One of the hardest expenses for people (and us) to budget is food. It is so easy to blow through money on food because you literally just eat it away. Then two hours later you are hungry again and there is no sign there was ever food bought in the first place.
From groceries, to going out to eat, to convenient snacks or coffee shops we spend so much money stuffing our faces and half the time we don’t even realize it.
Greg and I however, have managed to keep our food budget at $200 for the last 2.5 years and have never starved or gone hungry because we ran out of money. It’s not always a five star dining kind of life, but it’s possible and keeping our food money this low has allowed us to do a lot more with our money in other places, so it’s always worth it.
Today I’m going to share our ways.
Five Ways We Keep A $200 Grocery Budget
1. We really don’t buy many snacks.
The devil is in the details my friends! Usually snacks are what we gravitate towards when we are hungry but don’t want to have a meal yet. They are the filler food that we eat for fun. But the thing is, we shouldn’t really be eating for fun. Most snack foods get eaten pretty quickly but don’t really fill us up. So we tend to buy more and more making the money quickly add up. So we avoid buying snacks like these because we’ve realized that they really don’t serve us as food to fill us, nor do they last long enough to make the price worth while. (A couple bucks adds up on grocery bills.) If we buy any snack it’s a $5 box of popcorn bags that lasts us a couple months usually and is the type of snack you purposively will make, not something you’ll grab because you are bored and don’t want to make a meal.
2. We don’t usually buy pre-prepared foods.
I threw in the word “usually” because nobody’s perfect. I talk about this a bit in Minimal Spending, Maximum Living, but I’ll give you some details about it here. Buying items that are prepared for you is essentially like going out to eat. You are paying more money for someone to do the work for you. The thing is, going out to eat I understand, part of what you are paying for is the experience. When you buy a salad already made and sealed in plastic there is no experience with that. You’re just paying to be lazy. And I’m not saying that in a “better-than-you-attitude” we all (myself included) have those times where we choose to pay more so we don’t have to do it ourselves. The difference in our food budget is we don’t make that the norm. It’s an occasion, a one time thing and not a habit.
3. We make our own meals.
We usually eat at home and save going out to eat for more special occasions. Most of our meals we make at home and if we are gone for a long day or when I used to have a 9-5 I always packed a lunch. Going out to lunch at work is probably the biggest thief of your money! Do yourself a favor and pack something to eat before you blow through your money on one person meals and a tip.
4. We keep our meals simple.
On the same line of things we keep our meals simple in order to keep our money minimal. We buy the same groceries almost every month. Sure, we had in some variation if we are getting bored or feeling spicy. But for the most part we know what we eat and buy every month and we don’t stray from it. This helps keep you focused in the grocery store on only what you need. You don’t have to grocery shop for specific recipes every week because you know your menu. You know the type of meals you make and you buy for them all at the same time.
5. We go grocery shopping every two weeks.
This isn’t set in stone, we usually go whenever we are running out of the majority of items but I’ve realized it is usually every two weeks. By not making multiple trips to the grocery store you save yourself from driving to the closet grocery store and paying whatever they ask because you don’t want to drive any farther for just one item. You are also not tempted to start grabbing more things as you see them in the store saying things like, “Oh we’ll be running out of this soon.” Or, “This is on sale we should add this to the meal tonight!” If it is in your kitchen, you will eat it. Avoid adding more to your kitchen until it is absolutely necessary!
BONUS // 6. If we do go out to eat, we don’t spend a lot.
Yes, part of our $200 food money is going out to eat. Our budget used to be $200 for groceries and $50 for going out to eat (you can read about that budget here) but when we wanted to minimize even more we cut out that $50 and just said if we wanted to go out to eat we’d take it out of our food money. (You can read about our current budget in this post.) So we don’t go out to eat too often but when we do we follow a few different “rules” to keep it minimal money. I actually wrote a post ALL about how we go out to eat for under $20 (usually only $15) which you can read here.
Greg and I have been living like this for years and don’t ever feel like we are missing out on something. We still get to go out to eat or ice cream once in a while, and we still eat meals that we like together. We are not malnourished or starving ourselves to save a couple bucks. Our diet is probably not that different from yours, but we’ve managed to spend a minimal amount on it in order to invest our money in other places.
We are both incredibly passionate about putting our money where it counts and going out to eat or having ready to go food is not where it counts for us.
I hope you enjoyed this peek into our finances!