For the last few months I’ve been getting a few questions from curious friends and readers as to how I keep my monthly grocery spending so low.
After all, for the entirety of 2018 I averaged spending just under $135/month on groceries, which was the lowest it’s ever been for myself since I started tracking my expenses in 2015.
I knew this was a low number, but just how low is it?
To put this in perspective, the Official USDA Food Plans for January 2019 lists the “Thrifty Plan” (lowest cost plan) for a Male 19-50 years old as costing an average of $186.50/month. How did I get my grocery spending over $50 lower than the “Thrifty Plan” presented by the USDA?
I was also a little curious to the answer, seeing as with most of my finances, I don’t view myself as doing anything special.
During the month of February, I decided to actually get to the bottom of this, and tracked every single grocery purchase I made.
While the foods I eat, or the prices I get them at may not be applicable to everyone depending on a whole host of factors, I hope this sheds a little insight into how this is possible!
Before we hop in to the actual purchases, I figured it may be helpful to go over a few ground rules that lay the basis for what I eat and other things that have helped me.
First: I go grocery shopping once per week, and sparingly go anytime else. That one time per week is at Aldi, which has the best prices in the area by far that I’ve noticed. Going one time helps me to avoid decision fatigue, stay disciplined, and not pick up things I don’t need.
Second: I don’t follow any diet, and eat pretty much whatever I want. My weight fluctuates between 185-200 lbs which is not food related and really depends on how much I’m working out (it’s been closer to 185 recently since I’ve been bad about this 🙁 ) I try to eat relatively healthy with lots of veggies and fruits, but there are plenty of “cheat foods” I eat as well.
Third: I do Intermittent Fasting (IF) during the week, and most weekends. I’ll typically do a 16 hour fast: eating no later than 8pm, skipping breakfast (just have coffee/tea and water), and eating lunch at Noon.
I’ve been doing this for about 3-4 years so I’m pretty used to it. I typically don’t get hungry in the morning which really helps me do this. One reason I think helps me out is that I drink a lot of water, around 100 oz a day, which keeps me hydrated and not too hungry throughout most of the day.
Fourth: I have eaten pretty much the same lunch every day since I started my full time job over 4 years ago. I’ll describe it in detail further below, but this lunch is very convenient, cost effective and leaves me satisfied afterwards.
I save my dinner leftovers for dinner some other night. Since I usually get home late I love those nights when I don’t have to cook!
Fifth: My meals are extremely basic. While one day when I have more time on my hands I’d like to explore cooking more, for now I keep my meals very simple and boring to save on time. I’m no foodie and pretty much will eat anything (minus celery… gross!) so I don’t mind.
So there you have it! Now let’s finally see line by line what I spend my grocery money on! 🙂
As told above, I do IF which pretty much eliminates the Breakfast category. The times I do have Breakfast on the weekends I’ll usually make it a late one and combine it into a brunch.
I’ll have some combination of cereal, peanut butter toast, eggs or pancakes when I do.
The coffee/tea I have in the morning during weekdays are supplied for free by work, which is a nice little incentive.
The lunch I’ve had pretty much every day of my working life consists of the following:
- Sandwich (some kind of deli meat, peanut butter & jelly, or tuna)
- Greek Yogurt cup (varying flavor everyday)
- Granola Bar
- 2 other fruits (mix it up every week, includes apples, blueberries, grapes, oranges, strawberries, etc)
Aside from the deli meats, which I try to get the healthier, low sodium versions, I think this is a relatively healthy lunch to have daily. If you are reminded of the lunch of an elementary school aged kid… guilty!
This lunch is so easy to put together, it literally takes 2-3 minutes, and is very cost effective!
I rotate deli meats and will alternate between chicken, turkey, ham and roast beef to get a mix in and to ensure I don’t get sick of one type of meat.
For the fruits, Aldi has a weekly sale so I will usually pick up whatever is the best deal! I love all kinds of fruit, so I’m not picky and will get the best deal I can.
As a side note, I was getting wheat/whole grain bread for a while, but recently switched to white bread as I think the whole grains weren’t getting meshing too well with my body.
As mentioned previously, my dinners are very basic, and can be put together very quickly. I get home late from work, and the last thing I want to do is spend a lot of time cooking and cleaning many dishes, as that cuts into my unstructured time and relaxation before bed.
As you can tell, I am very much a meat eater, and usually center my dinners on a meat with a side of veggies and sometimes other grains. Salads are a common side and sometimes main course when I add chicken, which I’ll also mix in with avocados/peppers/carrots and other toppings.
Perhaps someday I will go a couple weeks, or a month with no meats, just to try out the vegetarian side of things, but for now it’s a rarity when I don’t have any meat at some point during the day.
Standard weekly meals consist of chicken/pork and veggies, tacos/burritos/quesadillas, pasta with meat sauce, pulled pork, burgers, chicken + avocado salads, and kielbasa, among others.
When I’m really feeling lazy, I also keep some quick meals handy (such as the cans of Spaghetti-O’s and frozen pizza). I try to keep these to only a couple times a month since they are unhealthier options, but if I’m going to be unhealthy I’d rather do that on the cheaper side than be unhealthy ordering more expensive food from a to-go restaurant!
This consists of pretty much everything else under my grocery line.
I usually end up snacking a decent amount during my IF eating window so here’s where a bunch of these expenses go.
I also have a sweet tooth, but usually keep that at bay. This month however, was the annual discount chocolate day (Feb 15th 🙂 ) so I totally had to take advantage and grab chocolates for my girlfriend and I to enjoy!
I don’t drink alcohol nearly as often as I used to, and pretty much will go through a six pack every month or so which is good enough for me as I don’t drink on weekdays at all.
Lastly, I never even realized that the Virginia sales tax on groceries was only 2.5%. I thought that was great until I saw that the DC sales tax on groceries was 0%! (I work in VA and shop there on my way home from work).
A few other miscellaneous items are also occasionally included in here too but did not show up this month, such as laundry supplies and other personal grooming stuff (deodorant, body wash, shampoo, etc).
Grocery Spending Summary
Adding this all up and the total comes out to $132! (Which ties out to what was shown on my spending report last month).
This was actually slightly above average for a 4 week shopping month, but I can confirm that my pantry, fridge, and freezer are well stocked and anticipate a lighter few spending months in the future because of that.
So there you have it, pretty close to that $135/month on grocery spending from last year.
As you can see, I don’t think I’m doing anything super different here (aside from IF) and keep to a somewhat healthy eating schedule/routine.
I understand it is not realistic for everyone to have grocery expenditures this low. Everyone has different eating habits/styles, and most people would not want to have similar meals everyday/week like I do.
Hopefully you have gained something from this post (even if it’s just that you should try to find an Aldi or other low-cost grocer near you!)
If not, or if you can’t relate to my eating habits, check out these two other posts that were released recently by two other bloggers I follow: A Purple Life and My Money Wizard who also have very low cost grocery habits, but different styles than my own!
Let me know what you think in the comments, and whether this is realistic for you (or perhaps on a per person basis for a family). I’m always open to learning more about the types of food we eat and how they affect our lives!
22 thoughts to “How I Average $135/month on Groceries”
I love detailed posts like this! Except wow, I could never eat the same thing as often as you do haha. Our grocery bill for two people is around…. I don’t want to say, you’ll fall off your chair and die.
(But it’s $400/mo)
Thanks Steph! Yea I had a feeling people would probably want a little more variety in their meals than I do 😅
$400 for two people is very reasonable and actually pretty great when you look at it. It’s all about your preferences and making sure you enjoy what you eat and try to keep it relatively healthy if possible!
I loooove ALDI so much! They are key to keeping grocery costs down. It would be much cheaper if I didn’t adore cooking and experimenting so much haha sounds like you’ve got a pretty well rounded diet, I applaud emphasis on fruits and veggies.
Aldi for the win! And thanks! Fruits and veggies are amazing so I try to have them as much as possible. One day I will expand my eating options! (Which I’m sure will raise my grocery spending as a result 😂 but oh well!)
Great job with grocery. I think it’s much easier to eat like that when you’re young and single. I did that for a while too.
Now that I’m older, we are more indulgent. Usually we spend under $500/m for 2 adults and 1 kid. That’s not too bad.
Thanks Joe! Totally agree. I think my grocery spending will inevitably expand a little once I combine with my significant other and perhaps have a family.
Under $500 for three people is pretty great if you ask me!
I have been looking for posts like this! Thanks for the interesting stats about the “thrifty” among us and for the detailed breakdown. Way to beat that thrifty stat by $50! That will add up a lot over time. I think it’s great that you eat as healthy as you do and don’t consider it a diet. We eat in a very similar way, but somehow our grocery bill is still $500 – $600 as a family of three! It must be our grocery stores (we don’t have an ALDI’s). I think we have to tackle the snack foods more… Maybe then we’ll get on the right track…
I think you’re being too hard on yourself.. For a family of three $500-600 is great! It would seem to be on par with the lower cost plans from that USDA page.
Everyone is different in their tastes, but I think as long as you don’t way over spend on groceries and eat relatively healthy that you’re totally on the right track!
We have a house so we use Costco bulk buying to help us keep our costs down, but damn. I feel like Wayne and Garth in Wayne’s World. (I’m not worthy….)
Haha thank you! I don’t have membership to Costco, but if I did I would totally buy in bulk for several items as well. In the meantime you can find me at Aldi! 😉
Meat eater here, as you know, but I’ve really started to pay attention and have been cutting it out of meals whenever is reasonable. Instead of trying to go full veggie days (which my husband and kiddo have less interest in), I’ve focused on working toward 1 meal a day with meat (usually dinner). But then last night when we were out for a date night, I chose tofu in my pad se ew instead of my usual pork. And it was freaking delicious.
That’s a great way to try that out! I should do that as well, and have an easy excuse with Lent over the next month to do it on Fridays which I follow every year 🙂
I do plan to do some sort of challenge on this at some point this year, just to try out the vegetarian life, but definitely TBD in length.
Congratulations on your food budget. That is great. I do something similar. Oatmeal with fruit for a late breakfast. On Sunday I sometimes cook a big breakfast of eggs, sausage, and sometimes potatoes. Also have frozen waffles I keep in the freezer for other days. Found them at 10 for $1 at my local Foods Co (no Aldi’s in my area). I’m not very active so lunch most days is a soda and sometimes add a piece of fruit, then have a sandwich or portion of a casserole I cook monthly then freeze, for an early dinner. Mostly stick to chicken with an occasional ground beef or pork purchase if I find them on sale. My normal monthly grocery shopping comes in around $50-75 per month. The occasional trip to Costco, mostly for treats and paper products, brings my average spending up to about $100 per month. I only feed myself and am smaller than you.
I am highly motivated to save more monthly and this was an area I was comfortable saving a little more money. It works for me, and it looks like it works for you. I think that’s great.
Wow $100/month is pretty awesome! I like that approach where you find areas to save that works best for your situation. For some it’s on the groceries, for others it’s a different budget line item. Because this can be a relatively big line item for people I like the ability to optimize this one!
Awesome post!! I’m surprised to learn you eat quite similarly to me overall (as far as foods you like) yet spend far less! My biggest takeaway is that I NEED to find a lower cost grocery store. If driving out of my way to Aldi is the way it has to be, that’s something I think I may look at. The prices are FAR lower than what I pay at my grocery store.
I also love all kinds of fruits – grapes, apples, oranges, kiwis, blueberries, raspberries, blackberries, bananas (wow, you eat a lot of bananas 😂), etc. I have a sweet tooth too, but admittedly don’t control it as well. Lindt 85% cacao has been my go-to guilty pleasure of late. Any kind of chocolate, especially dark, is my weakness. I drink a ton of water too! It’s really the best for you. Thankfully I’ve never drank soda or alcohol in my life, both heavy on calories and/or sugar. I drink water, unsweetened iced tea and milk. Pretty much nothing else, although there are exceptions here and there.
I’m curious as to the lack of nuts in your diet, whether it’s peanuts, almonds, walnuts, etc. They’re good for you and make a good snack as well! I was wondering if maybe you have an allergy but I did see the peanut butter in there so I figured I’d ask.
This post may end up inspiring me to eat a little bit better (portion control is an issue for me, I love eating haha) and my weight is a bit higher than I want it to be at this time. I’m 6’2, about 220 lb right now and I want to be more around the 200 lb range ideally. That’s going to require a change to my diet as I exercise plenty. I’ve read casually about IF and it does intrigue me. Might be worth a shot as I think it would help me with discipline over portions and put a better focus on just exactly what I’m eating.
Thank Brian! Too funny how we eat a very similar diet, but very unfortunate you are paying for those at a more premium cost.
I used to have more nuts in my diet, but was not sure if they were causing some digestive issues I’ve been experiencing lately. I don’t think they are the cause though, so I’ll probably be bringing them back in as I agree that they make a great snack and are very healthy!
I think IF could be a great way to help you cut a little weight if that’s the goal! You don’t necessarily need to start at a 16 hour fast, but maybe work your way up to that length of time and see what works best.
This actually makes me feel a little bit better about our family of 4 grocery budget. We aren’t nearly as frugal as you, but we are trying out $500/mo, which includes toiletries (toilet paper, etc.). Based on that USDA chart, we are well below the thrifty plan. But we might increase that to $600/mo depending on how tight this ends up being.
Thanks for sharing this. I’m going to reference this for later.
Wow for a family of 4 $500/month would be amazing! It’s really about finding that right level of what works best for your situation, and you may find that $600/month would give you more breathing room and work better. Either way that is really optimizing the grocery spending to get it that low on a per person basis!
Wow, I recognized myself nearly completely in your ground rules.
Even though I don’t follow a diet at all, I eat the same every day: a bowl of oatmeal in the morning, a salad at work and then some vegetables/meat for dinner. It makes it super easy to do groceries the few times I go per month.
I was just checking my own stats for 2018 and I wasn’t altogether surprised when I noticed my own tally amounted to just one dollar above yours! I think maybe it’s the fasting that’s giving you an edge ;).
In any case, keep up the good work!
Haha too funny! The oatmeal in the morning is a very cheap meal so that might be the case for the $1 difference 😉
omg I can’t believe you inflated your grocery spending so much with all that chocolate!! Just kidding, Discount Chocolate Day is the best day.
I’m honestly not sure I’d be able to eat the same thing for lunch every day. I’m more of an eat-the-same-two-things-all-week type of person where I eat something for dinner and then take leftovers for lunch the next day so I get some variety in based on what I’m eating that week. However, your way results in less cooking so there is that!
I feel somewhat smug that my grocery spending isn’t that much higher than yours but I don’t shop at Aldi. Must be the benefit of eating a largely vegetarian diet 😉
CHOCOLATE!!! It’s the best 😉 It definitely takes some getting used to, but it makes my daily life so much easier. I need to get on that vegetarian train someday!