When I started taking care of my own expenses, I’ve learned how saving money on food is such a valuable skill to hone. I realized early on how majority of my expenses are being spent on food. In most cases, it is unnecessary food items like excessive snacks and too many delivery/takeouts than I can count. Granted, trying to be a bit stingy on food is applicable to me because I don’t really earn millions off of my job and curbing some of my habits could actually help in the bigger picture but regardless, I’d still like to share with you a couple of things to consider if you want to scrimp on that dime.
Cook your own food. I couldn’t emphasize it enough how cooking your own food is not only good for the wallet, but also good for your gut in the long run. My joy of cooking didn’t kick in till later when I was in college already, so don’t make the excuse of starting out late. There are tons of simple recipes that you can follow online that most often than not, use the same pantry staples you either already have available or could cheaply get from the store. Once you get the hang of cooking your own meals, you will realize that it’s easy to whip up a meal for cheap than relying on takeout that costs much more. As a gift to you, check out my meal prepping tips to help you get started.
Plan your restaurant visits. There’s nothing wrong with trying out new food at a restaurant occasionally, and you don’t have to punish yourself from feeling that way. It will only become a problem when you do it so frequent that your wallet starts to suffer. I know many of us have friends who want to drag us to brunches, lunches, afternoon coffee or whatnot but if we’re not in the position to hastily spend on something we cannot afford in the first place, we have to stop playing catch-up. The best way I’ve tackled this personally is just to allow myself to attend strictly only 2 to 3 night-out/social events with food involved in a month, which is something that I’ve worked on my budget.
Have a foodie buddy. In relation to the previous point, it’s also helpful if you are to have a foodie buddy you can split costs with, should you wish to have a food adventure that’s budget-friendly. Not only are you able to try out more variety of food as well as enjoy the company of a friend but most especially, you are able to save a bit for your other expenses.
Limit your food delivery/takeout. This is the condition which I’m most guilty of. If you’ve read many of my previous posts (including my most recent I’m Coming Clean), you’d know that my lifestyle involves a lot of takeouts. I honestly blame the convenience and the discounts offered by Zomato every so often, LOL. But seriously zeroing in on my habit just last March 2020, I have ordered delivery through the app for about 23 different times and spent almost AED 500 in a span of one month. This is in comparison to my only 1 order this April 2020 which costed me AED 20.50. What I spent in takeouts last March wouldn’t have been a problem per se had it been the only food expense I had that month. Realistically speaking however, that is only one part. There’s still other things I’ve spent such as grocery runs, food at work, convenience store snacks, etc. which would have totaled my food expense to almost AED 1,000 – 1,500 roughly, which is more than I’m expecting to spend in a month.
Find deals online for delivery. Like what I mentioned in my previous point, I was encouraged to order more delivery partly because of the deals that I see on Zomato. Now if you’re not familiar, Zomato is a popular food app that’s like the encyclopedia of restaurants available in your city but at the same time they also act as middleman for delivery services and a rewards system. I’m not going to go in-depth with the specifics of this brand, because I’m going to post something else very soon about the delivery services available in my country (wink, wink!). But basically, Zomato offers a lot of tempting discounts — anywhere from 35 to 50% discount for orders above a minimum spend (most of the time it is AED 20). This is really helpful especially if you want to try a new restaurant or food item, but is a bit hesitant due to the cost. It might still be considerably pricey, but I don’t think I am alone in saying that discounts are always welcome at any time when it comes to food. If you’re also wondering, no, the quality or quantity of food is not altered just because you didn’t buy it at a full price.
Curb the snack monster. This is also one of the points that is more challenging to combat because especially nowadays, when we are on lockdown and we have an unlimited access to our kitchen and pantry, our tendency to reach out for snacks becomes greater. Personally, I still snack on my favorite things from time to time but I have learned to do it in moderation and listened to my body if I’m actually looking for a snack or it’s something else. Most often than not, we are just dehydrated or our body is bored and looking for something to do. It’s best to drink water first should you feel the hunger pangs or get up and get your motor skills moving to test out what your body really needs, before you pick up any snack.
Don’t order food which you can prepare yourself. This applies both when you’re eating at a restaurant or getting a delivery. Think of it this way – half or even more than half of what you pay for goes to the overhead costs of an outlet and that includes labor, rent, utilities, packaging, branding, etc. If they are a big franchise, they’re more than likely spending pennies to manufacture your food. If you are planning to eat out, you have to eat out wisely and start thinking of it as more of a treat than a necessity. If you think of it in such a way, you will start making it count. You only buy what you know would make your money’s worth — something you haven’t tried before or something you cannot make on your own in any circumstances whatsoever.
Eat whole foods. This would be my last tip for this post but actually one of the most impactful to adapt. It should actually be bounded to that first tip about cooking your own food — it’s good for the wallet, but also good for your gut. Raw ingredients typically costs cheaper and yield much more than getting a processed or packaged food. You are also reassured of the fact that you know what’s in your food and who made your food, which is a big plus in my books. Just to give you an example, I’d been cooking my own Sinigang (Filipino sour soup) for the past two weeks now, just using different main meats which, ingredients-wise, I’ve spent roughly AED 30 and I’ve yielded about 6 to 8 servings out of.
As much as possible, I try to keep my tips to something short, fundamental and easy to start with because I’m fully aware that sometimes bad habits are difficult to break, most especially when it comes to eating habits.
I’d be curious to know if there are any amazing tips you’re hiding that you can share with me!