Ever wonder why you never have enough money to save money? I'm talking about taking money from every paycheck and depositing it straight into a savings account. Maybe it's time to consider that you're handing over your savings 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 can really reduce the amount of money you're spending on food.
MORE TIME THAN MONEY. If yours is a single-income household struggling to keep food on the table and pay the bills, time is on your side. The person not working outside the home has the time to work the strategies.
Determine to visit multiple stores each week to grab the loss leaders, the items priced below cost. Only buy items that are on sale. You won't starve because there will be plenty of things on sale every week.
Coupon like crazy. Matching coupons with sales is your best weapon against rising food costs.
LITTLE TIME, TIGHT BUDGET. For dual-income families with kids, time is an especially valuable commodity. If you both work full-time jobs, you don't have time to visit lots of stores. And if money is really tight, the challenge is 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 the store app (if there is one). Get on the mailing and email lists. Use coupons as they are available.
Buy from sales. See above. Add full-priced items cautiously and only as absolutely necessary. Learn the store's sales cycle. Typically, each area of the store will be on sale at least once every 12 weeks.
PICKY EATERS AND DIETARY RESTRICTIONS. You have the time and the skills to cook at home. The problem is making meals that actually taste good to your picky eaters or cooking dishes that fit someone's dietary restrictions, otherwise known as the doctor's orders.
PlateJoy. This membership site considers your lifestyle, learns your family's tastes, health goals and time constraints and then creates custom meal plans that will greatly simplify your life and make mealtime your happy time. You get custom recipes and grocery shopping lists once a week. The service costs $8 to $12 a month.
MORE MONEY THAN TIME. Young professional DINKS, or those with dual income and no kids, often do not have the time, much less the desire, to shop for groceries beyond running to pick up a six-pack of Red Bull and chips. This could be because of an insane work schedule, being enrolled in grad school and working full-time, a crazy commute, you name it. Because they see themselves as having more money than time, DINKS routinely default to the most expensive eating style of all: eating out at restaurants, fast-food joints, diners and drive-thrus. They don't do it because going out for the 12th time this week is particularly enjoyable. It's a necessary burden to avoid starvation.
Home Chef. This meal delivery service is not for every lifestyle. If you feed more than two people, you could probably do better 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 free shipping option. Here's what you get delivered to your doorstep even if you are not there to accept it: everything. Seriously, everything you need to assemble, heat and eat.
The packaging is beyond belief; it is so precise. Just follow the well-written instructions (they're so simple even a fifth-grader could follow them). Meals turn out exactly as pictured. The ingredients are remarkably fresh and beautiful. I am impressed with Home Chef.
You can learn more about Home Chef and the other choices listed above at www.everydaycheapskate.com/foodcost.
Mary invites questions, comments and tips at [email protected], 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.