Slashing food costs

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Google Doc spreadsheet showing all 250 levels of the Money Game

I promise you this is easy. You need a roll of masking tape, a Sharpie, a funny knicknack or small toy and a text file. Ready? Let’s go!

  • Start using YNAB.  When you buy food, update YNAB from your phone while you’re still in your car.  Pinky swear with your spouse that you’ll both check YNAB before stopping at the store on the way home and that you’ll update it if you buy anything. If you do this along with the rest of the tips below, you’ll be well on your way to having your food expenses under control.  YNAB gives you the tools to make it happen.
  • Every day, clean one shelf of your fridge. Mine has  six shelves and the door shelves (I hit those all on the same day because it’s mostly condiments and butter anyway.) Toss anything out of date.  Look for food you can use today – that’s a money maker. Put your little toy on the next shelf to clean so you’ll know where to start the next day. Do this faithfully and you’ll never deal with a container of molded crud again.  You’ll also actually use the food you buy because you see it every day.  This task should not take more than 5 minutes.
  • Every time you put leftovers in the fridge, slap a piece of masking tape on the container and date it.  My general rule is to toss anything older than 3 days.  This makes it easy. Seeing the dates will also help you to eat it. You won’t get a queasy feeling wondering if the food is okay. You’ll know!
  • Leftovers make great lunches.  Did you know deli lunch meat is one of the most expensive foods you buy?  Every time you can take leftovers instead you got a free lunch.  There really is a Santa Claus.
  • Start adding your family’s favorite meals to a text file.  Every time you make a meal that’s a hit, add it to the file.  This file is going to become a treasure chest for you.  It will save you time and money because it’s your go-to list for eating at home. Focus on things you can get on the table without a lot of fuss.  It’s fine to put that dish that takes 3 hours to prepare too.  This is YOUR list.  I named mine menus.txt. I make this a text file so that I can read it from any device.
  • As you see things you need in the kitchen, add them to your text file in a separate section. I titled my section “Shopping List”. Since I can see this file from my phone, I’m never at the store without a list.
  • If you have DropBox, make sure that list is stored there.  You’ll be able to see it from your phone.  If not, just print it out before you go to the store.  If you work outside your home and can’t access this list during the day, put it on a flash drive.  That way you can get to it from work or home.
  • Think of at least one emergency meal that your family likes that can be kept in the pantry.  Make sure you always have what you need to make that meal.  This is your insurance to not “have” to eat out.  Eating out is fine.  Just do it on YOUR terms.  We love salmon patties so I keep a pack of Costco’s canned salmon in our pantry.  Other ideas are pasta meals or breakfast for dinner.  It’s got to be a meal that can be quickly prepared and you have to keep the ingredients on hand.  This one tip will save you money.
  • Use your menu text file to make your week’s menus and grocery list (some people do this by the month but if you can pull that off, you don’t need my help!)
  • I make sure I use everything in our freezer by dating with masking tape and a Sharpie.  Go through your freezer regularly and use the oldest foods first.

Level Completed: 112 out of 251
Total Balance: $1,201.64

Our Money Game fund has increased 135.7% so far this month.

Have fun, grow money and level up!

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