Before moving to D.C., I worked in the service industry: hostess, server, cocktail waitress, you name it! While I loved working with people and running my tail off in a fun environment for extra cash while in undergrad, it instilled in me a nasty habit.
Dining out many times per week in Wilmington, N.C. (where I went to undergrad) was easier when I “knew people.” In D.C., I don’t know any people, well, any that work in restuarants plus it’s not so affordable to grab a nice dinner around here very often.
How did I make it by after moving here? Well, first I got into a little credit card debt feeding my habit. After that, I realized some serious reconsideration of my dining habits would need to take place.
But wait! Grocery stores can be pricey too. Another hard-learned lesson came down the pike when I decided to begin my grocery shopping at Whole Foods. Whole Foods is an excellent high-end grocery store with a special focus on organic and vegetarian food (near and dear to my heart) but it should only be visit on special occasions if you’re watching the spending.
Cheap alternative in the D.C. area? Trader Joes. Trader Joes is smaller than Whole Foods but if you look hard enough, you can find many of the same things for less.
If eclectic, vegetarian or organic foods aren’t your thing, stick with Safeway in the D.C. area for the cheapest groceries (at least that I’ve found). Living in Northern Virginia, you can find two really nice Safeway stores in Arlington: one on Lee Highway and one off of Old Dominion.