Do You Know How Much You’re Spending on Dining and Takeout?

Pretty much everyone upped their spending on take-out food in 2020 – and for good reason. With restaurants closed for indoor dining and grocery stores experiencing unpredictable staffing and inventory issues, many consumers chose to order out for the majority of their meals.

Now that things are slowly returning to normal, you may be wondering how to adjust your budget accordingly. We’ll walk you through how to determine the right amount to budget for take-out and dining, and give you some strategies to save money when ordering from your favorite restaurants.

How Much Should You Spend on Dining and Take-Out?

It’s hard to give an exact prescription for how much you should spend on take-out because it largely depends on the specifics of your budget and financial situation. In general, your food budget, including groceries and eating out, should make up between 10 and 15% of your income. Families with multiple children may spend more than that, so don’t worry if your percentage exceeds the recommendation.

If you’re not sure how much you spend on food, go through your transactions for the past few months and calculate the percentage.

John Bovard, CFP of Incline Wealth Advisors said consumers who have no credit card debt and invest 20% or more of their income in a retirement account can spend 10% of their post-tax income on take-out.

Ways to Save on Takeout

Want to keep your takeout tradition but still feel like you’re spending too much? Here are some tips to save money when ordering out from your favorite restaurants:

Pick up in person

Everyone knows that delivery fees add a huge surcharge to your total bill, but you might not realize how big the difference actually is. A New York Times article found that the same sandwich at Subway costs between 25% and 91% more when delivered, depending on the specific delivery app.

A $20 order could cost between $5 and $18.20 more if you get it delivered. The cost is generally higher during weekends and holidays.

Look for specials

Plan your take-out around restaurant specials. Follow restaurants on social media to see when they’re running discounts, like half-price oysters on Sundays or happy hour specials. When you’re picking up the food, ask someone behind the counter when the best deals are.

Restaurants often print coupon codes or discounts on their receipts, so don’t forget to check there.

Use discounted gift cards

Many restaurants and fast food places sell gift cards and often run special sales, like selling a $50 gift card for $45. This is especially popular during the holiday season.

Wholesale clubs like Costco and Sam’s Club regularly sell discounted gift cards to popular chains. For example, you can buy $100 worth of gift cards to California Pizza Kitchen for only $80 at Costco, or $75 worth of Domino’s gift cards for only $65.

You can also buy restaurant gift cards online through GiftCardGranny or CardCash, which sell gift cards for up to 10% off.

Skip dinner

Dinner is the most expensive meal of the day, so opt for breakfast or lunch if you’re eating out. If you get take-out a couple times a week, use one for dinner and the other for brunch or lunch.

Cash in rewards

Some restaurants have loyalty programs you can join with an email address or phone number, while others have an old-fashioned punch card system. Keep track of these rewards so you cash them out before they expire.

Order catering

If you’re eating with a group of people, see if the restaurant offers catering, which may be less expensive than ordering individual entrees. Everyone will have to eat the same thing, but it’s a great way to save money.

Sign up for restaurant emails

Both local and national restaurants often have email newsletters you can join to get extra discounts. For example, my favorite Mexican restaurant is constantly sending me emails for 10 or 15% off take-out.

Create a separate label for these emails so you can sort through them before ordering take-out. You can also add reminders on your phone to use the discounts before they expire.

Use a rewards credit card

Many credit cards offer points or cashback when you dine out, and some let you cash in points for restaurant gift cards. Look up the rewards policies for your current credit cards to see which one you should use for restaurants.

Consider opening a new card if you don’t have a dining rewards card. The Chase Sapphire Preferred offers 2% cashback for dining and also comes with a year of DashPass, the DoorDash subscription service with $0 delivery fees.

Chase Sapphire Reserve cardholders earn 3% cashback on dining, get a free year’s worth of DashPass and also have $60 of DoorDash credit for the first year.

Most dining rewards cards have an annual fee, usually around $95, so don’t open one unless the cashback rewards will exceed the fee. Some card companies will waive the fee for the first year, allowing you to see if you’ll earn enough rewards to offset the fee. Some rewards credit cards also let you cash in points for restaurant gift cards.

Buy a food delivery subscription

If you don’t have easy access to transportation, then ordering delivery may be your best option.  In this case, consider signing up for a food delivery membership. DoorDash, Grubhub, Postmates, and Uber Eats all offer a monthly subscription for around $10. Each subscription comes with free delivery and other specials.

Before you sign up, calculate how often you order out and see if a monthly membership makes sense. If you have a neighbor or roommate, consider splitting a subscription with them to save even more money.

Many of these services have a free trial period, allowing you to gauge how much you’ll actually use them. Choose the app with the largest number of restaurants you like.

Use a browser extension

Browser extensions like Rakuten provide cashback when you order from delivery sites like Grubhub and Seamless. Just click on the Rakuten button on the top right of your browser when you visit either of those sites. You’ll earn up to 11% cashback with eligible orders.

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Bank of America Cash Rewards vs. Chase Freedom

The Bank of America® Cash Rewards credit card and Chase Freedom Flex℠ credit cards share several different features. They are both cash back cards that come with no annual fee, a healthy welcome offer and an introductory APR option on initial purchases. They also both have the ability to get an additional 25% or even more value from your cash back if you have an additional relationship with either Bank of America or Chase.

There are also a few important distinctions that you’ll want to be aware of if you’re considering applying for one of these two cards. Although they both have categories where you can earn bonus cash back, the way you earn that cash back is quite different. You’re able to choose your 3% cash back category with the Bank of America Cash Rewards card, while with the Chase Freedom Flex, your rotating quarterly bonus categories are set by Chase.

Let’s take a closer look to see which one might make the most sense for you.

Bank of America Cash Rewards vs. Chase Freedom Flex

Here is a comparison of some of the features of the Bank of America Cash Rewards vs Chase Freedom Flex cards.

Bank of America® Cash Rewards credit card

Bank of America® Cash Rewards credit card

Chase Freedom Flex℠

Chase Freedom Flex℠

Rewards rate
  • 3% cash back on a category of choice (gas, online shopping, dining, travel, drug stores or home improvements and furnishings)
  • 2% cash back on groceries and wholesale club purchases
  • $2,500 combined limit on 2% and 3% categories each quarter
  • 1% cash back on other purchases
  • 5% cash back on rotating bonus categories that you must activate each quarter (up to $1,500 per quarter)
  • 5% cash back on travel purchased through Chase
  • 3% cash back on dining at restaurants
  • 3% cash back at drugstores
  • 1% cash back on general purchases
Sign-up bonus $200 online cash rewards if you spend $1,000 in first 90 days $200 if you spend $500 in first 3 months
Annual fee $0 $0
Other things to know Bank of America Cash Rewards cardholders who also have a checking or savings account can enroll in the Preferred Rewards program to get 25% to 75% more value from their cash back Chase Freedom Flex cardholders who also have a premium Chase card like the Chase Sapphire Reserve or Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card  can combine their cash back as Ultimate Rewards for 25 to 50% more value

Intro bonus

When comparing the Bank of America Cash Rewards versus Chase Freedom Flex in terms of their introductory bonus, both cards offer a healthy bonus amount. This is especially true when you compare them to other no annual fee cash back cards, like the Citi® Double Cash Card, which doesn’t offer a welcome bonus at all.

With the Bank of America Cash Rewards card, you can earn a $200 welcome bonus after spending $1,000 in purchases on your card in the first 90 days of having your account open. This welcome bonus comes in the form of rewards that can be applied as a statement credit to your account.

The bonus on the Chase Freedom Flex is also $200 – this time after spending $500 in the first three months of having the account. When considering both the introductory bonus and ongoing rewards that you earn with the Freedom Flex, it’s important to know that it actually is issued as Chase Ultimate Rewards points.

If the Chase Freedom Flex is the only credit card that you have that earns Ultimate Rewards points, then these points are valued at 1 cent per point. This makes the Freedom Flex equivalent to a true cash back card. But if you have a premium Chase credit card like the Ink Preferred or Sapphire Reserve, you can combine your Ultimate Rewards points to get 1.25 or 1.5 cents per point for each dollar you spend with your Freedom Flex.

Earning rewards

If you look at the Bank of America Cash Rewards versus Chase Freedom Flex cards in terms of their rewards earning rates, they have a similar structure. Both cards have bonus categories that can change, additional fixed bonus categories and a flat 1% rate that they earn on all other purchases. But the way that these two cards earn is slightly different.

With the Bank of America Cash Rewards card, you will earn 3% cash back in a category of your choice (gas, online shopping, dining, travel, drug stores or home improvements and furnishings). You can change your 3% bonus category once each calendar month. You will also earn 2% cash back at grocery stores and wholesale clubs. The bonus categories (both 2% and 3%) are limited to the first $2,500 in spending each quarter. All other spending earns 1% cash back.

Another important thing to realize is that with the Bank of America Cash Rewards card, you can also join the Bank of America Preferred Rewards program. Depending on the amount of money you have deposited or invested with Bank of America and Merrill Lynch, you can get a 25% to 75% bonus on the rewards that you earn.

This applies only to ongoing rewards that you earn and not the $200 introductory bonus on the Bank of America Cash Rewards card. Still, this can be an amazing perk for this card. With enough deposited to earn the Platinum Honors level of Preferred Rewards, you’d earn a rate of 5.25% cash back on up to $2,500 of spending each quarter (if you focus in on your chosen bonus category).

The Chase Freedom Flex also has changeable bonus categories, but they are set by Chase and rotate each quarter. Unlike with the Bank of America Cash Rewards card, you have no ability to control the 5% quarterly bonus categories with the Chase Freedom Flex.

You’ll earn 5% cash back on the first $1,500 spent in the bonus category each quarter, upon enrollment, and 1% on those categories after you reach the spend cap. You’ll also earn 5% on travel purchased through Chase, 3% on dining at restaurants as well as drugstores and 1% on all other spending.

Redeeming rewards

The rewards that you earn with the Bank of America Cash Rewards card do not expire, and you can redeem them at any time. You can redeem them for any amount via statement credits, deposits made directly into a Bank of America checking or savings account or for credit to an eligible account with Merrill.

Redemptions with the Chase Freedom Flex can be a bit more complicated – but also potentially more lucrative. With the Freedom Flex, the cash back you receive both for your initial welcome offer as well as ongoing spending is given in the form of Chase Ultimate Rewards points. If you only have the Freedom Flex, then those points are equivalent to 1 cent each, making this a true cash back card.

See related: Chase Ultimate Rewards points value

However, if you have a premium Chase card, you can combine your Ultimate Rewards points into one account. When combined with the Ultimate Rewards from a Chase Sapphire Preferred Card, Ink Preferred or Sapphire Reserve card, you can then redeem the Ultimate Rewards you earn from the Freedom Flex with a 25% or 50% bonus if you redeem for travel or via Chase Pay Yourself Back.

Bank of America Cash Rewards: Best for those who like to choose their own bonus categories or have existing Bank of America accounts

If you have a significant amount of money deposited with Bank of America and are already a member of the Bank of America Preferred Rewards program, then adding the Bank of America Cash Rewards is a no-brainer. When you add the BoA Preferred Rewards program on top of solid earning options, all with no annual fee, it makes it easy to rack up a ton of cash back.

Others that might be interested in the Bank of America Cash Rewards card are people who like to set their own bonus categories. Rather than be reliant on the whim of Chase to set bonus categories that you may or may not be able to use, you can set your own bonus category and earn 3% wherever you spend the most.

Chase Freedom Flex: Best for people that have other Chase credit cards and like to travel

The Chase Freedom Flex really shines along with the Freedom Unlimited and Sapphire Reserve as part of the Chase trifecta. That lets you earn up to 5% cash back on spending and then redeem it for up 1.5 cents per point. That means in the rotating bonus categories or on travel booked through Chase, you’re getting a 7.5% rebate on your spending.

That’s hard to beat and a great reason to pick up the Chase Freedom Flex card.

Bottom line

Both the Chase Freedom Flex and Bank of America Cash Rewards card are very solid credit cards with no annual fee. Offering cash back that you can stack with other programs is a very attractive value proposition, especially considering that you’ll pay no fee to ear these competitive rates.

A big factor in deciding between the two might be whether you already have existing relationships with Bank of America or Chase. If not, then you can’t go wrong with either card – just take a look at bonus categories to see which better aligns with your spending.

Source: creditcards.com

Investing in Your Health from an Early Age

If you’re still in college or a recent grad working with a limited budget, the idea of implementing a healthy lifestyle can seem overwhelming and very expensive. If you aren’t careful, you might find yourself shelling out lots of cash in the name of health—whether you’re overspending on organic produce, designer athleticwear or monthly membership fees for a fancy gym. This can leave you feeling lost and overwhelmed about what a healthy lifestyle means or is worth to you. To prevent an unproductive cycle of spending, here are some tools to help you invest in your health wisely.

Intentional Inaction

While intentional inaction may sound counterproductive, it’s a great first step towards figuring out where your money is best spent. If you don’t figure out what works for you, you end up spending money on groceries and health regimes that aren’t beneficial at all.

Instead of following fad diets, begin to experiment on your own with nutritionally dense food. (A good rule of thumb is bright and bold-colored vegetables.) As you do this, pay attention to how these make you feel. After a meal do you feel energized or depleted? What foods are contributing to this? Increase your personal food knowledge and discover what foods act as fuel for your body and contribute to your overall health. This will help you allocate your budget towards foods that increase your energy and health versus empty calories or foods that deplete your energy. Shop locally to save money on fresh foods—you can often get a much better deal at a local produce stand or farmer’s market than a chain grocery store.

Another important factor of the intentional inaction phase of developing a healthy lifestyle is mindfulness (a.k.a. monitoring your thoughts). Self-talk can be helpful or hurtful to you, and whether it is good or bad self-talk, your body is always listening. The best part? Monitoring your thoughts doesn’t cost anything, and it can actually have healthy benefits! Pay attention to your daily thoughts and take time to analyze them in a way that is effective for you. Whether you prefer meditation, deep breathing or a daily journaling exercise, invest time in discovering how you talk to yourself. Are you standing in your own way, or are you acting as your own advocate? This awareness is the key to making real changes to your habits and your lifestyle.

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Manageable Small Tasks

Find small, low-cost steps to help get you started on your journey to health. You know yourself better than anyone, so it is up to you to decide how you can set yourself up for success. If you don’t know where to start, try some of these tips:

  • Do you enjoy working out only when you have fashionable workout gear? Treating yourself doesn’t have to mean breaking the budget. “We think like-new, on-trend activewear is the best gym motivator,” says Samantha Jacob, spokesperson for thredUP, an online thrift store that offers brand-name workout clothes at a discount. A little unsure about buying someone else’s gym clothes? Don’t be alarmed. “At thredUP, we have incredibly high quality standards, and only accept about 40 percent of the items we receive. Many of our activewear items are in like-new condition, or even new with tags! You can’t go wrong with up to 90 percent off Lululemon leggings,” Jacob notes.
  • Do you struggle to eat healthy during the week? Try meal planning. Browse Pinterest for meal inspiration, draft a few grocery lists or pick up a meal planning journal or new food storage containers. Taking these tiny steps can motivate you to cook a week’s worth of healthy food that you can grab and go when you’re exhausted after work or running late to class. The best part is meal planning eliminates those last-minute stops at fast food restaurants—bad for both your health and your wallet.
  • Does it feel impossible to get up for your morning run? Try setting your alarm to a favorite song and putting your running clothes and shoes right next to your bed. You’ll wake up in a better mood and have everything you need to get out the door within arm’s reach.

Regardless of what sets yourself up for success, gather some actionable items and write them down. Make these tasks small and manageable enough that they’ll stand up to the test of a busy schedule!

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Habitual Healthy Action

The trick to maintaining a healthy lifestyle is action through knowledge. Once you’ve given thought to what you need to get started, your mind will find more motivation because it now understands the value of doing this action towards a healthy lifestyle. Turn your small actions into habits by understanding the importance of investing in your health and what it truly means to you. Whether it’s a budget-friendly gym membership or a carefully planned Trader Joe’s shopping list, you’ll be equipped with tools to avoid extremes and empty costs by knowing what works for you and your lifestyle.

Catherine Claire is stylist, blogger and reiki practitioner who knows the importance of a healthy lifestyle. Catherine is the co-founder of The Crystal Press and curates content for her own blog, Cathclaire. She also uses her wellness expertise to write for thredUP on everything from yoga tips to budget-friendly workout fashion. Click here to view thredUP’s selection of designer athleticwear, including items from brands like Lululemon, Nike and Adidas.

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A Health-Centric 7-Day Meal Plan That Won’t Break The Bank

Welcome to the second of a six-part collaboration between Mint and Brewing Happiness. I’m Haley, the girl behind Brewing Happiness – a blog about celebrating the small healthy choices we make in our lives, complete with recipes for everybody! Last time we talked about my top ten tips for making healthy groceries budget-friendly. Today we are going to take that a step further with a full, healthy week-long meal plan!

The two notes I want to preface this meal plan with are – this is not a “weightloss” meal plan. I don’t believe that health and body shape are always correlative, so I choose never to focus on that. The second is that my grocery list assumes that you will already have a few pantry staples at home. If you do not, this list may be more expensive than estimated.

Health-Centric 7 Day Meal Plan

RECIPE LINKS & NOTES

Blueberry Overnight Oats

Spinach, Avocado & Egg Wrap – Simply use one of your large wraps with spinach, ¼ large avocado, 2 scrambled eggs, and even a spread of vegan mayo if you want!

Chickpea “Chicken” Salad Wraps – use your large lavash or tortilla wraps for these

Chinese Chicken Kale Salad – The recipe calls for you to make your own dressing, but it’s probably cheaper to buy an Asian dressing that you like.

Asian Quinoa Snack Bowl

Spaghetti Squash Pasta with Chicken

Chickpea Street Corner Tacos

Marinated Mushroom Zoodle Pasta

Salted Chocolate Pudding – If you don’t have tahini in your home, just use the nut butter from your grocery list!

Speaking of, here’s the full grocery list needed for the above food plan (click on image to expand):

Grocery List by Brewing HappinessFeel free to swap what days you make the recipes on – this is totally customizable to your life! For instance, I suggest eating the Asian quinoa snack bowls on days that you workout, for some extra protein. So if those days are different than the chart suggests, then switch it up! Or if you are a person who likes to eat more meat than this meal plan allows for you could add shrimp to your chickpea street corn tacos or chicken to your marinated mushroom zoodle pasta.

The pricing in this meal plan obviously isn’t exact, but it can provide a good estimate of your costs for the week. Just remember to be smart about your grocery shopping – go to a store with bulk bins, so you can buy exactly the amount you need. That way you don’t have a bunch of extra food and empty pockets at the end of the week!

Follow along!

Over the next couple of months I’ll be covering tons of ways to be healthy on a budget. So keep an eye out for those and head over to Brewing Happiness for healthy recipe inspiration in the meantime!

Haley Hunt Davis is the voice behind Brewing Happiness, a food blog dedicated to celebrating healthier choices. Haley makes “health-ified” versions of everyone’s favorite foods, like pizza and chicken nuggets, as well as suggestions for how to make every dish fit one’s lifestyle. For more from Haley, follow her on InstagramFacebookPinterest and Twitter.

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3 Easy Ways to Make Coffee Shop Drinks at Home

Welcome to the fourth of a six-part collaboration between Mint and Brewing Happiness. I’m Haley, the girl behind Brewing Happiness – a blog about celebrating the small healthy choices we make in our lives, complete with recipes for everybody!

In the first few articles I covered tips on making healthy groceries affordable, cutting food costs while traveling without sacrificing, plus a 7-day meal plan for under $150! Today I’m switching gears and providing three “fancy” coffee recipes you can make at home. There’s no need to spend $5 a day at your local coffee chain when you can make something delicious at home. Plus, all of these recipes are much healthier than the processed stuff you’ll buy.

These are some of my favorite recipes to make at home, because they only require a blender and a couple of minutes. Plus over the course of a month the switch to making “fancy coffee” at home can save you tons of money! If you are looking to save money in the coffee shop section of your monthly budget, this is the way to do it.

3 Easy Ways to Make Coffee Shop Drinks at Home

Easy Non-Dairy Vanilla Creamer

INGREDIENTS

1 cup water

2 tablespoons natural nut butter*

2 tablespoons maple syrup

¼ teaspoon vanilla extract

a pinch of salt

DIRECTIONS

  • Add all ingredients to a blender. Blend on high until smooth and frothy.
  • Pour into your coffee and store the extra in the fridge, shaking before use.
  • DRINK UP.

Recipe Notes:

I used unsalted and unsweetened almond butter. If you use a nut butter that is salted or sweetened, reduce the amount of maple syrup or leave out the salt.

Cinnamon Clove Coffee

INGREDIENTS

1/8 teaspoon cinnamon

a tiny pinch of cloves

1 teaspoon honey

1 cup freshly brewed black coffee

a splash of Easy Non-Dairy Vanilla Creamer (optional)

DIRECTIONS

  • Add cinnamon, cloves, and honey to the bottom of a coffee cup. Pour some freshly brewed coffee over the top of the cup. Stir vigorously.
  • Add in creamer or milk if you like and DRINK UP.

Recipe Notes:

Feel free to skip the creamer or milk all together in this recipe, and just drink it black. It’s delicious that way as well!

Healthy Vanilla Blended Iced Coffee

INGREDIENTS

½ cup cold coffee

2 tablespoons maple syrup

2 tablespoons nut butter

¼ teaspoon vanilla extract

10 ice cubes

DIRECTIONS

  • Add all ingredients to a blender. Blend just until the ice is crushed.
  • Pour into a glass and add a straw.
  • DRINK UP.

Recipe Notes:

You can adjust the amount of maple syrup based on how sweet you like your blended iced coffee. Or if you are more of a plain iced coffee person, feel free to blend all of your ingredients except the ice and simply pour over ice before drinking!

For a bonus recipe check out my French Press Chai Latte recipe on Brewing Happiness.

Let’s take a look at the cost breakdown of making your fancy coffee at home versus buying it in a coffee shop. An average medium “fancy” coffee at a coffee shop costs about $3.95. If you buy coffee at a coffee shop five days a week, you’d be spending about $87 dollars a month.

By using the cost estimates below, my creamer will cost you $2.09, and will make about 4-8 servings. My Cinnamon Clove Coffee will cost you $0.94 per cup, including the creamer! And the blended iced coffee will cost you $1.54 per cup. If you drink a combination of these over the course of a month, you’d spend about $37.62. That would save you about $49.38 per month!

  • Almond butter – $0.73 per 2 tablespoons
  • Maple syrup – $0.53 per 2 tablespoons
  • Vanilla extract – $0.10 per ¼ teaspoon
  • Coffee beans – $0.16-$0.18 per cup
  • Honey – $0.17 per 1 teaspoon
  • Cinnamon – $0.07 per 1/8 teaspoon

Switching to making your fancy coffee at home versus buying it in a coffee shop is an easy way to save money every month. You’ll still have great coffee, and you’ll save money at the same time. I’d call that a win-win situation.

Follow along!

Over the next couple of months I’ll be covering tons of ways to be healthy on a budget. So keep an eye out for those and head over to Brewing Happiness for healthy recipe inspiration in the meantime!

Haley Hunt Davis is the voice behind Brewing Happiness, a food blog dedicated to celebrating healthier choices. Haley makes “health-ified” versions of everyone’s favorite foods, like pizza and chicken nuggets, as well as suggestions for how to make every dish fit one’s lifestyle. For more from Haley, follow her on InstagramFacebookPinterest and Twitter.

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Food Budgets Liefstyle Travel

Top 5 Tips for Eating Well (And Cheap) While Traveling

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Welcome to the third of a six-part collaboration between Mint and Brewing Happiness. I’m Haley, the girl behind Brewing Happiness – a blog about celebrating the small healthy choices we make in our lives, complete with recipes for everybody!

In the first two articles I covered grocery shopping on a budget, and provided a healthy 7-day meal plan for under $150! Today I am going to shift my focus to eating healthy while traveling. As a person who has created a career around eating healthy, it is important to me to keep this up even when I am traveling.

This past month I set out on a month-long trip around Europe, so I had the chance to figure out the best strategies for eating healthy on a travel budget. I found that there is a delicate balance between penny pinching, eating healthy, and really indulging in the local cuisine. I didn’t want to miss out on any of that, and I figure you don’t either. So today I am going to share my top five tips with you! I promise there is a way to indulge (in a healthy way) on a budget.

#1 Come prepared.

Avoid wasting money on snacks at cafes or airports or train stations by coming prepared with your own snacks. Maybe this means trail mix, or protein bars, or nut butter or fruit – whatever it is, it’s much more cost effective to buy them preemptively than to buy them on the go. This way you can save your money for the meals that matter. Don’t let hanger drain your bank account!

#2 Be choosy.

Take time to do your research before visiting a city – search on the internet or ask friends for recommendations – and make a list of the top restaurants you must try. Then you can allocate a larger percentage of your food budget to those specific meals. That way you are nearly guaranteed a food experience that you will like, and you aren’t thoughtlessly spending money at cafes or restaurants that may or may not be worth it.

#3 Split food.

If you are traveling with another person or a group, splitting meals is a great way to save money. It allows for you to be able to try more dishes at one restaurant without breaking the bank. That way you can experience all of your destination’s food offerings without spending a fortune. It is also very helpful in practicing moderation (see tip 5.) BONUS – it helps prevent food waste!

#4 The market (AKA. grocery store) is your best friend.

If you run out of snacks or if you are lucky enough to stay in a place with a kitchen, grabbing snacks or meal supplies at the grocery store can save you so much money. Do your big spending at your list of top restaurants, and save the rest of your money by grabbing food at the market. (HINT: cheese and meat boards are a great cheap meal to buy at the store.) You can still try exciting local products at the market that will save you money at the same time. Especially if you are a coffee drinker, buying coffee at the market and making it in your accommodations will save you tons of money on your trip.

#5 Practice moderation.

It is easy to give into the “YOLO” mentality when traveling, and be tempted to order anything and everything on a menu that looks good. But the truth is that you will enjoy the meal more if you limit your order to one or two items. This way you won’t waste food, and you won’t break the bank. You can always return to a restaurant that blew you away, or save your money to try other unique menu items at the next restaurant you go to. That way you get to indulge in a healthy way!

So that’s it – my top 5 tips for eating well and cheaply while traveling! I know that travel isn’t always cheap, but it is possible to do well on a budget, especially when it comes to food. I hope these tips have helped inspire and remind you that eating healthy while traveling isn’t very hard.

Follow along!

Over the next couple of months I’ll be covering tons of ways to be healthy on a budget. So keep an eye out for those and head over to Brewing Happiness for healthy recipe inspiration in the meantime!

Haley Hunt Davis is the voice behind Brewing Happiness, a food blog dedicated to celebrating healthier choices. Haley makes “health-ified” versions of everyone’s favorite foods, like pizza and chicken nuggets, as well as suggestions for how to make every dish fit one’s lifestyle. For more from Haley, follow her on InstagramFacebookPinterest and Twitter.

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Food Budgets Liefstyle

The Best Sources for Affordable Healthy Food

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Well hello there, Mint family. Welcome to the very first installment of this super exciting partnership between Mint and Root + Revel!

Before we dive into today’s post, how about a little meet and greet? Hi! I’m Kate Kordsmeier, the founder of Root + Revel, a food and wellness blog helping people strike the balance between good and good for you.

I’m a full-time food writer for magazines, a recipe developer, and blogger. I’m also living proof that food is medicine (check out my story to learn more!). My main message is: Food Heals! That doesn’t have to mean bland chicken and steamed broccoli. Taste is paramount and we take it back to basics, infusing beauty, flavor and celebration into everyday life, helping you live naturally, without sacrifice.

That being said, I’m the first to admit that healthy, organic food is expensive. Plain and simple. Even if you support organic agriculture and pasture-raised/grass-fed/wild-caught growing methods, they just cost more money than their conventional counterparts.

But that doesn’t mean you have to shell out wads of cash every time you hit up Whole Foods. Hence why I’ve teamed up with Mint to spill all my affordable, healthy eating secrets.

The Cost of Eating Healthy

Here’s the thing: whether you pay a bit more upfront to nourish your body with healthy food, or you save money by filling your belly with factory-farmed meat, pesticide-laden GMO produce and processed junk filled with artificial colors, preservatives and other toxic chemicals, it’s possible you’re going to pay for it one way or another. And I’d rather not do it later in the form of medical bills. Let’s pay our farmer before our doctor.

Let’s think big picture, long term, full story, because eating unhealthy food will cost you much, much more in the long run. And, as it turns out, eating healthy, organic food actually doesn’t have to be crazy expensive. It IS possible to eat healthy on a budget.

To wit, here are the best sources for affordable, healthy food:

Buy Direct From Your Local Farmer

There are so many savings to be had on healthy food when you go straight to the source. Think about it—not only are you cutting out the middleman, but the food isn’t being shipped in from across the country (read: no transportation costs added into the price). Cheaper AND more nutrient-dense and delicious, as the food is fresher, too.

And if that weren’t enough, when you buy direct, you can ask the farmer questions about their growing practices (Are they organic? Are their animals grass fed and free range? Do they use sustainable practices to preserve the environment?), ensuring you get exactly what you want and you know precisely where your food came from.

Not sure where to find farms near you? Simply head to your local farmer’s market, or find one near you through LocalHarvest.org or the USDA. Similarly, you can join a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture), which delivers boxes of fresh, locally-grown produce from small, family farms right to your doorstep. Sometimes health insurance providers will even reimburse the cost CSA memberships.

A few insider tips: When you develop a personal relationship with farmers, you can often negotiate prices with them. Likewise, you can buy in bulk (i.e. purchase a quarter of a cow and freeze the meat until you’re ready to use it) to save even more. You can also save at the farmer’s market later in the day when prices get slashed to get rid of everything before the farmers go home.

Shop Online for Healthy Food

There are dozens of healthy e-tailers serving up real food online—even better, you can shop from your PJ’s on the couch.

One of my personal favorites for non-perishable food is Thrive Market—a Costco-meets-Amazon-meets-Whole Foods source selling healthy, non-toxic foods and products at wholesale prices. Nearly everything they sell is the lowest price I’ve seen, and they’re always giving customers free gifts of full-size products and hefty coupon codes to save even more money.

Another money-saving favorite is Amazon Subscribe & Save, where I stock up on healthy favorites like organic coconut milk, cacao powder, flax seeds, chia seeds, spices and protein bars. Amazon Fresh also offers some great deals, and they deliver within 2 hours right to your house!

There are also lots of incredible companies shipping frozen organic, sustainable and grass-fed meat and wild-caught seafood right to your doorstep. Some of my favorites include Butcher Box, U.S. Wellness Meats and Vital Choice Seafood. These services frequently have sales, discount codes and generally affordable prices on high-quality food.

A few insider tips: Don’t forget when you shop online you can use cash back sites and frequent flier shopping portals to supercharge your savings. Some of my favorites include Retailmenot.com, Ebates.com, Joinhoney.com, EVReward.com, ChaseUltimateRewards.com and Dealspotr.com.

Use a Meal Kit Delivery Service

One of the biggest expenses any home cook has is inevitably waste. We all have the best of intentions when we stock up at the grocery store, but we almost always end up throwing away something because it went bad before we could use it, or we bought too much, or we were too tired to cook that night. This isn’t just wasteful, it’s expensive—think about how much money you could’ve saved if you actually used everything you bought!

Fortunately, there is a solution to this dilemma: meal kit delivery services. These companies send you exactly what you need, so you’re not buying obscure or uncommon ingredients you’ll only use once, or even just more food than you’ll need in general. The ingredients are also all pre-measured, so in addition to less waste, you’ll also have an easier cleanup.

The best healthy meal kit delivery service I’ve tried is Sun Basket, which offers organic, gourmet, fresh recipe boxes, including Vegan, Gluten-Free and Paleo meals, in eco-friendly, recyclable packaging.

For more tips on how to save money and eat healthy, visit Root + Revel.

Coming up

In my next article, I am going to talk about how DIY’ing your own beauty and cleaning products can save you oodles of cash, reduce the toxins in your home and body AND save the environment (psst: did I mention it’s also super easy and fun?!).

Be sure to follow along on Mint and follow me on Instagram @rootandrevel, so you don’t miss a single healthy living tip.

Kate Kordsmeier is a food journalist turned turned real food and holistic expert after her own chronic health issues catapulted her into a journey of healing her body naturally. After much success, she started Root + Revel, a food and wellness blog dedicated to natural living, without sacrifice. But that doesn’t mean bland chicken and steamed broccoli. Taste is paramount, and Kate infuses beauty, flavor and celebration into everyday life, helping readers strike the balance between good and good for you.

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Food Budgets Liefstyle

A Summer Dinner Party Menu for Under $100

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Welcome to the final installment of a six-part collaboration between Mint and Brewing Happiness. I’m Haley, the girl behind Brewing Happiness – a blog about celebrating the small healthy choices we make in our lives, complete with recipes for everybody! I’m so excited to bring you this summer dinner party menu for under $100, so that you can celebrate the long, hot days with all of your friends.

Recently, I wrote about my top 10 tips for eating out on a budget and one of those tips was to skip going out and have a dinner party instead. So I figured it would be helpful if I provided you with a cost-effective menu to help you execute that idea. I love throwing dinner parties, and I’ve perfected the skill of creating delicious, yet easy meals to impress my friends with. Don’t be intimidated by the idea, you can do totally do this. I mean, the menu even includes frozen pizza – does it get any easier than that?

Since I’m all about healthy(ish) food, the menu is vegetarian but it includes both a cocktail and a dessert. I don’t think you will feel deprived from the lack of meat at your table. In fact, I think you’ll feel invigorated from this fresh and seasonal menu, which is perfect for those hot summer nights.

I’ve broken the pricing down by menu item, and also included a per-person cost breakdown. This way you could ask your friends to pitch-in and everyone would be spending less way less than you would by going out to eat. If you decide you still want to cut down the cost even more, you can eliminate the cocktail or the dessert. Or if you decide you want to add a protein (perhaps try chicken on the salad), you can know exactly how much extra that will cost.

A SUMMER DINNER PARTY MENU FOR UNDER $100

Serves about 6 people

GREEN GRAPE SANGRIA

7 cups green grapes, about 1 bag $3.29

2 lemons $0.99 each, $1.98 total

1 bottle chardonnay $9.99

½ bottle cava $6.99

¼ cup agave nectar (sub maple syrup) $6.09 per bottle

NON-ALCOHOLIC VERSION

7 cups green grapes, about 1 bag $3.29

2 lemons $0.99 each, $1.98 total

1-2 bottles sparkling water $2.09 each, $4.18 total

¼ cup agave nectar (sub maple syrup) $6.09 per bottle

TOTAL COST – $ 28.34 / NA version $15.54

CRISPY AVOCADO SUMMER SALAD (double the recipe)

2 bags mixed greens $3.09 each, $6.18 total

2 large ripe avocados $1.59 each, $3.18 total

2 cups breadcrumbs $1.09

2 cups non-dairy milk (sub any kind of milk) pantry staple 

1 cup all purpose flour pantry staple 

4 tablespoons nutritional yeast $6.69

3 peaches $0.07 each, $0.22 total

1 cup cherry tomatoes $3.69

1 cup chickpeas, about 1 can $1.29

1 sweet onion $0.69

honey mustard dressing $3.09

salt & pepper pantry staples

TOTAL COST – $26.12

STRAWBERRY BALSAMIC SUMMER FLATBREAD (double the recipe)

2 frozen cheese pizzas $7.39 each, $14.78 total

2 cups strawberries $4.89

1 tablespoon olive oil pantry staple

½ cup feta cheese $3.09

4 tablespoons almonds $3.69

4 teaspoons high quality balsamic vinegar or balsamic reduction $7.39

salt & pepper pantry staples

TOTAL COST – $ 33.84

WATERMELON CUPCAKES WITH COCONUT CREAM ICING

½ seedless watermelon $6.09

1 can coconut cream $4.69

¼ teaspoon vanilla extract pantry staple

salt pantry staple

powdered sugar, to taste pantry staple

TOTAL COST – $10.78

TOTAL MENU COST – $99.08

NON-ALCOHOLIC MENU COST – $83.54

Per person total – $16.51 / $13.92

All of the pricing is based on the current cost in my area (Atlanta, Georgia). This means that the menu cost will be slightly different depending on where you live and what grocery store you go to. However, I think that generally the price will hover around the $100 mark no matter what, unless you want to buy fancy wine or something like that.

Enjoy!

Follow along!

Check out all of the other ways to be healthy on a budget I’ve covered: 10 Tips for Eating Out on a Budget, 3 Easy Ways to Make Coffee Shop Drinks at Home, 5 Tips for Eating Well (and Cheap) While Traveling, A Health-Centric 7-Day Meal Plan that Won’t Break the Bank , and 10 Tips to Make (Healthy) Groceries Budget-Friendly.

Head over to Brewing Happiness for more healthy recipe inspiration!

Haley Hunt Davis is the voice behind Brewing Happiness, a food blog dedicated to celebrating healthier choices. Haley makes “health-ified” versions of everyone’s favorite foods, like pizza and chicken nuggets, as well as suggestions for how to make every dish fit one’s lifestyle. For more from Haley, follow her on InstagramFacebookPinterest and Twitter.

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Budgeting Food Budgets Liefstyle

10 Tips to Making (Healthy) Groceries Budget-Friendly

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Welcome to the first of a six-part collaboration between Mint and Brewing Happiness. I’m Haley, the girl behind Brewing Happiness – a blog about celebrating the small healthy choices we make in our lives, complete with recipes for everybody! As a food blogger, I know a thing or two about how expensive healthy food can be. Over the years I’ve developed some tips and tricks to make healthy living more affordable. So in this series we will talk about everything from groceries, to eating out, to eating healthy while traveling, and tons in between.

Today I want to start with the most basic of our food budget – groceries. Groceries can be expensive no matter what, but especially if you are a healthy eater. But this doesn’t have to be so; there are tons of ways to help you save money and still eat healthy. Here are my top ten tips to help you stay healthy while reducing the cost of your groceries.

10 Tips to Making (Healthy) Groceries Budget-Friendly

1. Buy Seasonally. Especially produce.

Taking time to research what is in season in your area will make buying produce much more cost efficient. When produce is in season there will be a surplus, allowing for reduced prices. If you are unsure of what is in season in your area, try shopping at the farmer’s market or subscribe to a CSA box that can be delivered to your door!

2. Go meatless. At least once or twice a week.

Not only is it good for your health and the environment, it will help your wallet tremendously. Beans, nuts, and meat substitutes are significantly cheaper than any meat product. Perhaps you start with one or two days a week and see how you feel. I bet you’ll feel lighter physically, and thicker in the wallet. I call that a win-win.

3. Limit your alcohol consumption. You and your wallet will feel better.

Alcohol is expensive. No matter if you are a glass of wine with dinner or a cocktails at the bar kind of person, it will add up. I suggest limiting the amount of days you drink, maybe only on the weekend. I also suggest drinking most of your alcohol at home; we all know it’s cheaper that way! It’s not the most fun suggestion, but I think your body will thank you as much as your bank account.

4. Buy frozen or canned. For produce that isn’t in season.

Read the labels on frozen and canned items to make sure they aren’t swimming in preservatives. If they aren’t, this is a great healthy way to save money on out of season produce. They will last longer, and are usually pretty affordable.

5. Eat or freeze leftovers. One less meal to spend money on.

I am the first to admit that if I make a large meal or eat a restaurant, I don’t always want to eat the leftovers the next day. So I make a rule that if I don’t eat them in the 2-3 days post original meal, I freeze them. Be sure to label what they are so you don’t forget, and then you have a fun surprise meal for later.

6. Limit grocery trips. Make a plan and stick to it.

If you only go to the grocery store 1-2 times a week it will force you to finish out what you buy instead of wasting ingredients or having produce go bad. Making a meal plan for the week ahead of time will help you not forget anything, and can make it easier to limit your trips.

7. Stick to your list. Don’t just throw stuff in your cart.

I fall victim to the shiny grocery item allure all too often, but this can quickly deplete your grocery budget without even realizing it. When you limit your grocery trips to just the items on your pre-planned list, you can much more easily budget how much you will be spending per week. So keep your eyes on the prize.

8. Allow 1-2 treats per week. You deserve it.

While sticking to the list is important for your budget, I think treats are important for your mental health. Give yourself the freedom to buy one to two “treats” per week. Maybe this is a chocolate bar, or an expensive juice, or even that fancy cheese – whatever the case, give yourself some freedom here. It won’t blow the budget if you ration the frequency.

9. Try to make pantry staples at home. It’s so much cheaper.

Store bought “health food” items like nut milk and nut butter are pretty expensive at the store. So if you have the time, it will be extremely beneficial for you to start making these things at home. I would bet that it’s easier to do than you think, and in the long run it will save you a ton of money.

10. Buy in bulk. Especially spices and pantry staples.

Buying in bulk is a great way to be able to limit the amount of what you need. This way you can buy just a cup of rice, or tons of oats, or just a pinch of saffron instead of buying what is pre-portioned. It’s worth driving a little further to the grocery store that has a bulk section, because this will save you SO MUCH MONEY.

Follow along!

Over the next couple of months I’ll be covering tons of ways to be healthy on a budget. So keep an eye out for those and head over to Brewing Happiness for healthy recipe inspiration in the meantime!

Haley Hunt Davis is the voice behind Brewing Happiness, a food blog dedicated to celebrating healthier choices. Haley makes “health-ified” versions of everyone’s favorite foods, like pizza and chicken nuggets, as well as suggestions for how to make every dish fit one’s lifestyle. For more from Haley, follow her on InstagramFacebookPinterest and Twitter.

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