Being smart with your money is not something you should feel embarrassed about these days!

Whether you’re eating out, buying groceries, or planning meals at home, here are a some of my personal shopping & eating tips that will limit the damage to your wallet!

If you have other ideas, please comment below!!

When Dining Out

  • Visit the restaurant website. Seems obvious, but few people do! There are often specials/deals going on or a coupon for you to print out. Don’t see anything? GOOGLE: [Restaurant name] + coupons
  • Watch the booze!! Bars have been known to replace expensive booze with “generics”, and some bartenders even take advantage of drunk people with open/running tabs to treat their own buddies to a free drinks! (Source: SmartMoney)
  • Clip restaurant coupons in your local & University newspapers and magazines! Examples? I look in the Red Eye for buy-1-get-1-free meals at Cosi & 20% off discount coupons at Rockit.
  • Don’t forget to tell the restaurant/eatery if you have a birthday or anniversary in the group – you can sometimes score a free dessert or appetizer.
  • Don’t be afraid to send a dish you don’t enjoy back to the kitchen!! Same goes for a cocktail or drink.  It’s your money, you should love the food. Trust me, restaurant owners have told me so.
  • Really want to experience a restaurant out of your budget range? You can always eat a little before-hand and just get appetizers!

Grocery Shopping

  • ALWAYS compare-shop at different grocery stores!! Example? Frozen pineapples & strawberries are ~$1.50 at Trader Joe’s vs. $4+ at any other grocery store!
  • I love ethnic grocers for cheap, but equally high quality ingredients such as SPICES, goji berries, dried dates, tofu, fresh seafood, panko, dumplings and…the list never ends!! Check this site out if you’re in Chicago, it ROCKS for ethnic grocer ideas.
  • Eliminate pre-conceived notions! Safeway sales and Walmart is not always the best value you can get!!! Example? Spectrum brand flax seeds are $3.99 at Whole Foods (not on sale), and $7.99 at Dominick’s (sale) ; Walmart canned beans are at least $1 a can (avg) vs. ~$0.50 at say your local mini mart!
  • Scour Coupons.com or whatever website for printable coupons!
  • Duh Coupons. But Coupons PLUS a sale = Awesome deals!! Example?  Oikos greek yogurt by the dozen for $0.27 each at Whole Foods simply by clipping their Everyday Value Coupons paired with an Oikos sale that was running simultaneously!
  • Pay attention to “sale cycles” - For example, baking mixes goes on sale around holiday time. New products also often get an “introductory sale price” at local stores!
  • Buy In-Season fresh produce, and Don’t buy pre-cut fruit unless you have to! SO not worth it.
  • Amazon.com can offer A-M-A-Z-I-N-G deals, you have to keep your eyes peeled for your favorite products! Example? 6 boxes of Kashi Go Lean Cereal for $8 (not including shipping). Doesn’t get better than that!
  • Stock up on canned goods when they go on sale!!! Don’t be afraid to buy a little more than you can eat at the time!
  • Buy in bulk for non-perishable food items like rice, oats, dried beans, etc.

Eating at Home

  • Adapt your recipe & be flexible. Even if a recipe calls for fish, switch it to tofu depending on what’s on sale at the market or what you have on hand.
  • Tofu and beans are cheaper than meat. Period.
  • Buy meat/fish in bulk and freeze it into smaller individual bags to defrost when you need it. Example? chicken can freeze up to 1 year!!!
  • Know how long food can go for after its “sell by” date. Example? Yogurt is good up to 1 week after its sell by date! After that, toss it in the freezer to make frozen yogurt instead of throwing it away!
  • Pay attention to what’s open and how much is left!! Meaning, if you open a jar of PB or have only one box of cake mix left, make a mental note of it so if you see it on sale, buy it!! It’ll save you having to go out last minute and paying full price for it.
  • Did you over-season a dish? Don’t throw it! Cook it with another ingredient with high water content to dilute the flavor!
  • Did a product you just bought go bad before the “Best by” date?? Bring it up with the company! They may (and should) send you some coupons to replace their faulty product!

Other Miscellaneous Tips!

  • Sign up for mailing lists for your favorite products and eateries!! Examples? I’m signed on with kashi and sometimes get coupons for new products. Jamba Juice constantly does buy-1-get-1-free! and Red Mango will give free froyo’s when they open a new store!
  • Groupon.com has got awesome daily deals for your city of choice – from groceries, to restaurants, to spas.
  • If you LOVE the WF salad bar…then bring your own greens as a base and simply buy the “toppings” you crave. Combine them for a gourmet salad without paying $5.99/lb for romaine!
  • E-mail the company that makes your FAVORITE food(s)! Who knows, they may want to send you some samples! :)
  • Read financial tips online! My favorite is SmartMoney.com. They have lists such as: Top 10 Things your Nutritionist Won’t Tell you! (Or, Your farmer’s market, your Bartender, Celebrity Chefs, Plastic Surgeons, Financial Planners…etc.)
  • Please borrow books from the library!!! Saves money, saves the environment. Buying books you’ll only read once is just…silly.