How I Spend $108 A Month on Groceries and Eat Like A King

Last year, I wrote about our attempt at meal planning and lately have been wondering if it has decreased our grocery bill as I had hoped. At the time of writing that post, my total came to $130 a month on average. Now, I spend just $108 a month on groceries.

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First I checked if restaurant spending went up in case our food bill sneakily shifted to more meals out. However, my restaurant spending looks about the same as last year, totaling $49 a month.

Looking at our monthly spending on groceries on Personal Capital, the total is $216 each month for the two of us, or $108 each.

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We beat the U.S. average of $655 for a two-person household ($368 for one person)  by a significant amount.

Here’s the thing though—I don’t try very hard to cinch the belt on my grocery spending.

Growing up, my dad clipped coupons and memorized the cost of everything on the shelf. We would go to King Soopers to get meats, walk across the street to Safeway because there was a sale on milk, and stop at Sprouts on the way home for produce. He was a man on a mission and he knew all the tricks. Once the store even paid him money when he bought toothpaste with a combo coupon.

Now in our two-person household, we don’t bother much with coupons or strategic sales. We only use personalized coupons that our local Kroger-mart sends in the mail– if we can remember to bring them. I couldn’t tell you if the chicken breasts are wildly marked up compared to last week, let alone compare the price to Safeway. Rather than shopping at different stores to spend less, we shop at Trader Joe’s just to spend more on tantalizing treats. So how do we keep our spending down?

Everything In The Fridge Must Go

Rather than continually stocking up on basics, we try to get creative in order to empty out the fridge before we shop again. When it comes to the perishable items, we try to finish all of them before going shopping again.

When Mr. Mechanic goes out of town, I enjoy the challenge of going as long as possible without shopping. On average we go on a grocery run about once a week, but if we strategize we can usually stretch that out to two or more weeks.

Make Big Batches

We make meals in large batches to stretch for the week. Typically we plan 3-4 recipes based on something we saw on Pinterest. Last week we made French onion soup with crusty french bread and Gruyère cheese. The next night, we made a double recipe of chicken tikka masala. With 10 Tupperware full to the brim, we could switch up our meals during the week.

Stock up on Staples

If it keeps well and there is a sale, we are sure to stock up. When Annie’s Mac and Cheese drops below a dollar, Mr. Mechanic has been known to fill up half the cart. Similarly, we buy spices, granola, and other snack-based items in bulk.

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We hope Mr. Mechanic won’t be negatively affected by eating the vitality mix.

We have an entire shelf dedicated to dry goods. We have enough spices to make chia tea for weeks, and Mr. Mechanic will never run out of granola for his morning parfaits.

Axe the Alcohol

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If I followed the average spending on alcohol in the U.S., I would spend $80 and have only $30 left in my budget for food! We found a few affordable favorites, and stick to those. Mr. Mechanic enjoys the occasional splash of port in the evening. This bottle from Trader Joe’s costs just $7 and lasts him a month.

I pick up a $3 bottle of wine once in a while (it tastes like blueberries!). Sometimes we grab a six-pack if we have people over or are going to an event. Overall, we don’t drink much, and I think that axing alcohol has been good for our wallets, not to mention waistlines!

Get Creative With Your Favorites

My family wonders aloud about how I can consume so much salsa. I love it on everything, and frequently make meals specifically for the purpose of dousing everything in spicy sauce.

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My shakshuka breakfast, salsa soon to be replaced with a homemade variant

Unfortunately, my favorite salsas come at a premium in price for their freshness, and they don’t tend to last long either.

Enter homemade salsa. With a few pulses of a food processor, we can make our own salsa for much less. At the rate it disappears from our fridge, this small cost-saver adds up!

If there is a pricey favorite we tend to buy a lot of, we try to see if we can make it at home from scratch. So far we’ve made our own ketchup (okay I’m not sure that saved us much money but it is delicious), chicken tikka masala (something we used to buy prepackaged from TJ’s), and bruschetta (a basil plant is one of our favorite investments). Finding ways to economize on our favorite snacks is a big saver.

That’s it!

We eat like kings, but it does not cost much. These five tricks help us keep our spending down. Without trying too hard we eat through everything in our fridge, make big batches to take for lunches, stock up on dry goods, temper our alcohol consumption, and make our expensive favorites at home.

Enjoy some pictures of the delicious homemade meals that $108 can buy:

What about you? What is your grocery budget? Do you have tips or tricks to share?

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30 Comments

    1. Thank you for those recipes! They were both delicious. Next we’re thinking about doing that dal recipe you sent.

  1. Lots of great tips here. I like the strategy of “emptying out the fridge.” The way our weekly cooking works, we normally run out of food by Friday. My lunch today was quite creative, to say the least!

    1. Emptying out the fridge can be a game sometimes. It makes you reflect on the things you bought and how you can cobble up something passable. Fridays are the most creative days for me as well, since we tend to run out of lunches by then. We need to do a better job at counting them out!

  2. Since I live by myself it’s very difficult to finish perishables before they expire so I tend to buy a lot of frozen things. I’ve especially noticed frozen peppers and frozen fruit are much cheaper so that’s what I use in my homemade curries and breakfasts (respectively).

    1. We similarly sometimes rely on a frozen pepper medley and fruit to make things easier. It’s nice that you can use it when you need it instead of watching things go mouldy in your fridge.

    1. Maybe it would be helpful to share a meal planned month including ingredients and cost of everything! You keep giving me great ideas.

  3. This is amazing! All that food for $200 for two people is really reasonable, and it looks like you guys eat well!

    I tend to buy my groceries for meals as we need them, since we don’t really meal plan much, and the store is like 1 minute away. Probably not great for my wallet, but it’s what works for us ;).

    1. When I lived in England the store was right around the corner as well. Once I adjusted to not needing to stock up the kitchen as much, I found that stuff didn’t go bad as easily, because I would buy ingredients when I needed them. I would definitely prefer to live nearby compared to the trek we currently have to make!

    1. Yes, spices line the entire wall of our kitchen. We also have loads of sauces to spice up a meal. Great trick!

  4. Those are five great tips to saving money on food! As for me, sometimes I peer into the ridge and feel like I am on one of those Food Network episodes where you have to use 3 random items to make a meal. My tip or trick is to have a lot of spices and flavor packets on hand. That way you can stretch leftovers or adapt and create a variety of flavors or dishes no matter what the ingredients.

    1. Good idea! We similarly keep stocked with several sauces that can flavor almost any type of meal. Spices are definitely a good way to make a bland thing much tastier. I love the Food Network comparison, it definitely feels like friendly competition with myself to get creative.

  5. I can fully relate with the joys of only drinking occasionally. My girlfriend and I rarely drink, unless going out with friends. I just don’t really get much out of drinking at home when it’s just the two of us. As you say, this saves us loads of money and goes some way to keeping us in good health as well!

    1. There is an Asian grocery store called Uwajimaya in Portland we go to every three months or so to stock up. Inspired by some family, we made our own poke bowls and they were phenomenal. Highly recommend!

  6. You’re really hacking your budget here. Food budget has always been our biggest splurge. We are big time foodies and we love not just cooking it but also eating out. Between groceries and eating out, we spend nearly (hold your breath) 800$ per month for a family of 3. I know it’s a lot for many people but food sparks joy with in us 🙂 I don’t think we could have pulled off our food budget like you guys have done here. Kudos!

    1. We are big time foodies as well, but it mostly manifests in crazy meals in, and less on eating out. We rather painlessly eliminated eating out which I think was a huge factor in decreasing overall food spending. It only becomes a problem if you are spending and not actually getting much joy from it at all. However, if you are already tracking your money (and I think you are!) then intentionally spending it on something that enhances your life makes total sense!

  7. I’m not sure exactly how much I spend on groceries. It’s on my list of things to start tracking so I get a better idea of where I stand. I think it’s right around 150-175 a month, but that’s because I don’t cook. A terrible habit, but I have a limited amount of energy (health issues, mental health issues too) so I have to choose how to best use it. I’ve decided cooking is an ideal, but not very realistic, use. But it’s something I may start trying to add in (very very slowly) now that I’m single and have a little bit more free time/energy to myself.

    1. That still sounds quite reasonable, especially if you aren’t cooking much. Sometimes there is a nice compromise between pre-prepped meals that is still cheaper than eating out, and worth the extra time and energy you might save. I’ll be interested to hear your thoughts when you start tracking!

  8. You are destroying our grocery budget (around $400 but we often go over). Alcohol is a part of that, sure, but still.

    If you end up posting a monthly meal planner that would be rad!

  9. I like your strategy isn’t so focused on coupon hacking. Besides being in the Kroger Machine, I don’t really enjoy scouring the coupon sites and trying to compare prices here and there. However, making large meals and enjoying leftovers for several days is fun!

    For those who pay off their credit cards every month, I try to lump some of our spending into months when we get 5% back on a rotating category. And I make a point to shop at a local chain (that’s slowly going out of business) both to give them a fighting chance against Kroger and Amazon and because they often can’t sell things before expiration so it’s easy to find manager’s specials there.

    We do enjoy our drinks though. At best, you might save 5-10% catching a good bourbon or rum on sale, but you’re right that nothing beats having modest tastes and drinking modestly (or maybe bartending as a side hustle, which also pays dividends for networking with folks). TJ’s boxed wine and off brand six packs are some of our go-tos, and we’ve found local stores that get shipments of beer that’s close to expiration. Spirits are a better deal in terms of dollar-per-drink and shelf life, so I always check Kroger’s clearance section for whatever random spirits might be found (not always a deal, but sometimes). If you or a friend is flying through the UK, you can get Scotch for about half the US price. Buy Japanese whiskey in Japan, especially if you look for tax free shops and know in advance to bring your passport. The best deal is making sure family knows your favorites at Christmas time 😉

    1. Good point about the credit cards, I need to be more on top of those rotating categories, because 5% is pretty good for cash back!

      I haven’t tried TJ’s boxed wine but that’s something we should look into. We’re about to move to a small town and we might not have a TJ’s nearby, so I’m interested in how our spending will change.

      Good point about bringing back spirits, I considered bringing back a big bottle of scotch from the UK, but I didn’t have room in my suitcase! Next time. It definitely is a good Christmas gift because it can be shared with loved ones then and there.

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