How we slashed our Grocery bill by 75% in July

Grocery receipt over a bag of vegetables

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.

Healthy eating frame

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!

 

14 thoughts on “How we slashed our Grocery bill by 75% in July

  1. Dear Ava,

    Congratulations on such a significant accomplishment! It sounds like you have a plan and support system in place that will help you meet your goals.

    I read recently about the “$5 Pot Luck Dinner” and thought it was brilliant. For $5, I could bring…

    1. Homemade hummus. My local foodbank (where I volunteer), often puts out canned beans and chickpeas every few months as they are overwhelmed and the area I live, the people don’t eat that kind of food. I’ve offered a cooking course but not takers so far .
    Cost = Free or 69 cents

    2. Artisan no-knead bread. I have a great 4 ingredient (if water counts) recipe that anyone (and I mean anyone!) could make.
    Cost = 69 cents (including electricity)

    3. Jello or Flan. My kids love this and everyone likes dessert. The biggest cost is the milk (for the flan). Sometimes we add maple syrup (from our own forest).
    Cost = $1.50

    4. Food from the garden. We’ve been flooded this year so not much grew but I’ve been gifting bunches of dill and people really appreciate that. Even if they don’t use it, it looks and smells pretty.
    Cost = Free

    5. Fabric bag. Five years ago, I bought 30 BOXES of fabric for $30 at a sale. I still have tons (make that TONS) of fabric left over. I sew a pretty bag (straight stitch only required) and either put the bread in it or a bunch of stuff. People love the fact that they can keep it the bag.
    Cost = 5 cents

    There are more things that I have and can bring. I think it’s more about the variety and thought that counts. At least, that’s what I try and teach my kids.

    I’m visiting from your guest post over at “Budgets are Sexy”. Looking forward to reading more about your adventures.

    Besos Sarah.

    1. Wow, those are some amazingly frugal ideas!! I’d be really curious about your hummus and bread recipes, if you want to share them? :o)

      We actually just started doing a weekly, potluck style dinner at our house for friends, instead of meeting people out for dinner/drinks.

      Last week, people brought at least 2 dishes each(!!).

      We had to beg people to take leftovers home with them, we had so much extra food. We ended up freezing what was left, and it’s seriously a week’s worth of food.

    2. Dear Ava,

      I checked your about page and couldn’t find an email address (sorry if it’s there). Please send me an email (journeysofthezoo@hotmail.com) and I’ll happily send the recipes to you! You are then free to share them with whomever you please.

      Besos Sarah.

        1. Emailing you now! Thanks so much :o)

          Aww too bad about you not living close. Lol – I don’t understand how friends wouldn’t be interested in joining a weekly or monthly potluck!! They’re a lot of fun, and really inexpensive.

  2. Hi Ava,
    I discovered long ago that frugal goes good with organic even though most people say organic is more expensive. My mother used to say organic is cheaper than any hospital.

    Thanks for the post,

    1. So true!! If you’re careful where and how you buy, you can often spend the exact same amount buying organically vs. conventional. Plus, like you said, you get the added health benefits, which are priceless.

  3. Wow, $10/week for a CSA box?! Ours was $32. That’s amazing.

    Yes to bulk spices and beans and such. I’d add to look in the ethnic aisle of a grocery store for the exact same spices, but dirt cheap. Even better at an Asian grocery. (Just be careful about spices grown in India, as the soil and water has a lot of lead.)

    Also check out the ‘slightly old produce’ section. You can get amazing stuff for a song.

    I’m really impressed with your husband for giving up meat. I’m not sure my husband would be able to do that.

    1. It sure is amazing, although we have to credit my husband’s boss. If he didn’t personally recommend us to the organic farm (he’s close friends with the owners), I’m not sure what our cost would have been!

      Oooh, great advice about shopping for deals at an Asian grocery store. You can get the best deals on spices, and even fresh produce.

      The poor husband – I didn’t think he was going to give up meat either. It’s temporary though – once his debt is paid off, he promised he’ll be right back at his old Paleo ways ;o)

  4. I cut meat (I eat lots of eggs for breakfast and some tuna for lunch) and this helped reduced my food costs which were pretty low in the first place.

    I don’t miss the meat at all and since I have a job where I walk all day long (I am a cleaner so I walk about 7-10km a day) and I starving when I get home and with lots of veggies, I can inhale my meals and feel full and not be hungry two hours later.

    Like a zealot of some sort I try to explain the awesomeness of cooking a week’s worth of food on Sundays but you are the only other people who actually do it. It’s great isn’t it.

    1. Nice! You really can save so much money by cutting down on meat, or in your case, cutting it out completely!

      Holy smokes, that’s a lot of walking to do everyday! You must be in incredible shape, just from doing your job.

      Yep, Sunday meal prep is the best. I can’t cook to save my life so the husband does almost all of it. He loves it though – it saves so much time and headache throughout the week.

      Thanks for stopping by!

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