They don't call them salad days for nothing; you probably can't afford to eat anything else. But there are ways to trim your food budget—and they're even good for you.
Step 1: Switch to tap water Get over the craze and switch back to tap water. It almost always tastes the same as bottled water, and your savings will add up quickly.
TIP: Keep tap water in the fridge; it tastes better cold.
Step 2: Buy frozen vegetables Buy frozen vegetables in bulk. They're just as nutritious as fresh one, sometimes even more so because they are flash frozen while fresh and not picked unripe for a cross-country trip.
TIP: Cabbage is one of the healthiest vegetables, can be delicious made into slaw or kimchi, and—unlike many veggies—it is reasonably priced year-round.
Step 3: Use coupons Use coupons. It may make you feel like someone's grandma, but it'll save you money. Maximize your savings by printing online coupons and finding stores that will double coupons.
Step 4: Go generic Go generic. In most cases, you're not paying for better quality—you're paying for the expensive advertising campaigns that promote brand names.
Step 5: Eat more eggs Eat more eggs. They're cheap, packed with protein, and—contrary to popular belief—they don't raise bad cholesterol.
Step 6: Switch to plain yogurt If you eat yogurt, switch to plain. It's cheaper, healthier, and can be made sweeter and more nutritious by adding a little fresh fruit or a bit of honey.
TIP: Buy bruised and overripe fruit and vegetables at a reduced price at produce markets. Use them in smoothies and soups.
Step 7: Control portions Don't eat directly from containers. Not only is it mildly depressing, but portion control prevents overeating and makes your food last longer.
Step 8: Air pop popcorn Invest in a hot air popcorn popper. High in fiber and low in calories and fat, popcorn is a cheap, healthy snack—so long as you air pop it and don't drown it in melted butter.
Step 9: Splurge on early bird special When you can't eat at home for another meal, splurge—on an early bird special. Sure, you might be surrounded by octogenarians scrabbling over the cheap tapioca pudding, but you'll get your fill on the cheap.
FACT: In May 2007, several politicians attempted to eat for a week on a $28 food allowance, the average amount provided to welfare recipients.