Life on $7 a Day

Buying and cooking in bulk make it possible.

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While I'm on vacation, I'm re-posting some older Alpha Consumer entries that still apply today.

From March 4, 2008:

My friend Zack, who lives in New York City, recently told me that on average, he spends only $7 per day on food. I asked him to share his tips, many of which he gleaned from the personal finance blog the Simple Dollar. Here's how Zack saves money on food:

• Buy in bulk. Zack drives to the suburbs in New Jersey to shop at bulk retailers, such as Sam's Club. He fills large duffel bags of food to bring back to the city and estimates it saves a significant chunk of change each month.

• Stockpile supplies. Cans of beans and tomatoes are cheap, store easily, and make quick, filling meals.

• Compare prices. For some items, such as fruit, buying from street vendors turns out to be cheaper than shopping at Manhattan grocery stores.

• Cook big. Zack makes lots of soup, chili, and other big dishes that can turn into leftovers or even go into the freezer for a future meal. To spruce up the dishes and make them even bigger, he often adds pasta or rice.

• Plan ahead. By loosely deciding in advance which meals to cook on which nights, Zack avoids getting home from work—starving—and eating out just because it seems easier.

Have you developed other money-saving strategies? Please share them below.

I posted an update of Zack's habits here.