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How To Cut Your Food Budget In HALF!

by Vanessa Ryan

I'm all about trying to save money, especially when I find myself getting in the rut of fast-food, drive thru's and takeout...I feel like I'm throwing money away.  I was happy to find some tips from Mindy Crary of Forbes.com.  She says the food budget is the single easiest way to reduce expenses and derive more satisfaction out of everything you eat.

Mindy shares these eight easiest ways she found to cut your food budget in half at MSN.com...

Become vegetarian. There are a lot of reasons to eat a plant-based diet, and I like Leo Babauta's post "A Guide to Eating a Plant-Based Diet" for laying out the reasons. Meat is expensive, and although I like a good pot roast every now and then, I am equally happy eating rice and beans and other vegetarian options as the main staples of my weekly routine. You need only four to five recipes to alternate.

Limit alcohol. I dated an alcoholic for a few years and after that time quit drinking almost completely. I rarely keep any alcohol in my home unless I am having friends over or planning a special occasion. No one "needs" alcohol in the home all of the time, and if you do, you might have bigger problems than budgeting.

Quit buying ready-made solutions. I have a friend who is maintaining a gluten-free household, so I know how expensive a gluten-free loaf of bread can be. But if she makes it herself, it costs only a fraction of the retail price. This is true for almost anything you can buy premade (although you won't catch me baking my own bread anytime soon). If you use a lot of something, try to figure out how you can make it yourself in volume. It's cheaper for me to buy bulk steel-cut oats and cook a pot of it for the week than to buy instant oats. 

Plan menus two weeks out before grocery shopping. Carve out time in your schedule (about 30 minutes) to plan your breakfasts, lunches, dinners and snacks for the next 10 to 14 days. Start by checking your kitchen cabinets for what you already have on hand, and build your menu to use up cans of soup and other staples. Consider keeping a folder of recipes you want to try. Once you have a completed menu, build your grocery list. Remember to check on toothpaste and other sundries so you don't come back and suddenly notice that one thing you absolutely need.

Grocery-shop three times a month, and stick to your list. People who eat lots of fresh fruits and vegetables always hate this tip. I eat lots of vegetables and fruits too, and I have found that if I bring them home, prep them immediately and keep them in airtight containers, most stuff easily lasts 10 days. 

Designate a "meal prep" day. Every 10 days or so, I spend three to four hours cooking big batches of stuff -- rice and beans, morning gruel, root vegetables, a casserole to freeze, etc. I know that if it takes me longer than 45 minutes to prepare a weekday meal, I'll go rogue and order takeout. So I precook lots of stuff to throw into salads or stir-fry, or just so I have something I can pull from the freezer the day before.

Keep a list of what's in the freezer. I might have something really delicious in my freezer but totally forget I have it. So I keep a list on the fridge that I update every 10 to 14 days when I am planning my next round of meals.

Keep comfort food ready to go. There are times when I just don't want to eat as healthfully as I usually do. When I am driving home after a long day, nothing sounds better than takeout. So I keep fixings on hand for things that sound better to me than takeout, like a grilled cheese sandwich or Beecher's Mac & Cheese.

Hope these can help you out like they helped me! :)