My $50 Grocery Bill

I eat pretty healthy, probably a lot better then most people.  I also eat fairly cheaply on a per day basis (as you can see by the title of the post, between my wife and I we eat for approximately $50 per week).  For full disclosure, I don’t include restaurant trips in this budget, that is included in our entertainment budget.   Basically 20 out of 21 meals per week are included in the $50.  Saving money on food, especially good quality food is pretty easy, although it is a radical change over what I ate from childhood up to a couple of years ago.  Here are some tips that I can offer if your current bill is higher then you want it to be:

1.) Learn how to cook/bake: It’s not as scary as it seems – when I first started, my main companion with any meal was ketchup and hot sauce to cover up some of the weird tastes I was putting together.  As an example, I bake my own bread, sometimes by hand, but usually with a bread machine I got as a wedding shower present last year.  For $10 you can buy a 10kg bag of flour that last us approximately three or four months, making 1 loaf a week.  I also make my own tortillas, pasta, tomato sauces, baked beans – basically anything can be made from scratch rather quickly and easily – the internet is a really good source for recipes and troubleshooting when recipes go terribly wrong. 🙂  By making all of your food from scratch, you also know exactly what you’re eating, whereas a lot of prepackaged food includes ingredients that are not pronounceable, and probably shouldn’t be consumed.

2.) Don’t be afraid to try new foods: From my childhood on, I hated squash – I hated the texture, the taste, the colour – I was definitely not a fan.  I had not tasted squash in well over a decade, but when I did, I found that it isn’t terrible and is really healthy to eat.  I basically buy fruit and vegetables when they are in season and switch throughout the year what I eat.  There are some serious savings to be taken advantage of by buying in season rather then maintaining a constant diet year-round.  Try brussel sprouts, eat some butternut squash, try some weird fruits or odd looking green things that are there – they are generally pretty healthy.

3.) Eat less meat: I love meat, but it is expensive and there are much more healthy sources of protein.  I eat a lot of beans and legumes, which I buy dry from bulk food stores, soak and cook in a pressure cooker.  If even one or two days of meat are removed from your diet, especially in a household of more then 2 people, significant money per week can be saved.

I put this advice into action this weekend, when I hosted a “Christmas” dinner for my family of 10 people.  I made – vegetarian chili, homemade pasta, and fresh-baked french bread with garlic butter – all from scratch.  It was very well received and probably cost me a total of $10-$15, was reasonably healthy, and made from fresh, whole ingredients with no preservatives or chemicals in it (with enough leftovers to last until Wednesday or Thursday of this week for lunches) and didn’t really take a ton of time to do at all.

As an example of how I eat, here are a few things that I ate last week and this week:

Breakfasts:

“Green smoothies” – spinach/kale/some other kind of green mixed with seeds, berries, banana, flax, and other weird healthy stuff that my wife drinks, but doesn’t understand the awesomeness that is irish moss with her kale and beet smoothie.

Eggs on home-made toast

Lunches:

Usually leftovers from dinner the night before

Dinner:

Stir fry with tons of vegetables in a home-made peanut sauce

Chicken breasts, rice and brussel sprouts

Sweet potato fries, rice and beans

I’m not sure if my diet is typical, but I think it is generally healthy – made with whole foods, full of fruits and vegetables.  I’m working on cutting back on grains, but I really really like them, so we’ll see how that goes.  How about you, have there been any major changes to your diet as you strive towards early retirement, or a healthier lifestyle?  Food is one of my more serious interests right now, so I look forward to comments.

Happy Groundhog Day!

10 thoughts on “My $50 Grocery Bill”

  1. We’re running around $350/month for 3 of us plus a big dog and cat so your amounts look very reasonable. We don’t stint on the meat at all though, only because I lift weights and put on fat easily when I eat too many grain carbs. The meat really helps me control portion sizes.

    The other thing I like about making your own bread – or cooking in general – is that you can slip other stuff in there like flax in bread or green things in spaghetti sauce and nobody knows.

    What always scares me with commercial bread, if you leave it out on the counter it takes a week or more to get moldy. With homemade bread, it’s moldy after a few days. What’s in it to give the long shelf life and should we be eating it?

    My main problem with trying to cut back on food expenses is that fruits and veggies are so much more expensive in the winter. I set a threshold of about $1/pound for fruit. We eat seasonally, but you get kind of tired of oranges, apples and bananas for 6 months straight.

  2. As a family of 4, my grocery budget is between 125$ to 150$ per week, which is about 5$ per person per day. I have the bread machine… and yeah it would cost us less if I was doing my bread and tortillas all the time. I’ll try this for the next month 😉 What is the most expensive in my grocery bill… meat, yeah. I was almost vegetarian when I met my husband. I was eating eggs, beans and sometimes fish. And he was… carnivore! So it was hard at the beginning. I do eat more meat now, and he eats less. But there still some room for improvement 😉

  3. I forgot… we were great fans of Sidekicks bags and this kind of stuff… drinking a lot of pepsi too. We drasticly changed on that point. I try to eat as much local as I can, buy season food. And we feel much better now after meal. Now I read all ingredients on boxes and avoid trans fats, artificial sweeteners, artificial flavours/colors and words I can barely pronounce 🙂

  4. “Chicken breasts, rice and brussel sprouts”

    One of my favourite meals is Rice, Chicken, Broccoli, and cheese.

    You just take a large chicken breast for 2 people, cut it up in bits and fry it up with some Mrs. Dash or something, steam some broccoli, cook some rice. Put down a bed of rice, put some broccoli and chicken on top and sprinkle with cheese. Fantastic.

  5. My wife and I have been unable to get by on less than $400 a month.

    This month, we are determined to do better.

  6. This year I’m working on cutting down on eating out. We were spending about $300 per month on groceries and $300 on eating out. So far last month we cut the eating out to $50/month, but the grocery bill went up to $375.

    So I’ll have to look into some of these tips. Although I’m not that adventuresome with food. Maybe some cooking classes after I’m done the CGA.

  7. @ Jacqjolie – Commercial bread is very scary, there’s something about it not going bad that freaks me out a little bit 🙂

    I’m going to try to freeze fruits that I eat in my smoothies this year, like berries, peaches, etc. We’ll see how that goes though.

    @ Mama Zen – I used to eat a ton more meat then I do now – I generally feel better on a daily basis, but I do miss having a huge steak for the taste.

    I’m not exactly sure when the food industry got to the point where they thought that adding chemicals to food was a good idea. I read somewhere on the internet that a good rule of thumb is if a kid in grade 3 can’t read the ingrediant, you probably shouldn’t be eating it.

    @ Traciatim – I had a version of that for dinner last night 🙂

    @ Jon Snow – Good luck!

    @ Financial Student – I found the best way for me to try stuff is to find something I really like at a restaurant and try to make a version of it at home. I really love pad thai, and have been able to make a reasonable facsimile of what I get at the restaurant – there are a ton of resources on the ‘net. Whenever I get stuck there’s some you-tube video out there that will walk me through what I’m doing – that’s how I learned to make French bread on the weekend.

  8. If you would be willing to share your bread maker recipe, that would be great. We don’t make use of our breadmaker as much as we would like as we haven’t been able to make a loaf that is a great substitute for sandwich bread. We seem to only be able to make the softer french bread.

    We too have reduced our meat consumption over 50% and not only feel better but have saved significant money. Our monthly grocery budget is $150 and we cook most meals as well. It just tastes better.

  9. @ Middle Way – I use a whole wheat recipe from Robin Hood Flour that I modified a little bit:

    LARGE LOAF (1 1/2 lb/3 cup or 2 lb/4 cup machine)

    1 cup water
    1 egg, beaten
    2 tbsp butter or margarine (I use olive oil)
    2 tbsp honey
    3 cups Whole Wheat Flour
    1 1/2 tsp salt
    1 1/4 tsp bread machine yeast (or any kind of prepared yeast – I’ve found that I need a little bit more yeast when I need no-name vs. robin hood flour)

    – It works for me, good luck with that.

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