Last week I took part in a lively and fun conversation about groceries over at Budgets are Sexy. A reader was trying to figure out how another blogger was able to spend around 1/2 the amount he and his family was spending on groceries. Then, the conversation got a bit “heated” when the gentleman showed what he and his family had purchased for groceries the previous week.
Before I get to the heart of this post I should mention what my relationship is with food. I live to eat. I love thinking about food, eating food, shopping for food, cooking food for others, and I even have a garden. So, I have a very obvious bias when it comes to this topic. However, I am also realistic about what my fellow Americans are eating, the time that people want to spend on cooking, and that each person’s relationship with food is different.
Through the course of those two blogs one thing became very clear to me-people approach food differently. I believe that the food that I eat has to be recognized by someone’s grandma from somewhere around the world. Basically, what I mean is the way you feel about what is food makes all the difference to your food spending.
What You Consider Food Makes A Difference To Your Wallet
If you enjoy eating processed foods, pre-made meals, and aren’t too fussed about if your beef is grass fed, or your chickens have been walking around instead of being in a cage then you’ve identified how you like to eat. I might not want to eat that way, but I’m not buying your groceries.
Likewise, if you’re a person like me then you eat the complete opposite way of the first. I care about if my beef is grass fed, I want my chickens walking around a field in freedom…before their death, and I don’t want hormones in my food.
Regardless of what your process is I do believe that it’s possible to spend less than $1000 for 4 people on groceries in a month. Even if you’re in a high cost of living area.
I’ve learned from reading almost 3 years of personal finance posts and food posts in particular that it’s possible to spend less than $1000 on groceries for a family of four.
Here are some takeaways from all of that reading:
- Knowing how to cook saves you money-I don’t mean popping things in the microwave. I mean, you actually need to know how to cook food.
- There more you go to the grocery store the more you will spend. Period. End of story. I only go to the grocery store now once a week. Before I would go several times throughout the week and of course I spent a lot of money each time.
- If you don’t meal plan, even a loose one, for the week-you have planned to spend a lot of money on food. I have a general idea of what I’m going to eat throughout the week. I’m not crazy rigid. But, I do tend to have around 3 entrees planned, will eat whatever is on hand for breakfast (eggs/oatmeal/yogurt) it depends.
- Snacking-we all do it! You have to try and be prepared for snacking at least 1/2 the week. Have an apple on hand, a granola bar, whatever. I’m not anti-snacking on occasion. It just adds up.
- Cut eating out as much-People eat out a lot. Every time you eat out that adds to your grocery bill. I brought lunch 95% of the time for the past 10 years to my job. Luckily for me I worked in a place where everyone brought their lunches. So, I didn’t feel out of place.
- A well stocked pantry-Is key! If you don’t have a well stocked pantry then each time you grocery shop you also have to purchase items that should be staples. When you initially stock your pantry you will spend a nice amount of money. I have to be honest and disclose that.
- Once you have a well stocked pantry then you should be purchasing fresh items to accompany what’s in your pantry. This goes back to having a meal plan. Use what’s in your pantry!
- Your family has to be on the same page! This is the piece that most people don’t even think about. If you’re not on the same page how can you make things happen if you’re not on the same page?
- Think about volume-There is a reason why foods such as soups, rice, and beans are eaten-cheap eats and fills you up.
- Eat Your Vegetables-I eat a lot of vegetables and while I prefer fresh I have frozen vegetables on hand so that I can make soups and other meals when I can’t get to the grocery store.
- Commit-In order for this to work-you have to commit to this process…or something similar.
I don’t coupon, I don’t time sales, and I don’t agonize over getting a coffee with a scone. I don’t agonize over going out for the occasional meal because I work my grocery process.
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