How to Eat Cheap and Healthy for an Entire Day


Ideally, to eat healthily and on the cheap, you would plan your meals in advance, stack coupons when grocery shopping, and brown bag your work meals.

In the rapid pace of our modern world, planned meals often take a back seat to our long list of daily to-dos and priorities. If we’re not cautious, we may find ourselves eating out often throughout the week, costing us monetarily as well as around the waistline.

If eating out is the best solution to make sure you’re satisfying your nutritional needs, a wise decision would be to assure you’re utilizing customer reward programs. These programs allow individuals to earn points, discounts, and free food for frequenting an establishment often and usually provide perks throughout the year as customer appreciation incentives. Once earned, you’re able to cash in these points for free items or discounted pricing on your meals.

It’s also important to make sure the choices you’re making aren’t detrimental to your health. Most restaurants offer options that are delicious as well as nutritionally sound.

If you’re having a particularly busy day and need to eat all your meals on the go, here are some tips and tricks on how to eat for free and some safe choices to keep within a comfortable daily caloric intake.

Freebie Breakfast Idea

Starbucks has become an American staple. It’s not often you turn a corner or enter a shopping complex that the popular coffee shop isn’t an established and a well-traversed shop. Starting your morning with a hot (or iced!) cup of joe is a great way to get up and running for a busy day. However, it’s important to make sure you grab some breakfast as well, to boost your metabolism for the day, and assure you’re not running on fumes by mid-morning.

Starbucks offers a great reward program that not only allows you to pay from your phone and order your food or drink ahead of time but also the ability to obtain reward perks at a reasonable rate. For everything you purchase in-store (or ahead of time online) you qualify to earn “stars”. Once you’ve reached enough stars you’re rewarded with free food or drink item of your choice. You’ll even receive a yearly free birthday reward. Make sure you capitalize on these rewards, they don’t have a monetary limit, so go for that Venti, quadruple shot latte!

Additionally, you can earn stars by playing games in the Starbucks app, and during some days throughout the week, you can earn double stars by purchasing a particular drink during a set number of hours of the day. To check out how to sign up for Starbucks Rewards you can log on to their website or download their app.

If you’re on a tight schedule and popping into Starbucks for your morning fuel, grab a Spinach, Feta & Egg white wrap and match it with a Grande Iced Carmel Macchiato. This quick meal on the goal is not only delicious but also brings you in at around 540 calories, a reasonable amount to allow you to have the energy for the long day ahead.

Money-Saving Lunch Suggestion

The lunch rush hour is intense. If you’re in between meetings and need to grab something quick and delicious, Jersey Mike’s is a great place to stop in and pick-up your lunch on-the-go. Their rewards program is family friendly, too. You can accumulate points for anything you purchase on the menu- from kid’s meals to their famous giant sub. Each item has a particular point value and when you’ve accumulated enough points you’re entitled to a free item that matches the number of points you’ve earned. For example, every giant sub you purchase is worth 12 points. If you buy 4 subs, you’ve earned 48 points which entitle you to a free mini-sub.

If you’re picking up food for the entire office, or your children’s soccer team, you can earn a ton of points with your generosity, which may entitle you to eat for free! Next time you’re running out, see if anyone you’re meeting may want you to grab food for them, too, and you may be eligible for a delicious discounted meal. Jersey Mikes offers their reward program via mobile sign up, so even if you’re in a rush you can sign up on the spot.

If you’re looking for a meal that maintains a delicious deli sandwich feel but doesn’t rack up the calories that will thicken your waist, try one of Jersey Mike’s subs in a tub. This option is one of their signature sandwiches without the bread. Their turkey breast & provolone sub in a tub is a great choice to satisfy your hunger while keeping the calories on the lower side. Pair it with a diet soda or bottled water, and you’ve got a great lunch for about 490 calories.

Keep More Dough in Your Pocket with This Afternoon Snack

The afternoon slump is real, and if you’ve already had a busy day with an even more hectic evening ahead, it’s important to take some time to get through it. Jamba Juice is the perfect pit stop during your daily errands to grab a healthy, delicious smoothie that will fill you up and give you the energy you need to attack the rest of your day.

The best part of Jamba Juice is their generous reward program. When signing up you’re rewarded $3. After that, you’re eligible to earn $3 for every 35 points earned. To accumulate points you make in-store purchases. Jamba Juice offers options that are both cost effective as well as nutritious.

If you’re looking for a good afternoon option, and a way to assure you’re meeting your daily fruit and vegetable intake, try the Apple & Greens Smoothie. For a cool 250 calories, you will enjoy a pick-me-up that’s guilt-free and maybe even free, financially, if you use your reward points!

Order Dinner In or Out Without Breaking the Bank

Now that you’ve made it through the work day, you will want to enjoy a wholesome meal. Olive Garden’s reward program is one of the more intricate programs available, but also offers a ton of variety and unique ways to earn free perks.

For every item purchased at Olive Garden, you earn 1 point for the equivalent of $1. You can make your purchase through dine-in, delivery, to-go or catering orders, so even if you don’t make it inside they will compensate you with reward points.

Olive Garden changes what items qualify for reward points. If you go online before ordering or stopping in for dinner, you can see what the weekly reward specials are and select from the menu which items you’d like to apply your points to.

A staple on their reward menu is their famous soup, salad, and breadstick combo. Anyone who has been to Olive Garden knows how delicious this bottomless option is, and it’s also a great choice if you’re trying to keep within your daily calorie count. Enjoy this reward choice for 520 calories, and know that you’re doing something great for both your wallet and your diet.

Satisfy Your Sweet Tooth with Delicious Rewards

At the end of a long day, what’s better than a little sweet treat? Marble Slab Creamery is a chain of ice cream and dessert specialty shops that will not only satisfy your sweet cravings but also reward you for becoming a regular customer.

The Marble Slab Creamery offers a great reward program and has an app that allows you to track and cash in on your accumulated points. Download the “Slab Happy” app and sign up to earn $5.00 when you make your first purchase. Earn one point for every $1 you spend and enjoy $5 off for every 50 points you earn. They also offer rewards during special holidays, birthdays, anniversaries and much more.

When accumulating your points, you have the option to indulge in one of their delicious milkshakes or sundaes. If you want to stay on the lighter side, they offer a variety of sorbet and yogurt options, most falling under 200 calories for a small portion. Try the mango sorbet topped with slivered almonds and blueberries for a delicious and health-conscious treat, for a total of 185 calories.

Staying Healthy while Eating Cheap

There you have it, an entire day of meals out that won’t break the bank or pack on the pounds. With the sample menu above, your daily caloric total is 1,985 coming in right under the recommended daily consumption of 2,000 calories.

So, you want to know how to eat for free?

Try researching and using the resources available to you, and frequenting your favorite eateries, you are able to accumulate rewards that will provide you with free or discounted options. Next time you’re out at your favorite coffee shop, ask about their rewards programs, weekly discounts or find out about their daily specials.

There are usually ways that you can capitalize on a reduced price for eating out. Don’t forget to review their nutrition menus and make sure to select items that are both good for your wallet and your health.

 

 

About the Author

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Michael launched Your Money Geek to make personal fun and accessible. He has worked in personal finance for over 20 years, helping families reduce taxes, increase their income and save for retirement. Michael is passionate about personal finance, side hustles, and all things geeky.

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