Ever wonder why you never have enough money to save? I'm talking about consistent, regular deposits out of every paycheck that go straight into a savings account. Maybe it's time to consider that you're handing your savings over to local restaurants, drive-thrus, diners and coffee shops. Think about it.
No matter your lifestyle, I am confident that with the right strategies, you really can reduce the amount of money you're spending on food.
MORE TIME THAN MONEY
If yours is a single-income household struggling to survive in a two-income world, keeping food on the table and the bills paid can be quite a challenge. The good news is that time is on your side. The one not working outside the home has the time -- it takes time to carry out the best strategies -- to keep the cost at rock bottom without sacrificing quality.
Multiple stores. Get the flyers of all the food stores in your areas. Study them carefully so you know what you'll be getting from each one.
Eat the sales. Buy only loss leaders (stuff priced super cheap just to get you through the door) and items that are on sale. You won't starve, and you'll have a huge variety of food items to choose from in every department. Stores like Whole Foods and Sprouts offer weekly sales, too, which means you can have healthy choices on a budget.
Coupon like crazy. Matching coupons to sales is the best weapon you have against rising food costs. There are free websites like CouponMom.com that will hook you up with the best coupons out there -- and teach you how to use them to your best advantage.
LITTLE TIME, TIGHT BUDGET
For dual-income families with kids, time becomes an especially valuable commodity. It's scarce. Both of you work full-time jobs. Kids are in school and have all of their extracurricular activities. Then there's church and weekends filled with sports and just playing catchup to get ready for the next week. You don't have time to visit every store to take advantage of a variety of sales. But money is still really tight, which makes the challenge even greater.
Pick a store. Your best bet is to identify the grocery store or supermarket in your area that is known for having the lowest everyday prices and then stick with it. Download that store app. Get on its mailing and email lists. Use coupons as they are available.
Eat the sales. See above. Cautiously add full-priced items but only as absolutely necessary. Learn the store sales cycle so you can anticipate.
MORE MONEY THAN TIME
Young professional DINKS (dual income, no kids) often and for whatever reason -- insane work schedule, enrolled in grad school and working full-time, crazy commute, you name it -- do not have time, much less the desire, to shop for groceries beyond running in to pick up a six-pack of Red Bull and chips. And they're the first to admit they lack the basic skills to prepare it if they were to have the time to shop.
Enter Home Chef. Wait. Before you skip past the idea of meal-delivery services, you have to know about Home Chef. It is neither expensive nor unreasonable. Home Chef is not for every lifestyle. If you feed more than two people, more than likely you can do better costwise by following one of the other strategies above. But for a family of two (or perhaps three), this is the only meal-delivery service I would consider.
The cost for Home Chef is an astounding $9.95 per serving, with a minimum of two two-serving meals per week and a free-shipping option.
I am so impressed with Home Chef. You can check it out at EverydayCheapskate.com/homechef. When you get to that page, you'll see that I've arranged for you to get a $30 coupon that will be applied to your first order.
Mary invites questions, comments and tips at firstname.lastname@example.org, or c/o Everyday Cheapskate, 12340 Seal Beach Blvd., Suite B-416, Seal Beach, CA 90740. This column will answer questions of general interest, but letters cannot be answered individually. Mary Hunt is the founder of www.DebtProofLiving.com, a personal finance member website and the author of "Debt-Proof Living," released in 2014. To find out more about Mary and read her past columns, please visit the Creators Syndicate webpage at www.creators.com.