No that is not a typo my friends, we really do only spend $60 per week on groceries for our little household of two. That includes all of our snacks, breakfasts, lunches, dinner, drinks, etc. When I tell people this usually I get the typical "that can't be possible" response, "you eat so healthy! there is no way!" but trust me there is. Eating healthy really does not need to be expensive if you are willing to shop a little unconventionally, and I will admit if you have access to great markets like we do here in Boston. I honestly and truly do not think that we could keep our weekly food budget so low if we had to shop in grocery stores for all of our goods.
Since I know that $$$$ is a big factor on most peoples minds when they think about adding a lot more fresh foods into their lives, I thought that it could be helpful for me to breakdown just how we budget, and the tools we use to do it.
Also just so you know, I am NOT a coupon person, I really wish I was because I know you can save so much money, but I just never think to spend the time looking for food coupons so all of my tips for eating well on a budget come without any clipping.
HOW WE SPEND ONLY $60 PER WEEK ON GROCERIES
Step One: Plan ahead. I know I know you have heard it all before, but honestly this is probably the biggest player when it comes to saving money on food. On the weeks when we haven't planned our meals we have spent double or even triple what we do when we plan ahead. So my advice to those of you out there still fighting the meal planning wagon, hop on because its kind of great.
Step Two: Use Wunderlist. Now step two and step one basically go together because Wunderlist is the mobile application that we use to do all of our meal planning. You can create lists that you can share with your significant other, and sync to all of your devices. Since using Wunderlist our meal planning game has gotten SO much easier. We have a list where we note what we will be having for meals each day, and then another list where we type in all the ingredients we need. As we pick up ingredients both Mike and I can check off what we bought, and the other gets a notification. This has also seriously cut back on the amount of times one of us "forgets" to pick something up at the store. If you haven't tried wunderlist, get your phone and download it, it's amazing and I use it Every. Single. Day.
Step Three: Shop your local outdoor markets. Now here is where the money saving piece comes in. Since we live in Boston we are lucky enough to have access to a TON of outdoor markets. Some are organic farmers markets, while others are just open food markets that allow customers to purchase food items for almost wholesale cost. In Boston, every Friday and Saturday there is an outdoor market called Haymarket, that is open from about 10 am - 5 pm. Usually every Saturday Mike and I will head over to Haymarket with our Wunderlist in hand, and purchase most of our fruits and vegetables.
In a typical Haymarket hall this is what we usually will purchase:
- 2 zucchini ($1)
- 2 summer squash ($1)
- 2 pints of organic strawberries ($3)
- 2 pints of organic raspberries/blueberries/or blackberries ($2)
- 6 sweet potatoes ($2)
- 1 head of kale ($2), parsley ($1)
- 1 head of cauliflower ($2)
- 1 bag of onions ($2)
- 2 red onions ($1)
- 1 pound of mushrooms ($1)
- 1 bunch of radishes ($1)
- 2 avocados ($2)
- 1 eggplant ($1)
This list can vary week to week depending on what we are making, but these items are most of our weekly staples and usually run us between $20-25. If you happen to live in a city, I would definitely research some of the wholesale markets your city may offer, this is by far one of the best ways that we are able to eat the way we do, on such a budget.
Step Four: Buy what is on sale for meat/fish. Now I am NOT someone who ever compromises on quality when it comes to meat. I do not believe in buying anything that is not locally sourced, antibiotic free, etc. But with that said, I am totally up for buying Mike chicken instead of beef, or a different kind of fish then we had been thinking of if it happens to be on sale that week. Here in Boston Mike and I shop at Boston Public Market, which always had an incredible selection of meat, fish, and poultry that was all locally, and organically raised, or wild caught, and usually can be found for very reasonable prices. We also will frequently shop at our local fish market, or in Boston's Italian North End District. On average we have been spending roughly $15 per week on meat, eggs, fish, and poultry. Since I am not a meat eater, and only occasionally will have some fish I know that our "meat" food budget is probably much less than other households.
The above oysters were less than $0.50 at a local fish market in Baltimore
Step Five: Buy only what you need to organic. Honestly I really, truly hope that one day we wont have to even worry about buying organic because all of our food will be organic, but that may be wishful thinking. So in this real world that we live in, I honestly recommend only buying the things you need to organic. Think very porous fruits and vegetables, leafy greens, and anything that you are going to eat the skin on. In a typical week, normally this means that we are buying organic spinach, and lettuce from the grocery store. This typically will run us $7.
Step Six: Buy in Bulk and Make at Home. One of the best ways to save money when grocery shopping is to buy in bulk. This goes for spices, nuts, grains, coffee, etc. We typically will buy a huge bag of brown rice, oatmeal, quinoa, nuts, seeds, etc. and then will use those bulk items to make things like nut butter, dairy free milk, oat flour etc. at home. Now during the weeks that we need to re-load on our bulk food items we are definitely going to end up spending more than $60 but typically that only happens once every two months we have come to notice. On average we have calculated in out and our bulk items when split up usually come to around $10 per week.
Step Seven: Avoid the Middle Aisles. Pre-packaged processed food can be really tempting, especially if they make health claims that make them incredibly appealing, and convenient. But purchasing these foods is really how your grocery bill can start to add up. Not only are most packaged foods not that great for us, they also tend to be more expensive than we think. Take gluten free items for example, or protein bars, before you know it you have spent $50 bucks at whole foods on "healthy packaged food" that you could have just as easily made at home with your bulk goods, and a solid food processor.
Well there you guys have it, I hope some of these tricks will help you cut back on your own food budget, and eat better at the same time. I also tell all of my friends and family that beginning the process of creating a health focused pantry, spice rack, and kitchen is an investment, but most of these bulk foods, superfoods, and spices last for so long that the initial investment pays for itself in the long run.