How I Got My Grocery Spending Down To $50 Per Week
The 4 things that made all the difference.
When I was cooking just for me, I never really thought about my grocery budget. Sandwiches, frozen dinners and plain chicken breasts were the extent of my weekday menu, and on weekends I usually went out with friends.
When I got married I wanted to learn to cook. Not just for my husband’s sake; I was actually pretty tired of turkey sandwiches. Unfortunately, my new quest resulted in spending more on groceries in a week than I previously had in a month. And it still left me making a sandwich after tossing my sorry attempt at chicken cacciatore.
I knew learning to cook would take some time, but I needed to be able to afford the rest of my bills in the meantime without spending hours couponing and searching for rebates.
So, I paved my own way to figure out what would work for me. Eventually I got the grocery bill for me and my husband down to around $50 per week ... consistently, all while simultaneously eating out less. You could find a list of 100 ways to cut your grocery budget, but for me there were just four things that made all the difference in lowering my grocery spending.
I used to walk through the grocery store and pick whatever tickled my fancy. It worked, but left me with either a shortage of food for the week or excess that ended up in the back of my pantry or in the trash. So, the first thing I did was stop going to the store for inspiration and start turning to Pinterest and Google.
Meal planning allowed me to enter the store with a list; I knew where to go and which aisles to skip (avoiding temptation!), and made sure I stayed on budget. I could also plan meals around sales and what I already had in my fridge.
When I started planning meals around things in my fridge and my pantry, that’s when my grocery spending really dropped. Every week I take inventory of what’s in my fridge and cabinets and then plan meals around those items before looking for new recipe ideas. Not only does it lower my grocery spending, but my kitchen is also more organized. I can see and access things more easily.
I also find ways to give new life to leftovers. I can eat a meal once as leftovers but that’s my limit. If I have more I’ll turn it into a stir-fry, throw it into pasta sauce, put it on a pizza, or freeze it to eat later.
Changing where I shopped
No matter how well-crafted my meal plan was, I knew I could save a lot more by breaking up with my local supermarket. I started going to Aldi because it was nearby, but there are plenty of low-cost and discount grocery stores out there. Aldi is notorious for its limited selection, and I had to take that into consideration when planning my meals. You’d think a smaller selection would make it harder to plan meals around, but I realized it was the opposite. It didn’t take long to learn what the store did and didn’t have, and I could pick meals for the week more quickly than I had at other stores.
Cutting out meat
Another big change I made was to stop buying meat. When you buy boneless skinless chicken breast, you’ll get roughly 26 grams of protein for every dollar you spend. When you buy dried chickpeas, you’ll get over 100 grams of protein for every dollar.
I was a vegetarian for 10 years, so it wasn’t news to me that you could get enough protein without animal-based sources, but my carnivorous husband was hesitant. Thankfully he gave it a try. Not only did he not hate it, but he felt healthier.
These habits weren’t that difficult to adopt and have saved me thousands of dollars over the years. My receipt doesn’t stay at $50 every week; there are weeks where I’ll spend more, but sometimes I’ll spend less! Whatever it is, as long as I’m doing these things I feel no shame in my grocery spending game.