Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants. Save money on groceries.
This is Michael Pollan‘s advice on a healthy diet, which he talks about in his book In Defense of Food, but it also seems to work well for sticking to a budget. We’ve now gone two months, with a family of four, and a grocery budget of five hundred dollars. Actually, we’ve come in well under the budget. We’re averaging less than four hundred dollar per month, and that’s way better than I thought we’d do. We’re not clipping coupons, we’re not buying in bulk at Costco, we’re not shopping the ads. Nope, we’re shopping primarily at Trader Joe’s, and we’re eating at the bottom of the food chain.
How to Save Money on Groceries: Eat Food
I’m talking about buying ingredients and doing some cooking. Cooking isn’t hard. Every recipe you could ever imagine is online, so if you don’t know how to make something, just Google it. And if you’re thinking about buying a prepared meal because it seems cheaper, it isn’t. If some company paid a worker to use expensive equipment to turn ingredients in a prepackaged meal, they’re certainly going to charge you for the worker, the expensive equipment and the packaging. So just buy the ingredients. I’m also convinced that coupons are simply advertisements and that advertisements are always, always attempts to get you to purchase something you don’t really need. Maybe not always, always, always, but certainly always, always. Two, but not three.
How to Save Money on Groceries: Not too Much
Of course overeating is a concern. It not only takes a toll on your health, but also your money. But let’s also mention food waste. How much do you purchase at one time? How much of that gets eaten before it rots? In making a conscious effort to reduce our spending and tracking that spending over the last two months, I’ve noticed that we don’t have any individual purchases over $75 on groceries. Our average purchase is $20. Exactly 20, which is actually a little weird. I attribute this to making a list and sticking to it. No impulse purchases. Ok, very few impulse purchases. But I also attribute this to the idea of buying just one bag of spinach instead of two. That just-in-case bag of spinach just ends up in the compost all too often. Finally though, I attribute it to working at a grocery store. It’s much easier to make small purchases every day when I’m there every day anyway. So that’s my unfair advantage.
How to Save Money on Groceries: Mostly Plants
This can be hard for some people. We do it anyway. I’ve been a vegetarian for over fifteen years now, and Sunny always has been. Actually, Coraline and Mazlo always have been as well. And in fact, Sunny and I went vegan a few year ago, and while we don’t stick to that as strictly anymore, we learned a lot during that lifestyle experiment and we seldom eat dairy and eggs now, five years later. Point is that beans and rice are full of protein and everything else you need and are far, far, far cheaper than meat. That’s right, far, far, far, not just far, far. Unless you’re purchasing the most unhealthy, processed, mostly fat and sodium meat you can buy from the convenient store. Maybe that’s cheaper than the organic beans I buy at Trader Joe’s for 99 cents a can.
Let’s recap. Don’t buy food that’s being marketed towards you. Don’t throw your food away, because you’re just throwing your money away. Don’t eat animals, because lives are expensive. This is how I’ve learned to save money on groceries. What do you know?