Frugal Fun For Chicagoans

City living can be expensive and then factoring in entertainment can make your paycheck disappear. Thankfully, the Windy City has a bounty of regular free or cheap activities to keep Chicagoans occupied, if you know where and when to look. Let’s check out the best activities in Chicago that won’t break the bank.

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How to Start Your Money Saving Plan

Saving money is a difficult prospect, even in the most stable of times. During the pandemic – or any time of social unrest – saving money and thinking about the future can seem irrelevant or hopeless. Focusing on the future, however, can be a huge boost to your mental health – not to mention your future financial health – by helping you fixate on a longterm goal.

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How to Save on School Supplies

How to Save on School Supplies

The dreaded rush to get the kids prepped for back-to-school time is upon us. New clothes, new backpacks, new pencils – new, new, new. It all costs money and you might end up in an argument or two before the end of it.

Serious question – is wine an acceptable addition to a back-to-school list (for me, I mean)?

Fortunately, with a little preparation and planning, you can get everything your kids need, some of the things they want, and still have cash left in your wallet. And maybe a little sanity left in your mind!

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Using Postmates To Help Relieve Stress

Using Postmates To Help Relieve Stress

Right now in our homes, we’re all stressed; the kids, the spouse, our parents. It’s scary and uncertain and there’s a pall of tension over everything, and even mundane tasks like going to the grocery store feel like suiting up for dangerous missions.

Between taking care of the kids, working from home and trying to keep things organized, going to the grocery store was not high on my list of wants, but having food is definitely high on our list of needs. A friend of mine suggested I try Postmates, and they gave me the promo code FOODMATES, which gives $100 off of delivery fees, so I decided it was worth a go. That said, please note this is a sponsored post, but it in no way reflects my view points or opinion.

Postmates Review

I had heard of Postmates when I lived in Chicago, as it was a popular courier service, but they’ve branched out and now deliver just about anything, anywhere. This includes food from local restaurants, groceries, medicine, etc so we used them to get our weekly grocery order delivered.

The app is incredibly simple to use and the delivery was fast, no-contact and painless. I didn’t have to fight crowds, wear PPE, or wander around a grocery store – our weekly meal plan was completed with a few clicks of an app.

Plus, by ordering through Postmates, there was no chance I was going to impulse buy anything; I got exactly what I needed and didn’t have to leave the house.

It’s not guided meditation or a 5-mile run, but anything to prevent some stress right now is welcome. Having our groceries delivered by Postmates freed up a huge amount of time in my day, and by using the promo code FOODMATES, I didn’t even have to pay for delivery (though we tipped of course).

Do yourself a favor and give them a try and see how much less stressful your life can be when things you need are brought to you.

Offer Details

$100 Off Delivery Fees from Postmates

Valid for new users only.

Use promo code FOODMATES

Download the iOS (https://apps.apple.com/us/app/postmates-food-delivery/id512393983) or Android (https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.postmates.android&hl=en_US) app

Grocery Shopping Tips For Quarantine

Grocery Shopping Tips For Quarantine

While the world is staying safe and keeping our distance, there are still those of us who must go out and work, shop and interact at least in some ways with the outside world. Though we’re all counting the days to when we can get out and mingle again, for right now our trips to the grocery store need to be quick, efficient and frugal.

Grocery Shopping Tips For Quarantine

These tips are designed to help us all make our quarantine grocery shopping healthy, safe and efficient, but they’re useful for when all of this ends as well. Wrangling your grocery excursions each week can save you thousands of dollars over the year and tremendous amounts of waste, and might even improve your health.

Make a meal plan before your grocery list

Everyone knows that you shouldn’t go shopping hungry or thirsty because it increases your chances of impulse buying. Did you know it’s just as detrimental to not have a plan in place for all your groceries?

A good meal plan flows into each day; buying a value pack of ground beef can make burgers one day and the leftovers can be used for chili the next. Cooking a pork roast for dinner on Sunday is perfect to make pulled pork on Monday or Tuesday. Planning meals like this saves money and prevents waste, and it allows you to use fillers like beans or rice to make your meals stretch farther.

Avoid Instacart unless you absolutely cannot

Though it seems like getting your groceries delivered is a great way to save time and minimize risk, ultimately someone else is still out there shopping, meaning even though you’re not exposed, someone else is. Additionally, this person is looking at your list and touching things, putting them back and spending more time in the store than you would because you know where to find your routine purchases.

Services like this also mark up the cost of each individual item and charge you a fee. Combined you might be looking at paying over 20% more than if you had shopped yourself.

For high-risk people, these types of services are likely necessities, but many grocery stores offer special hours for high-risk, elderly and emergency services customers. These are low traffic times with extra precautions taken, so if you can, use these hours to your advantage.

Try expanding meatless Mondays

Meat is usually the most expensive part of a meal and with supply chains becoming hindered, it’s increasingly scarce, limited and costly. Meatless Monday is a popular concept that helps people reduce their carbon footprint, reduce meat intake and increase their vegetable intake for better health.

Beans are a great substitute for meat as they provide proteins and cost dramatically less. Dried beans last a considerable amount of time when properly stored and they’re not difficult to cook at all. When coupled with rice, most beans provide a complete essential protein profile and again, both are pantry staples that last for years.

If you want an idea of how much meat to buy for your family and how much each serving costs, there are calculators online that help with that. Applications like these can show you just how much you spend each week on meat, and how much each serving costs, and you can compare different proteins against each other for cost-effectiveness as well.

Batch cook and streamline

With quarantine days bleeding into each other, it’s best to automate as many healthy practices as possible. Your brain likes to make habits out of the mundane, but different experiences feel more special when we make certain parts of our days automatic.

To this end, making big batches of easy breakfasts and lunches is a great way to eat healthy with little thought and to save money. A big container of tuna salad or a breakfast casserole are both extremely cheap, can feed a family for days and can be tailored to be delicious and healthy. This also makes it so that your dinners or weekend meals are more special, because they differ so dramatically from your daily meals. Canned tuna also keeps for a long time, making it an ideal purchase during quarantine when you want to maximize your shopping trips.

Safety and efficiency

Going to the store should be as quick and efficient as possible. Plan a grocery list based on what you pass by as you flow through the store. Produce and meat are usually on the outside, with pantry staples in the middle of the store.

Take a list to ensure you only need to go past each area once, and don’t waste time browsing. Getting in and out as quickly as possible is your top priority, as is maintaining distance. Going as early as possible is another great idea to minimize interaction with other people and maximize how quickly you can get through the store.

Redefine your overall budget

Your grocery budget should be robust enough to feed your family well, but not bloated and including things you really don’t need. Reconsidering your entire budget is a great step during these quarantine times because money is probably becoming more tight, but even if it’s not, there’s never been a better time to step back and evaluate where your money is going and how it’s working for you.

Take the time to sit with a budget calculator and plug in the data to determine how much you should be spending on groceries versus how much you are, and find ways to make those numbers more closely match up.

Grocery shopping has changed dramatically in a few months, and what was simply another chore has turned into something that begs deeper consideration. You can, however, make it a positive, efficient and money-saving experience with just a little bit of planning, budgeting and forethought.

Cook at Home to Save Money

Cook at Home to Save Money

Cooking is one of the most important skills for literally every single person to learn. The days of hoping you marry someone who can cook are over; even if you do, there will be periods of your life where you’ll need to cook for yourself.

Eating takeout all the time is hard on your wallet and your waistline, and cooking for yourself (or your family) has the benefit of allowing you to know exactly what is going into your meals. Additionally, for people with intolerances or allergies to certain foods, cooking for yourself might be literally lifesaving.

Saving Money by Cooking at Home

Particularly at the time of this writing, quarantine across most of the globe due to COVID-19 has us stuck in our houses, so there’s never been a better time to learn how to cook. Let’s take a look at some ways in which home cooking can benefit you, your wallet and your weight.

Cooking is a must for weight loss

If you’re trying to lose weight, cooking for yourself is the right way to go. Even though most restaurants have calorie and macronutrient breakdowns (fat, protein and carbs), those are still dependent on a chef that goes by exact measurements. A heavy hand with the sauce ladle can tip the calorie count 200 or more, and nobody wants that.

Since weight loss is based mostly on what you put into your body – mainly calories – knowing how many you’re taking in per day can be far more easily measured when you’re cooking for yourself.

Home cooking saves you money

While it’s a great thing to support local restaurants, particularly during these difficult times, you can’t reasonably do it every single day. Cooking is far cheaper than eating out, and it’s not difficult to see why.

When you map out a meal plan – you do make a meal plan each week I hope – you can usually ballpark how much it’s going to cost you. For a family of four, a frugal meal plan can be $100 or less, but to eat out for a family of four might cost upwards of $50 for one meal. The math is plainly obvious; $100 for an entire week of meals, or $50 for one single meal of takeout.

Cooking is so easy to learn

Despite what you may think, cooking isn’t incredibly difficult to learn. There are plenty of places online where you can learn basics of home cooking, even if you’re a complete novice. Youtube is a great place to find beginner recipes, cooking steps, tips and basic information.

For a new cook, one of the most daunting tasks is figuring out how to convert measurements – how many tablespoons in a cup, ounces in a gallon, etc. Having a reliable website to convert measurements is hugely helpful, even for a seasoned cook (or if you’re trying to make cooking fun but educational for the kids!)

The conversion tools at Culinary Schools.org are fantastic for quick conversions, no matter how new to cooking you are. I’ve been cooking for years but there’s times where I’m in the middle of a recipe and simply don’t know how to measure out an ingredient, especially when the directions are using metric versus imperial units.

They’ve also got a handful of weight loss calculators that are perfect for figuring out your macros, your body fat percentage and the amount you can expect to burn from working out. If you’re learning to cook to lose weight, they’ve got all the tools you could possibly need to scientifically progress towards your goal.

No matter what reason you have for embarking on the noble pursuit of learning how to cook, it’s not nearly as hard as you think, and the benefits are enormous. Cooking at home is a powerful, noble life skill, it can save you money and help you become the healthiest version of you. There’s never been a better time to learn how to cook for yourself.