This was originally published on Monday, May 4, 2015, in the Pacific Daily News. Click here to subscribe to the PDN.
Some people’s biggest obstacle when it comes to saving money is not how much they have but themselves. Saving is a lifelong strategy that you have to adopt and make it fit your lifestyle. Sometimes savings can be upfront and easy to see. Other times the savings have to be compounded and added up at the end of the year.
Food is one of the biggest expenses outside of utilities and shelter. It is a necessity and we have seen firsthand that the price of food continues to rise. Watch for sales and plan meals around what is on sale. Many people think that this is time consuming when actuality it really is not. Meal planning is a money and time saver. Sit down and plan your meals for a week then create a shopping list. Having your meals planned could actually save you time since you don’t have to make multiple trips to the grocery store.
A popular meal planning idea are freezer meals. Freezer meals are dishes for which the ingredients are prepared, stored in a container usually in spill-proof bags, and frozen until you’re ready to cook them. There are many recipes online that you can find. Many people take a day, usually on the weekend to prepare a week or more worth of food. They label the bags with the meal and date. You could also do this if you prepare a large amount of sauces or soups. Let them cool then place them in spill-proof containers, label them, and freeze.
Once you make your shopping list, stick to it. Impulsive food purchases will add up. Do not go food shopping when you are hungry. Your hunger could add more to your cart than what is on your list.
Coupons are another way to save money. Some products have coupons right on the product themselves. You can go online and find websites that offer printable coupons. Some of the food company websites also have coupons that can be printed directly from the manufacturer. Usually, your grocery receipt will tell you how much you saved on coupons and sales items. Take that savings total and put it aside at the end of the month. Deposit that money into your savings account. You will be amazed how much you will have deposited by the end of the year.
Another great food tip is to shop at farmer’s or night markets. You can get better prices from local farmers because they do not have to add shipping costs to the prices of their fresh fruits and vegetables like grocery stores do. Because the produce goes from farm to table, the produce is usually fresher and more nutritious. It also helps the local community by keeping the money local.
You may remember the old crockpot or slow cooker your mom used to use when you were younger. These nifty appliances are making a comeback. There are many recipes that you can find online ranging from vegetarian to meaty, and in various cuisines. These meals are great for families that are on the go all day. Throw your ingredients together in the morning and start cooking. By the time you get home from a long day, your dinner is ready. Because dinner is waiting, you will avoid the temptation of going through a drive-through and picking up something. These appliances also are money savers in that they consume much less electricity than the oven or stove.
Packing your lunch is also a great way to save. Many of us will spend between $5 and $10 a day on lunch that amounts to $25 to $50 a week. Deposit that money into your account at the beginning of the month. Since you will be shorter on funds, it will hopefully motivate you to pack your lunch. You could deposit an extra $100 to $200 a month. If you have children and they buy lunch at school, imagine how much more you can save.
Michael Camacho is president and chief executive officer of Personal Finance Center. He has more than 20 years of experience in retail banking and at financial institutions in Guam and Hawaii. If there is a topic you’d like Michael to cover, please email him at moneymattersguam@yahoo .com and read past columns at the Money Matters blog at www.moneymattersguam.wordpress.com.