Eat Out On The Cheap & More Money Saving Strategies!

headforcardToday I wanted to bring you some more money saving tips while I toil away on the eCookbook I’m working up for you! I had hoped to have this post up earlier but its been one of those crazy days. Sometimes I feel certain I could be a rich woman if I sold tickets to witness the things I go through in the course of trying to get a post up! ~laughs~

Save Money When Eating Out

We very seldom eat out and this is entirely my fault. I can’t help it, though! Every time we get the check, I look at the total and find myself mentally adding up how many dinners I could have made at home for the same amount of money. Most of the time, eating out with a family of four costs the same amount of money as putting four to six suppers on the table. It is really easy to feed a family of four for under ten dollars a meal at home and feeding them for five dollars is entirely doable as well.

One of the great things about our economy right now (yes, I just said ONE of the MANY great things! – there is always a bright side if you look for it!) is that you can get some amazing deals at restaurants if you only look! We are now able to eat at our favorite steak house for about twenty dollars, all four of us! We have eaten for even less in the past two weeks. How do you do this?

  • Plan ahead when eating out and choose your restaurant by the deals the offer.
  • Check the restaurant’s website. Sign up for any email newsletters they may have and you will more often than not receive great coupons. Most have a loyalty club of some sort as well. I signed up for Logan’s and Ruby Tuesday’s newsletter and get coupons often from them in my email. You’d be amazed how many restaurants are offering this now!
  • Find the restaurants offering deals for kids! Many more places are offering kids eat free programs but some are only on certain days of the week so call ahead. Even with two kids, getting kid’s meals free can easily save over fifteen dollars. I recently found a great post listing some restaurants where kids eat free or cheap on a locally run website, Two Thrifty Sisters, you can view that post here.
  • Eat out before four o’clock or on weeknights, this is when you can find the best deals. I find the lack of crowds and wait time much more enjoyable, too! My friend, Mary Anne calls this “Eatin’ out with the paw paws and mee maws” and I can’t think of a finer crowd to dine with!
  • Sign up for the Pizza chain’s newsletters. Pizza Hut and Papa Johns send out regular coupons in email.
  • Call the restaurant and see if they have any weekday or weeknight specials
  • Check the search engines for restaurant deals.
  • Don’t forget to hit up your favorite fast food websites! I was recently craving my yearly heart attack meal at Captain D’s and went online to see if they had any deals (Captain D’s food is amazingly good but about as greasy as they come…still SO GOOD!). I signed up for their newsletter and within minutes had a coupon for a free adult dinner. Got my arteries clogged for free! Many major fast food chains are doing this now so it pays to visit their websites and nose around a bit.

Other Ways To Save

Buying a side of beef

This is touted as a miracle worker when it comes to saving money and I have always wanted to do it! My problem is finding someone to buy it from. When we were little my mother’s father gave each family a calf at Christmas and that provided our beef for the entire year. I still remember seeing our freezer filled to the brim with packages of meat wrapped in white paper.

I’ve scoured the internet for a place to purchase a side of beef in my area to no avail. Hopefully some of you will have better luck at this. If you do let me know!

Food Programs That Help

Many people aren’t aware of the programs out there which serve as sort of “food co-operatives” in order for families to be able to buy boxes of groceries at a discount. Many of these programs have no pre-qualifications and welcome anyone to participate. They simply exist to help families save money and still put great meals on the table. One such program is Angel Food Ministries. This program allows participants to purchase a box of food for around $30.00. The food included is set to feed a typical family of four for a week or a senior citizen for a month. Tipnut wrote a great article on this which can be viewed here and goes into more detail :)

There are other such programs as well though. Please visit the following links for more information on programs such as this and if you know of another one, please let us know about it in the comments!

Great Food For All

Share Food Program

Freezer Cooking Problem – Where Do I Find The Space?

Thanks again to my sister in law, Tina for her great freezer cooking posts last week. Many of you have emailed or commented asking how to freezer cook with very limited freezer space so I thought I’d show you my favorite method.

I recently mixed up three batches of Cheesy Chicken and Corn Casserole and here is how I froze it:

  • Measure out even portions into Gallon (or quart for two people) sized freezer bags.
  • Write Instructions on Bags
  • Smooth them out flat, removing as much air as possible.
  • Freeze flat
  • Once frozen, stand them up and stack like bookends.

This takes up very little space! To bake, simply thaw the bag in your fridge the night before and when you are ready pour it into your baking dish.

picccs-173

This is a frozen bag. Okay so it wasn’t exactly flat..but it was awfully close!

My writing translates to: Pour in dish. Bake at 350 for 30 min. Add cheese. Bake til melted. :) Told ya I have horrendous handwriting.

picccs-171

I also had enough to fill two little loaf pans with casserole for my Grandmother to have as a quick and easy dinner one night. I just filled up my little loaf pans and went ahead and topped them with cheese and wrote instructions directly on the foil for Grandmama.

The most important thing when it comes to saving money on groceries is to PLAN AHEAD. By planning in advance, shopping sales, using coupons and other saving strategies as well as plotting your meals around what you have on hand already, anyone can drastically reduce grocery costs. Southern Savers has recently become my ultimate go to source and I never hit the grocery store without her specials and suggestions printed out and tucked into my purse!

What are your great money saving tips when it comes to feeding your family?

I want to hear them!

Please share with us in the comments below!

I’m a little behind this week in my comments and emails and want to thank you all so much for taking the time to send them to me and post here. Like all of you, I need motivation, too! Your comments are the fuel that keeps me running at full steam! I am so very grateful to each and every one of you.

Gratefully,

Christy :)

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Comments

  1. Shannon says

    This is what I do. I cook 30 meals for 2 every six months and fly them out to my folks in Michigan. (Im in California-no I dont live next door to movie stars or know people who work at Disney land-wink) That is usually 6 months worth of Sunday dinners. It takes me one day (12 hours) to complete this process and by the time I fly them out, they are like 30 frozen bricks. I have and entire 2-3 course meal (contained in qt ziplocks) in a gallon size zip lock. Im not sure if they look forward to seeing me or my food more. Keep it under 50 lbs and SWA flys them like luggage.

  2. Mary Jo says

    There are just 2 of us now and I find a whole chicken will feed us 3 meals. If I roast it we have the roast chicken that night and I usually have hot chicken sandwiches one night and then the bones for flavor and any meat left over goes in the soup pot for another meal with noodles or rice left or maybe any leftover veggies I have saved. Living on retirement you save where ever you can.

  3. April says

    Thanks Christy for all the links of valuable info, I have bookmarked them into my favorites. I’m all for eating on a budget with a family of 5 on one income I’m willing to learn all I can to help us save money. I keep forgetting about the Angel Food Ministries we have that in our area, my mom bought my sister & I a box one month and it was so easy to go pick it up and the people were so very nice. I got to write that down on my calendar so I won’t keep forgetting. I have a terrible ‘mommy brain’ I call it, LOL!

  4. Tracy from Columbiana says

    the side of beef thing. If you have a local 4-h club or FFA club most of the time they will have someone showing steers. Since steers are not a benefit in the pasture, they like to sell them. Most of these steers are well feed and are taken care of very well. If you are interested in purchasing a side of beef that would be the best place to start. They also will most likely be able to tell you where it can be processed at.

    I plan my meals and then go thru my pantry and only buy what i have to have to go with the meals. I do this for two weeks at a time. It has worked very well for me.

  5. Robert(citycowboy) says

    Well Christy,

    As I write, your steak tips are in the crock pot and the house smells WONDERFUL, have my noodles ready to cook, salad in the fridge, and veggie ready to heat up. I plan on pigging out, I wonder if this recipe can be frozen and then reheated for a “no time to cook” day. And also, Tina’s tips have been great. With an apartment sized fridge and freezer, these pointers are coming in handy.

    • Tracy from Columbiana says

      I have frozen the beef tips and rice leftover before. It came in handy when I need something quick to fix for supper. Just let it cool and then put it in containers or freezer bags. It will be like a homemade tv dinner.

  6. maryanne says

    A great idea when out on vacation is to follow the pawpaws and maw maw’s… It works like a charm everytime. We followed a few around 4pm while on vacation in Charleston… they lead us to the BEST PLACES TO EAT! Not fancy.. JUST REALLY GOOD LOW COUNTRY FOOD!
    When in Doubt… Follow the elder crowd. VERY SMART people!!! YUM YUM! One day someone will be staring at our pictures hung up in a cracker barrel. Just wait… lol

  7. Melody says

    OK, I’ve mentioned it in other posts, but here goes again … my money saving tip is to eat deer … financially its comparable to buying a side of beef. I know so many women & men who turn up their nose at venison and I can’t fathom why … maybe they once got a bad piece of deer jerky or badly seasoned sausage??? My husband shot 4 deer this year and we will eat every bit by next hunting season thanks to all of Christy’s great recipes requiring ground beef. We have it professionally butchered and get most of it ground with a little beef fat added because deer have virtually no fat! Nutritionally, venison has more protein and less fat than chicken. And deer haven’t been feed gobs of antibiotics and steroids like non-organic meat you get from the grocery store. If your spouse doesn’t hunt, there are always, always guys around willing to help you out, you just have to pay for the processing. Plus hunting controls the deer population and helps keep them off the highway, also saving us money!

    • Su says

      What’s wrong with deer/venison? I’m surprised to read that you say people don’t want to eat it. I actually thought it was a more ‘luxury’ meat to eat. I have only eaten venison once at a restaurant and it was much more expensive than steak or lamb.

      It’s not a common meat here though and is mostly served in restaurants only. It’s not something you find in your local supermarket! But as a comparison, you can buy kangaroo meat which is quite cheap to buy yet also very lean, high in protein, low in fat. I don’t mind kangaroo although I don’t really eat it much. Some people think it’s a little strange we eat our national animal! =)

    • Mommdeb says

      We love deer!!! My dh doctor told him that it is ok to eat as it is not bad like red meat! If you use ground deer in things you won’t be able to tell the difference. I use it all the time and company never can tell. My kids LOVE backstrap grilled up. So you get healthier meat and help the control the population!!

  8. Elaine says

    I skip ordering soft drinks and/or coffee. Most places charge close to two dollars for drinks and I a happy to settle for water with a dash of lemon to save $8.00 for a family of four. When my children were small I often only ordered for one and split the sandwich and order of fries as they they were not going to eat that amount of food anyhow. I shudder when I see how much waste there is at a restaurant. I often see many rolls untouched as well as large portions. It is too bad when we have hungry people in our country.

  9. Jane in Georgia says

    I know a place you can find beef sides for sale. Look at the Georgia Department of Agriculture Market Bulletin website. If you look at the list of Ads, you will see “Things to Eat.” A sample of an ad this week is:

    Angus cross beef, no antibiotics, hormones, steroids, $2.75 lb. hanging weight, half or whole, references available

    Alabama might have the same thing, or since you’re close, Georgia might be an option.

  10. Jan S in TX says

    There are several things we do to save money. When we eat out, which is, maybe once a week – especially if we go visit my MIL – we just get water to drink. We’ve been know to share meals – order a 10 oz steak instead of a 6 oz steak for $2 more and share – saved a full meal minus $2. We also do not order desserts at restaurants (unless it is a special occasion).

    For cooking, we’ve gotten that we make most things ourselves. Why should I pay someone to make something that I can make as well, if not better, with quality ingredients without all the additives & junk that is needed to make it last on the shelf? We made waffles and bagels and froze them, now the kids just need to pull one out, pop it in the tosater, and viola! breakfast is ready!

    We also have cut back on soda (pop, Coke, cold drinks…). We will have iced tea, milk, or water. That’s it. No other choices. I will also limit the kids (teens) to 2 cups of milk a day. For snacks, we have cheese, nuts, fruit, veggies (carrots, cukes) etc. I also try to limit the snacking – unless we have a “prgressive lunch” – you know the one, a string cheese now, an orange in 1/2 hour, pbj 1/2 hour after that – which we tend to do, because we don’t want to eat “that big of a meal at one sitting”. ;P

    The last thing we have done is eliminate paper products as much as possible. Instead of paper towels, we use cloth napkins. We also have dish towels for washing and drying our dishes. We wash & reuse water bottles dh gets from work (he works in a restaurant and will get a bottled water with his meal at no charge) for us to have “portable” water when we are on the go – no more buying water for us!

    I know we’re not “average” in what we do, but it works for us and keeps our grocery bills – which includes all toiletries, dog food, medicines, etc.- to less than $500 a month for a family of 4.

  11. KEL says

    One way I save money on eating out is to order water as my beverage. If I have children with me, I tell them before we go in that we are all going to order water. Restaurants charge as much as 2.50 for a soft drink or iced tea. For a family of 4, that’s 10 bucks and with a 20% tip, that can add $12 to the cost of a meal.
    At Mexican restaurants we share an order of fajitas. It’s always enough for at least 2 people. I know families who go out for Mexican and make the kids order tacos from the ala carte menu–really cheap.
    When I’m planning a major splurge at an expensive restaurant, I like to look at the menu online before I go. That gives me time to study the menu, look for hidden bargains as well as make sure I’m ordering something really special for the price. If I’m going somewhere that serves huge portions, I might order an appetizer INSTEAD of an entree or take half of the entree home for another meal.

  12. Carol says

    I used to eat out almost every day at lunch even if it was the work cafeteria but now I take my lunch (and keep a box of cereal at my desk for breakfast or even lunch sometimes). I also stopped ordering anything other than water to drink when I do go out. There are a couple of places that offer discounts for people who work where I do and we frequent those. Finally, my friend and I have been known to split an entree at lunch to save money and calories! Some of the restaurants have HUGE portions of food.

    My husband and I eat out once a week usually and we prefer to frequent the locally owned restaurants. Because we are regular customers, we get coupons all the time for a few dollars off. Saves us money and it helps out a small business owner who contributes back to the local economy. I’ve also been able to order $25 coupons for as little as $2 each from http://www.restaurant.com website.

  13. Christina says

    Hi Christy! Love your recipes and I’m going to order your cookbook. Have a question…are all the recipes you post online in your book? I didn’t want to keep printing them out if so…:)
    Also, I’m new to freezing food…can butter tubs be frozen?

  14. Mrs. Morgan says

    I pack my lunch every day, except 2 days every month. 2 days out of the month, I have lunch with my girlfriend, I watch what I spend so I can.

    I was the $1 item breakfast gal also, no longer. Oatmeal @ my desk in a coffee cup (water heated in the microwave) is less than $1.

    This is not a meal item, but since my electric bill is SKY HIGH, hang my clothes out on the line. Which I’ve done before, but NEVER towels. This past weekend, I did…I dried my towels on the line. I do admit to 7 minutes of “dryer time” to fluff them up a little.

  15. Deanne says

    Here is another share site for people in Colorado, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Wyoming, Nebraska and South Dakota, Kansas, Missouri, Arizona,Texas. http://www.sharecolorado.com/

    This page lists many SHARE organizations in several areas
    http://www.wholesaledistributorsnet.com/SHARE_food.html

    This is another page with multiple links to other SHARE organizations (I believe the page is for the Wisconsin SHARE)
    http://www.sharewi.org/SHAREAffiliates.html

  16. says

    I buy meat when it is on sale in the family packs or large meat sales. I package the meat up in serving sizes and put in freezer. I always label and date. At Thanksgiving I will buy an extra Turkey or two and at St Patty’s I bought two extra corned beef briskets. At Easter time I will buy 3 or 4 hams. I get these at good seasonal sales and put ‘em in the freezer. Meat always seems to be what takes the biggest bite out of my grocery money so this helps a lot.
    Thanks for all your good tips.

  17. says

    I buy in bulk when items are on sale. For instance, last weekend, split chicken breasts were $.99 per pound and I bought about 30 lbs. I then stock the freezer with the sale meat and can cook any kind of meat I want because I have a stocked freezer, at sale prices.

  18. Angela says

    Just wanted to say how my husband and me save on money is he hunts and we eat alot of venison, I don’t have to buy meat at the grocery store….we also eat alot of turkey also, which is wild turkey it is really delicious……………

  19. Nan says

    We are avid sale shoppers. I NEVER buy meat or almost anything else not on sale. We also shop at a meat store that has good monthly sales. It is expensive if you try to get started doing this but so worth it. Last month we spent $200 on meat, including a whole rib eye they cut into steaks for us, but we now have enough meat to last 3 of us at least 6 months and maybe longer.

    I am also an avid canner. We live in MA now and the growing season for gardens is short but we do our best to supply all the tomatoes we will need for the year ourselves. We have even been known to use canned tomatoes on a sandwich in January. What we can not grow in our little back yard we buy from local farmers in bulk. I even can soups like taco soup, stuffed pepper soup, chicken for chicken noodle and chili. These are fast meals on busy nights and also my husband takes them to work for lunch. I make my own salsa, saurkrout, pickles, relish, jellies, etc.

    Not only do I know what my family is eating but it sure is nice not to have to worry about shopping for groceries so much. I buy bulk for flour, sugar, etc.

    Yes, it was not an easy switch to be able to do this but when we moved 3 years ago from GA we had 4 freezers full of food and the guys who moved us said they had never seen so many jars of food. We moved in October just after canning season. LOL

  20. Mommdeb says

    Best thing to do for a large amount of beef, pork etc. is support the 4-H or FFA kids at fair time!! You will be getting prime meat and help kids at the same time!! We are big into 4-H and the kids have to raise their animal. They spend their own money on feed etc. So whatever extra they have after the animal is sold is theirs. Most kids save for college or to buy an animal for next years fair. We have purchased 2 hogs and they are yummy!! If you don’t want a whole steer, get a group of people together to buy one. The other advantage is you can have the meat cut anyway you want it!!! Cut to order!!!

    Hope this helps!!

  21. Janice says

    So many recipes will call for shredded chicken. I’m a working mom
    with a husband and 4 kids,and by the time I get home the fam is asking whats for dinner, and no time to cook and shred the chicken let alone get them to what ever they may have that night.(my kids aren’t picky but they will not eat any meat or veges from a can well except tuna) my fix for that problem. I’ll by the big family pack of chicken when its on sale and throw it in the crock pot while I’m at work. When I come home it’s already and the extra goes in the freezer for the next time I need some shredded chicken.

  22. Suzanne M. Mills says

    I make virtually everything from scratch…from pasta to bread to everything in between…i feed myself and my 2 boys (one is 18-yrs-old/6’5″/275-lbs and the other is 22-yrs-old/6’3″/225-lbs) for about $400 a month ;-) I also buy in bulk from Sams or Costco, i switch back and forth from year to year, and grow a lot of my own veggies. There ya have it, feeding “monsters” on a dime ♥

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