Food For Less: How to Eat Gourmet Food for Cheap

In a busy life eating well is a definite must, and for some people, food (and food related activities) can amount to an outright love affair.  With this said, food is also one of the biggest expenses we face as consumers. The average North American household spends anywhere between $100 - $200 per week on groceries alone, or between $4,800 and $9,600 per year. In addition to this, the money spent on fast food and eating out continues to creep up, meaning thousands of extra dollars per year for many. That’s more than the rent or mortgage payment for many, and definitely not chump change.

So how do we save 50% - 90% of money on food costs, while continuing to enjoy all if not MORE of what we are used to?

The 5 Food for Less Strategies below are the Top 5, proven savings strategies compiled from a review of dozens of books, web sites and videos – most of which involve real life examples. We save you the hours of searching and will show you how to easily save 50% - 90% on your existing food bills, while living healthier and without completely sacrificing what you enjoy.

  1. Healthy Gourmet Meals for $1 - $2 each.

Beyond ‘for real’, dollar meal ideas are just about infinite. But there’s nothing to brag about eating ramen noodles or cereal at a dollar or so per bowl. The big idea is to create a meal serving that looks and tastes like a $20 dollar meal, AND is healthy, for a rock bottom cost. We provide a few links below to get a sample of what this looks like, but let’s review the main takeaways we gathered first.

  • Take the healthy gourmet dollar menu seriously. Create a few, $1 - $2 meals for yourself, and get used to the idea of how well you can eat for so little. Everything else in food spending will become relative.
  • Focus on a few fundamental, extreme low cost foods. Some of the popular ones are pasta, potatoes, bags of dry beans (that need hydrating), tortillas, carrots, cabbage and bananas. All of these items can provide multiple portions of food for a dollar or less, and are generally healthy.
  • Get creative. Eating a healthy gourmet meal for as little as $1 is possible in so many ways, but requires a little creative thinking. See how many ways you can make a yummy pasta or potato dish. Buy some healthy oils, herbs, a lime, dried hot peppers (of course salt and pepper) ect... for good flavour and presentation. Adding the right amount of these in the right combinations will take your low cost creations to the next level.
  • Get real sales. Not just any sale, but buy on deep discount. There’s no need to run from store to store, or to go coupon crazy. Instead bring your creativity to the grocery store and plan your menus around deeply discounted food. This idea will be expanded on below.
  • Eat more beans. Beans are the perfect food offering substantial protein, fiber and complex carbohydrates. They are also one of the lowest cost. For a $2 bag of dried beans or chickpeas, this can easily create up to 4 very healthy meals. Just add some lemon juice, maybe some dill and half a tomato with a tortilla for an excellent, low cost lunch or dinner.

Check out the first video in a week long video blog of gourmet meals for $1 (please note Altrua does not support using condiments from fast food restaurants fro moral and environmental reasons).

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qiSg6lwIItU

http://www.rachaelraymag.com/recipes/20-dinners-under-two-dollars

http://www.allyou.com/food/supercheap-meals/meals-under-one-dollar

 

  1. Open Your Own Store.

Well, more like an exclusive club store just for you and the people you cook for. Instead of making an itemized grocery a list, go to your favourite grocery store(s) and buy food based on what’s on sale. But don’t buy into just any sale. Recognise the deeply discounted ‘super sales’ and then go to town and stock up. Instead of buying one or two bags of super sale rice or pasta, buy 10 - 20 if the sale is excellent. This strategy can also be applied at Costco, but ‘danger, danger’ try to keep it to the food fundamentals over there if you’re really looking to save… By repeating this strategy a few times, you will turn your pantry into a mini-store full of super cheap meal ideas. This strategy is highly supportive of the gourmet dollar meal menu, and in case an asteroid hits Earth – you’ll probably fare better than most…

 

  1. Couponing 3.0

Coupons can save you money… Duhh!! But not everybody uses them, and truth be told – you don’t NEED coupons to save a ton on food. But for many of the best frugal food sites we researched, coupons were key to some of the most phenomenal success stories. With the right strategies, $100’s of food can be had almost for free. But this takes a real passion and quite a bit of dedication. So our focus here is on EASY next generation digital couponing. This is not your gramma spending Sunday afternoon clipping out of flyers. Digital couponing involves scanning a few top web sites to get your coupons, as well as utilising price matching web sites.

Here are the top 3 super easy, digital couponing sites to check out in Canada and the US.

  1. Save.ca
  2. Smartcanucks.ca
  3. Couponbox.ca

 

If you need some convincing for the idea of digital couponing, consider this:

Let’s say you spend 15 minutes per week online looking for deals. If you saved an average of $25 with that 15 minutes, that works out to $100 per hour for the use of your time. So unless you’re personally earning an income of $200,000 + per year (what $100 per hour full time people earn), this is a use of your time that pays much better. How quickly would you apply for an *easy* job earning $200,000 per year? Well, that job is yours for the taking if you’re willing to get your digital coupon groove on.

 

  1. Strategic Meal Planning

If you’re already into meal planning, you know it’s not nearly as hard as it might sound, and that you probably wouldn’t stop doing it for the life of you. What is meal planning? Strategic meal planning is looking ahead at your next week or even two, and planning what you will eat for each meal, on each (if not most) days. This leads to several mega money saving benefits, but also lends itself perfectly to health benefits. Some of the big ideas for meal planning include:

  • Double, or triple the batch of what you’re making. Stews, chilies and all sorts of low cost slow cooker creations lend themselves very well for this. If you don’t end up eating the extra batches that week, they can be frozen for the next.
  • If you’re going to plan your meals, you might as well plan on them being healthy. So meal planning makes portioned, healthy eating easy.
  • Bring all or most of your lunches to work. Making 2-3 days of lunches at a time will actually save you more time that grabbing on the go, and the money savings over a year can easily reach into the $1000’s.

Meal planning is the glue that holds a healthy gourmet food strategy together. In reality, by reading this article you’ve already begun.

  1. Smart Restauranting.

Eating out can be as much fun and convenient, as it is inevitable. So if you are going to eat out, and still want to save, consider a few of the tips below.

  • Watch your portion. Get the smaller size. The 6’’ sub Vs. the 12’’. This will also help with your calorie intake. What desk jockey needs a 1200 calorie 12’’ sub for lunch??
  • Drink water. The fountain or bottled drink costs at restaurants are hugely inflated. If you really need a pop or a beer, picture yourself drinking it at home for a fraction of the cost. Stick to water, its free and much healthier.
  • Watch out for deal nights at restaurants. Kids eat free or nightly value specials can be aligned with a good night out. The cost can easily be dropped from $50+ for a family of 4 to well under $25.
  • Use group on and other deal sites. Restaurants wanting to drive traffic and reputation will pay almost pay you to come ear there. It can be a much cheaper form of advertising for the restaurant, to generate massive word of mouth. Groupon will offer you some deals to these restaurants at a fraction of the cost of a regular meal. Take advantage, eat for cheap and then spread the good word if you liked it.