How much do you spend on groceries every month? Chances are, you may be spending more than you need to. According to Fox Business, the national average for the cost of groceries for one person is roughly $255 a month. That may not seem that bad, but there are simple ways to cut the cost.
“Who cares if I spend that much on groceries because I can afford it?” Well, remember my blog post on The Basics of F.I.R.E (Financial Independence Retire Early)? In that post, I emphasize the fact that increasing your savings rate from just 5 to 10 percent will cut fifteen years from your retirement date. So instead of retiring at 65 years of age, you will have enough to retire at 50.
I also mention that cutting your monthly budget by only $100 will reduce your FIRE number by $30,000. The point I am trying to make is that even the smallest budget cut will make a significant difference in your financial future. So why not start with groceries?
I did the math and I realized that we spend about $2 per meal per person. Sometimes we spend more, sometimes less, but it tends to stay right around the $2 per meal mark. Coincidently, this is also the exactly dollar amount that the FIRE community recommends, such as ChooseFI. I don’t meal plan, I don’t meal prep, and I don’t coupon clip. I used to do all that, but I do not enjoy it and it is a complete time suck for me.
Here are a 10 simple ways to keep your monthly grocery cost at $125 per person…
1) Only go to the grocery store twice a month.
How many times have you gone to the store to pick up one item that should of cost you five bucks, only to leave the store with a $52 receipt? Yeah, I have been there. Stores spend millions of dollars to figure out how to get you to buy more. Everything is strategically placed. There is a reason why the milk and the paper towels are always at the back of the store and why the most expensive kids toys are placed at eye level to the average 8 year old. I am telling you, no matter how strong your will power is, eventually you will give in. Limit going to the store only twice a month and this will help you beat the system and keep your grocery bill low.
2) Make a grocery list and stick with it.
Before I do a grocery run I make a list of everything we need. I use the Google Keep app and add items on there as we slowly run low on things. On shopping day I will walk around our place and double check to make sure I haven’t forgotten anything.
Once I am in the store, I have this mindset that I am about to go into battle. I stay laser focused on only the items I need to purchase and nothing else. I know it can be tempting to pick up a few additional things because the produce looks so beautifully organized in a rainbow pattern or because that bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon is on sale, but try and discipline yourself not to deter from the list. It becomes habitual to mindlessly add thing to our cart and we need to break that habit. I am pretty strict with myself and I simply don’t allow myself to do that anymore. Not on the list? Then better luck next time.
3) Fully utilize your freezer.
The biggest issue I used to have was having fruit and vegetables go bad before we can finish eating them, especially because I only do two grocery store runs a month. I did a little research and found a plethora of produce items that you can freeze. You can freeze just about any fruit or vegetable except celery, watercress, endive, lettuce, cabbage, cucumbers and radishes. These foods have high water content and become soggy and water-logged when thawed.
I now freeze almost all of our produce. I also purchase prepackaged bags of fruit and vegetables. Of course we purchase fresh produce as well, but I only purchase what we can finish within a week. After the week is up, I utilize what’s in the freezer.
As far as meats go, we typically purchase them in bulk at Costco (as long as their price per lbs is reasonable), divide them up into small ziploc bags, and freeze them immediately. By doing this I can thaw one small zipoc bag of meat to use for the next day.
Besides produce and meat, you can also freeze leftover pizza, cooked pastas, soups, rice, sauces, seafood, bread, and so much more!
4) Don’t buy anything that costs more than $4 per pound.
I know what you’re thinking, ‘How do you get your meat and seafood?’ Well, if it costs more than $4 per pound, I simply choose not to buy it. We therefore eat mainly chicken, pork, beans, and tofu as our main source of protein. I only buy beef and seafood if it is on sale and when it is, I buy it in bulk and freeze the rest.
The types of beef and seafood I tend to purchase when on sale are chuck steak, tri-tip, ground beef, tilapia, white cod, and manilla clams. They tend to be more reasonably priced per pound where I live.
Of course on special occasions or when we have family and friends over, I will break this rule and buy proteins that are a bit more decadent like fresh halibut or T-bone steaks, but this is not something we spend on a normal basis.
5) Do not go grocery shopping on an empty stomach.
This may seem obvious, but so many people still do it. I only go to the store once I have eaten. If I have one of those days where I don’t have time to eat, I’ll simply grab a few granola bars or anything I can eat on the go. I will always end up spending more on groceries when I’m hungry because everything looks so darn good! Don’t fall into this trap.
6) Use a calculator as you shop.
Whip out the calculator app on your phone and keep track of everything you put into the cart. This is such a simple trick, yet incredibly effective. I typically have a budget in mind for every grocery run and if starts to go over that amount I will take a few items out of the cart. Chances are, there will be a few items you do not need to purchase.
7) Buy produce that are in season.
If you come across a recipe that you really want to try, but it requires fresh berries in January, find another recipe. At the beginning of every month I look up what fruits and vegetables are in season and I stick to those item when I am at the store.
Shorter travel times for your in-season produce means lower shipping costs, which lowers the grocer’s price—savings that get passed on directly to you at checkout. Not only will you be saving money, but the food will taste better too. Click here to see a list of produce items by season.
8) Grow your own herbs.
I used to this misconception that in order to have a quality herb garden, you needed a vast amount of backyard space. We live in a small two bedroom apartment with a tiny balcony, so this concept of having a garden was difficult for me to grasp.
I got so sick and tired of my parsley, chives, and green onions constantly going bad in the fridge. I know I can freeze them, but when it comes to delicate flavorful herbs I definitely prefer them fresh.
One day while cooking dinner, I was chopping fresh green onions and I couldn’t throw away the bottom white part with the roots because our garbage was packed full. There was a small glass with maybe an inch of water right next to me on the kitchen counter so I just tossed it in there without giving it much thought. The next morning I noticed that the white part of the green onion was starting to sprout fresh green onions on top. Then, as a few more days went by it was growing about half an inch a day, holy cow! This excitement snowballed from me Googling, How to Grow Herbs, to us finally having our own little herb garden in our balcony filled with parsley, sage, basil, mint, rosemary, mint, and green onions.
Since we’ve had our herb garden, it was really a game changer for not only our cooking, but also out wallets. A tiny package of herbs in our local grocery store costs $2.99 and when I multiply that by the variety of herbs I normally use, our savings come to roughly $200 a year. If you invest that over ten years with a 7% rate of return, that totals $2,763!
9) Eat everything in the fridge, freezer, and pantry before a grocery run.
I hate wasting food. I get this gut wrenching feeling in the pit of my stomach whenever I have to throw expired milk down the drain or have to toss moldy bread in the garbage. Do you feel the same?
My husband is not a huge fan with this rule because he doesn’t like looking in the fridge and seeing only butter and condiments, but boy do I love it! I get this satisfying feeling that we did not waste food and money.
Try and challenge yourself to do the same. If this overwhelms you, then start with the pantry. Eat everything that is in your pantry before your next grocery run. Make sure to check the top, bottom, and very back of your pantry. Double check that the items are not expired because chances are, you will find a few of those lurking in there. Try and make a simple meal with what you already have on hand before going back to the store.
10) Cook for two days worth of meals.
When you think about having to cook 7 days a week for you and your family after a long days work, the thought overwhelms most people. And what typically happens? We turn to takeout or eating out. But how about cooking just 3 days a week? Now that seems most realistic.
I came across this tip almost by accident. Every time I cook, without even trying I would end up making enough to feed a family of ten and we would always had enough food to last us the next day. I noticed that because I cook for two days at time, we don’t go out to eat as often because we can simply reheat leftovers. When you cook dinner tonight, try doubling up on the portion and put the leftovers in the fridge for tomorrow. Chances are, you will happy you did.
What is the point of accumulating knowledge that will benefit you if you do not apply them? Well let me tell you… absolutely nothing! I challenge you to complete the following items.
- Calculate your families current monthly budget.
- Apply just one of the 10 tips mentioned above this week.
Share any thoughts, tips, and money saving tricks by leaving me a comment or an email.