Drop your bad habits. Alcohol, tobacco, soda and sugary treats may be pleasurable, but they don't fill nutritional needs. That's not to say you can never indulge, but when money's tight, you need to rein in your guilty pleasures.
If you need help finding recipes or more suggestions:
- Use the USDA's "recipe finder" or search for "budget recipe" sites.
- Your local library has budget cookbooks and other information on saving money.
- Check out frugal-living websites; a good one to try is the Dollar Stretcher.
If money's really tight, you shouldn't be reluctant to ask for help. The federal government's food assistance program, once known as food stamps and now called the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, can help low-income people buy groceries. SNAP served up $64.4 billion in benefits during the 2010 fiscal year, a fourfold increase from 2000. If you don't qualify for SNAP, you can still get food from a community food bank.
If your problem is a lack of time to prepare budget meals -- which leads to the temptation to spend more eating out -- here are ways to make sure you still can eat well on a budget:
Get a slow cooker. You can pick up a basic Crock Pot for as little as $16 online or find one for even less at a garage sale. Slow cookers allow you to assemble a meal in the morning so you can have a hot, ready-to-eat dinner when you get home.
Cook once, eat twice. Make double the number of servings you need and freeze the excess to reheat later. Some foods don't freeze well, such as potatoes and crisp vegetables, but most -- including soups and stews -- do just fine. Use freezer-weight storage bags or containers, and mark them with the date so you can use them within three months.
Learn to love lentils. Like beans, these legumes are loaded with protein and iron but are typically much faster to prepare, with cooking times under 30 minutes for most varieties. Couscous and quinoa are two grains that are fast to prepare as well -- five minutes for couscous, 15 minutes for quinoa, compared with 30 to 40 minutes for brown rice.
Have some go-to recipes. Egg dishes, pasta and many casseroles tend to be easy to throw together in a hurry. Keep some veggies, such as a carrot and celery sticks, in a glass of water in the fridge for snacking while you pull together the meal.
Liz Weston is the Web's most-read personal-finance writer. She is the author of several books, most recently "The 10 Commandments of Money: Survive and Thrive in the New Economy" (find it on Bing). Weston's award-winning columns appear every Monday and Thursday, exclusively on MSN Money. Join the conversation and send in your financial questions on Liz Weston's Facebook fan page.
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Alot of these articles on money saving a just full of crap, but this one is really good and hits the nail on the head !
This is the way I live......everyday.....it is a true challenge to NOT stop by for a Slurpee whenever I want, but those costs REALLY can add up !
I had thought that Speedway Rewards was a really, really poor program, just to separate me from my money at any chance they got, and still, sometimes, that is true....but when I see the people that shop there ALL THE TIME and do not participate in that program, boy, are they missing out !
SAVE THOSE points and get a gift card for food and merchandise, because then you get points on the stuff you buy....when you just redeem points for your FREE drinks, food, or coffee you DON'T get more points for those periodic redemptions ! It is all about how to play the game, as successfully as you can !
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