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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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?