Toward the end of June, my husband and I finally got serious about how much money we were eating through each month – money which could go straight towards paying down our debt.
We resolved to do whatever it took to slash our monthly food bill by at least 50%, without sacrificing the quality of the food we eat.
I calculated that we spend about 5% of our after tax income on food and drinks annually. Given our combined salaries, this is a massive amount!!
It’s now August, and I’m STILL elated about how little we spent on our July groceries! We successfully managed to cut our food (and drink) bill down by over 75%.
This was by far one of the most challenging budget cuts for us, because let me tell you, WE LOVE OUR FOOD.
Actually, for the record, my husband is the one who was eating us out of house and home every month ;o)
I’m 5’3, have a pretty tiny frame, and I eat mostly vegetarian. My husband is a 6’5 gargantuan man-giant who works out at least twice a day, and eats enough for a small football team.
Seriously, that man eats 6 meals a day, and he still finds room to snack at night!!
To tackle our ridiculously high food expenses, we brainstormed and researched for a few hours, and then put together a list of ideas which we thought we could realistically implement.
I even told my husband that any savings would be applied directly to his loans, since technically he’s the one that would be changing what he eats the most ;o)
To be honest, I was very skeptical about whether we could actually reduce the cost significantly.
In addition to the massive amount my husband can eat, we both eat really healthy – so we tend to stick to fresh, non-packaged, organic, pasture raised, sustainably harvested products, etc. This all adds a hefty premium to our regular grocery bill.
Plus, my husband has been on a Paleo kick for about a year now. Good quality meat is EXPENSIVE, even when buying from discounted grocery stores.
The Result of Our Grocery Budget Diet:
I’m happy to report that in July we spent 180 dollars for the entire month on food AND drink.
That’s 22.5 per week, per person! Plus, we stuck with good quality, organic-certified, and pasture raised products.
Here’s what we changed to save money:
1. We told friends and family about our cost-cutting plans:
- This turned out to be more important that I thought. We told our friends and family ahead of time that we would be trying to spend as little as possible on food and drinks until our student loans were paid off.
- Our friends ask us to go out for dinner/drinks pretty frequently. I also have a group of friends that I meet every week for happy hour. My husband’s parents also drop by for dinner a lot, and man can they eat too! ;o)
- All of this adds up. Of course, our friends and family were super supportive and bent over backwards to be accommodating. Some of them are even joining us in trying to cut back themselves.
2. We cut out meat:
- My poor husband almost cried when he realized that the cost of his monthly meat equated to over 60% of our monthly food expenses!
- Once he realized how much extra money he could save just by cutting out meat, it was relatively easy for him to do. (I actually expected him to just cut down on the meat, but the savings were apparently too alluring for him).
- Cutting meat out completely still feels pretty extreme to him, so he might add 1-2 meat meals back in every week. He’s also not planning to do this long-term, just till his debt is paid off.
3. We eliminated eating out and expensive happy hours:
- It’s desperate times in our house, folks! We agreed not to eat out anymore until after Christmas, unless that money comes out of a $50 allowance fund we each have to spend on personal stuff every month.
- My husband’s parents started bringing groceries over when they come for dinner every week. They’re super understanding about what we’re doing and had no problem helping out.
- I still go out to happy hour with my friends, but I only spend about 4 bucks a week on that. It’s all about the company you’re with, not just the drinks, right? ;o)
4. We buy directly from an organic farm:
- Why we didn’t do this before, I’ll NEVER KNOW. We live about 20 minutes from a pretty decently sized organic farm. My husband found out that his boss was friends with the owners. He called the farm, and we now get a weekly box of assorted vegetables and in-season fruits delivered right to our front door! The cost each week is a little over 10 dollars!
- We also get 3 dozen pasture raised eggs and assorted cheeses delivered. This adds an additional 20 dollars per week.
- We could easily have spent 100+ per week if we bought the same amount of organic groceries at Whole Foods or Sprouts.
- If you haven’t done this already, make a list of all the organic farms in your area, and start calling to see if they’ll sell to you at a discount.
- It definitely helped that my husband’s boss knows the family personally, but even if you don’t get as great a deal as we did, you’re going to see a savings!
5. We now bulk cook our meals:
- Sunday is now meal prep day. My husband’s getting to be an expert at this – it takes him a little under 3 hours to prepare our meals for the whole week from start to finish (I’m a terrible cook, so I offer moral support).
- We pop them in the freezer in pre-packaged meal containers, so it’s easy to bring to work or reheat in minutes.
- For my husband especially, if he had to prepare his food every day from scratch, just the inconvenience factor alone would make him quit and order out.
6. We stock up on items that are nonperishable or can be frozen:
- This is a no-brainer concept but we take it much more seriously now. If something is on sale at our local Costco, Aldi’s or Walmart, we’ll stock up or freeze as much as we can.
- We just bought two monster sized bags of organic quinoa and lentils, for pennies on the dollar compared to what we would have spent buying in small amounts. (Make sure you look at the cost per unit of buying in bulk compared to buying what you need for the week/month).
- For items that can be frozen, we’re lucky to have a decently sized freezer. When I see any in season, discounted produce, I’ll stock up and freeze it for later.
- For spices, we either buy online or we try the bulk bins at our local Fry’s. We can get organic spices between 50% to 90% cheaper than the cost of even store brand spices. YUGE savings right there.
7. I might be the new Crazy Coupon Lady:
- I always used coupons when I could, but I was slow to adopt the craze, just because who has time to clip coupons for hours every week??
- Well, I’ve officially gone over to the dark side when it comes to taking couponing to a whole new special level. Extreme couponing, for those who don’t know, refers to when you take an already severely discounted product, and you apply a coupon (sometimes multiple) to it, to reduce the price further. Sometimes you can get the item for free.
- In August, I’m hoping to cut our food expenses by an additional 10-15%, just from stepping up my couponing game ;o)
- I plan to do a blog post showing exactly what I do, but here’s an article that summarizes where to begin if you’re new to using coupons: Extreme Couponing 101
- Just be mindful not to buy something you don’t really need just because you’re getting it for close to free (unless you’re donating it to someone who does, then have it!).
We’re only planning on sticking with steps #2 and #3 until my husband pays off his student loan debt. After that, he’ll relax a bit and probably add more meat back, because it does feel a little extreme right now.
All in all though, I’m prettttty pleased with how much we cut down in one month, and I’m scheming on ways to cut our grocery bill down even further.
If you have any suggestions or tips on how to eat well at the lowest price, then let me know! I love hearing how people do this!