A Recessionista’s Guide to Dining by Raz


Well, we are all aware the economy is fracked. So what are you doing to cut back? Here are some suggestions from Raz.

In these times of the bad economy and economic distress, there are small things you can to do sock away your cash and stop spending so much.

Eating three square meals a day can be a black hole of spending, especially if you go out for all your meals. I am a believer in cooking for myself. It is cheaper, healthier and fresher. In the past five years, I have developed a science of sorts to buy the right amount of groceries and doing my cooking in bulk to make all of my meals for the week.

Here are some of my tips and tricks.

1. Make your own coffee in the morning. Brewing a fresh cup of coffee takes less than five minutes. I know everyone is busy and usually rushing to work, but taking another few minutes won’t make you late, and will save you hundreds of dollars a year, depending on what coffee you drink you prefer.

2. Make yourself a hearty breakfast that will hold you over until lunch. I am a big fan of oatmeal and egg sandwiches. For the oatmeal. I buy the huge silo of grains that is $2, and I add cranberries and pecans that I bought at Costco, along with Splenda, cinnamon and brown sugar. I think it’s delicious, and each bowl maybe costs me $0.50, if that. For the egg sandwich, I cook Egg Beaters in the microwave in a bowl. Sometimes I sprinkle some Feta cheese in it. I then put it on an English muffin. Lately I have been nixing the Feta and putting a bit of Avocado and Laughing Cow spreadable cheese on my English muffin. Again, maybe this sandwich costs me $1, if that. Buying a similar sandwich would probably be $3-$5, and that difference adds up over time. Continues after the jump.
3. Bring Your Lunch. Buying lunch at work everyday is a serious money trap. I figure it’s about $50 a week/$200 month, which is $2400 a year. That’s a lot of money to spend on something that is usually mediocre. I always make my lunch the night before which makes it a lot easier to just grab when I’m running out the door in the morning. I also cook in bulk and put the food directly into Tupperware in lunch-size portions, so they are ready to go.

4. Do Potlucks. Lately, instead of going out to eat with friends, my friends and I have been doing potlucks. Everyone brings a dish, and we take turns hosting. It is fun, and more intimate than being out at a restaurant. For those that can’t cook, you can grab something at the store to bring.

5. Take Advantage of Weekday Deals. There are a lot of great happy hour and weekday specials at restaurants. Make these your nights to go out for dinner.

6. Skip the Extras. Another way to save money while dining out is to skip the extras. Stick with water and skip the dessert and appetizer. It will keep your bill down, and it’s better for your waistline too.

7. Buy Fresh. The closer your food is to its original form, the less expensive it is. For example, making a salad at the grocery store salad bar is significantly more expensive that buying all the fresh ingredients to make your own salad. Lately, instead of buying pre-made muffins, cookies, etc., I have been baking my own. I have been experimenting with new recipes. The snacks I make are healthy, and maybe cost me a few dollars for significantly more food than if I were to go buy it at the grocery store.

8. Clip Coupons. Coupons are a great way to save money. I have been reading a lot of stories lately about how coupons are becoming more popular. The Sunday Washington Post has coupons each week. You can also go online and print out coupons.

33 Comment

  • Side note/hijack….How many people reading here live on the 1300 block of Monroe Street?! We’ve got Raz, Mr. T, and myself at this point….not that I’m keeping score.

  • I appreciate the tips and agree with all but #7. Buying individual produce for a salad gets pricey, especially the greens, which run between $4-6 for a bag. If you buy the bulk greens off the salad bar (only the greens, to keep the wieght down), you can get the same amount for a dollar and some change. We started doing this once a week instead of buying bagged greens, and it is a real money saver.

  • oatmeal and egg sandwiches sound disgusting

  • They are two separate breakfast ideas, not a combination. Sorry for the confusion.

  • I like to buy sandwich meat for lunch and leave in the frig at work. Then I can make my Sandwich when I am ready for it. Oh, try toasting it in the toaster over…..ummm Toasty!

  • I prefer the tea and soup diet… filling, healthy, hydrating, caffinated, and cheap. I spend less than $5 a week on a pack of Earl Grey and about $4 a day on a large cup of soup. As for breakfast, toast and assorted condiments washed down with black coffee usually pacifies until the next fill up.

  • I like to cook larger dinners than necessary – as in cook enough for 4 instead of just 2. Then I have two instant lunches for work the following days, with no extra effort at all. Plus, it generally gives me a hot lunch which I enjoy much more than a cold sandwich…

  • Flipflopirate, I would die on your diet.

  • mjbrox… I failed to mention that a healthy ration of beer and brown liquor preserves my the liver, supplements my calories, and acts as a sleep aiding-appetite suppressing-mood stabilizer 😉

  • I like all of your suggestions. I pack all of my lunches and make my own coffee. It saves hundreds if not thousands of $$$$ a year. I make 5-6 times a week and enjoy it, espcecially now that it’s cold outside.

  • who needs food. Starvation is the new black. viva la recession

  • I find that swiping other people’s lunches at work from the communial fridge is also quite economical. 😉

  • In terms of bringing my own lunch to work, I’m a fan of the meals from the frozen food section of Trader Joe’s — they are cheap and tasty!

  • I heard that you can get three free meals a day at D.C. jail! I wonder if they have coffee…

  • I hate to say it, but I was also thinking “oatmeal and egg sandwiches? Ew!”

    But the tips are right on. I have to say, though, I think that shopping at a cheaper grocery store overall is more fruitful than clipping coupons, at least for singletons. Coupons often require you to buy two or more of whatever item, and they also force you to buy items that are more expensive than what you might already buy. They’re good for things you KNOW you want, like certain brands of cereal. But overall, I find it cheaper to buy generic, and skip coupons.

  • I’d skip the D.C. Jail meals. On court days it’s just cheese sandwiches. No coffee.

  • Rice and Beans (maybe throw in a tomato). Cheap, easy and delicious!

  • Thanks to all the Heloises!

  • I am a coupon clipper myself and I have a warning, sometimes the printed coupons are not accepted, due to the fact that there is, believe it or not, coupon fraud. So just be cautious about the online coupons. The cost of a sunday post ($1.50) is definitely recouped and then some each week. This past weekend I saved $32 between coupons and my Giant bonus card!

  • Microwaved Egg Beaters? Seriously? Is that even edible? Real eggs have got to be cheaper and it’s not exactly hard to scramble eggs. Nor do they take long to cook.

  • I’ve been told one of the only places that accept the printed online coupons is Walmart.
    Raz-great tips, I’m on the same page!

  • I’ve become an avid coupon clipper as of late! It’s wonderful, but geez I think I’m hot stuff if I can save $10-15. Fellow Petworthian has given me new heights to aspire to!

  • Vonstallin

    Anonymous Says:

    December 11th, 2008 at 1:08 pm

    Well 3rd District ask me if i wanted a balone (sp) sandwich and apple juice when they lock me up….

    I never got it tho….bastards…lol

    Well, to cut back and save ive been just buying tons and tons of canned soup… thats about it. My daily meal is a can of soup and a glass of Crystal light cal and sugar free ice Tea.

    Once a week now I order a Pizza from Dominos. They have medium 2 topings with 2 Coke Zero’s for $9.99 hmmmmm thin crust with pineapples…

  • Tip 9. Marry a Lil’ Gal (or Lil’ Guy) who’ll cook yum-scrum stuff for you every day (as long as you clean the kitchen and act right).

  • Holy cow! Most of you guys are literally killing yourselves with your dietary habits.

    Here’s a few fun facts:

    1. Heart disease is the #1 cause of death in America.

    2. Don’t want to die of heart disease? There is a way: in a 50-year, 5000-person study (the Framingham heart study), not a single person with a cholesterol below 150 died of heart disease.

    3. If you want to keep your cholesterol below 150, you need to cut out all butterfat, egg yolks, processed meats, and really all meats other than the very leanest cuts.

    The way some of y’all are eating, you might as well be smoking three packs a day. A few hours of dietary research might add a decade or two to your life.

  • Odentex, that is a very wise statement indeed. Sammiches made by someone else taste at least 43% better. Unfortunately, my previously mentioned habits generally prevent me from the betty crocker types. Oh well, according to SoupMaoist I wont live long enough to worry about it, haha.

  • We’re in a recession? I wouldn’t have noticed had you not said anything. I have mostly cut back because I hear all the bad news. Hey I love Whole Foods hot bar. We’d have to be in a depression before I cut that back for lunch. Speaking of that, I am headed to eat my smoked mozzerela pasta salad before I hit happy hour.

  • SoupMaoist, you should check out “In Defense of Food” by Michael Pollan, the same guy who wrote The Omnivore’s Dilemma. He suggests that a lot of the conventional wisdom about food is based on the shakiest of studies. Certain things that were once seen as deathly bad (like butterfat) are now seen as possibly not as damaging after all. He suggests there is a lot we don’t know about the connection between food and health, even though we’re told a lot of stuff as if it’s absolutely, factually proven. (Large-scale studies that rely on people reporting accurately their food intake, like the Harvard Nurses study, are particularly problematic, he says)

    Of course, he’s just one voice. One thing we can do that would keep us healthier AND save money is to just to eat less in general. We (well, maybe I) have a habit of snacking all the time, and our portion sizes are out of wack.

  • I’m pushing fifty, and eat probably a lot more bad stuff (especially smoked/cured meats, fried chicken, doughnuts, etc.) than i should, but my LDLs and HDLs are both about 65 (for a total 130 cholesterol) which i am told by my doc is extremely good. i think i was just blessed with good genetics, because i sure don’t watch what i eat!

  • @Christina: Michael Pollan makes some good points, and I quite agree with his catchphrase “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.” He’s also right when it comes to criticizing the government-subsidized agri-business that foists excessive amounts of calorie-rich corn-based foods on us (e.g. corn-syrup sweeteners in everything, corn-fattened cattle, etc). But I part company with him when he goes all romantic/nostalgic and dismisses evidence-based nutrition science as mere “nutritionism.” Butterfat will still clog your arteries, it’s just that we now know that its erstwhile “alternative”, trans-fat- and omega-6-laden margarine, is even worse for you.

    I also agree that dietary studies that depend on self-reporting are inherently unreliable. However, the Framingham finding of ZERO heart attacks among those with a serum cholesterol of less than 150 mg/dl isn’t based on self-reported data, nor is it even a dietary study. I think you can hang your hat on it.

    Bottom line: get your cholesterol below 150 and you won’t die of a heart attack (and you’ll probably be skinny, thereby reducing your risk for some of the next biggest killers: cancer, stroke, and diabetes). Cancer or Alzheimers will still eventually catch up with you but hey, every extra day’s worth it.

  • No more butter-fried baloney for me! 🙂

  • hiya, raz:
    you’re a chip off the old blocks. thrift runs in the family. during my working days, i would make a dozen sandwiches at a time, freeze ’em, and take out one the night before. in the morning it would be 100 pc fresh and i’d add my mayonnaise (not freezable) or whatever. i’d take a thermos of tea. teabags are about 2 cents apiece. i figure my lunches didn’t could much more than a buck. of courses prices are up these days.
    i’m proud of you. xoxox – me

  • Can someone please introduce Flipflopirate to a Desperate Housewife!

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