Sunday, June 10, 2012

Fast Food Frenzy

How can something so awful for you be so good?! That's always my question when I go to pretty much any fast food place. Mmmmm. Delicious. And SO cheap-- or so it seems.

That's the interesting part-- it seems like such a deal, but when you really break it down, you are majorly getting ripped off. That double cheeseburger and fries? If you made it at home, it would be way cheaper-- and most likely healthier too. Your taco-- LOADS cheaper if you made it at home, and you'd probably have leftovers to eat in the future. Seriously... think about it!

Trust me, I get the convenience. I get that sometimes it's delicious and you don't care. I'm in the same exact boat. There's days that I get off work and absolutely don't want to cook. There's days that nothing can fill my craving like a trip to the golden arches.

BUT what I try to remember is how much money I'm spending that I wouldn't have to. If I made that sandwich myself, I'd spend quite a bit less. That extra money could go then to paying debt, a trip, or who knows what. And it adds up so fast.

Corey and I started awhile back trying to limit all going out to once a week (and in all honesty, I think that's even quite a bit!). It isn't easy, and there's been a few weeks that we've failed miserably. But the other night I went through and looked at home much money we've spent recently on fast food-- holy cow! I seriously probably could have bought a holy cow! Okay, maybe not... but you get the point. It's craziness. Such a waste of money!

So here's my pointers:

1) Limit yourself. Try not to go more than once a week, or actually even once every two weeks. Corey and I are trying to work on that one-- yikes!

2) Think cheap. Seriously try to figure out how much it would cost you to make the same thing at home. Make sure it's worth it to you. And if you decide going to the fast food joint is worth it, don't order extravagantly. For one person five dollars should be MORE than enough.

3) Don't foresake your health/diet. I've noticed fast food isn't quite as appealing when I think about the health impact. I recently started weight watchers-- wow. When I see that that double cheesburger is over 10 points compared to the more "healthier" choices, it's a lot easier to order something different, or just altogether pass it up. Granted that might not work for you, but it certainly has helped me!

4) Think about what you're teaching your kids (if you have them). I'll admit it-- Tate loves chicken nuggets and fast fries. He knows the golden arches the second he sees them. And when I think about it, it's kind of sad. I'm not exactly being a good example to him. Definitely something to work on!

Anyway, I hope my little thoughts help-- nothing major or earth-shattering, but hopefully just a friendly little reminder that there probably are better ways to spend that hard earned money of yours!

Monday, June 4, 2012

A Trip to the Grocery Store

I can't be the only one who has a love-hate relationship with grocery shopping. I love picking out delicious meals and snacks, coming up with creative meals, and actually having food to choose from at home when I'm done. I hate battling the crowds, staying within the budget, and, the worst- the total at the checkout line.

Of course, no matter how much I love or hate the trip, it's something that I don't really have a choice to do or not. We gotta have food.

So how do you go about keeping the cost of the grocery trip run in check? Here's what Corey and I have found useful.

  • Make a list (and by list, I technically mean lists). Core and I do it in a couple of different ways. First, we have a magnetic notepad on the side of our fridge that, whenever we run out of something, we add it to the list. That saves us time when we create the master list, and also makes sure we don't forget anything! Which, as I just stated, the second part of our list is the infamous master list. Typically, to create it this list, I come up with 15-20 recipes I want to be able to make. Then I compile the list of what it takes to make these recipes that I don't have on hand. I make sure to write amounts, too, so I don't over or under buy. Lastly, I sort the list according to where I would find the items in the store. Of course, I also add items that aren't a part of the recipes too,  like cereal, fruit snacks, or string cheese, for example. This might seem a little overwhelming, but trust me-- it's so worth it! ESPECIALLY if you stick to the list. That's the important part of this-- making the list does no good if you aren't determine to stick to it. Granted, most trips I do give myself $10 of "listless" items, but I make sure I track it, and once I hit $10, I'm done. You also need to make sure you remember what meals you're buying stuff for. At our house, we have a "week planner" by our desk, and one of the columns is set aside for listing what we'll make for dinner each day. On the side it has a cork board, and I typically keep a list of the meals we bought stuff for and cross them off the list as I make them or put them on the board. It may seem like a lot, but really it's not, especially if you keep up with it. And another benefit is that you really don't have to go big grocery shopping that often. Most of the times we go to the store for the 15-20 meal trip once every other month, and then go probably every other week to get the things we run out of. I think we could go less if we did better and buying more of the things we go to faster, but it's not bad when the store is less than five minutes away from your house!
my week planner-- LOVE this thing!

  • Make a budget. For Corey and I, 15-20 meals fits the budget. BUT if your budget is more or less, adjust it accordingly. The first couple times you follow this, it's hard to know how many meals your budget will make. What we did was take the list of meals and prioritize them. The ones we wanted the most we bought the things for first, and then on down the list. During this, though, it's the nerd's job to not miss a thing and use a handy dandy calculator to do the math of about how much your order will cost. If you're anything like me, you'll love seeing how close you came at the end! :) Your ultimate goal here is to stick to the amount you alloted yourself. Period! Another way to do this is to write down the max cost you'll spend on items. If you know the approximate cost of the things on your list, this is an easier way to know how much you'll spend without having the eagle eye on the cart at the store!

  • Don't Shop Hungry. I know, I know, this is an old, old rule, but it's oh so true. When I step foot in the store without dinner, I'm practically guaranteed to make worse decisions about what I buy. It's so much harder to say no when your tummy is growling!
Another word of wisdom, if you have a small child, they are ALWAYS hungry and will beg you for something!
This is my lovely son showing me his cookie that he finally got out of me after begging and begging!

  • Take Advantage of Sales & Coupons. This is one area that I really would like to improve on. I'm going to be honest-- I will likely never be a crazy couponer. I have mad respect for the ladies on Extreme Couponing that can get paid to buy hundred of dollars in groceries, but right now there's no way that can be part of my lifestyle. Still, if you do it-- all the more power to you! And even if you can't do the mega couponing, it doesn't hurt to use a quarter off one here or a seventy-five cent off one there, or even a buy-one-get-one free! AND it NEVER hurts to pick up on a good sale! Keep your eyes peeled and take advantage, especially if it's something you buy often. BUT as a side note, it's not a deal if it's something you won't use. Even if it's pennies-- only get it if it's something your family will eat!
Anyway, happy shopping! I hope my little bit of advice can help! :) Stay tuned for future ways to eat on the cheap!