Monday, April 20, 2009

Thrifty Cooking: Something to think about...

Some numbers to think about during our crappy economic times...

Eating Out at Work
$7 - Average cost of a sandwich and softdrink
$35 per-week if you eat out 5 times
$151 per month
$1820 per year

If you ate a can of soup, leftovers from dinner, or a home-made sandwich (approx cost $3)
$15 per week
$65 per month
$780 per year

Coffee Consumption
A medium coffee from Dunkin Donuts or Starbucks is approximately $2.25-ish
$11.25 per week
$48.75 per month
$585 per year

Let's assume it's less than $0.50 for a coffee "gourmet" coffee made at home.
$2.50 per week
$10.83 per month
$130 per year

Eating Out for Dinner
Dinner for two with soft drinks, no alcohol, and no appetizers at a restaurant where dinner entrees average $12.99 each (which is conservative for many areas of the country) is about $43 after tax and tip.
$86 - Two times per week (1 weeknight and on Saturday)
$373 - Per Month
$4472 per Year

Okay, so those may be some depressing numbers. However, I'm not suggesting that you never go out or never treat yourself to lunch or a coffee. Here are some ideas to reduce those numbers without depriving yourself:
  • Try pizza for one of your weeknight meals out. Pizza is $10-$20 for a large pie and the soft drinks are often cheaper at local pizza places.
  • Find a diner with old-fashioned prices. We have one near us where we can each have a small sandwich, drink, and fries for about $12.
  • Make yourself a gourmet meal once a week and serve it on the fine china by candlelight.
  • Pick-up ready-made meal items from your local grocery store like whole roasted chickens or beef tips and all the fixings (usually in the deli). It's still cheaper than eating out.
  • If you're a larger family, look into joining one of the many meal assembly places popping-up like "Super Suppers".
  • Buy your coffee once or twice a week instead of every day. If time is a problem, buy a $20 cup-at-a-time coffee maker for your desk or invest in a Keurig or "pod" brewer for home.
  • If you really like lattes and don't have an espresso brewer at home, try a cafe-au-lait instead. Heat a half-cup of milk in the microwave. Top it off with strongly brewed regular coffee (or coffee brewed in an inexpensive french press). Like cafe mochas? Add a couple tablespoons of chocolate syrup. Top with whipped cream if you like.
  • Buy quality lunch meats and artisan breads. Even at $12.99 per pound, turkey is still cheaper at the deli than at the sub shop. The same goes for gourmet rolls or bread. In fact, your favorite sub shop may even sell you their rolls, if you ask.
  • Many supermarkets are packaging their store-made soups in plastic tubs and refrigerating them so you can grab two or three for the week and heat them in the microwave.
  • If you're like me, you forget to bring lunch. Keep shelf-stable items (soups, bagels, peanutbutter, cereal) in your desk. If your office has a community fridge with enough room, stock the freezer or fridge with some of your favorite snacks or meal items (yogurt, frozen meals, meal leftovers, cheese, lunch meat, bread).

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