Meal plans and delivery programs — costly or cost-effective?

The three biggest items in most people's budgets are usually housing, transportation, and food. That's because they are needs; but like most needs, costs can range from the inexpensive, no-frills version to the outrageously expensively extravagances seen on some reality TV shows. For example, you could live in a studio apartment or a mansion, take shanks' mare or drive a luxury car, slap a PB & J together at home or eat out at a five-star restaurant.

What you choose depends on your means (what you can afford) and your priorities (what's important to you). Maybe you are willing to make all your meals at home so you can drive your dream car. Or maybe you're willing to bike or take the bus … to your favorite restaurants on a weekly basis. If you are debt-free, stashing some cash in a high-yield savings account, saving for retirement, and meeting all your other financial goals, more power to you.

I am willing to bet, though, that most people are seeking a happy medium in all categories. Nothing too expensive, but a home and car that are safe and comfortable, and food that's tasty and convenient. When it comes to food, even if you are eating at home, there are more options today than ever before: Having your groceries, or even fully-cooked meals, delivered are all possibilities to meal-plan and save some cash. But not every option is equally cost-effective. Here are a few options, with some pros and cons. Continue reading...

More about...Food

How to build community relationships

We spend a lot of time talking about green here on Get Rich Slowly. But let's direct our attention for a couple minutes to another color: blue.

I first read about the Blue Zones in a magazine a few years ago. These blue zones were identified after researching some of the longest living people on the planet. Although nine characteristics were associated with these blue zones, several are lumped into the social category. Having a healthy social life can extend your life? Who knew?

Maybe you don't care about living until you are 100, but do you think that your social network could help improve your finances or decrease your stress level? I think it can. And so does the Blue Zones organization, but more on that later.

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More about...Food

Advantages of online grocery shopping

As someone who doesn't like to shop for groceries (or lug them all from my car to the house), the thought of finding a service that helps me avoid the check-out line altogether is very appealing. A service that would put my groceries away would be even more amazing, but I won't get carried away. Even without that added bonus, though, the advantages start to stack up.

Advantages of Online Grocery Shopping

1. Save on transportation costs. Back when I was working away from home, I simply scheduled my time to swing by the grocery store on the way home from work. I still had to carry everything into the house, but I wasn't making an extra trip. Since May last year, I have been a strictly work-from-home kind of gal, so any trip for food is, at minimum, 28 miles round-trip. I try not to make the trip unless I have to, or unless I have some other errands I can run too. If I am feeling particularly hermit-like, I can talk my husband into picking up groceries on his way to or from work, so at least that's an option.

2. Save time. A 28-mile round trip, plus whatever time it takes to shop can easily burn up an hour or more of my day. That's an entire hour I could spend working and earning money, or cleaning. I could always clean. While my lifestyle is not really busy, I can see how this would be a great benefit for those with busy households.

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Will canning your food save you money?

When I was a child, we lived on a farm that had a grape arbor loaded with Concord grapes. Each September, my mom would can jars upon jars of grape juice, and I have fond memories of evenings around the kitchen table as our family ate popcorn and drank that delicious stuff (which doesn't taste like anything I've ever purchased from a store).

Well, apparently, nostalgia set in this year, and I ordered 1.5 bushels of Concord grapes. (And if you're wondering how much that is, it felt like a whole vineyard.) The grapes came earlier than I expected, so I texted my husband that morning: "The grapes are here and they're RIPE. We need to can the juice tonight."

He texted back: "Sounds grape." Yes, he really did.

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More about...Food, Frugality

Save money with flexible cooking ideas for dinner

I've been cooking for years. Although, if you ask my husband, I've been screwing up fried eggs for just as long. (His secret: Fry them on low to avoid cooking the egg too quickly.) So I am no genius in the kitchen, but I am getting better.

Flexible Cooking

I used to follow recipes exactly, afraid to deviate at all. (Didn't have all the ingredients? Find another recipe!) But then I discovered a recipe in a cookbook that had the same basic ingredients (meat, pasta, diced tomatoes), but the recipe authors gave suggestions on how to use different spices (chili powder or Italian seasoning) and cheeses (mozzarella vs. sharp cheddar) to totally change the taste of the dish.

Since then, I have been trying my hand at doing a little kitchen experimentation. And I came up with "Flexipes" or flexible recipes. (Uh, at least I thought I coined the phrase. I guess not.) Flexipes are recipes that allow you the flexibility to create delicious, delicious dishes while using up what you have in your pantry.

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Eating healthy on a slim budget

I spend almost as much on groceries as I do on my mortgage.

Now, before you spit your coffee all over your keyboard, you should know that my mortgage is pretty low, lower than what some of my friends pay in rent. And for me, "groceries" includes all of the extras one buys at grocery stores, like paper towels and soap and the latest issue of the weekly tabloid.

(Kidding! I have zero interest in the tabloids. Especially now that none of them cover the bat boy or alien baby adoptions.) Continue reading...

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My grandmother’s home remedies

This reader story comes from SB, a regular reader and commenter on GRS. SB writes about personal finance and personal development topics at One Cent at a Time.

Some reader stories contain general advice; others are examples of how a GRS reader achieved financial success or failure. These stories feature folks with all levels of financial maturity and income. 

This is my second article at this blog. I am grateful to J.D. and his team's humble gesture in allowing me to do it. I hope to provide the same value regular writers of this blog provide to you.

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More about...Frugality, Food, Health & Fitness

Do expiration dates make us wasteful?

Before I dig into this topic, let me just put this out there: Expiration dates are important and you should always consider them so you don't get food poisoning and end up in the hospital or whatever. Please don't interpret this post as my arguing that expiration dates are total bull.

That being said, expiration dates are total bull. Just kidding! Well, kind of. I recently came across an alarming study from Harvard, which found that Americans waste 160 billion tons [Editor's Note: Kristin pointed out that she should have written 160 billion pounds] of food annually. A similar 2012 study from the NRDC calculated that waste in terms of dollars: We throw out about $165 billion worth of food and beverages each year. On average, that's between $275 and $400 per household.

The Dating Game

The Harvard Food Law and Policy Clinic titled their study "The Dating Game," and they came to the conclusion that many "sell by" dates don't really have anything to do with safety. Companies mostly determine those dates based on taste tests.

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More about...Frugality, Food

How to meal plan and save some cash

Few questions are as unwelcome or unanswerable (at least in my house) as "What's for dinner?" Every few months, I make futile attempts to meal plan or grocery shop smarter. I spread out cookbooks, I write down recipes, I make shopping lists, and then everything disappears (it seems) and I am back to my usual chaotic "It's 4:45 and what are we going to eat again?!"

In these moments, I am much more likely to order pizza or stop by for a supermarket rotisserie chicken. Not only are these choices probably not as healthy as what we could make at home, but they are also more expensive. And at the moment, we need to cut our eating out/convenience food spending as much as possible.

I am no domestic diva, as you have already discovered. But there are plenty of people of who are. And some of them don't even require googling. Take my mother-in-law, for example. She raised eight children on a tight budget, and I think she came up with a genius idea. Listen to this: She served the same seven meals every week. For instance, Monday was always spaghetti night, Tuesday was always chicken potpie, and so on. It meant her shopping list was the same every single week. Of course, it also means that my husband was burned out on repetition, so we definitely can't adopt the same policy in our house. But I do think it's a great idea.<

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More about...Food, Frugality

A wine guide for frugal folks

Kim and I first connected on a wine tour 18 months ago. Perhaps it's not surprising, then, that we've continued to build our relationship over glasses of chardonnay and (especially) Champagne. We enjoy wine, and we've had a lot of fun creating a shared wine library.

At the same time, we're frugal people. We're not willing to spend $50 on a bottle of wine. Heck, it hurts to spend $20 on a bottle of wine! No, we'd prefer to spend less than $10 per bottle, if possible — but we still want to drink the good stuff.

A highlight from our European vacation: Tasting wine and cheese in Paris!

It's been three years since I shared strategies for wine-buying. With the holidays approaching, I thought now would be a good time to review my techniques, and to share the things I've learned since I last wrote about the subject. Continue reading...

More about...Frugality, Food