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How We Cut Our Grocery Bill By 50%

We saved over $600 on groceries and never felt deprived. Here’s how:

When this little experiment began, I thought of our household as a relatively frugal one:

We don’t eat out very much, we shop at ‘inexpensive’ places and my partner and I don’t struggle with impulse-buying.

I honestly didn’t think we were spending that much money each month on groceries until I broke our budget up into categories.  This revealed a startling truth: we spent MOST of our money each month (outside of necessary expenses like the mortgage and utilities) on one specific category: FOOD.

Since I love a good experiment (especially if it saves me time or money), I convinced my partner to join me in the simple task: let’s see how much money we can save on groceries in one month!

And so it began.  I was extremely surprised to discover we not only cut our grocery bill in half, but we also didn’t feel deprived in the process.  In fact, I’m going to be continuing this experiment in the months ahead to see how much money we can save this year.

Okay, I’ll get on with how the heck we did it. 

Here’s what we did to save money (about $600 in a month!!) on our grocery bill:

1. We got honest about the numbers. 

It’s impossible to track the progress of a goal if you don’t have a snapshot of where you are at the beginning of your task. My partner and I sat down at the beginning of the month, pulled up our credit card statement and recorded the numbers.  We included coffee (which we have a subscription for), alcohol and also ALL dining out in our overall grocery budget.  Basically all consumables outside of vitamins were included in this number.  

We were STUNNED to discover our total from the previous month was around $1200.  Now, some of that spending was due to a holiday, but STILL.  This figure seemed REALLY high.  

Since we didn’t have any numbers to  compare it to, I began to poll our friends and family about their spending habits.  Our circle ranged everywhere from about $575 per month to $1200 per month.  Some of the lower numbers came in from our budget-minded friends and family members so that explains THAT.  Another factor that impacted grocery spend in our circle was how carnivorous the household was – our vegetarians spent less on groceries overall because they weren’t spending the extra dollars on meat.

A little back-story here, my partner and I eat more (I think) than the average 2-person household.  Connor is a former bodybuilder and still (for the most part) maintains a high-protein diet of around 4 meals per day (down from 5 meals in his competition days).  I’m a gal that loves hard workouts and FOOD, and in my experience, my appetite dwarfs that of most people I spend time with.  (Which was anxiety-inducing as a girl… but that’s a story for another time).  

Since we’re aware of our voluminous food-consumption, we referenced our friends in the fitness world and their numbers were closer to ours: their budget comes in at $1200/month.

After a quick google-search, I discovered the average household in MN spends around $567/month on groceries.  

Armed with this information, I knew we could PROBABLY save a couple hundred dollars per month if we really paid attention to it.

2. We made intentional lists ahead of time with a ‘do we need this’ filter.

Making lists ahead of time really helped us cut our grocery bill.  The key to this was the added question: do we actually need this?  We made our grocery lists together using my favorite list-app Microsoft To-do.  We made sure to come together in our kitchen so we could accurately assess the levels of our hoard before adding anything to the list, and always tried to do this when we weren’t already hungry (this helps!!). Finally, we followed each addition to our list with the question: do we actually need this??

It was amazing how many times we eliminated items from our list and ended up not missing them.  One regularly shopped item that got the axe was andouille chicken-sausages from Costco.  We would always buy them when they were in stock, but I haven’t for a second missed having them in my refrigerator (or my stomach).

3. We bought foods and food-prepped for multiple meals in a mix-and-match style.

This third tactic for limiting our grocery spending brought me back to the days when we were BOTH bodybuilding (LORD, I do not miss those days…)

When we made our lists for this month-long spending experiment, we took a page out of the old body-building book and edited it for our purposes: how do we get the most volume with the least amount of dollars (in bodybuilding days it was how do we get the most volume for the least amount of CALORIES – it was a dark time).

We bought items like bulk chicken and made multiple meal plans with it that didn’t involve a lot of extra ingredients.  An example would be: we baked a full cookie sheet of chicken tenderloins, and used them for asian stir-fry dinners, thai soup lunches, covered them with sauce and ate them next to a bed of rice and sauteed veggies.  The more  versatile your ingredients are, the better.  Especially when you’re buying for a household of two.

4. We shopped smarter: Costco + rewards, Aldi vs. Cub.

This was a surprising revelation in our shopping habits: Aldi groceries are almost HALF the cost of the same/mostly similar items at Cub Foods.  I was shocked.  Now, the problem with Aldi is they don’t carry ALL the foods we require, so we always had to pick up a thing or two from Cub- but with curbside pickup this is a breeze.  

We’re also avid Costco-shoppers and with a little research we found that this was one habit we were doing half-right.  Buying organic chicken and organic produce in bulk from Costco is a MUCH better deal than anywhere else.  The trick is figuring out how much your family of two can get through in a week or two (before it goes bad) and only buying what you actually need.  This has taken some practice, but we now know how many packages of veggies and fruits we need to get us through a week without anything spoiling or running out prematurely.

We also paid attention to which types of fruits and veggies gave us the most bang for our buck and reduced our spending on the more expensive varieties.

An additional perk of being a Costco shopper is their Citi Costco rewards credit card.  It’s the only credit card we use for our household and it gives us cashback on groceries, gas, travel and basically every purchase!!  We get about $600-$700 of cash back every year.  If this fits into your goals, you can learn more about it here.

A note here: I will also add that we are a family who values high-quality organic foods, which has definitely affected our spending habits.  Throughout this experiment in lowering our grocery bill we didn’t sacrifice quality, but in many cases we did reduce QUANTITY, which ended up being part of our success.

So if you’re thinking you’re going to have to sacrifice your organic fruits and high-quality meats, I’m here to tell you, you WON’T.  But, you may have to cut back on the frequency with which you indulge in the more expensive items on your list.

5. I mined our cupboards.

To my surprise, our pantry cupboard had all sorts of treasures in it that could be creatively combined for a delicious meal.  I tried to choose one old item from our cupboards to build a meal around each week to work through our pantry non-perishables. Some examples were a delicious chickpea-pasta dinner, and a thai curry meal.

6. We broke old habits.

We all have eating habits.  One of mine (and my Partner’s) is to construct our meals in a very specific way: heavy protein, 1-2 servings of a carb (like rice, pasta or bread), and a serving or so of a low-carb vegetable.  These old habits were definitely carried over from our bodybuilding days and all-in-all they’re pretty healthy… except they don’t allow for much leeway in the intuitive eating department.  I found myself better able to let go of this old pattern and indulge in a few differently-balanced meals to suit our new goals: save money and feel good about it.  To my surprise, I felt MORE satisfied with the variety I allowed myself and my waistline didn’t seem to mind either ;).  The occasional grilled ham and cheese sandwich or pasta dinner was a refreshing change from my perfectly-macro-friendly meals I’d become accustomed to.  #living

Another old habit that each of us reconsidered (and I certainly don’t miss) is our reliance on protein powders and protein bars to supplement our meals.  Each of us used to use protein powder every day at breakfast and eat about a protein bar per day.  We were budget-conscious in our protein supplement choices: his protein powder was bought from Costco and averages about 80 cents per day in the amount he consumes, mine was a popular collagen supplement which averages about $1 per day.  I decided to try eating REAL FOOD for most of my meals instead of my post-workout protein bar, and halved the collagen in my morning coffee and have felt great.  Connor still has his morning protein powder but has cut his protein bar intake back by about 60%.

My protein bars were VERY expensive (they’re raw, vegan and Gluten-free) so at around $3 a pop (on discount with a subcription), I eliminated them from our budget and haven’t missed them.  In fact, I find myself less bloated and more satisfied when I eat normal food throughout the day rather than relying on supplements.

7. We ordered groceries online ONLY ONCE PER WEEK in order to see a running total and minimize trips.

Ordering food online has drastically cut our grocery spending because we’re able to see a running total of the items we’ve shopped as we go.  This has SEVERAL times encouraged me to eliminate the $6 gluten-free cookies I’ve added to the cart in favor of more satisfying indulgences like the occasional (okay DAILY) squares of dark chocolate.  

Costco doesn’t do online ordering where we live, so when we venture into the store for a weekly shop, we stick to the list and avoid impulse buys.  When we’re distracted by a ‘shiny object’ we take a picture and think about it for a week.  Usually by the time we go back we don’t feel the need to buy it anymore.

Limiting our grocery trips to only once per week definitely contributed to our success in this experiment.  It forced us to plan ahead, and eliminated the sometimes expensive ‘I’ll stop in to pick up just one thing…’ Target runs that inevitably turn into a 4-5 item purchase.

8. We limited eating out.

At the time I’m writing this we’re still in the middle of a pandemic so it’s not necessarily hard to cut back on dining out.  We put a limit on this months ago and stuck to it this month: only ordering delivery 2-3 X per month.  This month we really weighed the craving vs. convenience aspect.  If we were genuinely craving food from our local Middle Eastern restaurant, we ordered it.  If we were just being lazy and not wanting to cook our own food, we sucked it up and raided our refrigerator.

9. We eliminated alcohol.

You might have noticed at the beginning of this article that we include alcohol in our grocery budget.  We decided to do a little detox this month along with this grocery experiment that has accounted for over $150 of our savings.  Limiting your alcohol consumption or at least keeping your spending under a certain number (set a rule!!) can drastically reduce your grocery budget.

Alright, that was a NOVEL and congratulations to you if you made it to the end!   If you’re looking to spend less money on groceries and even cut your grocery spending in HALF, I hope these tips are helpful to you.  Please reach out if you have any questions!

 

Looking to make changes in other areas of your life?  You’d probably love the free mini-course:

How To Set Goals For The Life You Want

How To Set Goals For The Life You Want

Instead of the one you think you SHOULD have.

To listen to this blog in Podcast form, press play here:

Do you remember the answer you gave to the question: ‘what do you want to be when you grow up?’

Some of the popular answers from when I was growing up were:

Astronaut!

Teacher!

Firefighter!

Nurse!

Mom!

The beautiful thing about asking a child this question lies in their innocence around how the world works.  Most likely, they haven’t yet learned that life is hard and you don’t always get what you want.  From this untainted mindset, children are able to dream from a no-holds-barred kind of place that allows them to imagine themselves as… well, anything.

By the time most of us reach adulthood, a couple things happen to our dream-lives:

1. Our parents and our experiences tell us who we should and shouldn’t be in the world,

2. We forget about our childish dreams, and

3. We accept our fate with the gifts we think we have and the limitations we’ve discovered about ourselves.  

Now, this gradual disconnection from what we really want isn’t always ‘smart, well-adjusted adulting’. For many of us, disconnecting from our dreams turns into a form of repression.  We’re meant to explore and grow and change in our ideas about ourselves and the world we live in – and in order to do that, we have to challenge our current reality and occasionally (lovingly) let parts of it go.  This ‘letting go’ process is what allows you to reset and make sure you’re moving forward in the direction you’re ACTUALLY excited about, rather than settling for what you think you ought to have.

For many of us, disconnecting from our dreams turns into a form of repression. 

The life you actually want doesn’t have to be a dream.  You can ditch your ‘shoulds’ and decide to work towards the life you want instead of the one you’ve settled for.

Here are some tangible steps for setting goals for the life you want instead of the one you think you ‘should’ have:

Pre-step 1: understand your ‘shoulds’. 

If you are living in ways you think you ‘should’ live, something’s out of alignment.  The word should is a shame word, it comes from a judgement of what’s right and wrong and we use it to look at our lives from an outside perspective rather than an inner knowledge.  This outside view tells us we ‘should’ be a certain way, instead of us deciding and choosing  a path based on our values.  If you’re ‘should-ing’ on  yourself, examine the beliefs behind each statement.  Are they true?  Where did they come from?  What if they weren’t true for you?

Once you understand your ‘shoulds’, you can move on to the process of setting goals for the life you actually want (as outlined below).

1. Allow yourself to dream: what if you said yes to that dream? 

Let’s take this back to age 5 on the playground.  You’re laying in the sand after several jaunts up and down the slide and your friend asks you, what do you want to be when you grow up? 

What do you say?  This might be a memory you had from what you’ve said before- or it might be your inner child sending you some wisdom.  Write down your answers regardless of the case. 

Now, let’s take this to the present moment.  What would your ideal life look like?  What would you spend your time doing?  How would you like to feel?  Notice the resistance that might come up here – you’re going to hear yourself think things like: ‘I can’t afford to do that!’  or, ‘I don’t have the time!’  These are just old beliefs based on your old ideas about what your life is capable of being.  In order to set goals for the life you actually want and to get out of all the ‘shoulds’, you’ve got to get past your inner critic.  Steven Pressfield says: “The ability to overcome resistance, self-sabotage and self-doubt is way more important than talent.’  Stop worrying about HOW and just let yourself dream it up first.  

2. In order to get honest about setting goals for the life you want instead of the one you think you should have, you’re going to need to think in terms of what you want your life to look like, not necessarily what you think is possible based on what you’ve already experienced.

Dr. Joe Dispenza’s transformative work in neuroscience illustrates this beautifully: our thoughts create patterns in our brain that form well-worn ruts (called neural pathways).  After a while, our thinking becomes really patterned and when we think the same things over and over, we get the same results in our lives.  You’ve decided by now what your life can and cannot look like.  In order to create something new, you’ll need to entertain new thoughts about what your life could be.  Get yourself out of the box you’ve created for yourself by allowing yourself to challenge your thoughts- especially the negative, self-defeating ones.  Ask questions like: ‘what if I could do that?’ or  ‘What would that look like if I said yes?’

Research shows that simply thinking  new thoughts about your life can create brand-new neural pathways in your brain.  This means your brain will start helping you find new ways to show up in the world – ones you’ve never thought of previously.

3. Get crystal clear about this new life you’re imagining for yourself. 

This involves a whole-picture reframe of what your life could look like.  What do the possibilities for your life really look like?  Get clear by answering these questions: 

(For a guided meditation that takes you through this process, click here).

What time do you get up in the morning?

What do you spend your day thinking about?

What kind of clothes are you wearing?

Where do you live?

How much money do you make?

What do you do for work?

Who do you surround yourself with?

What lights you up?

4. This next step is essential when setting goals for the life you want instead of the one you think you should have: you MUST Identify how long you’re willing to work towards this life and what you’re what you’re willing to give for it. 

Seth Godin talks about this idea on this episode of the Tim Ferriss podcast. Paraphrasing, he sites, if your dream job is to start a technology company, and you’re not willing to take out a second mortgage on your house for it, it’s not the right goal for you.  Basically, he’s saying there’s always a cost for the life you want to live.  You will have to give up parts of the life you have now in order to create something new. If that’s not worth it to you, cross the idea off your list and choose something else.  It’s okay to not want to sacrifice, it just means your dream life isn’t quite in alignment with what you’re willing to give for it (which means, it will *most likely* always be a dream). 

On another level, if you decide you want to be a minimalist, but you don’t want to eliminate anything from your life – well, you can’t really follow through.  Make sure you choose dreams and goals that you’re willing to do the work for, otherwise you’re always pining for something that’s not aligned with your personal reality.

5. Break your big goal down into minuscule steps.

Once you have a clear picture of what you want and you’ve identified that you’re willing to work for it, break the big picture into minuscule steps.  Like, smaller than you would think.  There are a couple ruts that are common at this step: 1. Waiting for motivation to magically get you going, and 2. biting off more than you can chew.  Habit-guru and bestselling author James Clear sites the problem with waiting for motivation to move toward your goals: it’s much better for your momentum and how your brain registers success to focus on completing small actions consistently, rather than trying to sprint your way towards success or wait for a spark of motivation to magically get you there. 

Does the life you want involve you traveling the world?  Start with something super small like scheduling a time each week to look at maps to see where you’d like to go, or subscribing to a worldly magazine and reading an article each week for inspiration.

Is your goal to become super-fit and design a line of workout clothing?  Start with researching workouts that light you up, buying some running shoes, or hiring a personal trainer.

Make these steps small, measurable, and actionable.

6. Make space and schedule your first small steps. 

In order to set those goals for the life you want instead of the one you think you should have, you’ve got to make space for your new direction and schedule your steps into your current life.  Take a look at your calendar. What’s no longer aligned with the goals you’re setting for your new life?  What can you eliminate to free up your time and energy?  Cancel all those commitments and replace them with your new, tiny, action steps toward your new goal.  As my favorite success-guru Marie Forleo says: “if it isn’t scheduled, it isn’t real”.

7. Revaluate your big picture often. 

Life happens (remember 2020!?).

Return to your goals and vision for your life and update it as your life grows and changes.  This picture will morph and change as you do, and it’s important to adjust your goals as well. Stay connected with yourself and what you want, and don’t forget your big picture.  ALL big things are created one small step at a time, so remind yourself of the steps you can take every single day to realize your dreams.