Spending

Pay Less for Food

1.

1. Switch Supermarkets Stock Up on Grocery Staples at a Discount: Six-word strategy for saving on food: Get in car. Drive to Costco (Sam's or BJ's). We compared prices on 37 staples at Costco, Safeway and Whole Foods, calculated the prices for equivalent sizes, multiplied the total for each list by 12 (representing monthly shopping expeditions) and added Costco's $50 annual membership to the cost. Result: Costco can supply a family of four with many of the basics for an annual tab of $1,708, followed by Safeway, at $2,417, and Whole Foods, at a pricey $3,498.

Annual Savings: $1,790(Costco versus Whole Foods)

2. Caffeinate Cleverly Lattes Don't Have to Break the Bank: We wouldn't dream of asking you to quit cold turkey, but weaning off Starbucks could save you money. A 20-ounce latte from Dunkin' Donuts runs $3.29; at Starbucks, the same-size drink sets you back $3.65. Plus, at Dunkin' Donuts you don't have to say "venti" when you want a large.

Annual Savings: $131(if you lay off the doughnuts and have one cup daily )

3. Choose Cheap Eats: Can't give up eating out once a week? At hip, fast-casual sit-down restaurants, you stand in line to order the food and save on prices and tip. We tried the food at four chains and pronounced them comparable to full-service restaurants.

FRENCHMon Ami Gabi: Roast chicken with mushrooms and frites, wine and tip ($57.50).La Madeleine: Rosemary rotisserie chicken dinner (half chicken) with rice and broccoli, and wine ($32).Savings for two: $25.50

ITALIANMaggiano's: Shrimp and angel hair al arrabbiata, wine and tip ($54). Vapiano: Scampi (pasta, shrimp, sauce, vegetables) and wine ($32). Savings for two: $22

TEX-MEXChevys: Steak burrito with veggies, rice, beans and guacamole, and beer and tip ($44.50). Chipotle: Fajita burrito with steak, rice, beans, guacamole and salsa, and beer ($23.48). Savings for two: $21.02

BARBECUEFamous Dave's: Chopped pork, muffin, corn bread, two sides, soda and tip ($29.38).Shane's Rib Shack: Chopped pork, Texas toast, two sides and soda ($20.76).Savings for two: $8.62

Annual Savings: $463(for a couple dining out twice a month)

4. Belly Up to the Bar: You can eat well at a fraction of the price if you stick to the bar menu -- and we're not just talking wings. These restaurants are among many that offer fancy food on the cheap. We computed the difference in price between ordering two entrees from the regular menu and three items (one for each diner, plus one to share) from the bar menu.

Cheesecake FactoryEntree: Salmon salad ($32)Bar: Chicken pot stickers ($9) Savings for two: $23

McCormick & Schmick'sEntree: Rainbow trout ($35.60)Bar: Fish and scallop ceviche ($12).Savings for two: $23.60

Morton's the SteakhouseEntree: New York strip steak ($86)Bar: Petite filet mignon sandwiches ($30)Savings for two: $56

Annual Savings: $410(for a couple who dine out once a month)

TOTAL ANNUAL FOOD SAVINGS: $2,794

Slideshow: Top Savings Tips for 2009

Save $50 a Day

Pay Less for Banking & Loans

Pay Less for Health and Insurance Costs

Pay Less for Utilities

Pay Less for Food

Pay Less for Transportation

Pay Less for Investing Costs

Pay Less for Leisure

Pay Less for Must-Have Trends

PLUS: How These Super Savers Do It

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