Have you ever done something that you thought was totally normal, only to be met with shock when you shared it with the rest of the world?
The first time this happened to me was when I went to college, and realized everyone thought I was nuts for safety pinning my socks together in the wash. ROLLING THEM UP JUST ISN’T THE SAME.
And the most recent time this happened to me was when I shared my monthly grocery bill on this site. I quickly realized my grocery spending must not be all that normal, especially after getting comment after comment from MyMoneyWizard.com Email Subscribers like this:
I wanna know how you only spend $100 something on groceries a month. That absolutely blows my mind. Haha. Please share your secrets.”
How the hell do you spend so little on groceries every month? What are you buying? Top Ramen? Obviously I kid, but seriously. What are you buying?”
Also, how do you keep your grocery bill so low? Have you ever posted something like a weekly/monthly menu of what you make to keep it so frugal?”
Ask and you shall receive!
A Look Inside a Week of The Money Wizard’s Grocery Shopping
I’m writing this a few minutes after getting back from the usual once-a-week grocery store trip, and I snapped a pic of this week’s haul before I put everything up. Here’s what a typical week’s worth of groceries looks like for Lady Money Wizard and I:
Total Cost? $69.37
That cost is for two people. So, we’re looking at an overall cost of less than $35 per person, or less than $150 a month.
Considering the USDA’s most recent cost of food report pegs even the cheapest grocery budget around $190 per person a month (and goes all the way up to $370 a month!) apparently my shopping habits are a big outlier after all.
Let’s run through the process start to finish, and see if we can uncover any secrets.
Step 1. The Meal Plan
I’ve found if I don’t get a head start on meal planning over the weekend, all the wheels tend to come off during the week. And before I know it, I’ll have defaulted to ordering takeout for the third night in a row.
To avoid this costly fate, my typical routine now involves throwing together a weekly meal plan Sunday morning, and then going grocery shopping sometime during the day.
To be fair, “Meal Planning” makes it sound pretty fancy. The reality is, I’ll just turn to Lady Money Wizard and say, “Hey, what do you feel like eating this week?”
To help jog the memory, I keep a running note of all my favorite meals on my phone. Any time we try a new recipe that’s a keeper, I’ll add it to the ever-growing list.
If I’m feeling really adventurous, I’ll spend a few minutes browsing my go-to food blogs for new meals to try. Some of my favorites include:
- AllRecipes.com – no surprise here, this is probably the biggest recipe website on the internet.
- Foodwishes Youtube Channel – Chef John has an insanely popular youtube channel, and his recipes are pretty easy and always delicious.
- BudgetBytes.com – Beth has tons of simple and tasty recipes with an emphasis on saving cash. I especially like that she breaks down the exact cost of each recipe.
- SeriousEats.com – Their “Food Lab” section is legendary for their super in-depth recipes. If I’m looking to do some serious cheffing to make the best of the best, no corners cut, I’ll go here.
Typically, we try to plan for 5 full dinners at home. For us, this is a nice balance, and it usually leaves Friday and Saturday to treat ourselves to dinner out as a reward for staying on track all week.
This week, we settled on these 5 meals:
- Crock Pot Pulled Pork – a classic. Slow cookers are great, because you can set them early in the morning and come home from work to a nice warm meal, ready to go.
- Slow Cooker Beef and Broccoli – we’ve made this one several times, and it’s always a hit.
- Roasted Cauliflower Salad with Lemon Tahini Dressing – I need to up my salad game, but this recipe is a great start. It’s one of the few salads I’ve enjoyed enough to make a full meal out of.
- Apple Cider Dijon Pork Chops, with a side of sweet potatoes and apples – another one that makes a regular appearance in the Money Wizard kitchen. We always like to include at least one simple “meat with a side of veggies” type of meal per week.
- Chicken Pot Pies – never made this one before, but Lady Money Wizard felt like doing some baking. Excited to see how it turns out!
My usual go-to lunch is some cooked chicken with hot sauce, and a side of yogurt, fruits, and maybe some cheese sticks. Usually I cheat and just pick up a rotisserie chicken, which I can turn into about 4 portions for $5-7 total. Simple and healthy, and comes out to about $3 a meal.
This week I didn’t grab any rotisserie chicken, so I’ll probably just bring in leftovers from dinner. Most times, dinner leftovers make for a full lunch on their own, but if I’m looking for sides I’ll just grab whatever fruits and veggies are on sale.
I stopped eating breakfast a while ago. It turns out, all that B.S. about it being the most important meal of the day is based on research funded by… Kellog’s Cereal.
On the other hand, there’s tons of legitimate, unbiased research showing the fat loss and lean body mass benefits of intermittent fasting, which is another fancy term to explain going 12-16 hours per day without eating. Which sounds really brutal, until you realize that if you just skip breakfast, you’re already at 12+ hours.
I’ve found my body adjusts to this quickly, and after 2-3 days I’m no longer hungry in the mornings.
This is a pretty awesome hack, because:
- I can now eat pretty much whatever I want during the rest of the day and stay at a healthy weight, because I’m not going over my daily calorie limit.
- I only have to fund two meals per day, instead of three.
The second point might be overblown, because breakfast food is crazy cheap, but I’ll count it anyway.
(For the record, Lady Money Wizard thinks I’m nuts for skipping breakfast, and she typically makes a quick morning smoothie with a banana, frozen fruit, and a little bit of milk + yogurt.)
Step 2. Grocery Shopping
Meal plan in hand, the shopping excursion started at Aldi and finished at Cub Foods, where I picked up the last few straggler ingredients. Start to finish, the whole process took me about an hour.
Earlier in the article, I already spoiled the total cost ($69.37) but what does $69 of well-planned groceries buy you?
(Full confession: The reason this article is getting published this week is because I finally remembered to save my receipt…)
|Money Wizard’s Grocery Receipt|
|Milk (half gallon)||$1.29|
|Greek Yogurt (5 packages @ $0.69 ea)||$3.45|
|Butter package (4 sticks)||$2.49|
|Bananas (1.8 lbs)||$0.83|
|Chickpeas (One 15 oz can)||$0.79|
|Sweet Potatoes (2 lbs)||$1.72|
|Organic Spring Mix||$3.99|
|Cauliflower (1 large head)||$1.89|
|Broccoli (1 large head)||$1.89|
|Basmati Rice (2 lbs)||$2.99|
|Wheat Hamburger Buns (8 pack)||$2.50|
|Pie Crust Mix||$2.49|
|Porkchops (2.01 lbs @ $2.89)||$5.81|
|Pork Loin (3.12 lbs @ 1.89)||$5.90|
|Angus Sirloin Tip Steak (1.79 lbs @ $4.79)||$8.57|
|Chicken Breast (3 lbs @ 1.89)||$5.67|
Overall, this is a pretty standard trip, if not a little on the high end. I’d say $50-60 is more typical, which makes sense since this receipt was a little meat heavy.
And by a little, I mean there’s absolutely no way the two of us will eat 12 and a half pounds of meat in one week. I’m guessing we’ll stash quite a bit of frozen leftovers, which should push the monthly price down even further.
Step 3. Cheffin’ It Up
To the kitchen we go!
With a little bit of creativity (read: blind following of online recipes) we transformed our raw ingredients to these gems.
Apple Cider Dijon Pork Chops, with a failed attempt at that cool sauce swirl the chefs always do:
Chickpea salad with lemon tahini dressing:
DELICIOUS homemade chicken pot pie:
Slow cooker pulled pork, getting reheated in the saute pan for BBQ sandwiches:
I never did grab a pic of the beef and broccoli, but I promise that it looked (and tasted!) really, really good.
This was A TON of food. So much so, that I spent the whole workweek eating leftovers for lunch. Which reminds me…
Don’t forget about the leftovers!
If I’m trying to show exactly what “one week’s worth of groceries” cost, this has to be the worst example of that. (I know, great planning, Money Wiz…)
Because even after all was said and done, we had enough leftovers to freeze two full servings of pulled pork and 2 pounds of unused chicken breasts. We also had 2 leftover onions, at least 1 pound of unused rice, a few yogurts, a whole bunch of barbeque sauce, and even a couple of hamburger buns.
Realistically, that equals nearly another week of meals for one person. Which is enough to bring down the true grocery cost per person to about $25 per week.
Conclusion – Shop cheap, live healthy, and save cash.
So there you have it. An affordable way to pack your pantry with real, nutritious food that’s healthy AND cheap.
Obviously, this is just one week, picked randomly based on my availability to type out a whole post, and more importantly, finally remembering to save a receipt for once in my life.
But I think it’s a pretty solid glimpse into my typical routine. And hopefully it gives you some tips for saving money and cutting the waste (ie… snacks and pre-made meals) from your grocery cart.
At the same time, we’re not exactly going rice-and-beans for every meal either.
Instead, this sort of approach is relaxed enough that if you want to go even cheaper, there’s definite wiggle room to do that. And if someone tells you how expensive it is to eat healthy, you can laugh them right out of the kitchen as you chomp down your fifth delicious meal of the week.
PS – If you’re interested in easily tracking your grocery spending, I highly recommend Personal Capital. It automatically monitors your spending, helps you avoid getting overcharged on fees, and is the app I personally use to track my net worth every month.