Shopping Smart

27 People On How They Were Finally Able To Cut Down Their Monthly Food Budget

By | Friday, May 20, 2016


How much do you spend on food in one month? First, I guess it depends on how you define your ‘food’ budget. There’s some debate as to whether eating out should be counted within your ‘food/groceries’ budget, or your ‘entertainment’ budget. Personally, I think it goes in your entertainment budget, and I budget (for myself, and to occasionally feed my boyfriend or roommate) about $240 for food every month. Recently, Redditor ScottishIslander posted on r/personalfinance asking how people of the internet keep their food costs down on a monthly basis. The original poster is spending about $600 on food as a single male in NYC. An impressive amount of commenters got into the discussion of how they trimmed down their too-high food budget, and offered suggestions on how ScottishIslander could cut back. (It’s worth noting that I personally wouldn’t want to follow all of their suggestions, and the following quotes are simply what works for these Redditors!) If you’re looking to slash your food budget, here are 27 suggestions to consider.

1. “Cooking. For $10, you can make more than one day’s worth of food. About 75% of the food I eat comes from a grocery store, not a restaurant. Learn to make some meals that last more than one day. A crockpot is simple to operate. Having a few staples (bread, eggs, pasta, etc.) is always important. Buy some things in bulk to use for quick meals (canned, dried and frozen goods). And cut back on alcohol. Alcohol is expensive. Drinking at home is cheaper than drinking out.” — ]kayoss_

2. “$300/month is very reasonable. I live near LA and spend less than that on food. This includes baking fun things once or twice a week to bring into work. Also, any time I eat out, I put that against my ‘fun’ budget.

As for saving money on food:

  • I look at the flyers grocery stores mail out. If there is a good sale, I plan a meal around the sale items.
  • Don’t try cooking single portion meals throughout the week. It’s far more economical to cook a large amount of food once or twice a week and eat that a few days in a row.
  • Watch a food show occasionally to get ideas. This will help prevent you from getting bored cooking the same thing too often, and reverting back to eating out to mix it up.” — catalevision

3.Buy in bulk and prepare your own meals. For example, quite often you can get a 10 pound bag of potatoes for $5 and that is enough to have some for every meal all week. Add in a big bag of beans, some barley or rice, some oatmeal, carrots, apples, broccoli, and you’re pretty much set.” — MacintoshEddie

4. “Costco is seriously super cost effective if you have a membership!” — HBunchesOO

5. “Also, get a five-pound package of chicken beasts or thighs.” — skeever2

6. “I generally only buy meat when it’s on sale and throw it in the freezer.” — MacintoshEddie

7. “Whole chicken, stuff some lemons up its butt and stick it in the oven!” — workingtrot

8. “My wife and my budget is about $350 [a month]. You can do it! Just gotta cook. When I was single, big batches of spaghetti and meat and chicken and rice were golden.” — dweed4

9. “Me and my wife spend about $250 to $300 on food per month. We just don’t go out to eat very often, and when we do, my parents treat us haha. We started eating a lot less to lose weight, too.” — ohyouarethatdude

10. “Eating less meat helps, because meat is expensive. Veggies and pasta are cheap. We buy a few days worth of veggies at a time, so we don’t waste any. Our grocery has buy-one-get-one-free sales often, so we stock up on whatever meat is on sale, and cook around it.” — ohyouarethatdude

11. “On the veggie front, checking into coops in your area is also a great idea. I get huge boxes of fresh seasonal veggies for about $23 here in St Louis.” — coquihalla

12. “Gotta cook at home, using low cost stuff like beans, rice, oatmeal, milk, veggies, potatoes etc. as the backbone of your diet, so you can still afford good meats/chicken/fish. I was able to bulk up eating 5000cals a day for three months. [I never went] over $250 a month by employing this method, and I ate chicken and red meat every day.

Chicken breast is usually $4+ a pound by me, but chicken thighs are usually $1.50 a pound, and sometimes $.70 when on sale. They’re bone-in skin-on, so once you ditch those, you have thigh meat that’s damn near the same macros and cals as chicken breast (although you get about 75% of the weight after you ditch the skin and bone). Deboning and deskinning is a bit of a pain, so usually I’ll buy 20+ pounds at a time, then spend an hour going through it all. Then I just portion it into five-pound bags, throw one in the fridge for the week, then freeze the rest and thaw as needed.” — nm1745

13. “” — skeever2

14. “Get a slow cooker. Spray with non-stick spray, stick in a chuck roast, maybe some potatoes and carrots under it, or just some barbecue sauce, and let it cook overnight. Brown the meat first if you wish, and use barbecue sauce if you don’t — tastes better. Or [you can use] chicken thighs instead of beef. Make rice, or get a rice cooker and make rice. Buy frozen vegetables. Get some good lunch containers. Load with the above and reheat.

Then you’ve got a lot of meals for pretty cheap. You can do all of this without a slow cooker or rice maker, but you might think you have better things to do with your time.

Rice is pretty good. A scoop of rice with two eggs over medium makes a decent breakfast (or dinner). Add some green onion for bite.” — Callmedory

15. “Just for the extreme end of the spectrum, I’m a 140 pound female with an abnormally-small income. My target per month is $150, but I get up to about $200 a month. I live in a major metropolitan area, and I grow all my own herbs/lettuces and many spices.” — HunnyBunnah

16. “The biggest change I made was to stop buying junk food. I stopped buying soda, bags of chips, and shit like that. The junk food we all love is the most expensive and typically makes our bills go up. Try Trader Joe’s; I can usually get a week’s worth of a variety of groceries for $50.” — HikerTom

17. “I like If you do the membership, they will plan out everything, including your groceries for the week.” — tfwqij

18. “One easy way to start: learn to drink water. Buy yourself a sport bottle and refill it before you go to work. Hell, fill it at bathroom sinks if you have to; the water’s clean enough. It’ll take a while if you’re used to sweet juices or fizzy caffeine drinks, but your wallet and your health will be better off for it.” — pjabrony

19. “Make your breakfast the night before, and you don’t have to worry about time in the morning. Lunch can be leftovers from the night before or you can do /r/mealprepsunday. I noticed in another comment that you’re in NYC, which is a pricey town and eating out twice a day, or 10 times a week, quickly adds up, as you’ve noticed. You can google an affordable grocery store near you, but even in NYC, $6/pound for chicken is ridiculous.” — holden147

20. “This was a game changer for me: what I found helped is automatically portioning meals out into separate Tupperware containers, so I could just grab and go on my way out the door in the morning. So instead of putting all the broccoli in one tupperware, all the rice in another, and all the chicken in a third, I make three tupperwares that each have a portion of chicken, rice, and broccoli, and then grab one and a yogurt in the morning, and boom, I’m out the door. I found that this helps me IMMENSELY with not spending money on eating out for lunch during the week, because I don’t have to spend time in the morning putting anything together. (I am not a morning person.)

If your workplace allows/is set up for this, another thing I do is keep the makings for sandwiches at work. So I keep a loaf of bread, deli meat, cheese, whatever fixins, and a jar of mayo in the fridge at work, all together in a grocery bag, and I usually have a container of hummus in there too. I then assemble a sandwich for lunch in our work kitchenette, and grab my bag of pretzel thins from my office drawer to eat with the hummus. Boom: yummy lunch (and healthier than eating out) that costs you $10-$12/week instead of $10-$12/day.

Between the pre-portioned tupperwares and the sandwich makings, I’ve gone from eating out for lunch almost every day to eating out for lunch about once every other week.” — ky_ginger

21. “Drinks and eating out are recreation or ‘play’ budget. It’s fine if that’s how you want to spend your play money, but it shouldn’t be lumped in with food. Eating out is the easiest way to burn a ton of money and have no idea where it went. My wife and I eat out maybe twice per month, maximum, and we’ve saved a ton of money this way.” — Slidshocking_Krow

22. “[Stop ‘if’ spending.] If you go out to a bar, if you buy just one Chipotle burrito, etc. Stop doing the ‘if’ stuff, and you’re already halfway to curbing your spending on food.”— Hark_An_Adventure

23. “I sit around $200-$250 [for food each month]. And $300 would be my absolute limit. In order to save anything, fast food needs to drop. I just allow myself up to two times a month. Lunches should be from home. Sandwiches, salads, leftovers, etc. Anything you could come up with will most likely always be cheaper than what you buy at a fast food court.” — Palmer11

24. “PB&J – ramen – eggs w/chilula – costco frozen chicken breasts – quinoa/brownrice. With that right there, you can spend next to nothing per month. I am going to work this bad boy right here ’til I’m a millionaire.” — AstralMan69

25. “Make a goal of eating in a restaurant only on a special occasion. ‘Special occasion’ would be for your wedding anniversary or university graduation. ‘Restaurant’ includes fast food.

It may be a long road if you’re in a habit of eating in restaurants for every meal. Working that down to zero is a big job. You have to really want to do it. As I did it, I basically redefined my understanding of nutrition, to the point that the things I consider ‘food’ have changed.” — ]wyvernwy

26. “Monthly budget for food is about $550-$600 [a month] for two. This includes all grocery store purchases, including household items, not just food. Basically, we cook on weekends for the whole week, then something special for Sunday night. We go out maybe once a month, and it is counted toward entertainment. We look for deals, especially on meat. We use coupons whenever we can, but do not buy items just because there is a coupon for them. We make a list before we go to a store and stick to it, which means very few spontaneous purchases.” — Niakris812

27. “A 20lb bag of rice is good for close to a month’s worth of regular meals and is around $20. Beans are ~$1/day. Embellish from there.” — Gjhryuuuythhhgfdet

Image via Unsplash

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