From limiting grocery trips to cutting sugar, here’s how I save an additional $3,310 a year without feeling deprived of my favorite foods.
I’ve tracked my monthly spending for as long as I can remember. And I’ve always used that information to set goals for the upcoming month. Usually that involves imposing mini spending freezes when I see any line items creep a little higher than I’d like.
Until about a year ago, however, I took my grocery spending at face value — treating it more like a fixed bill than a line item I can eat into with a bit of effort.
It wasn’t until I saw a particularly large number in my “groceries” box for several consecutive months — $360 to be exact, that I knew I needed to make a change. I wanted to learn how to spend $100 a month on groceries.
I noticed that I’d upped my grocery spending over the course of months without realizing it by making unplanned trips to the store, buying according to my cravings, and not paying much attention to the individual items that might be driving up the cost of each trip to the supermarket.
Since it was a combination of non-essential shopping trips, poor eating habits, and lack of attention paid to my receipts, I knew that cutting my grocery bill down to size would require me to do the reverse of what I had been doing over the course of months.
In order to shrink my bill, I needed to learn how to spend $100 a month on groceries. I adopted each of these steps one by one, working up to following all of them every 30 days.
Limit grocery trips to twice per month
Shopping twice a month not only limits my opportunity to make impulse purchases, but it also keeps me focused on buying foods that are not only inexpensive and nutritious, but will also last me at least two weeks.
Because I shop for myself and prefer rather simple foods, I’m able to get exactly what I need by buying a core list of foods. While everyone’s diet will vary, I eat a lot of egg whites, pasta, lentils, dried beans, sweet potatoes, apples, popcorn, and leafy vegetables.
Additionally, limiting my grocery trips has also inspired me to find more ways to save money. Last week, I ran out of coffee and paper towels between trips to the store. Rather than heading out to the store five days early, I ended up cutting both items from my grocery list altogether. Instead of buying coffee grounds, I only consume coffee in the office where I can fill my mug for free. Instead of buying paper towels, I cut up some old t-shirts and now use those for cleaning.
Eat fiber rich foods
While many people assume that it’s more expensive to eat healthy, I’ve found that eating a diet rich in fiber has been one of the quickest ways I’ve slashed my budget. That’s because these foods keep me full for hours, allowing me to stretch my groceries much further.
Keep a coloring book on hand
When I looked back at my highest spend months for food, I noticed that they all seemed to coincide with periods of high stress. I can confirm that I used to often punctuate my work day with snacking as a means to put off getting started on a big project or to quell my anxiety.
Now, instead of heading to the kitchen when I’m feeling burnt out and on edge, I reach for my $4 amazon coloring book and $1 Target colored pencils for a few minutes. Those few minutes give me the break I need to actually clear my mind so that I can get right back to what I was doing, without the sluggish feeling that a bag of chips and soda used to leave me with.
Practice Intermittent Fasting
Besides eating more nutritious foods and breaking my stress eating habit, drawing boundaries around when I eat has also allowed me to avoid wasting food by way of overeating.
I noticed that I tend to overeat on weekend mornings as well as right when I get home from work. Eliminating those behaviors has left me with more energy and plenty of food for when my body really needs it.
Resist the urge to grocery shop while hungry
The last time I went to Trader Joe’s on an empty stomach, I came home with more pizza, cookies, candy, frozen foods, and baked goods, than I even remembered loading into my cart.
Not only did I overspend on items that wouldn’t have appealed to me after eating a full meal, but I had a much harder time thinking through what I actually needed to buy to last me several weeks. That’s definitely NOT a good example of how to spend $100 a month on groceries.
Eat everything on hand before going back to the store
I know that that half-full bag of beans or the nearly empty box of pasta sitting in my pantry can feed me for several additional days. Once I realized that and held myself to only heading to the store once everything was gone from the previous trip, I not only eliminated food waste entirely, but I also got out of the habit of going to the store as a recreational activity.
Swap meat for eggs
A good portion of my higher grocery bills of old came from buying pre-prepared meat entrees. From Trader Joe’s short ribs to chicken breasts from Whole Foods, I was spending easily $40 a month just to get my protein fix.
I’ve always enjoyed eggs, and once I appreciated how much cheaper they were than the premade entrees I’d grown accustomed to, keeping them on hand as a staple became a no-brainer.
Even better, because eggs last for about three weeks as opposed to fridge prepared chicken lasting five days max, I can eat through the carton at my leisure without having to worry about them going to waste.
Eat lots and lots of pasta
I love pasta for a number of reasons. First, while I don’t have much of a sweet tooth, I absolutely love carbs. And there’s something so comforting about a bowl of pasta for dinner after a long day. Second, it’s cheap. It’s so cheap that I can stretch a 99 cent bag of pasta over four to six days.
Limit consumption of sugar and pre-packaged convenience foods
When I revisited my more expensive grocery trips, I was surprised to see that the sugary snacks I’d been buying were driving up my grocery bill much more than I’d realized. For the most part, I’d assumed these foods were cheap since the conventional wisdom states that eating junk food is cheap.
Not only were the cookies and chocolates more expensive than I thought, but they also came with a hefty hidden cost: not satisfying me and instead leaving me hungrier.
Since cutting out these pre-packaged snack foods, the foods I do eat reliably keep me full four hours. Even better, because none of them come ready to eat straight from the pantry, my risk of eating through all of my food just because I’m bored at home has essentially disappeared.
Much like how I tend to overeat prepackaged snacks due to their convenience, I tend to end up dehydrated, bloated, and wired by overconsuming Diet Soda when I keep it on hand.
By simply eliminating Diet Soda from my list, I’ve saved over $20 a month. Even better, my caffeine headaches are a thing of the past.
While the steps I follow may not work for everyone, they have, with just a bit of patience and effort, saved me thousands this year. For the cost savings alone, I highly encourage giving at least one of them a go. That’s how to spend less than $100 a month on groceries.