A little less dining out, fewer trips to burger joints and a little bit of creativity will help to free-up extra time and money. Here are a few tips, tricks and strategies that work for my busy life and saves cash too.

1. When preparing a meal, cook a little extra so you can brown bag-it for work the next day instead of purchasing lunch from the cafeteria.

2. Plan your meals for the week. You’re more likely to stick to a plan if you devote time to thinking of ideas, listing them, and shopping for what is needed.

3. Lot’s of people wait to go out to eat on the weekend. Save money one of those weekends and host a potluck with a few friends. Talk, laugh and pop in a classic like the movie Love Jones. That’s friends, food and fun for less than what you would spend at a restaurant and the most you did was cook a dish.

4. Swap quick and easy recipes from multicultural friends and co-workers for different and delicious meal ideas.

5. When grocery shopping, look for the 2 for 1 deals. It may seem like spending more but you actually do save per item and that’s getting more for your money.

6. Invest in a crock-pot. Not only can you cook just about anything in them, but it saves you time and gives you a break by safely slow cooking whole meals while you’re at work, running errands or just out and about. It’s like having your very own personal cook.

7. Make a real meal of Ramen Noodles by adding lean beef, turkey, chicken, or shrimp if you’re a college student or just busy and on the go a lot.

8. Make it a rule not to go grocery shopping without a list and then stick to what’s on it.

9. Opt to shop at an off-brand grocery store for lower prices on food, household and personal items.

10. Stock up on staples when there’s a deal so you’re never caught cooking without all the essentials.

11. Load up on your spices at deep discount stores.

12. Get the Sunday newspaper and clip coupons. The secret to saving with coupons is to only clip and use those coupons for the things you regularly buy. To do otherwise is spending money you wouldn’t normally spend if there was no coupon available for it.

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