Grocery bill got you down? With a looming recession, folks are searching for ways to spend less money on food and groceries. I used to spend $1200+ a month on food but have gotten my food budget down to a few hundred a month, so let’s talk about how to spend less money on food.
I used to spend a crap ton of money on food, eating out and drinking.
Like– the first time I tracked my money– I realized almost $1,200 a month was going to these things, specifically eating out, and $13 cocktails on rooftops.
The idea of spending that much freaked me out– after all, $1,200 a month is a plane ticket to a new country, a hotel stay in a new city for a WEEK, 1/5 of a Roth IRA contribution– so many things I’d rather be spending money on!
So, I decided to change. Or at least try.
I started hacking away at my spending in those areas in order to dedicate more money to the things I actually cared about– like investing, debt payoff, and travel.
And that meant reducing my food budget significantly.
Now– to be fair? My food budget in the last couple of months has gone up because I’ve been so busy– but for a few years?
I was able to get my food budget, which included eating out, drinking out and take out and groceries– to $250-$350 a month.
That freed up almost $1k each month to do other things!
How’d I do it? Pretty simple steps, so let’s talk about it.
How to Spend Less Money on Food
1) Meal Prepped
In years past, I wasn’t always great about meal prepping especially after long (and expensive) weekends out drinking too much and being hungover.
Those weekends often set me up to spend ridiculous amounts on groceries because I’d GoPuff hangover snacks or order some take out and call it groceries.
Sometimes I’d plan so poorly that I’d end up eating out all week or I’d go to the grocery store three times that week just grabbing a few things here or there.
Pretty much every week I spend about 15 minutes thinking about how I’m going to plan my groceries so that I have meals for the week.
Generally, I make a big batch of something that can serve as my lunch every day and then I make a big batch of something else that serves as my dinner every day.
For example, this week I’m eating overnight oats with a banana for breakfast, grilled vegetables and chickpeas on salad greens for lunch, and a rainbow stir-fry noodle dish for dinner.
Sometimes I’ll make a big batch of soup or chili, eat it for multiple meals for the week and freeze the rest for future quick meals.
It’s easy and prepping like this has made a big difference in my budget. I used to spend about $300 per month on groceries, and now I average about $200 a month.
2) Shopped at Aldi
ALDI IS A GAME CHANGER.
I’ve actually gone to other grocery stores just to see if I’m really saving that much by shopping at Aldi– and I absolutely am. Aldi is up to 70% cheaper on some items, and any time I don’t shop there– I know my bill is going to be nearly double what I normally spend.
There are a few blog posts out there comparing prices between popular chain stores. Check them out if you’d like to see for yourself:
But what I also like about Aldi is there’s less temptation because there are less options. For example, if you go to a Walmart, and head to the protein bar section of the store– there will be tens if not hundreds of options.
You go to Aldi? There might be 2-4 options.
Having less options usually makes me spend less, and I find when I go to a store with more options? There are more things I get just to try it out, which of course leads me to spend more.
3) Stopped Drinking So Much
One of the biggest issues with my food spending was because of all the alcohol I was buying– both in my groceries and out for dinner.
Now when I do drink? I drink at home or I save it for a special occasion.
I’ll usually turn down booze with dinner unless I’m on a date. And even if I’m on a date, I’ll only order a cheap beer or glass of wine. Luckily, it’s cool and hipster to order a $3 Hamms these days, and when I do, usually my date or friend chooses to go the cheap route as well.
When I first moved to Chicago, I wouldn’t bat an eye at spending $50 on two fancy-ass cocktails and a tip. It seems INSANE to me now that I’d blow that kind of money on drinking ALL THE TIME back then, and won’t now even though I’m making almost 10x’s as much as I did when I first moved to Chicago.
$13 cocktails, in my humble opinion, are for special occasions. They’re not enjoyable when I’m having them all the time.
4) Stopped My Meal Delivery Services
When trying to cut back on my spending for groceries, I stop using the meal delivery services like HungryRoot (my favorite), or Blue Apron. Even though I love the convenience of these products, and they do help me eat out less– they are expensive!
Most are around $7-$15 per meal, and while that’s slightly less expensive than eating out, the price of meals when cooking at home, especially if it’s basic stuff like chili, is a few bucks.
So, I save meal delivery services and meal-prep services for times when I’m not trying to cut back.
5) Shopped My Pantry
When I’m REALLY trying to cut back, I’ll get creative and shop my pantry.
I like doing this because it stretches my cooking skills and I like seeing what I’ll come up with from the ingredients I already have.
Things I’ve made from just shopping the pantry:
- Curry with homemade na’an
- Sweet potato fries
- A mini-charcuterie board
The best thing about being an adult– is it’s perfectly acceptable to have pancakes or bread and cheese for dinner. It’s glorious.
I also like shopping the pantry every once in a while because not only does it save me money, but I love not wasting food.
How to Spend Less on Food: TLDR
A lot of small changes add up into big changes– but what I recommend if you’re just starting out is to focus on ONE thing you can do to reduce your spending in this area, and once you’ve mastered that move on to the next one.
And even more important?