4 Steps to Finding Your Perfect Meal Planning Service

Meal planning isn't always fun, but it can save you a lot of time and money.

My family’s recent subscription to a meal planning service has been a godsend. With my husband and I both working full time while raising our two children, cooking has been put on the back burner. We found ourselves eating out too much and when we did cook at home, we used the same recipes over and over.

Plus, I really hated trying to meal plan. I never had new, creative recipes unless I spent too much time on Pinterest. Then I would inevitably forget something on the grocery list, forcing us to reconsider our plan or shop again later in the week.

So far, we’ve had a great experience with a meal planning service that puts together our weekly menu and shopping list for us. The meals have been creative and really tasty and we’ve spent way less money on food.

Jumping into a meal planning service took some time. For one thing, it’s another item to add to our budget. And for another, there are loads of options out there to choose from.

If you’re looking for a way to change up, simplify, or declutter your meal planning, a service might be a great investment. But don’t just go muddle around on the internet for hours trying to figure out what will work best for you. Instead, take these steps to find your perfect meal planning service.

1. Figure out Your Priorities

First, know that meal plans cater to all sorts of priorities. Maybe yours is to save as much money as possible. Or maybe your goal is to be as healthy as possible or to follow a certain type of diet. Or maybe your goal is to get dinner on the table in 30 minutes or less every night.

There’s a meal plan for all of those priorities.

You can often balance two competing priorities fairly well, too. For instance, I wanted to both have healthy, veggie-packed dinner options and save money on groceries. Our meal plan isn’t the most budget-friendly. But it does keep our spending pretty low while providing healthy meal options.

So, before you even start shopping around, know your top two or three meal-time priorities.

2. Decide if a Delivery Box Is an Option

Next, you need to figure out if a meal planning service that actually delivers ingredients is an option.

If you have a liberal food budget these options could make your life super easy. But if your goal is to restrict your spending as much as possible, they’re probably not a wise option.

Ingredient delivery services aren’t all super expensive. But since someone is shopping for, measuring, and packaging your ingredients, it’s usually more expensive than going to the grocery store. With that said, if you wind up eating out a lot because you can’t make it to the grocery store, a delivery box might be right up your alley.

3. Get a Sample of Your Top Three Options

Once you’ve narrowed down your field of choices, get a sample of your options. Most online meal planning services will give you a week’s menu or more for free. Plus, many of the delivery boxes on the market have free — or almost free — trial periods.

Sampling will help you see which menu you like best, and which one will consistently work best for you. You’ll have to use a few different systems over the course of a month or so. It can be frustrating but through trial and error, you’ll be more likely to find the perfect meal planning service for you.

4. Use it for at Least a Few Weeks

Once you figure out which of the services you like best, I’d recommend sticking with that service for at least a month before you decide to switch to something else.

For my family, it’s taken some time to figure out how many of the meals we make each week. Our plan comes with seven, which is too many for us because we often eat with friends once a week and use leftovers over the weekend. It’s taken a couple of weeks to figure out that I need to trim the menu down to about five meals before I send my husband to the grocery store.

For extra savings, you can charge your meal plan and groceries on a cash back credit card. There are plenty of great cash back credit cards but before applying it’s wise to check if you qualify. You can check two of your credit scores for free with Credit.com.

That’s it! Finding the perfect meal plan for your family is all about prioritizing and then checking out what’s out there.

Image: franckreporter

The post 4 Steps to Finding Your Perfect Meal Planning Service appeared first on Credit.com.

4 Steps to Finding Your Perfect Meal Planning Service

Meal planning isn't always fun, but it can save you a lot of time and money.

My family’s recent subscription to a meal planning service has been a godsend. With my husband and I both working full time while raising our two children, cooking has been put on the back burner. We found ourselves eating out too much and when we did cook at home, we used the same recipes over and over.

Plus, I really hated trying to meal plan. I never had new, creative recipes unless I spent too much time on Pinterest. Then I would inevitably forget something on the grocery list, forcing us to reconsider our plan or shop again later in the week.

So far, we’ve had a great experience with a meal planning service that puts together our weekly menu and shopping list for us. The meals have been creative and really tasty and we’ve spent way less money on food.

Jumping into a meal planning service took some time. For one thing, it’s another item to add to our budget. And for another, there are loads of options out there to choose from.

If you’re looking for a way to change up, simplify, or declutter your meal planning, a service might be a great investment. But don’t just go muddle around on the internet for hours trying to figure out what will work best for you. Instead, take these steps to find your perfect meal planning service.

1. Figure out Your Priorities

First, know that meal plans cater to all sorts of priorities. Maybe yours is to save as much money as possible. Or maybe your goal is to be as healthy as possible or to follow a certain type of diet. Or maybe your goal is to get dinner on the table in 30 minutes or less every night.

There’s a meal plan for all of those priorities.

You can often balance two competing priorities fairly well, too. For instance, I wanted to both have healthy, veggie-packed dinner options and save money on groceries. Our meal plan isn’t the most budget-friendly. But it does keep our spending pretty low while providing healthy meal options.

So, before you even start shopping around, know your top two or three meal-time priorities.

2. Decide if a Delivery Box Is an Option

Next, you need to figure out if a meal planning service that actually delivers ingredients is an option.

If you have a liberal food budget these options could make your life super easy. But if your goal is to restrict your spending as much as possible, they’re probably not a wise option.

Ingredient delivery services aren’t all super expensive. But since someone is shopping for, measuring, and packaging your ingredients, it’s usually more expensive than going to the grocery store. With that said, if you wind up eating out a lot because you can’t make it to the grocery store, a delivery box might be right up your alley.

3. Get a Sample of Your Top Three Options

Once you’ve narrowed down your field of choices, get a sample of your options. Most online meal planning services will give you a week’s menu or more for free. Plus, many of the delivery boxes on the market have free — or almost free — trial periods.

Sampling will help you see which menu you like best, and which one will consistently work best for you. You’ll have to use a few different systems over the course of a month or so. It can be frustrating but through trial and error, you’ll be more likely to find the perfect meal planning service for you.

4. Use it for at Least a Few Weeks

Once you figure out which of the services you like best, I’d recommend sticking with that service for at least a month before you decide to switch to something else.

For my family, it’s taken some time to figure out how many of the meals we make each week. Our plan comes with seven, which is too many for us because we often eat with friends once a week and use leftovers over the weekend. It’s taken a couple of weeks to figure out that I need to trim the menu down to about five meals before I send my husband to the grocery store.

For extra savings, you can charge your meal plan and groceries on a cash back credit card. There are plenty of great cash back credit cards but before applying it’s wise to check if you qualify. You can check two of your credit scores for free with Credit.com.

That’s it! Finding the perfect meal plan for your family is all about prioritizing and then checking out what’s out there.

Image: franckreporter

The post 4 Steps to Finding Your Perfect Meal Planning Service appeared first on Credit.com.

4 Credit Cards for At-Home Gourmet Chefs

Gourmet chefs who love cooking elevated cuisine at home should consider these money-saving credit cards that offer great food-related rewards.

[DISCLOSURE: Cards from our partners are mentioned below.]

Cooking at home is a way to hone your skills and try new dishes without having to shell out big bucks at a fancy restaurant. When making gourmet cuisine from the comfort of your own home, there are plenty of ways to save money on quality ingredients. Cooking every day can end up being expensive, especially if you’re making food that’s organic or exotic.

All of your grocery shopping and driving expenses can add up, so if you’re someone who loves to cook elevated food at home, you’ll want a credit card that rewards you for your spending. Read on for our picks for the best credit cards for at-home gourmet chefs. (If you plan to apply, be sure your credit score is high enough to qualify. You can check two of your scores for free on Credit.com.)

1. Blue Cash Preferred Card from American Express

Rewards: 6% cash back at the supermarket on up to $6,000 of purchases per year. Any purchases over your $6,000 limit will still earn you 1% cash back. Additionally, there are 3% cash back rewards on gas.
Signup Bonus: $150 statement credit after spending $1,000 on your new card within the first three months.
Annual Fee: $95
Annual Percentage Rate (APR): 0% intro APR on purchases and balance transfers for a year, and then variable 13.99% to 24.99%.
Why We Picked It: The rewards are excellent and the APR can be relatively low, depending on your creditworthiness.
For Gourmet Chefs: This card is perfect for someone who spends ample time grocery shopping and cooking to their heart’s desire. The gas rewards are great if you’re someone who loves to scour faraway, specialty markets for the most authentic tahini paste.
Drawbacks: If you prefer to shop for ingredients online instead of spending at supermarkets and gas stations, this card won’t hold as much value for you.

2. PenFed Platinum Rewards Visa Signature Card

Rewards: You’ll get 3% back on all supermarket purchases, 5% back on gas purchases and 1% back on all other purchases.
Signup Bonus: $100 statement credit after spending $1,500 in the first 90 days.
Annual Fee: None
Annual Percentage Rate (APR): 0% intro APR on balance transfers for a year, and then variable 9.74% to 17.99%. 9.74% to 19.99% on purchases.
Why We Picked It: The intro APR (for balance transfers) period is long and the rewards are extremely good, plus there’s no annual fee.
For Gourmet Chefs: With all the points you earn, you can redeem rewards like dining gift cards and trips to food destinations, so this card is perfect for any foodie looking to spend on food in order to receive amazing food-related rewards.
Drawbacks: You have to become a member of the Pentagon Federal Credit Union.

3. Chase Freedom

Rewards: 5% cash back on up to $1,500 of purchases per quarter for rotating spending categories, unlimited 1% cash back on everything else.
Signup Bonus: Earn a $150 bonus after you spend $500 in your first three months from account opening. Also earn a $25 bonus after adding an authorized user and making your first purchase within the same three month period.
Annual Fee: None
Annual Percentage Rate (APR): 0% introductory APR for the first 15 months. Then, variable 15.99% to 24.74%.
Why We Picked It: There’s no annual fee and the rotating reward categories are beneficial for those who like to spread out their rewards.
For Gourmet Chefs: The rewards categories vary from gas stations, grocery stores and restaurants so this card is perfect for a chef who likes to explore and try new foods. You’ll get 1% back on cookware and cookbooks, too.
Drawbacks: The APR is relatively high, and you don’t get to pick your own rewards categories. They’re selected each quarter by Chase.

4. Golden 1 Platinum Rewards

Rewards: 3% cash back on gas, grocery and restaurant spending, plus 1% cash back on everything else.
Signup Bonus: None
Annual Fee: None
Annual Percentage Rate (APR): 7.79% to 13.79%.
Why We Picked It: There are solid rewards and low rates, and no annual fee.
For Gourmet Chefs: Considering all the groceries you’ll be buying, you might as well save money while you expand your culinary repertoire at home. Plus, California is a large state — if you find yourself driving great lengths for food then this card is for you.
Drawbacks: You have to live in California to apply for this credit card, and there’s also no introductory APR period.

Image: Peopleimages

At publishing time, the Blue Cash Preferred Card from American Express, PenFed Platinum Rewards Visa Signature Card and Chase Freedom card are offered through Credit.com product pages, and Credit.com is compensated if our users apply and ultimately sign up for this card. However, this relationship does not result in any preferential editorial treatment. This content is not provided by the card issuer(s). Any opinions expressed are those of Credit.com alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the issuer(s).

Note: It’s important to remember that interest rates, fees and terms for credit cards, loans and other financial products frequently change. As a result, rates, fees and terms for credit cards, loans and other financial products cited in these articles may have changed since the date of publication. Please be sure to verify current rates, fees and terms with credit card issuers, banks or other financial institutions directly.

The post 4 Credit Cards for At-Home Gourmet Chefs appeared first on Credit.com.

How Much Should You Budget for Groceries?

Groceries are an essential, but going way over budget isn't. Learning how to properly budget for groceries will save you a lot of time and money.

When creating your budget, it’s important to include accurate numbers. After all, an accurate budget sets you up for financial success. It’s easy to know how much you need to include for utilities, loans, and even fuel. However, it can be difficult to figure out how much to budget for groceries. There is not a right or a wrong number, but you must find the right amount to include on your grocery budget so you don’t overspend.

Fortunately, there are some tricks you can try to help you figure out exactly how much to budget for groceries.

Average American Consumption

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Americans spend, on average, around 6% of their budget on food. However, the study also shows that they also spend 5% of their disposable income on dining out. That makes your food budget 11% of your overall income.

If you use this method, budget 6% for groceries each month and 5% for dining out. If your take-home income is $3,000 a month, you will budget around $180 for groceries and $150 for dining out. Of course, if $180 won’t cover your needs, you should cut back on dining out and use any additional money towards your grocery needs.

Actual Spending

A more efficient and realistic way to figure out how much to budget for groceries is to find what you’re currently spending. Do this by completing a spending form.

A spending form will help you to review all of your purchases over several pay periods. The result will show you the average you are spending on groceries each week. If you feel that is too much, you can try to reduce your spending, keeping in mind that you and your family will also have to adjust the way you eat.

US Average Plan

Another way to choose a grocery budget amount is to look at the plans created by the USDA. The most recent plans can be found on their website. They provide the weekly cost for a thrifty, low-cost, moderate-cost and liberal plan on a weekly and monthly basis. The amounts are broken down by gender and age. You will need to total the amounts listed for the people in your family.

For example, let’s say you are a family of four. Your kids are a 12-year-old boy and an 8-year-old girl. You decide to try to live on a low-cost plan. According to the report, the total monthly amount for your son will be $236.30 and for your daughter $190.10. Dad’s monthly amount is $238.30 and mom’s is $206.30. That makes the grand total grocery budget $871.00 per month or $217.75 per week.

Special Dietary Needs

If you have a family member who cannot eat gluten, or who has other dietary restrictions, these can affect your budget. Make sure you keep these specialty foods in mind when developing your budget as they can cost much more than average foods.

Reduce Your Grocery Budget Further

If you’ve calculated your grocery budget but still want to lower the cost, try some of these simple ideas:

Reduce your dining out budget. Eat at home more often and avoid restaurants and takeout. This is a simple way to find money to add to your budget.

Use coupons. While they are not for everyone, coupons are the simplest way to save money on the items you need. Even if the coupons aren’t available for the foods you need to eat, you can find them for household products you use, thereby reducing your spending and increasing the money you can spend on the foods you want.

Menu plan. Figure out your meals every single week before you shop. That way, you have a plan for the week. You’ll know what you will eat and you’ll have the ingredients on hand when it is time to cook.

Use a cash back credit card. There are a lot of great rewards cards that help you earn cash back and other perks while you shop. This can help lessen the stress of grocery costs. Remember, a lot of these cards require a decent credit score. Before applying, see where your credit stands. You can check two credit scores for free at Credit.com.

Take the time to create a grocery budget that is feasible. Don’t try to make it so low that it is unrealistic, or your budget will fail month after month. Personalize it to your family’s needs and find a way to make it work.

Image: AleksandarNakic

The post How Much Should You Budget for Groceries? appeared first on Credit.com.

5 No-Heat Meals That Will Save You Money This Summer

It’s hard to justify using heat to cook when it only makes you lose money, and time, so read on for some great no-heat meals to make now.

This summer, try preparing no-heat meals to save money on air conditioning and expensive foods that require heat. Using your stove and oven in the summer can release extra heat into your home — the last thing you want during the warmest months. This extra heat means turning up your air conditioning, resulting in extra expenses. Even when grilling, the cost of coals or fuel can quickly add up.

If you want to avoid using heat to cook because it cuts into your comfort or your budget, read on for some great no-heat meals to make now.

1. Barbecue Chicken Sandwich

If you can’t stay away from meat, opt for a previously cooked option like rotisserie chicken because it’s easy to pick up from your local store. You can slice, pull or shred it to add protein to any no-heat dish. Additionally, a rotisserie chicken can serve four to five people for only $5. You can make a barbecue chicken sandwich using rotisserie chicken, store-bought barbecue sauce and pickled vegetables, like cucumbers, to create a hearty meal perfect for a quick dinner or lunch in the summer. Even if barbecue isn’t your thing, food website Delish has plenty of sandwich recipes that use rotisserie chicken. Bonus: All the components can be prepared ahead of time, making them perfect for picnics or travel.

2. Tomato Gazpacho

Summer is tomato harvesting season, so take advantage of the cheaper produce offerings with a refreshing tomato gazpacho. This cold soup is perfect because it’s vegetarian, low-calorie and has 10 or fewer ingredients. RealSimple.com has a version of gazpacho that features corn and cucumbers, two more staple summer vegetables. If you like, you can serve the gazpacho with garlic-rubbed crostini to add an element with contrasting texture.

3. Vegetable Salad With Peanut Butter Dressing

Salads are a great healthy option and the slightly decadent peanut butter dressing adds just the right amount of sweetness and richness to the dish. The Kitchn has a recipe for tofu and broccoli salad that also uses peanut butter dressing. The salad is so fun and colorful it might help persuade your kids to eat their vegetables. Some recipes call for baked tofu, but for a no-heat version of this dish you can use raw tofu. Opting for vegetarian meals will also help you cut costs, as tofu is cheaper than meat and just as versatile.

4. Unicorn Summer Rolls

One of the hottest trends right now is rainbow, or unicorn, food. From bagels to sushi to cake, people are making all their favorite foods colorful. No-heat unicorn summer rolls are perfect to make to keep up with trends while maintaining a budget. Today.com has a great version of this easy recipe. Fresh, seasonal produce can be inexpensive, and it’s easy to chop and shred everything on your own. Plus, a key ingredient, rice paper wrappers, are only 10 cents each. With their color and veggies, these rolls are fun for everyone and filling enough for an affordable summer lunch.

5. Picnic in a Glass

One of the greatest summer pastimes is having a picnic. Nothing beats heading to the beach or park with friends to enjoy fresh air and a flavorful meal. A “Picnic in a Glass” is an ideal no-heat dish to bring to a real picnic, or enjoy from the comfort of your own home. Made in a mason jar, this dish is convenient and pre-portioned, which makes serving and cleanup a breeze. If you’re looking for a recipe, MyRecipes.com has an easy one. A tangy yogurt dressing adds dimension to leftover or store-bought shredded chicken. Load the jar up with vegetables to complete your no-heat meal.

While shopping for ingredients for these no-bake summer meals, consider using rewards cards for extra value. There are plenty of great grocery store rewards cards but they often require decent credit. Before applying, see where you stand. You can check two credit scores for free at Credit.com.

Image: Geber86

The post 5 No-Heat Meals That Will Save You Money This Summer appeared first on Credit.com.

6 Ways to Stop Blowing Your Grocery Budget

Saving money on groceries doesn't need to be difficult and it doesn't always mean cutting back.

If you’re like many Americans, a large chunk of your budget is spent on food — maybe 10% or more. Percentagewise, we spend less on food than we did in the ‘60s, but 10% is not an insignificant portion of your income.That’s why so many money-saving articles focus on groceries as a great place to cut back on spending.

And the truth is that grocery spending is so variable. You could spend $200 per month to feed your family of four, or you could easily spend more than $1,000. With all that variability, it can be easy to blow your budget for groceries. If you find that you’re consistently spending more than you’ve budgeted for groceries, following these tips can help with saving money:

1. Figure out If Your Budget Is Even Reasonable

One issue might be that you have an unreasonably small grocery budget. Maybe your budget is inspired by a few articles from Pinterest about feeding a family of seven for a mere $250 per month. Let’s get real, though. Those families (often the moms!) spend hours meal planning, cooking from scratch, clipping coupons and driving to various grocery stores to snag the best deal.

Their results are amazing but that amount of effort isn’t feasible for everyone. As a working mom in a two-income family, there’s no way I can spend that much time saving money on food.

So if you’ve budgeted $150 per month to spend on groceries, maybe that’s not enough. Here’s how to find out:

a. Break Down Your Spending by Category

First, dig out your grocery store receipts from the past several weeks. If you don’t usually keep receipts, make a point to save them from your next few shopping trips. Shop as you normally would for those trips.

Then, break down your grocery spending by category. For instance, you might divide it into meat, dairy, breads and grains, premade items, veggies and fruits, etc. If you purchase items like cleaning products, cosmetics or toilet paper during your grocery shopping trips, divide those into a separate category as well. Remove everything that’s not actually grocery store spending from this category. Fast food and restaurant spending should be dealt with separately.

Once you’ve got your categories, add up what you spent in each category over the course of a month. This may not be a true average, but it’s a starting place.

b. Set a Reasonable Budget

Finally, you can see what you actually spend on food groceries. Now it’s time to see if that budget is reasonable. A good place to start is with the USDA Food Plans, which average the cost of cooking at home each month. In May 2017, the USDA thrifty plan for a family of four was $561 per month. The liberal plan for a family of four was $1,097 per month.

If your food spending is close to the thrifty end of things, maybe you’re actually not spending too much on food. Maybe you’re just setting your budget too low. But if you’re coming out on the high end of food spending — or if you want to outdo the USDA — use the following steps to trim your spending.

2. Look for Savings in Your Highest Spending Categories

Since you’ve got your spending categorized, you can easily find out where you spent the most money. For instance, if you’re consistently spending half your food budget on meat, it’s time to start cutting back there — perhaps by eating meatless meals a few times a week. Or maybe you’re spending a bunch of money on prepared meals that you could make much more cheaply at home.

Once you know where you spend the most, you can target that category for reducing spending. Some options include clipping coupons for items in that category, shopping manager’s specials, or simply cutting back on eating those types of foods.

3. Look Into Different Local Grocery Stores

There’s a reason Whole Foods is nicknamed “Whole Paycheck.” It’s a great place to find certain specialty items. But if you’re doing all your grocery shopping at high-end stores like these, you will spend more.

Our family saves a fortune just by shopping at Aldi, a discount grocery store that’s becoming more common across the nation. We used to do most of our shopping at a local chain but realized we saved a couple hundred bucks a month just by buying what we can at Aldi.

Chances are you’ve got some cheaper grocery options local to you. For instance, ethnic stores can be a fabulous place to pick up exotic spices and basics like rice and pasta on the cheap. Or you may find that a wholesale store membership saves your family a ton on food staples. Plus, you can use reward credit cards while shopping to earn even more deals. (Before applying, remember that most reward cards require a decent credit score — you can check two of yours for free with Credit.com.)

4. Create a Bank of Easy-Fix Meals

If your family is anything like mine, quick to prepare weeknight meals are a necessity. Without them, you fall back on going out to eat. Pinterest is a great place to find recipes for quick and easy meals that rely on whole, healthy ingredients.

Start trying out these types of meals. If you find a hit, keep the recipe close by. Try to find at least a few of these recipes that use ingredients you tend to keep around.

5. Do Some Freezer Cooking

When you find a great sale on expensive ingredients, pick up extra. Then, double up on your recipe, and put half in the freezer. This is a win-win. You get to save on groceries, and you have a meal ready to go for a busy evening!

For instance, if you find a great deal on ground beef, buy enough to make two lasagnas. Make them both at the same time, and pop one in the freezer. If you get into this habit, you could suddenly find yourself spending less on expensive ingredients, and you’ll have a freezer full of delicious meals to choose from.

6. Cut Back on Waste

How much of your grocery budget goes down the drain the form of wasted food? If you’re like most Americans, it’s a lot!

Start keeping a tally of the foods you throw away after they go bad. Keeping track for a month or two could reveal some interesting information. Maybe you’re over-ambitious when you buy fruits and veggies. You think your family will eat them, but you never get through them all. Or maybe you consistently throw away leftovers. It’s time to freeze those leftovers, pack them for lunch or make smaller servings of your recipes.

Cutting back on waste is an amazing way to save on groceries. Make a point to wait to grocery shop until the fridge is nearly empty. You’ll get more specific with your grocery shopping and more creative with your meal plans.

Even if you’re already saving on groceries, there’s usually room to save more. These tips will help you do just that.

Image: vgajic

The post 6 Ways to Stop Blowing Your Grocery Budget appeared first on Credit.com.

50 Things You Must Eat Before You Die

If you love to eat, you'll want to check out our top picks for some of the best foods the world has to offer.

There’s no truer adage than “everybody eats,” and most of what we eat from day to day is pretty pedestrian; just fuel to nourish our bodies so we can get on to the next task. But every now and then there’s a food that makes us pause and appreciate more than the flavors. It becomes a moment that makes a lasting impression.

For many, the food that creates this sensation doesn’t have to be that amazing. Like scent memory, a particular food experience gets ingrained and the thought of it, even years later, hearkens us back to that moment in time and the feelings we had, even if it was just a simple ice cream cone on a beach, or fried clams and a beer on a ferry.

With that in mind, we’ve compiled some of our favorite food experiences and where to find them. Some of them are created by world-class chefs. Others are just a delicious combination of the humblest of ingredients. Most of them require a bit of travel, so you’ll want to plan your trip, look for good flight deals, and maybe even get a travel rewards credit card, before packing your bags. (Do yourself a favor and check your credit scores before applying for a rewards credit card so you can be sure you qualify.)

Here are our picks, in no particular order, of the 50 foods you need to try before you die.

1. Sunday Roast
Blacklock Soho, London

Tucked in the basement of a former brothel, this smart spot just around the corner from Picadilly Square is the place to be for a serious Sunday roast. There’s the requisite Yorkshire pudding, crispy potatoes roasted in duck fat, veggies and gravy to accompany your choice of beef, lamb, pork or a combination of all three. Arrive hungry because Blacklock doesn’t skimp.

2. Balmain Bugs
Fine seafood restaurants, Australia

We’re not suggesting you eat bugs — not yet, anyway — but if you ever find yourself in Australia, be sure to get your hands on some of these crustaceans. A species of slipper lobster, Balmain Bugs are like a cross between lobster and prawns, with a tender, buttery texture that is downright addictive.

3. Wellshire Farms Beef Franks
Sold at Whole Foods Markets

These dogs are everything you want in a wiener. They’re juicy, flavorful, have a nice snap and can stand up to whatever condiments you throw their way. Wellshire’s dogs even won a recent taste test conducted by The New York Times. These uncured dogs are a perfect addition to your backyard grilling this and every summer.

4. Grits
Husk, Charleston, South Carolina  

Chef Sean Brock is a locavore through and through, serving heritage vegetables, grains, protein and even coffee all from the South (“If it ain’t Southern, it ain’t coming in the door,” he says). Though his menu is ever-changing, the side of savory baked grits with cheddar are not to be missed.

5. Rainbow Seven-Layer Cookie Doughnut
Heartland Bagels, New York

This oversized, delicious dessert is nearly as big a small dog and is absolutely heavenly. The light and airy green, yellow and pink layers separated by thin layers of apricot jam melt in your mouth. Plus, the entire thing is covered in chocolate and topped with sprinkles and a smaller seven-layer rainbow cookie. It’s essentially a giant doughnut version of those seven-layer rainbow cookies that every Italian family enjoys during the holidays.

6. Garlic Oyster Po’ Boy
Liuzza’s by the Track, New Orleans

There’s a lot of amazing food in New Orleans. So amazing, in fact, it would be easy to put together a list of 50 things you need to eat in New Orleans before you die. But this no-frills diner in a quiet neighborhood in the Bayou St. John neighborhood is where you want to be for the city’s best po’ boy. Mix it up by ordering the half po’ boy and a cup of gumbo or turtle soup. Grab a bloody Mary while you’re there. You won’t be disappointed.

7. Chorizo Stuffed Squid
John Dory Oyster Bar, New York

Chef April Bloomfield’s deconstructed and utterly delicious nod to paella is still one of the best things we’ve ever put in our mouths. The tender squid, stuffed with a flavorful rice-and-chorizo mixture, sits atop a blend of white beans and créme fraiche, is drizzled with a smoked tomato vinaigrette and finished with fresh cilantro. It’s almost impossible to eat this dish slowly.

8. Stone Crab
Joe’s Stone Crab, Miami Beach, Florida

This place is simply a classic. It’s fancy in that take-your-grandparents-to-dinner kind of way, so you’ll want to look nice so your requisite bib can cover something you’ll potentially have to dry clean. While most places that sell stone crabs offer small, medium and large sizes, Joe’s does not mess around. There are only large and jumbo to be had here. Both are always market price. We recommend going for the large. They’re less expensive, easier to handle and tend to have a more delicate flavor. Oh, and don’t leave without having some key lime pie.

9. Franklin Barbecue
Austin, Texas

If you know barbecue, you know Franklin. And if you know Franklin, you know you’re going to have to stand in line. Early. Reeeaaaally early, even on a weekday in January. Folks start lining up for Aaron Franklin’s brisket, sausage, pulled pork, turkey and ribs around 7 a.m., and hang around playing cards, drinking mimosas and reading books until the restaurant opens at 11. The restaurant stays open until they sell out, which is typically within just a few hours. But that’s the way it is when you’re the No. 1 barbecue joint in the U.S. of A.

10. Red Chile Enchiladas
The Shed, Santa Fe, New Mexico

Oh, smoky, spicy, tangy, cheesy deliciousness that is the New Mexico red chile enchilada. There’s nowhere else in the world that does a red chile sauce the way they do in New Mexico, and The Shed does it as well if not better than everyone else. Their margaritas aren’t too shabby, either.

11. Chapulines
La Cocina de San Juan, Mexico City, Mexico

We said earlier we weren’t recommending that you eat bugs, but here we go: Eat some roasted or fried grasshoppers. They’re delicious, especially when prepared with a dusting of chile powder. And if you don’t want to trek all the way to Mexico for a taste test, you may be able to find a nearby restaurant that serves them. Or you can always head to Seattle where Safeco field has been selling them as a concession treat at Mariners home games and they keep selling out.

12. Smoked Shrimp
Vendel Kåseberga Hamn, Sweden

Just outside Ystad in the south of Sweden is a 1,400-year-old stone monument atop a windswept hill that was built by some very strong Vikings. At the bottom of that hill today sits a charming restaurant with expansive outdoor seating. It’s here that you’ll find whole, unpeeled shrimp smoked to tender perfection with their roe tangled within their swimmerets and walking legs. You just can’t beat them on a sunny, summer afternoon paired with a cold Swedish beer.

13. Macaroni & Cheese
Sylvia’s, Harlem, New York 

Yes, you’ve had macaroni and cheese, but if you haven’t had this macaroni and cheese, you’re missing out. Similarly, while you may think you know soul food, you’re just pretending until you’ve tried Sylvia’s. Founder and owner Sylvia Woods, the Queen of Soul Food, threw down in the kitchen, and her restaurant keeps her tradition, serving the gooiest macaroni and cheese you’ll have in your life. Warning: You may need a cart to wheel you out when you’re finished.

14. A New York Slice
Pretty much anywhere, New York

If there’s one thing on this list that will get people up in arms if we choose a particular location as the place to go, it’s the simple New York slice of pizza. So we’re going to chicken out and just say go somewhere, anywhere, that isn’t a chain. And by all means, do not use a knife and fork and do not blot any grease away. Sprinkle that slice with a little garlic powder, a little oregano, a little parmesan, heck, even a little salt if you think you need it. Then you gotta fold that slice like you mean it and stand there on the sidewalk in front of the store where you bought it and eat it like a New Yorker.

15. Marmite
Available online or at specialty groceries

Most Americans basically gag when they first try Marmite or its Australian cousin Vegemite. That’s because they tend to treat it like peanut butter and plop a giant gob of it onto some toast or straight into their mouths. If done right, Marmite adds a savory, salty quality to toast that is wonderful. Plus it’s full of B vitamins. Here’s your Marmite playbook: Spread a super thin layer of Marmite across hot, buttered toast, take a bite and see what you think.

16. Lobster Roll
Red’s Eats, Wiscasset, Maine

If you like sand dunes and salty air, quaint little villages here and there, you’re sure to fall in love with old Cape Cod. But if you want lobster rolls — the absolute best of the best lobster rolls — you gotta go to Maine. And if you’re in Maine, you gotta go to Red’s Eats. It’s just a simple shack on the side of the road, but you can’t miss it because there’s a line. There’s always a line. That’s because these rolls come packed with huge chunks of lobster and nothing else. That’s right. Nothing else. You can get drawn butter or mayo on the side, but the lobster is totally and completely naked, and possibly the freshest you’ve ever had.

17. Escargot
Allard, Paris

Honestly, there are a lot of really great places in Paris to eat escargot, but you simply can’t go wrong at master chef Alain Ducasse’s St. Germain bistro, which serves them in the traditional manner in their shells with herb butter. You’ll want to linger over more than just snails at this charming restaurant, though, so be sure your credit card has plenty of room.

18. Poutine
Casse-Croute Pierrot, Quebec, Canada

Poutine is to Canada what chili cheese fries are to the Southwest United States: drunk food elevated to a point that it’s acceptable to eat them in polite company as long as you keep your manners in check. French fries? Yes. Cheese curds? You bet? Hot beef gravy? Oh, yeah. We chose Pierrot as the place to get your poutine on for a couple of reasons: It’s open 24 hours, they deliver if you can’t crawl out of bed, and their ratio of fries to cheese to gravy is on point. Plus, their cheese curds are squeaky fresh and delicious. Time to go to Canada, eh?

19. Taylor Pork Roll
Available online and in grocery stores

There’s a lot of great food in New Jersey, but the one thing that is ubiquitous with the state is the Taylor Pork Roll. This processed meat, also known as Taylor Ham (some people insist this is the only thing to call it), was created in 1856 by John Taylor in Trenton and is widely available in New Jersey, New York, Delaware and parts of Pennsylvania and Maryland. It’s served most commonly for breakfast on a roll with a fried egg and cheese, but there are plenty of other ways to get your roll on (chocolate covered pork roll, anyone?), which is on display in grand fashion each year at the Trenton Pork Roll Festival.

20. Grilled Sardines
Pretty much anywhere in Greece

When most Americans think of sardines, they think of tins of tiny, pungent fish in oil that their grandfather used to eat on crackers with mustard. While some of us actually like that stuff, tinned sardines can be off-putting for those who don’t like “fishy” fish. If that’s you, and you haven’t had fresh, grilled sardines, we encourage you to give them a try. They’re the stuff of legend when prepared properly, and there’s no better place in the world to have that happen than some little café in Greece. They’ve been preparing and eating sardines for thousands of years and really know what they’re doing. Opa!

21. Kelly Oysters
Galway Bay, Ireland

These oysters have a big ocean flavor and are considered by many leading chefs to be the best in the world. The Kelly family still harvests these oysters from natural beds with little need for intensive farming. In fact, these oysters can be traced back more than 1,000 years to the first kings of Connacht. They’re available around the globe in some of the finest dining establishments, but you’ll get them freshest if you head to Galway Bay.

22. Spam Musubi
Pukalani Superette, Maui

Why do Hawaiians love Spam so much? We don’t know, but they eat more of it per capita than anywhere else in the world. So it’s probably not surprising that Hawaii makes one of the most delicious dishes around using the canned pork product. Musubi is not fancy. It’s a food of the people, easily eaten on the go by office workers and surfers alike. It’s essentially fried Spam sushi that’s brushed with a sweet and savory ginger sauce. If your travel budget doesn’t allow for a personal trip to local favorite Pukalani Superette, try making it at home. The ingredients are readily available in the lower 48.

23. New England Clam Chowder
Chatham Pier Market, Chatham, Massachusetts

There are as many versions of clam chowder in New England as there are versions of barbecue in the south, but if you want seriously old school clam chowder, Chatham Pier Market in Chatham on Cape Cod, makes one of the best around. The simple ingredients of bacon, potatoes, onions cream and chopped clams makes for a deeply satisfying lunch or dinner treat. And if it’s nice weather, grab one of the nearby picnic tables with a view of the water (and follow these tips for an even better, frugal picnic).

24. Softshell Crabs
L.P. Steamers, Baltimore, Maryland

For those who don’t know, softshell crabs are those that have been caught within 12 hours of molting their shells. Since their exoskeleton is still “soft,” they can be prepared whole and eaten shell and all without all the arduous picking that comes with eating hardshell crabs. We chose this decidedly unstylish storefront as a great destination because they simply have some of the best, freshest crabs around. Plus, if you’re visiting Baltimore, it’s just a short stroll from Fort McHenry. Try the stuffed softshell crabs for a real treat.

25. Pastéis de Belém
Pastéis de Belém, Lisbon, Portugal

This bakery near the banks of the Tagus River in Lisbon has been making its namesake pastries for nearly 200 years. The Pastéis de Belém appears to be a simple egg custard, but it contains multitudes: creamy, sweet, savory and crispy all at once. They are best consumed fresh and warm, so book your flight.

26. The Bahn Mi Taco
Tacodeli, Austin, Texas

You literally can’t throw a stone in Austin without hitting a taco place. Whether it’s a food truck, a roadside shack or a full-fledged restaurant, tacos are basically a sixth food group in this capitol city. Tacodeli’s bahn mi taco though, currently available only on Tuesdays (hello, taco Tuesday!), stands a pork shoulder above the rest. The cooks here marinate their pork shoulder in a green chili and tomatillo sweet-and-sour sauce, then grill it and serve it in a fluffy, homemade tortilla with carrot-and-daikon escabeche, cilantro and basil. You’ll never want a bahn mi on French bread again.

27. Paczki
New Martha Washington Bakery, Hamtramck, Michigan

If you aren’t of Polish descent, Catholic, or both, you may have never heard of the Lenten treats called paczkis (pronounced poonch-key). If that’s you, we feel bad for you. How have you lived without these sugary, fatty treats? Originally made to use up all the ingredients in the pantry that were verboten during Lent (sugar, flour, lard) paczkis are basically extra rich doughnuts filled with jelly, pastry cream or other yummy, gooey deliciousness.

Most bakeries only sell paczki around Fat Tuesday, but New Martha Washington has them available year-round in a wide variety of flavors, and they’re some of the best around.

28. Pastrami Salmon
Barney Greengrass, New York, New York

Among New York’s myriad Jewish delis, Barney Greengrass, “The Sturgeon King,” has to be at or near the top, and part of the reason is for its amazing selection of fish. If you go for breakfast or brunch, get there early because this place gets packed, and order the eggs with pastrami salmon. It comes with a bagel or a bialy served with your choice of butter or cream cheese. If crowds aren’t your thing, order a take-out pastrami salmon sandwich. A shady Central Park bench is just a couple of avenues over.

29. Gelato
Ciampini, Rome, Italy

When in Rome…eat everything, but especially the gelato. This place has been around for decades and still does everything the old-fashioned way. You won’t find trendy flavors at Ciampini, just tried-and-true gelato favorites like pistachio, coffee and chocolate. It’s a great stop to make before heading over to view the Pantheon.

30. Falafel
L’as Du Fallafel, Paris

There’s falafel and then there’s falafel. And while the best are probably found somewhere in Israel, there are more than a few shops in Paris that can stand their ground. In fact, there’s a lot of competition when it comes to really good falafel in the Marais, but the sandwiches at this tiny shop with the walk-up window is worth your time. Fluffy, warm pita is filled with perfectly crisp, tender balls of falafel and heaped with salad, pickled turnips, tahini and more.

31. Currywurst
Dönninghaus, Bochum, Germany

For the uninitiated American, currywurst is probably best described as a sausage that has been fried, cut into chunks and topped with something akin to a curry-flavored barbecue sauce or ketchup. It’s typically served with a side of fries and mayonnaise. While it may sound awful, it can actually be quite tasty, particularly if you buy it at a well-known shop like Dönninghaus. And particularly after several large, German beers.

32. Oysters & Pearls
The French Laundry, Yountville, California & Per Se, New York

Maybe these two restaurants run by super chef Thomas Keller aren’t at the pinnacle of fine dining any longer, but they’re still among the best in the world. And one of the most notable dishes on the menu is Oysters and Pearls, a simple but lush combination of oyster liquor sabayon, tapioca pearls and fresh oysters. Yuck, you say? No, you’re wrong, just accept that, and the opportunity to taste this extravagance is going to cost you. Neither restaurant offers an ala carte menu, and the tasting menu runs $325 per person at Per Se and starts at $310 per person at French Laundry, so apply for your rewards credit card now and book your trip when you’ve saved up enough for a truly memorable dining experience. Ease the cost of this luxury meal by earning rewards with some of the best credit cards for dining out.

33. Wot With Injera
Dukem, Washington, D.C.

If you haven’t eaten Ethiopian food you’re basically missing out on the historic basis for much of Southern American cookery. The hearty, flavorful stews known as wot served with the spongy bread called injera are the backbone of a wide variety of meat and vegetable dishes that will leave you craving more. While there are plenty of seriously good Ethiopian restaurants around the country, Washington, D.C., has the largest Ethiopian population outside of Addis Ababa, so we’re sticking with our choice of Dukem as one of the best places to get your first taste of wot.

34. Bulgogi
Madangsui, New York

You can compare bulgogi to beef fajita meat, but that’s really doing a disservice to this delicious Korean dish. Thinly sliced sirloin is marinated for hours in a soy sauce-based concoction that is simultaneously salty, sweet and spicy, then it’s seared in a skillet or on a grill until there’s a nice char on the outside. We recommend checking out Madangsui for your first taste of this delicious treat.

35. Ramen
Ramen Tatsu-Ya, Austin, Texas

Sure, you practically lived on ramen noodle packets while in college, but that’s not what we’re talking about here. Not at all. Ramen has become wildly popular in many cities around the country in recent years, and for a good reason. Hearty broths, noodles and a wide variety of meats and vegetables make ramen a great meal option for big and little eaters alike. It’s also pretty inexpensive as restaurant foods go, so it’s a great choice for folks on a budget. We really like the ramen at Ramen Tatsu-Ya in Austin, considered by many aficionados as the best in the country.

36. Pho
Pho Binh, Houston

Like ramen, pho is really just a humble soup elevated to sublime deliciousness when done right. That means a clean, flavorful broth, the freshest herbs, slippery noodles and expertly cut meats. You’ll find all that in yet another Texas city – Houston – at one of Pho Binh’s popular locations. Houston has a very large Vietnamese population and this is where pretty much everyone comes when they have a craving for Pho. You can’t go wrong with any of their options.

37. Menudo
Los Tres Cochinitos, Los Angeles

This family-owned, cash-only restaurant in LA’s Montecito Heights neighborhood is nothing fancy, but it’s the place to go for huge helpings of the spicy tripe soup known as menudo. Yes, it’s intestines, but the flavors are amazing and the B vitamins are a sure-fire way to get rid of a lingering cold or hangover from the night before. Expect a line unless you get there early.

38. Pecan Pie
Magnolias, Charleston, South Carolina

Chances are you’ve probably had pecan pie, especially if you grew up anywhere south of the Mason-Dixon Line. But if you want one of the best around, head to Magnolias. This downtown restaurant is billed as upscale southern cuisine, and rightly so, given its classy decor and genteel crowd. One taste of their southern pecan pie, drizzled lightly with caramel, and you’ll be whisked back to childhood days of helping grandma in the kitchen. (Yes, it’s that good.)

39. Iberico Ham
Sampler, Dean & Deluca, Online

Considered the absolute best pork in the world, Iberico ham and other cuts come only from pigs that are at least 50% black Iberian. These pigs are “finished” by grazing in pasture and oak groves to feed naturally on grass, herbs, acorns and roots, which gives the meat its distinctive flavor. We’re not saying it’s the best Iberico you can buy, but if no one near you sells Iberico products and getting to Spain or Portugal right away doesn’t fit into your plans (or budget), check out Dean & Deluca’s sampler, available online for $55. You’ll get 2 ounces each of Fermin’s best-Ibérico Jamòn, Chorizo Iberico, Salchichon Iberico, and Lomo Serrano.

40. Full English Breakfast
Most Pubs in England

If you love a hearty breakfast and haven’t had a full English breakfast, also known as an English fry-up or the full Monty, well, simply put, you’re doing it wrong. This breakfast to end all breakfasts comes with a few essentials including bacon, sausages, fried eggs, fried bread (not to be confused with toast), grilled tomato and baked beans. Variations on these basics can include the addition of sautéed mushrooms, blood sausages, roasted potatoes and even kidneys. Served up with a “cuppa” hot tea and some HP sauce, it’s a great way to start your day.

41. Oyster Pan Roast
Grand Central Oyster Bar, Grand Central Station, New York

This dish is where velvet and brine meet. A deceptively simple combination of cream, butter, clam juice, toast and oysters combine to create one of the most deeply satisfying and soothing dishes The Big Apple has to offer. Plus the ambiance is pretty amazing. Grab some to go if you have a train to catch.

42. Cuban Sandwich
La Carreta, Miami International Airport

It’s pretty rare to find airport restaurants on a list of foods you need to try, but that’s how good this place is. Miami’s venerable La Carreta restaurant chain is a favorite among locals and tourists alike for classic and authentic Cuban cuisine. The reason we’re mentioning the airport instead of one of the restaurant’s other locations is simple: It offers the same delicious food, and you can grab a sandwich if you’re just connecting through Miami, arriving or departing. We recommend eating one there and taking one (or maybe a few for your loved ones) home with you if you’re flying out. These sandwiches are the real deal, made with fresh Cuban bread, thinly sliced ham, perfectly roasted pork, Swiss cheese, pickles (get extra, trust us) and a light dressing of mustard. Plus, use the right credit card for that airport and you can even earn rewards for eating a delicious sandwich.

43. Gado-Gado
Jakarta, Indonesia

We realize we haven’t chosen many vegetables on this list so far, so we’re going to dedicate the rest of it to some of our favorite vegetables and vegetable dishes. At the top of that list is gado-gado, an Indonesian salad of blanched vegetables, boiled eggs and potatoes, fried tofu or tempeh or both, rice and a rich peanut sauce. You may be able to get a good facsimile of gado-gado in the United States, but to truly appreciate how all these ingredients come together, a trip to Indonesia is really the way to go (See? We just gave you an excuse to travel.).

44. Fava Beans
Seasonally available in select markets and groceries

These beans have been celebrated for centuries, and rightly so. The beans used to grow Jack’s stalk to the sky? Likely fava beans. There’s evidence they’ve been a part of the human diet since as far back as 6,000 B.C., so if you haven’t tried them, you’re waaaaay behind the curve. Favas are only available in early spring, and they’re a pain in the butt to prepare, so you may want to seek them out at a restaurant for a first try before you spend hours hulling, skinning and cooking these beauties.

45. Mezze
Make at home, or order at a restaurant

If you like Middle Eastern and Mediterranean foods you’ve probably had at least one of the items found on a mezze plate, but pairing all of these things together is like bringing all your favorite people together for a party. It’s literally the more, the merrier (or mezzier in this case). Put together your favorite hummus, baba ghanoush, beet dip, feta cheese cubes or mozzarella balls, a little prosciutto di Parma, some olives, marinated artichoke hearts, figs, tzatziki sauce, warm pita bread, sliced cucumbers and bell peppers — heck, even some taramasalata, and you’ve got the makings of a party on a plate.

46. Kimchi
Korean restaurants or groceries

If you like pickles or sauerkraut, you’re probably going to like kimchi. If you don’t, you probably won’t. This Korean staple is served as a side dish along with most meals. It’s made of salted, fermented cabbage and Korean radishes and has a nice, spicy kick from chili, garlic, ginger and a small amount of jeotgal, or fermented seafood. Try it the next time you’re grilling meat (or making bulgogi!).

47. Salmorejo
Córdoba, Spain

This soup from the Andalusia region of southern Spain is a close cousin to the better-known gazpacho, but is pureed to a smooth consistency. Served chilled in warm weather and warm in cooler weather, it’s traditionally made of tomatoes, bread, garlic and olive oil, but there are many variations with additional vegetables. You’ll find the best in Córdoba, where it originated.

48. Seaweed
Japanese restaurants or specialty groceries

If you pay attention to such things, you probably know that seaweed has a lot of health benefits and is heralded as a super food. But it also tastes good, especially as a salad the way the Japanese prepare it. Check it out next time you’re in a sushi restaurant, or, if you don’t like sushi, go in just for seaweed. C’mon, it’s good for you and it’s very affordable!

49. Okra
Restaurants and groceries nationwide

Okay, we know a lot of people don’t like okra. It’s slimy, they say. But we love okra. If you’ve never tried it, you can buy it affordably by using money saving grocery hacks. It’s found in traditional foods all across the world, and especially in Indian and Persian cooking, where it’s often stewed with onions, tomatoes and spices. Some of our favorite preparations include okra pickles, fried okra and the Afghan preparation called Bamia.

50. Vegetable Thai Curry
Thai restaurants nationwide

If you’ve had a red, green or jungle Thai curry, it’s probably come with shrimp, chicken or some other protein. But that delicious, coconut-milk-based sauciness is equally as good on vegetables, so if you’re not a big veggie eater, it’s a great way to ensure you get your “five a day.” Thai curry is exceptionally easy to make and the ingredients are readily available online if you can’t find them in your local market, so give it a try.

Image: mactrunk

The post 50 Things You Must Eat Before You Die appeared first on Credit.com.

Forget Coffee & Toast. Here Are 18 Smart Ways to Use an Avocado

use_an_avocado

Avocados have been a thing for awhile now, but thanks to avocado toast-shaming and something called the avolatte (it is exactly as it sounds), the fruit has gone viral. And while the question of whether avo-everything is keeping millennials from the American Dream remains up for debate, there’s one thing that can’t be disputed. All fruits considered, avocados are expensive.

But fear not millennial (or beyond), there are some ways you keep your avocado cravings from breaking the bank — or, dare we say, costing you the house. Whether you’re looking to repurpose overly ripe skins or hoping to utilize peel to nut, here are 15 smart ways to use an avocado.

1. Deep Treat Your Hair

Skip the expensive salon treatments and DIY your own deep conditioner by mixing a mashed avocado and an egg yolk. It sounds unappealing, but all the protein, vitamins and nutrients can have major benefits for your scalp. Detailed recipes are available on Pinterest.

2. Soothe a Sunburn …

An avocado’s nutrients can ease the pain of sun-ravaged skin, so feel free to slather some on if you over-do it at the beach this summer. Add some aloe vera to expedite the healing process.

3. … or Some Serious Razor Burn

Getting red bumps when you shave? Mix avocado with coconut oil and shea butter to quell the burn.

4. Exfoliate

Say goodbye to rough feet (and pricey foot scrubs) by grinding up a dried avocado pit and mixing it with sea salt. You can also use the inside of an avocado peel to tackle particularly rough patches. Again, there are plenty of detailed DIY recipes on Pinterest. (Don’t want to bother? Maybe you’d prefer to shell out for these eight ridiculously expensive hotel spa treatments.)

5. Make Jewelry

Crafters can get some extra bang for their avocado buck by repurposing those perfectly round pits into the raw materials for some distinctive accessories. Simply wash the pits and let them dry for a few days until they shrink, then cut and paint as you please.

6. Dye Some Fabric

When used correctly, avocado pits can create gorgeous au naturel pink or russet red hues. You can find a full recipe for avocado dye on CUESA.org.

7. Make a Delicious Mousse …

If you have a sweet tooth but want to eat healthy, avocados are your go-to ingredient. Blending an avocado with melted chocolate, sugar and a few other ingredients makes a decadent dessert that everyone will love, even people who don’t care for avocado. There are dozens of recipes available online.

8. … or Tasty Truffles

While you’re at it, scour the internet for chocolate truffle recipes that swap avocados for heavy cream. They’re (somewhat) healthier, so you can feel less guilty about shoveling them into your mouth while watching TV. Bonus: Overly ripe avocados blend right in with chocolate.

9. Lose the Butter

Paula Deen may recoil in horror at this one, but, as many vegans know, an avocado’s buttery texture makes the perfect substitute for butter in many baking recipes.

10. Thicken Your Smoothies

An avocado’s signature creamy texture can also add some je ne sais quoi to your morning smoothie. Plus, juicing at home is just one way breakfast can fix your money problems. (You can track your financial goals by viewing your free credit report snapshot each month on Credit.com.)

11. Have a Quick Bite

Halve and pit your avocado, drizzle some Worcestershire sauce in the middle and voila! You’re ready to snack.

12. Put an Egg on It

After you’ve cranked the oven to 450, slice and pit an avocado and set the halves in a baking dish. Sprinkle with hot sauce and crack an egg into each half. Bake for 12 minutes.

13. Upgrade Your BLT

Ever heard of a BLAT? We haven’t either, but avocados really do go with everything.

14. Make Avocado Fries …

Sure, they may not be as satisfying as the real deal, but these little treats are delicious. Plus, no deep frier required — slice them up, dip them in egg and then breadcrumbs, bake and enjoy!

15. … or Just Go With Good Old-Fashioned Guacamole

Why mess with a good thing, you know?

16. Have an Avo-Cocktail In

Specialty drinks at a swanky restaurant are a quick way to run up the bill — especially if you’re opting for an alcoholic beverage. Satiate your inner foodie by blending an avo-cocktail at home. Most recipes are simple and only require a little bit of avocado puree, agave syrup, vodka, lemon and ice.

17. Throw Them in the Garbage

Well, not literally. When you’re finished eating an avocado or it’s gone bad, add the leftovers to your compost bin. The skin and peel, particularly, can facilitate some fertile and fabulous soil. Consider that a win-win, since avocados are expensive and gardening can help save a ton of money on produce.

18. Plant an Avocado Tree

Speaking of gardening, you can grow an avocado tree from an avocado pit. It’ll take some time, a lot of legwork and a little bit of luck, but if you’ve got a green thumb (and an insatiable thirst for guacamole), the project could wind up paying for itself. There are plenty of tutorials on YouTube to help you get growing.

Image: domoyega

The post Forget Coffee & Toast. Here Are 18 Smart Ways to Use an Avocado appeared first on Credit.com.

5 Ways to Drastically Save on Groceries

Food eats up a big portion of budgets. Here's how to slim that spending down.

According the USDA, the average American family of four spent an average of $250 per week on food in February 2017, if they had a moderate to liberal budget. That can mean upwards of $1,000 a month on food or $12,000 annually. That is a huge chunk of most budgets and can be scary to see in writing.

While this is the average, it does not need to be your reality.

There are simple things you can do to save money on your groceries. I’ve got my five best tips here. I’ve been following these ideas for years and they really can work.

1. Switch Stores

There are times when your larger grocery store might offer a better discount on some items — like these things grocery stores will do for you for free. However, have you ever stopped to ask yourself if you’re shopping at the store that offers you the best prices? It may not be worth driving too far, as you may lose more in gas expenses than you’d recoup in savings, but take stock of your local stores and see if there’s one that really may have better bargains.

For example, if you have an Aldi nearby and are not shopping there, you may be missing out on the simplest way to save. It is true they do not accept coupons, however, the prices there are often lower than the prices you pay at your regular store, even if you clipped a coupon. There are lots of options out there, so make sure you’re considering what others might be right for you.

2. Shop Ahead

Most people create a shopping list based on the items they need now. That is important, but you may also want to add items you will need later when you find them on sale.

To help, if you look at your store’s weekly ad, often times the items you see on the front page are loss leaders, which means the store may actually lose money on the prices they are offering. So this may be the time to get the best deal. These sale items can be discounted as much as 50%. This may mean that you purchase three, four or more of the item on sale. Doing so allows you to feed your family and get the lowest price possible.

Keep in mind, stores tend to do this with the idea that these extremely low prices will draw you in and you’ll do all your shopping there, ultimately making up their losses on their sales. If you do decide to shop there, and see other items that are “on sale,” make sure you flip up the sales tag to see if you’re really getting a discount.

3. Plan Ahead

The reason most grocery budgets fail is because people fail to plan. Each week, sit down and plan your meals including breakfasts, lunches (don’t forget meals for work and school), snacks and dinner. And make sure you do your planning the right way. (If you’re looking for frugal meal ideas, check out this 16-cent breakfast.)

The problem most people face with meal planning and budgeting is they do it backward. Most people plan their meals and then create a shopping list but you may want to consider working it from another direction.

First, check your pantry and your freezer. If you happened to get a deal on chicken breasts last week and three weeks earlier rice was on sale and you bought several bags, you can use these items to create chicken and rice. You now have a meal planned that will cost you no extra money.

Once you’ve planned your meals based on what you have on hand, look at the weekly ad. Check to see what is on sale that you might want to use for this week’s menu. Add in those extra items your family needs this week.

Finally, plan out additional meals you need and add those items to your list. Hopefully, most of what you need for your food for the week is already in your pantry or freezer or is going to be on sale.

With a bit of planning and changing your way of thinking, you can knock down that weekly grocery budget.

4. Create & Use a Price Book

As mentioned above, stores can offer amazing deals on items you need. You should stock up, but how much should you buy? That is a challenge, but if you track the sales cycles you can learn how much to buy as you follow when items go on sale.

The way a price book works is simple. You write down the product that is on sale including the size, date and what you paid (not taking coupons into account). Then, watch the weekly ads. The next time you see that same item go on sale, make a note in your book.

As you do this, you will start to understand the sale cycles and can buy just enough to get you through each period of time, so you don’t have too much on hand, but just enough to help ensure you always get the best price.

Of course, not all items follow a cycle, but you might be surprised to learn which items do. However, you have to put in a little bit of work to break the code for yourself.

5. Use Coupons the Right Way

I’m not against using coupons. In fact, I feel they are a great way to save money. However, you need to use them in the right way.

The problem many couponers face is they use coupons as soon as they get them. That is not always the best way to make them work for you. Instead, consider saving them to use when items are on sale.

When you find those items on the cover of the weekly ad (like we mentioned in point two) and you have a coupon to pair with the sale, you’ve really increased your savings and turned a hot deal into a smokin’ hot deal.

So when you get the coupons in your Sunday newspaper, file them away. Watch the weekly deals, and get out the coupons when you can pair them. In fact, if you really watch, you will learn that many items that have coupons go on sale after the coupons are released. That is not a coincidence.

Now you’ve got the tools and tips you need to really make a difference with your budget. It might take a little effort to implement some changes, but it can be worth it.

Want to save more? Here are five tricks to get discounts on everything you buy. And no matter how much you save, try to stay on budget. Going into debt to buy groceries could affect your credit. You can see where your credit stands by checking two of your scores free on Credit.com.

Image: 97

The post 5 Ways to Drastically Save on Groceries appeared first on Credit.com.

Capital One’s New Dining Credit Card: Should You Apply?

Here's a solid rewards card made for people who love food.

Capital One just launched a brand new cash-back credit card with a big focus on food. The Premier Dining Rewards From Capital One card offers cash back rewards for all transactions, with extra incentives for dining and grocery purchases. If you’re frequently spending at restaurants, bars and grocery stores to get your grub on, this card might be right for you.

What Perks Does the New Capital One Card Provide?

The new Premier Dining card is a cash back card with competitive rewards rates. Cardholders earn 3% cash back on all dining purchases, 2% cash back on groceries and 1% cash back on all other purchases. Cash back rewards are unlimited and have no expiration date, and they’re redeemed in the form of statement credits or checks.

Right now, Capital One is offering a $100 cash-back bonus when you spend $500 in the first three months of becoming a cardmember, which should be pretty easy to do if you’re frequently dining out.

The card comes with a number of other benefits. There are 24/7 concierge services to assist with travel bookings, reservations and shopping. Capital One even provides travel perks that can include free room upgrades and early check-in or late check-out times at eligible hotels.

Plus, they cover up to $1,500 in travel reimbursements if your trip is cancelled or cut short, and they provide price protection for eligible items if you find a lower price within 60 days of the date of purchase.

What Will the Card Cost Me?

The Premier Dining card has no annual fee. The annual percentage rate (APR) on purchases and balance transfers is a variable 15.24%, 20.24% or 24.24% based on creditworthiness. There’s also no balance transfer fee or foreign transaction fee.

It should be noted that this card is intended for people with excellent credit, so if you don’t know where your credit stands, you’ll want to check before applying. You can get your two free credit scores, updated every 14 days, here on Credit.com.

Consumers who can qualify for the lowest available APR will be getting a decent interest rate.

Why Should You Apply for This Card?

If the majority of your credit card spending occurs at bars, restaurants and grocery stores, this card is a great option. While we’ve seen higher cash back rates on dining, they often apply to rotating spending categories that don’t last forever. The 3% cash back is a great permanent cash back rate for dining, and the 2% cash back for groceries is a decent supplement.

If you pay your balance off in full each month, this card will deliver its best value. There’s no annual fee, so if you can successfully avoid interest charges, you’re essentially earning money back on your purchases.

It’s also a good card for balance transfers and foreign transactions, as both will incur no additional fees.

Why Shouldn’t You Apply for This Card?

If you spend more on other purchase types than you do on dining and groceries, you may be leaving cash on the table by choosing this card. Many other cash-back rewards cards offer greater rewards for all purchases, and if your spending is more diverse, you’ll likely earn more by choosing a card with a better overall rewards rate.

You’ll also want to avoid this card if you’re looking for a great signup bonus. The $100 cash back bonus isn’t very exciting, and a consumer with excellent credit should be able to qualify for cards with far better signup offers.

Note: It’s important to remember that interest rates, fees and terms for credit cards, loans and other financial products frequently change. As a result, rates, fees and terms for credit cards, loans and other financial products cited in these articles may have changed since the date of publication. Please be sure to verify current rates, fees and terms with credit card issuers, banks or other financial institutions directly.

Image: gilaxia

The post Capital One’s New Dining Credit Card: Should You Apply? appeared first on Credit.com.