101 Changes: Change 20 – Healthy Eating Made Easy

If we try to make huge changes, it is often difficult sustaining it and we have sense of  failure but small changes made slowly becomes habits if done over and over for 21 days. I am writing a series of posts about small changes we can make it our life to make our daily living and health improve tenfold.

These are changes I have made or working on it. Would you like to join with me in this journey?

Check out previous 101 Changes Article: 101 Changes: 101 Changes: Change 19- Do More With Beauty Products



Image source Happy Heart and Mind  Cooking at home

One thing I have learned as I am getting older is to take care of my health properly. As a mom of 2 kids, I want to make sure I am healthy enough to keep up with their energy when doing homework with them or taking them to music and sports classes, playing with them.

I am vegetarian so I eat mostly plant and grain based diet but I sure have my moments when I am not eating healthier. Being vegetarian one would think it is healthy, not so. As I have said before, one can be vegetarian eating pizza, potato chips and drink coke or sugar laden drinks; it is vegetarian but it is NOT healthy for sure.

As I am getting older (past 20s and in late 30’s) I am learning how to take care of my health by eating more plant based food and cooking at home. Since I love cooking, it comes easier but there are days, when I simply fall off the health band wagon but I am getting better by buying right groceries and snacks to keep myself motivated to eat healthier.

Here are my top choices for healthy eating:

Green Vegetables: I buy green bell peppers, Kale, Baby spinach, Collard greens, mustard green, Green beans, Thai/Indian long beans, Green squash (Asian groceries store), Dark leafy Salad greens, Broccoli, and use Green herbs such as cilantro for flavors.

Rainbow Veggies: Other than green vegetables, I am focusing on rainbow colors veggies such as carrots, red and yellow bell peppers, Tomatoes, Purple red cabbage, eggplants, radishes (red and large white from Asian store), cauliflower, red onions, sweet potatoes, Olives and so on.

Whole Grains: Being an Indian, I use lot of rice and wheat based grain and flour for cooking. I try to use whole grain as much as possible. Living close to whole foods and trader Joe’s, I have found many new grains (whole, split and flour) such as amarnth, kamut, millet, farro, barley, quinoa and spelt. One can make salad, bread, naan or rotis, savory biscuits from grain or flour. If you can not eat gluten, there are still other choices to eat healthier and still be gluten free.

Eat Fresh Fruits: Eating fresh and in-season fruits is best. In California, there are many farmer’s market that sells fresh fruits from local farmers that are organic. Bananas, Apples, Oranges, Pears, watermelon, Mango, Papaya, Peaches, Apricots make great snacks for kids and adults. I sometimes make dessert, cookies or bread with fresh fruits by looking at online recipes blogs.

Avoid fat free and sugar free: Earlier when I was younger, I thought sugar free and fat free is good and I ate that way. Now, I know better and try to eat good fat, real sugar in moderation. Regular coke always taste better compared to sugar free cola and we know why. Do not be afraid of fat, sugar but eat those food in small quantity, is that simple.

Drink Water: It is okay if you like Wine, juice, Smoothies, shakes or beer. Drinking in moderation is always best practice for any diet. However, drink more water whenever possible as nothing quenches thirst more then cold, fresh water.

Vegetarian Protein: As a vegetarian, I often gets asked about protein in my diet, there is plenty of choices for vegetarian to get required daily protein intake. One of the best vegetarian source for protein is lentils, dried nuts, beans and tofu. There are many soups, stir fries can be made with lentils and tofu. Many think tofu is bland but if you marinate it and cook it right it will be tasty for kids as well.

Take Vitamins: It is always best to take nutrients from fresh and cooked food but sometimes when it is not possible taking daily vitamins may help. Vitamin B12 is hard to find in many vegetables so I try to take vitamins with B12, iron and folic acid to make sure my body’s optimum health.

What To avoid or eat less of:

As I said above, being healthy is not difficult but requires little discipline and planning. Eating or avoiding a few things may improve our health and energy.

  • Avoid meat products, this is more true even if you are meat lover, if you reduce or give up meat products for health or ethical reasons, it may help with your health.
  • Avoid cheesy, fatty food at home or when eating out
  • Avoid fried food such as french fries, dumplings or eat in moderation
  • Avoid or reduce eating refined flour
  • Artificial flavoring, diet food staple from grocery store.
  • Do not eat old food sitting in fridge for more than a few days
  • Do not use plastic to heat up food, use glass container instead
  • Avoid trans fats
  • Do not deprive yourself of any food, just eat less of instead
  • avoid or reduce sugary drinks or alcohols
  • Reduce eating out or take outs
  • Do not read or watch Television when eating, this is one of my worst habit that I am working on fixing it

If you want more plant base food diet, check out these following books;

Product Details

 Forks Over Knives – The Cookbook: Over 300 Recipes for Plant-Based Eating All Through the Year

This is one of the best book with over 300 healthy plant based recipes. The secret is out: If you want to lose weight, lower your cholesterol, and prevent (or even reverse!) chronic conditions such as heart disease and type 2 diabetes, the right food is your best medicine. Thousands of people have cut out meat, dairy, and oils and seen amazing results. If you’re among them—or you’d like to be—you need this cookbook.

Product Details

 The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Plant-Based Nutrition

If you are vegetarian, vegan or thinking about eating more plant based diet but wondered what about nutrition?, Where to get nutrients that others get from meat and dairy?, How to spot hidden animal ingredients in packaged foods?, Howto avoid the vegan pitfall of overfed but undernourished?, How to order at restaurants? if you asked these questions, this is right book for you. I have it and I still refer to it when I am in doubt.

How To Cook and Eat Healthier

BLR 066

Image source: Zengirl

I am life long vegetarian since my birth, but that does not mean I eat healthy. Occasionally I tend to eat junk food sometimes, especially when I am stressed out, or extremely busy in other things. As part of finding balance between heart and mind of six areas, eating and being healthy is one of the important thing in my life as it is for many of you. Cooking and eating is important for anyone because we are what we eat, and we are what we think of ourselves.

Here are a few Tips for Healthy Cooking:

Some of the people I know think cooking is complicated and hard so they tend to get take out or eat out. When they eat something at home it is almost always frozen meals heated up. Other people are opposite cooking great 7 course meals on weekdays like Martha Stewart’s shows. I fall somewhere in between, I generally love cooking but occasionally I go through times where we simply eat Khichadi or Bread and Milk for dinner.

Here are some of the ways I have learned over the years, so cooking is not complicated. Cook healthy at home with these simple tips.

  1. 95% fat free does not “eat 95% more”. It still has 5% fat, which is not 0%.
  2. Also zero percent fat, is also misleading. See always calories before consuming extra food. I am now skeptic of all no fat, low fat, claims. Some low fat and no fat actually have known to more calories compared to full fat counter part. Check it for yourself, you’ll know.
  3. Being Vegetarian does not mean, you’re eating healthy. I know that my own experience, in college I have eaten and lived on only cold pizza, chips and soda. That is Vegetarian diet but not healthy one.
  4. When buying food such as bread, grains, read label. If the first ingredient is not whole wheat or whole grain it might be not healthy enough.
  5. Always eat colorful fruits and vegetables such as eggplant, tomatoes, carrots, sweet potatoes, spinach, broccoli, cantaloupe, watermelon and so on. It will bring out vitamin and nutrients more.
  6. Add more dried beans, dried lentils, tofu and nuts for protein sources. It is best for Vegan and Vegetarian. Even if you’re meat eater, these will work with your diet as well.
  7. Broil, boil, bake or steam food instead of deep frying or sauteing in oil. As it will have less fat and more healthier.
  8. Eat more fiber hero food for better digestive system such as brown rice, oatmeal, rye, quinoa, barley.
  9. When looking for re-fried beans, you can make it at home easily or look for low fat, no lard added refried beans from super market. It will have less fat and less calories.
  10. If you buy canned fruits, make sure that canned fruits are packed in its own juice rather than sugar and syrup.
  11. Same as above for vegetables and beans, make sure no extra salt is added or always rinse canned beans to get rid of access of extra salt. extra salt does not help with Blood pressure.
  12. For sugary food, check labels to see names that you can not pronounce, that always rings true for me. If I can not pronounce or know ingredients that means to usually be careful.
  13. If you read labels and it says it comes form natural sources, some ingredients such as chemical, artificial flavors also, comes from natural sources too. Do not go by advertizement or what it says, follow your gut feeling.
  14. Give up or reduce meat. If your meat eater, go one day meat free.
  15. If you are Vegetarian, eat healthy, not chips or soda. Eat Vegetables.
  16. Skip rich sauces made from cheese. Try instead to use lemon, orange juice, salsa, vinegar, garlic, herb and spices to flavor the food.
  17. Use hard anodized or cast iron cookware so you can cook without much or no oil. I would recommend not to use Teflon coating nonstick pans and they tend to peel and Teflon is chemical you do not want to mix with your food.
  18. Many of us waste food, myself included when we buy too much or cook too much. Learn to either share it with friends, neighbors, family or homeless shelter. You can also learn how to preserve food to make it last longer.
  19. If you’re cooking in cast iron pan, take out the food after cooking to avoid discoloration due to metal reacting to food.
  20. Eat healthy and filling salads, with veggies, bread, pasta and beans. Who says salad has be only greens? You can add more stuff to make it filling and rich with nutrients.
  21. Use whole grains whenever possible and avoid refined flours and food.
  22. Some fat are supposed to be good for you such as olive oil, avocado, corn oil, soybean oil and canola oil. Still use it sparingly.
  23. You can use cooked and pureed potatoes, cauliflowers for thickener in soup and sauces instead of corn starch or other thickeners.
  24. You can saute food in little water instead of oil sometimes. Or use little oil.
  25. You can replace high fat cheese in recipe such as ricotta to low fat cottage cheese. I have done it and people have hardly noticed. In similar way, I use tofu instead of Paneer (Indian Cheese) to make stews and curries. You can tell the difference in taste a little but it still comes out great.
  26. Key to cooking with tofu is to marinate the tofu for 3 hours to over night. Otherwise tofu is so bland and does not taste good. When tofu has absorbed the flavor it will be liked by all, including kids.
  27. We do not use eggs, so when I bake or cook any recipe that calls for egg, I use vegan egg replacer, which is healthier, lower fat, socially feels right.
  28. Eating and cooking at home does not need to be fancy or expensive, there are a few ways you can make 99 cents noodles look and taste like a gourmet meal.
  29. You can replace high fat sour cream and mayo with low fat or no fat yogurt in soup, dip or sauces.
  30. Whenever possible cook at home from scratch. It will be more healthier and some of the food can be cooked around 30 minutes. If you’re looking for ideas check out cookbooks for fast cooking ideas.
  31. If you’re short on time like I am sometimes, I get help from grocery store which I call semi-home made cooked food. This where I get some ingredient prepared from store but I do some cooking or addition to make food like what we like. For example, I get frozen pizza dough or frozen pizza shell then all I have to add is sauce, veggies and cheese.
  32. If you eat out follow these 20 tips when you eat out so you can be kind to your waist and your wallet.
  33. We have stopped eating at fast food places, except a few one such as Quiznos and In and Out Burger that we like and we could not be happier and bit healthier.
  34. Try out some new food that you have never tried, be it new fruits or new ethnic food. You might be surprised and like it. There are many ethnic food such as Thai, Ethiopian, Vietnamese, Indian (including popular Italian, Chinese, Mexican) restaurant have many vegetarian, vegan choices.
  35. Last but not least, walk and exercise by doing simple things such as parking a car in little further from your office or school. Taking stairs instead of elevator. Dance silly with kids for fun. Think happy healthy thoughts!

I am sure, there are more ways to eat healthy that does not feel like climbing mountain or so hard. Do you have your favorite to share?


How To Stay Fit During Holiday Season

How to Stay fit during any Holidays

Holiday season usually means several parties to celebrate, Thanksgiving feast, Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, and New year among other celebrations! One of the great thing about holidays are get together, eating yummy food and being with family and friends: loved ones. However, I dread January as I tend to gain a bit weight somehow From Diwali, to Thanksgiving, to Christmas and New year eve party and party food. Are you like me? If you are then know what I am talking about. If you do not gain weight, then write quickly and tell us your secret!

There are so many parties during last few months of the year:

  • Office Christmas Party
  • Family gathering
  • Friends parties (Some of us have more than one different gatherings)
  • New year Celebrations

When we had Thanksgiving gathering, where we had so much food, and 5 types of pies, plus more desserts dishes. We shared and ate leftover for days! It sure was fun, but not for my body. I have already plan to make sure my end of year gatherings are fun and healthy both.

That means we will be eating, drinking and be merry! So no wonder when it comes January 1st, we all have new year resolution to lose weight and be fit.

Download my free ebook : Meaningful Holidays (No need for email)

10 tips to staying fit during Holidays

Prevention is always better than a cure, if we are just bit careful on what we eat, we might be able to avoid weight gain that happens to most of good people. I admit it, it is hard for me as I love to cook, I am always cooking and sharing meals or eating out in those gourmet restaurant does not help.

However my biggest problem are my mom who think, that only way can show our love towards each other by finishing their food! And if you say” Mom, I am careful and eating healthy and I can not eat your fried dumpling”, oh the guilt trip she gives, oh my. No one can resist it, not me either, specially when my mom’s cooking is so yummy to me!.

Do you have mom or relative like that? Than you’ll know what I am talking about.

Here are my top ten ways, I am trying to keep my health, fitness and little sanity intact during this holidays. Hope this will help you celebrate meaningful holidays that are healthier.

  1. Eat a healthy snack before going to party. When I host a party, I try to keep some healthier but when I go to my relatives and friend’s party there may or may not be healthy or vegetarian choices so I usually eat a little before going to party and it helps me when I am not famished to choose better food.
  2. Eat more vegetables: Being vegetarian it is easier for me to choose vegetables and fruits but even if you are not vegan or vegetarian, you can choose various vegetable choices with your meat and potatoes to balance out the nutrition and fat.
  3. Skip gravy, cheesy and high fat choices: These gravys, cheese dips and friend snacks are high in fat and if we eat too much, it sure will add to our waist and other places on our bodies. If you can not resist and skip it like me, make sure you take little for taste only. Everything in moderation will be much better thing to do.
  4. Drink more water: Sometimes we are thirsty, no other liquid quenches our thirst like cold glass of water, so drink it through out the day. 8-10 glasses is generally recommended for most people. Added benefit of drinking water is also, that it will keep us hydrated and it is calorie free.
  5. Reduce Alcohol: For some people there can not be celebration without alcohol and that is fine. If you drink alcohol, do it in moderation and always munch some food with your wine or beer so to make sure you do not have hangover next morning.
  6. Please your relative other ways: If you have relatives like mine who insist that if you loved them, you will finish their cheesy and fried dish, you have to be careful to stay healthy and not get fat. You can take little to show you love them and ask them that you loved the food so much you will get take out for home so you can eat it next day as well. They may just be happy enough to pack it for you, and not force you finish it right there. It may just work for you as well.
  7. Less dessert: Not many can skip dessert and I am included in there. Our gathering have lot of sweet dishes such as pies, chocolates pudding, and more. Have little pieces of dessert instead of skipping it all together so you will not have deprived feeling of not having a sweet.
  8. Exercise: Winter time is bad for going out and with many parties with food can be tough on staying healthy. So make an extra effort to exercise, dance and just do lot of walking when you can to keep fit during winter time.
  9. Bring your healthy food to share: If you host a party, make sure you have plenty of healthy choices for you and others who might want to eat healthier along with traditional food choices. If you are going to friend’s party, offer to bring a potluck meal to share which is healthier so if there is nothing you can be sure to eat at least your own food you brought. This has helped me a lot, as a vegetarian I will always have a choice to vegetarian choices and host does not have to go out of her way to make a special meal for me.
  10. Do not worry and enjoy it: Holidays comes once a year so take precautions but if you can not, just enjoy it and do not worry about it much. It is not fun to be party popper who does not join in fun, so do not make it obvious and go with flow.

We all deserve break once in awhile, so have little fun and eat food your aunt made specially for you. Wear that ugly christmas sweater that your mom bought you. Have a laugh and silly fun once in a while!

New York School Spys On “Not So Thin” Kids 24*7

I was just browsing the news site as I occasionally I do, and this post caught my eyes. While this is not certainly a political blog, I thought parents around US will be concerned about it as it may spread to other states within US. Currently in use in St. Louis and South Orange, New Jersy and now New York. Mostly likely more to follow (I dread the thought)

New York school apparently has been spying on “fat” kids even at home, 24 hours, 7 days a week with electronic monitor. The updates are made in password protected websites that teacher and student can access. And you know, this is not even new, it has been going on for over 2 years and mostly without parental consent. One of the volunteer and active parent even did not know about it. School authorities are saying that it is because of “Reinforcement of Fighting Obesity”.

If that is the case, why not get consent from parents?, why not take out soda and junk snack machines from school?, Why not give school more lunch and recess time? Why not have more physical education and free play time? And what about “not so thin” teachers, principals and other adults?

Why not give parents and students chance to opt-in or opt-out instead of 24*7 monitoring? And how is that going to help encourage a student to lose weight? Questions are many, answers are few or none. Here see the original article and judge it for yourself.

Original NY Post Article below:

Big Brother is joining the battle of the bulge.

A group of Long Island students will soon be wearing controversial electronic monitors that allow school officials to track their physical activity around the clock.

The athletics chair for the Bay Shore schools ordered 10 Polar Active monitors, at $90 a pop, for use starting this spring. The wristwatchlike devices count heartbeats, detect motion and even track students’ sleeping habits in a bid to combat obesity.

The information is displayed on a color-coded screen and gets transmitted to a password-protected Web site that students and educators can access.

TOO FAR, TOO FAST? School aide records a student’s heart rate.

Angel Chevrestt
TOO FAR, TOO FAST? School aide records a student’s heart rate.

The devices are already in use in school districts in St. Louis and South Orange, NJ — and have raised privacy concerns among some parents and observers.

But Ted Nagengast, the Bay Shore athletics chair, said, “It’s a great reinforcement in fighting the obesity epidemic. It tells kids, in real time, ‘Am I active? Am I not active?’ We want to give kids the opportunity to become active.”

The monitors are distributed by Polar Electro, of Lake Success, LI, the US division of a Finland firm.

In the South Orange-Maplewood School District, where earlier versions of the devices have been used for two years, upper-grade students’ marks in phys ed are based in part on heart-rate monitors and activity sensors.

Teachers use hand-held computers to collect data from each student’s wrist monitor during class, then upload the information to the school computer system for storage and long-term tracking.

But privacy advocates and parents worry that schools are using electronic monitors in phys ed without families’ knowledge or consent.

“I didn’t even know it was going on, and I’m active in the school,” said Beth Huebner, of St. Louis.

Her son, a fourth-grader, wore a Polar Active monitor in class without her OK last fall at Ross Elementary School.

“We have gotten no information about the Web-site security or where the data will go,” Huebner said.

“When you get into monitoring people’s biological vital signs, that’s a pretty intrusive measurement,” said Jay Stanley, of the American Civil Liberties Union. “There are key privacy interests at play.”

At the very least, says Stanley, parents must have a say in how long the data will be stored and who will have access to it and schools must obtain parents’ consent.

“A program like this should only be voluntary. Nobody should be forced to reveal biological indicators,” he said.

“It’s all about secondary use,” said Virginia Rezmierski, an expert on information technology and privacy at the University of Michigan.

“Does the data pass along with the child from school to school? When will insurance companies want to get access to it? Will a school want to medicate a child that the monitor identifies as hyperactive? It’s potentially very dangerous ground.”

Source: NY Times


Barefoot Running: Fad or Great?

Barefoot Shoes

I like to walk bare foot on soft grass around my house, and have walked barefoot in garden often time, but sometime going barefoot, means getting splinters or hurt where there are thorns or pebbles around. The very first time I heard about barefoot shoes was last year sometime on one of my favorite blog Zen Habits, that I started following before even I had a blog along with a few others. Like Leo, I am a parent, and believe in simplifying, minimizing and decluttering stuff and not buying un-necessary stuff. One of the caveat when you stay home with kids and homeschool is we are living simplified life if not minimalist life. Health is important part of simplifying life to the best for all of us. I think, I was always frugal but learned lot more about simplicity to make living in reduced income comfortably so I can stay home with my little ones.

While I am working on finding harmony in many things in my life such as financial, health and fitness, relationship with people I care for, I find ways to achieve health and fitness in a simple ways such as walking, dancing and running after kids. Sometimes that is enough, and other times I think I need more push. So, when I read  Barefoot Philosophy post from Leo on Zenhabits, I was intrigued with a concept of  Vibram FiveFinger shoes as I love to walk barefeet often moist grass in my garden during morning. With the Vibram, I can almost go anywhere and have benefit of open free barefeet feeling. The only issue was that cost of Vibram Fivefinger, so I decided to dig further to research and find out more and share it here just in case if any of you are in same boat as I am. In recent times, shoes price have dropped to bit reasonable compared to when it was new! Check here.

What are Barefoot Shoes?

barefoot shoes2

Barefoot shoes kind of contradiction as how can one be barefoot and still wear shoes right? However, our city living is best suited for barefoot running or walking as once maybe our grandparent’s time. This type of barefoot shoes gives us benefits of going barefoot and still protecting our feet.

I am okay runner and athlete but I love walking and hiking. I am usually not in brands or new fads in footware, these Vibram FiveFingers are sure funny looking but I heard that they are very comfortable and functional for many minimalist fitness. I heard many people use it for biking, hiking, aerobics, gym exercise class, cycling and even walking. Barefoot shoes are flat and fits your toes like a glove which supposed to strengthening muscles on you ankles, toes and calves. It claims that your feet’s movements will be natural as possible with protecting your feet.

Click here to see Vibram Five Finger in Field Test Video
Barefoot running Frequently asked Questions for users

Barefoot Philosophy by Leo of Zen Habits

Until now we have been told, that high cushioned running shoes were the best for any runner, now these may seem like total 180 degree to be told running barefeet is best. Do they really work? Is barefoot shoes a fad? Is this invented by some green minimalist guy?

To find out these answer to these questions, I dug further and here is what I found:

These Vibram FiveFingers are created by Robert Fliri and Marco Bramani. Marco Bramani is grandson of Vitale Bramani who first invented rubber soles in 1935 for mountain boots. These shoes were meant for people sailing and climbing at comfort without actually going barefoot. However runners started using barefoot shoes enjoy the sport and reduce the injury and pain during running. It is one of the hottest trend that Times Magazine also name these shoes is one of the best invention of 2007 when they were first made.

How do Barefoot Shoes work? Some of Benefits and Issues?

barefoot vs. Traditional

According to the Vibram FiveFingers website:

“The typical human foot is an anatomical marvel of evolution with 26 bones, 33 joints, 20 muscles and hundreds of sensory receptors, tendons and ligaments. Like the rest of the body, to keep our feet healthy, they need to be stimulated and exercised.”

Wearing barefoot shoes are supposed to remind us and bring us to natural state of walking and running.  Our leg and foot muscles can get stronger to support knees and reduce pain and injury to hip and back while improving balance and posture.

Barefoot shoes changes the bio mechanics of your run or walk as you land on your foot instead of heel strike as you would in traditional shoes. For some it can change gait and biomechanics too much, so many expert recommend that when you start wearing them for short time and slowly start wearing it longer to adjust your muscles. It can take up to weeks or months before you may feel completely comfortable in it. Those who have stuck by it, swear of positive changes in to their running and muscles strength.

Pros Of Barefoot Shoes:

  • Allows for proper biomechanics in walking, running and hiking
  • Comes in many colors and styles
  • Natural way of walking, running without being hurt
  • Shoes fits perfect like gloves
  • Using proper leg muscles to avoid injury and pain
  • Cost ranges from $40-$125
  • You may  find bargain on Craigslist

Issues with Barefoot Shoes:

  • Not the cheapest but traditional running shoes can as high
  • It can take time to adjust and the shoes, up to weeks to months
  • Not recommended for long distance running
  • Might be less durable than traditional running shoes
  • Funny looking and feeling

If you afford it and want to buy, you can click here (aff. link)  Vibram FiveFingers.

Am I using these barefoot shoes Yet?

As much as I am intrigued about it and like to walk and run barefeet, I am sticking to my old running shoes for now. Maybe one of these days when money is not an issue, I might buy these and try it out. Are these type of shoes right for you? Only you can tell. I wanted to share what I have learned while trying to find out more about the barefoot shoes Vibram FiveFinger shoes.

Being healthy and keeping fit is essential to all of our well being. Many things can be done without spending money or spending less money. You can run bare feet as it is if money is an issue. Sometime prevention of better than cure. Maybe taking care of health now, will save us tons of money in medicine cost later.

Have you used these Vibram Five Finger shoes or ran barefoot? I sure would like to hear your thoughts on it.
Keep healthy and be healthy!


20 Money Saving Tips When Eating Out

I used to eat out often, now as I am trying to reduce my debt and be more healthier, so I eat in more often. If you can afford it, eating out occasionally is harmless and can give you temporary relief from cooking, cleaning kitchen and dishes for that day. Best ways to save money is to eat at home of course, however, you can always save money when eating out by using following tips and actually enjoy the experience.

1. Use coupons if available by using Restaurant.com or Food Coupons site from various restaurants. You can always check the restaurant’s official website for coupon code, some of the places may offer it.

2. Get a entertainment book , you can buy these entertainment books by year and by your local area. We know a friend, who buys this entertainment book for travel too, as it has coupons for not only fast food, sit down nice restaurants, but it has coupons for movies, museums and other fun things to see and buy. You will recover the cost($20) in 2 outing or less. It might be worth it, and you can buy 2009 book for 50% off right now.

3. If you eat at one restaurant often, find out if they have frequent diner program or club which you can join. You can sign up at official website with an email and get coupons and special deal information via email. Here is an example for joining frequent diner club for Fresh choice restaurant.

4. Do not order drinks, Tea, Coffee, if you do, do it occasionally only. As drinks can add up to $2-$5 each. Same thing about ordering wine or speciality drinks.

5. Go to restaurants which offer free appetizer while you are waiting for your order, such as some Mexican restaurants offer free chips and salsa with order, a few Italian restaurants offer free bread, butter with order.

6. US restaurant portion sizes are huge, so spilt a entree with a family member or friend you are dining with. Order appetizer instead of full entree. If you can not spilt entree, take it remaining half to go, for dinner or next day’s lunch.

7. Go to ‘all you can eat’ buffet places. These places are best for most people as for fixed price you can try out variety of food items, including, appetizer, drinks, salad, main entree and dessert too.

8. Eat out near college town/city restaurants, which caters to students so usually food item prices are reasonable to cheaper there.

9. Order water. It is free. If you like Coke or Pepsi, Coffee, find out if they have a free refills, it might be worth it, if you drink more than one glass/cup.

10. Look for special deals day or times when some restaurant may offer, ‘kid eat free’ day or ‘buy one, get one free’ deal. That may stretch your dollar further when eating out.

11. Some restaurants may have happy hours time, during which they offer drinks and appetizers at 50% off. Times for happy hours are usually early at 5PM and usually on Fridays.

12. Eat at small, take out place or fast food type of restaurant, you can avoid 15% tip. If you do eat at sit-down places, please do not save money on tip as waiter’s wages usually counts tips towards their pay.

13. Go for lunch or brunch. During dinner time, price is usually bit higher.

14. If you order dessert, ask for extra spoons and share it with whom you are out, as dessert are huge and pricier.

15. Work part time at restaurant, you may some discount when dining in. 🙂

16. Work as a mystery shopper, sometimes you will get paid to survey restaurant and can get free or discounted meal. Check out here for more information.

17. Sometimes, valuable coupons mailed with “Value Pakpromotion , look for coupons and deals for local restaurant or newly opened restaurants which may offer discounts.

18. Choose more vegetarian choices when eating out, generally vegetarian items are cheaper to
meat choices.

19. Stay away from cream, butter and cheese food choices, as it will be pricier or unhealthy.

20. Some restaurant offer free small food/meal to birthday girl/boy, check it out here and go there on your birthday or friend’s birthday.

Last remember, If you are out, enjoy the food, chew slowly and forget the guilt. That may not save more money but at least you will enjoy the experience and you will not have to do dishes for that time.

Do you have any other tips to add? How do you save money when eating out? How about where you live? What works with your budget and eating out plan? I will be curious to know more.


Image source: Feng Zhao, getty Image