My husband, Matt, and I like challenges. When we moved to San Diego we decided not to get cable and still 11 years later we haven’t caved in.

Over the years we have gravitated to living more minimalistic so don’t have a lot of expenses but the one area we spend the most on outside of our mortgage is food. I would like to think it is because we are athletes and burn a lot of calories and need more fuel so it never really concerned me.  Luckily Matt and I both agree on the philosophy to pay the farmer and not the doctor.  However when he challenged me to see if we could spend less I had to take the challenge.

On average we spend about $1,000/month on food which includes groceries and eating out so we have tried several times to stay within $600/month. We’ve gotten close but always go over. We even set aside a cash kitty of $600 to only use for food but inevitability at the end of the month the kitty runs dry and we have to reach for the credit card.  Since our vitamins and supplements  aren’t a monthly purchase item we do use our credit card for those items when we need them.

We started this challenge up again in September since I am now unemployed and have time to make more meals at home. Right off the bat we went over budget as we had company in town, at least that is the excuse. This month we have only eaten out (at Wholefoods deli) three times and eaten the rest of our meals, including Matt’s lunches for work, from our own food at home but as of this weekend the kitty is dry so we are doing what any other competitor would do to succeed and scraping by with what we have at home until Thursday, 11/1.

I would love to hear from you on what your family (ours is a family of two excluding our fur babies) spend on groceries/eating out per month and any tips on how to help us reach our goal. If we didn’t eat at Wholefoods those three times this month we would have another $74 for groceries this week ($28, $28 and $18 dinners) but all in all we were pretty impressed with only three meals out this month!

Here is the typical groceries I buy from Sprout’s and Trader Joe’s throughout the month:

  • Fruits and vegetables, mostly non organic
  • Packaged spinach (could buy bunched spinach but always concerned about getting it clean enough to eat)
  • Dates
  • Nut milk, mostly almond
  • Coconut water (started buying multi pack option from CostCo)
  • Orange juice (have tried juicing oranges instead but averages about the same cost)
  • Tempeh
  • Hummus
  • Vegenaise
  • Nori sheets
  • Brown rice and whole wheat wraps
  • Corn tortillas
  • Canned beans & lentils (maybe need to learn to buy bulk and cook them…Juliane – you might have to sell me on her pressure cooking methods)
  • Canned tomatoes or tomato sauce (for sauteing or soups/chili)
  • Canned black olives
  • Oatmeal
  • Pure maple syrup (best price/size I have found is at  CostCo)
  • Almond butter (best price/size I have found is at  CostCo)
  • Ground flax seed
  • Chia seeds
  • Raw nuts (have priced these out and get walnuts and almonds at CostCo and cashews at TJs)
  • Bulk brown rice
  • Raw cacoa powder (special item for raw baking)
  • Raw cacoa nibs (special item for raw baking)
  • Coconut or olive oil
  • Maca powder
  • Dried mango (Just Mango at TJs)
  • Chocolate covered almonds with sea salt (TJs)
  • Energy bars (usually make homemade ones but grab Clif and Lara bars from time to time)

Again I would love to hear any feedback from you but in summary from this list I can see some areas to improve such as buying bunched spinach and washing/prepping myself and passing on our special Just Mango and chocolate covered almonds and skipping on eating out all together but then again maybe since we get enjoyment from these simple mostly healthy pleasures we should just adjust our budget to $700/month:)

Cash kitty only has change in it and the fridge is getting bare. Will get creative with beans from the pantry until November 1st arrives and cash kitty replenished!


5 thoughts on “Food

  1. Hi Heidi,

    Wow, $1000/month seems like a lot. We generally spend between $500-600 (depending on if we eat out twice in a month or more), and that includes household items and dog food as well. I’ve always found groceries cheaper in the US than here, although perhaps that’s changed? Our grocery lists have a lot of similarities.

    One thing we do is only buy nuts and dried fruits by bulk. Sooo much cheaper than pre-packaged bags. We also have found the stores where each item we buy has the best price, so shopping day is a bit of an ordeal as we visit 2-4 places each time. But we’ve reduced our grocery bill by about 20% by doing this. I never shop at Costco because I refuse to pay admission to a grocery store (under the guise of a “membership”), and have found the same prices at other stores – although not all at the same one. Also, produce is cheaper at the farmer’s markets.

    We also stock up when things are on sale – for example one store had cans of coconut water on sale for $1 each, so yesterday we bought a case of 24, rather than the 2 or so we would normally buy in a week. Eden Organic beans were also on sale for $1 so we stocked up on those as well.

    Have you considered one of the home produce delivery services? I am assuming you have those there. We have a company called Spud Organic, and you choose a set weekly price, and each week they deliver a box. Contains some items that are regular, re-occuring items you can choose (e.g. bananas, oranges, etc), and some unusual items that are currently in season. Can help you stay on budget as it’s a fixed price. But sometimes forces you to be creative, when they throw in something like a rutabaga or something else unusual.

    What about planting a garden?

    Good luck with the challenge!

  2. Great post, and I can relate!

    We have come to accept (for the most part) that food is the one thing that we splurge on (organics, preservative free, etc.) We too limit the eating out – one day a week now, and look for ways to save.

    Two things I’ve done differently recently:

    1) Grew my own veggies this summer and canned my own tomatoes. I used to buy a TON of canned tomatoes – but not this year! It’s great to avoid the metal cans as much as possible anyway.

    2) I buy beans in bulk and cook them rather than use canned, quite a savings in money but NOT on time! It takes some getting used to.

    – I make my own “corn chips” by cutting up tortillas and baking them – everyone loves them and so much cheaper.

    Other thoughts: Do you make your own nut butter and hummus? If not, SO MUCH cheaper to do so!

    Also, have you considered a weekly rotating dinner out at friends? That way you are getting socialization, eating “out” and saving money by hosting it once and eating for free the other 3 weeks! (I can’t get anyone here interested in this, I wish we lived closer!!!)

    I’ll look forward to hearing more about how it’s going. 🙂

  3. One other thing – what about coupons? I hear of many people who save a lot of money by searching for coupons and using them. Apparently there are some online sites that have them, rather than just the usual flyers. That could be a fun challenge… how much could you save using coupons? 🙂

  4. Pingback: 10 Carrots | veganxplorer

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