Chardonnay - Barefoot in general is hit or miss with me but the Chardonnay continues to be a good wine at a great bargain ($6-7)
Yellow Tail Pinot Grigio - another clean and crisp plonk! $6 a bottle and goes down so easily. For red-lovers check out their Shiraz, an equally good value.

So as you can see, even little things like checking out a store's website or making reservation online or investing in a cute pink cooler can save you money!

What about you? Got any tips and tricks to share? Let's hear it!

And stay tuned next week for The Fashionista's Guide to Frugality!


Suz said...

We have a Trader Joe Wines that has really good wine discounted - you can get a normally $12 wine for $5. And if you bring your own bag you save 10%.

Sarah said...

ugh the lament of my life is that none of the TJ's near me sell liquor. CURSES!

Suz said...

That is a huge bummer. You should probably move :)

A Texas Gal said...

I also do the pack dinner in tupperware and take it to work thing. It saves TONS!

Whenever I buy groceries I put it on my credit card (paid off at the end of every month) but I get points to either go on a vacay or redeem for cash later if needed. I do this with bills to- I ALWAYS pay it off at the end of the month but at least I get SOMETHING for spending the money that I was going to spend anyway!

Sarah said...

Thats a great idea! I actually worked with a guy who put his whole wedding on his credit card, they paid it off after the wedding and used the points for free airline tickets to Paris for the honeymoon!

ECS said...

how about making your own hummus too? It's so cheap, it's quick, and it's really good.

I'd actually like to see some pink shoe cookbook ideas for easy lunch ideas. I don't cook as many yummy dinners as you do so inspiration for packed lunches would be appreciated.

Sarah said...

ECS thats a good idea! I threw some up there now..and I'm going to try and do a budget recipe roundup over in ICOOKGOOD later this week or next week.

San said...

Sarah, thanks so much for that very inspiring and informative post.
I have (basically) the same coffee maker and I LOVE it! It's so easy and convenient.
I am also bringing my own lunch to work.

Unfortunately, that means that I can't save any money there, since I haven't bought coffee (at Starbucks) or lunch on a regular basis anyways.

The is great though.

Here's are my tips for some inexpensive lunches, that will hold you up quite a while:
If you are a bread lover - get yourself some of that extra dense whole grain bread at the Co-op (like, that European style bread), put some slices of cheese on it and have some grape tomatoes with it. Delicious and very filling!

Also, I always have salad items (lettuce, tomatoes, canned corn, mushrooms, bellpepper... etc) in the fridge to whip up a quick salad. Always a good and healthy lunch!

The Chic Chauffeur said...

Good news for the people who eat out, and ARE drunkies! Costco sells gift cards to a few nice restaurants at a discount! For example, you can get 2 $50 gift cards, AND a cook book, for only $80!!! You save 20% on dinner, and you get a nice cookbook. The gift cards are like cash, so order up on the wine!

Joe Sheehan said...

I've probably read 2 dozen "ways to save money in 2009" blog posts and this is by far the best. I'm saving this one.

roxy said...

I love eight-o-clock coffee, too!! My grocery store has it buy one get one free every other month, so I always stock up then and put it in the freezer. Yum.

Lys said...

Great tips! I use the OpenTable for the boss's reservations as well so she's got a nice little gift card coming her way.

I still suck at making coffee - however, since I ordered a new replacement carafe, I'm determined to make my own for the a.m. commute.

Donna said...

I second your opinion that store brands are a good & easy way to save money. Probably 40% of the food at my house is Stop&Shop or Hannaford brand.

Buy groceries at Wal-Mart. The selection at my local Wal-Mart isn't good so I couldn't do all my food shopping there but the prices are significantly better than the supermarket. I go to Wal-Mart on the way home from somewhere else so I'm not making a special trip.

I second your idea that rushing out the door and having to buy lunch at the deli is a money trap. I needed something in the house that was easy to grab and go. At home I have canned soup and Zatarain’s chicken and rice in the microwaveable pouch.
Off topic but--> I love those little, easy to peel Clementine oranges to take to work. :)