If you don’t work, you don’t eat. Truer words have never been spoken. But here’s something that also rings true. Even if you do work, if you don’t create a food budget that fits your lifestyle and paycheck, you could end up eating cup o’ noodles by the end your pay cycle as you wait for the next paycheck.

Last year, Forbes reported that millennials spent at least 44% of their food dollars (an average of $2291) on dining out and placed such a high value on quality eating that they delayed making long term investments like purchasing homes because of it. If you’re reading that and thinking, “That’s insane!”, you’re probably not alone.

Let’s discuss ways to save money so that you can stretch those dollars, eat like royalty, yet make smart financial decisions. Here are some budget friendly food options that won’t break the bank!

IT’S NOT DELIVERY, IT’S BLUE APRON!

Most people dine out because of convenience and they want something different from the meals they are comfortable preparing.

Meal services like Blue Apron and Home Chef are on the rise, particularly among busy millennials and young families with limited time to grocery shop and meal plan during the week. These services combine the convenience of delivery with the cost effectiveness of home cooking. You choose from a list of delicious gourmet recipes for the week, select the frequency of your meals and voila! Healthy, simple, fresh ingredients delivered to your doorstep to keep your tastebuds happy for the week and your wallet full. Prices typically range from $9 to $10 per serving so plan to spend between $50 and $60 per week for dinner (based on ordering at least 5 meals per week) if you’re just ordering for yourself and around $100 per week for you and another person. Family plans are also available for discounted rates if you’re feeding a family of 4 or more. This is a pretty great deal considering that most American families spend an average of $150 per week on groceries and even more a month dining out.

Plus chances are these options are healthier than fast-food options and could reduce healthcare costs over time.

COUPON LIKE YOUR MAMA TAUGHT YA.

Think couponing is only for old ladies with fanny packs? Think again.

Couponing is coming back with a vengeance, especially with the invention of apps like FLIPP that bring coupons and circulars from your favorite local grocery stores straight to your smart phone. You can also download and virtually clip coupons from websites such as Coupons.com, SmartSource.com and Redplum.com.

The trick to couponing is being organized and planning ahead. Before you go to the store, take inventory of what you already have in your fridge and pantry, then check out what coupons are available for the items you need, and make your grocery list. Also check out the weekly circulars for in-store sales on items and see if you can double your coupon value by applying them to items already on sale.

Lastly, if you tend to shop at the same stores, signing up for your favorite store’s loyalty rewards cards could also unlock some extra savings. It’s also not uncommon for many stores to have hot meals that are already prepared that might be discounted.

PLAN YOUR MEALS.

This can go hand in hand with couponing.

As you are reviewing sale items and items you already have at home, put together a meal plan for the week using those items. If you’re someone who doesn’t mind eating leftovers, plan on buying enough ingredients that will make enough servings for you to have the next day for either lunch or dinner. As we’re moving into the fall season, crockpots can be your best friend and the key to making warm delicious one-pot meals that can either be eaten the same day or frozen for future use. They also don’t require you to be a master chef. Need some culinary inspiration for your meals? Check out websites like Allrecipes.com or MyFridgeFood.com that allow you to input the ingredients you have available in your fridge and provide you with  a list of meals and recipes that will have your kitchen smelling fabulous. Not to mention your plates will be Instagram-worthy.

Eating well doesn’t have to mean blowing your budget. You can be a savvy shopper if you’re intentional about your food purchases and utilize the resources available to you. It’s all about doing what’s going to work best for you, your stomach, and your financial situation.

Bon appetit!

 

Contributor: Christina Merriweather

Blog: My Fab Finance