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I recently posted a picture of my budget on Instagram and I have been talking about my No Spend Month Budget a lot lately. My grocery budget for the month is usually about $150-200 a month! A ton of people have asked me how it is possible. During my No Spend Months, I often cut it down to $100.
I will start by saying that I do not fall into “organic” traps. I don’t have any special dietary needs and I haven’t cut any major food groups out of my diet. While I think there is a healthy balance of proteins, fats, and carbs, I also think that life is far too short to deny yourself of anything you want. Your body is also designed to run off of all three macros. That being said, I am not a nutritionist, so you don’t have to listen to what I am saying about food!
People are asking, so I am sharing the raw truth of how I eat so cheap so I can pay off more debt. In 2017, I paid of more than $15,000 in 12 months and I have continued to pick up the momentum with every month so far in 2018.
Here is how I keep my grocery budget under $200.
I work in a restaurant
I could write a whole post about how working in a restaurant has cut my grocery budget! This is probably my number one reason my budget is so incredibly low. I spend 40+ hours in the restaurant most weeks. At least one day a week, I am there from open to close, which usually means that I eat 2-3 “meals” at the restaurant.
If you have ever worked in a restaurant, you know there is usually “dead”/extra or messed up food that is up for grabs. There are nights of eating wings that were tossed in the wrong sauce or extra fried chicken that was never used. I am definitely not saying it is the healthiest, but it works and it’s free. I always make sure that the food is extra before I grab it, but sometimes that means eating cold (but still free) mozzarella sticks.
Discounted nights at the restaurant are also great. We have $1 kids meal nights that I take advantage of. Usually, I will order two and take one home for the next day’s lunch. This is crazy helpful because I usually get a 7 oz chicken breast and broccoli for $1. When I take it home, I can throw it in another meal to make it last longer (usually some pasta and cheese!)
When I can’t get a free meal, I use Swagbucks to buy a $25 gift card to my restaurant and get points back on it! This is my work food budget for the mont. Once it is out, I am done eating there. There are some months that I go through the gift card in just a few weeks, there are other times that the gift card will last me two months. It really just depends on the month and my schedule.
I am just being real, there are a ton of nights that I eat popcorn or cereal for dinner. It is definitely something I get from growing up with my parents. There was always food in the house, but sometimes it was okay to put your pajamas on at 5 pm and eat cereal on the couch for dinner. I usually keep cereal, pretzels, almonds, and an assortment of snacks. This helps prevent me from over eating some of the more expensive foods that I make for meals.
Super Simple Meals
To me, spaghetti is a meal. I don’t have the urge to make 3 different sides to go with every single meal, so it keeps them super simple. I usually just eat a combination of meat (usually chicken or ground turkey) + veggies (frozen) + grain (rice/potatoes/pasta) + sauce (marinara, sweet and sour, salsa). Also, there is nothing wrong with chicken nuggets and mac and cheese as a meal.
My meals are not fancy and I really don’t spend a lot of time in the kitchen cooking. When I am home, I have other things that I want to be doing. Making simple meals allows me to spend less, but it also allows me to work, read, or binge watch Netflix documentaries. In college, I lived off of easy mac, ramen, and frozen pizzas. It isn’t because I don’t like cooking. I actually love to cook, I just have other things I would rather do right now. Like write and read.
Zero Waste Cooking
When cooking for yourself, it can be hard not to waste food. I try to only cook what I am going to eat unless I am batch cooking. If I can make a meal out of a previous meal, that’s awesome. An example of this is hamburgers. A few weeks ago I made burgers and then crumbled up the leftovers for another meal. When you get tired of eating left overs, attempt to turn it into something else instead of throwing it away.
Another way this works is to buy a whole tray of chicken breasts and cook them all at once. Then you can make multiple meals using chicken from that instead. Throw the chicken in pasta, rice, or just eat it with one of your favorite sauces! Reusing/ Upcycling leftovers is a great way to make something new without throwing anything out! This can mean getting super creative in the kitchen or eating a weird combination.
Batch Cooking/ Leftovers
The downside to not cooking often is that when I do cook, I usually get a little fancier. Every once in a while (about once a week) I will make a big meal and usually double the recipe. There are certain things that this works well for and others that it doesn’t.
When I make spaghetti, fried rice or really any type of pasta, I will double what I would usually make and then eat off of it for a few days! I have this set of Rubbermaid containers that make pre-proportioning food so easy! So if I make pasta, I will portion it out into single serving portions and just eat those until they are gone!
While I love batch cooking, I sometimes get tired of eating the same thing for a million meals in a row! That’s when I freeze it! I have single serving ziplock bags that I will put the portions in and freeze! Chili and rice works well for this! I have not had great success with pasta, but there are a ton of freezer recipes on Pinterest. Making one meal and freezing another is a great way to save money when things are on sale. (I just have a normal freezer right now, not a deep freeze. It really is all about staying organized!
I usually use these as back up meals for when I am in a hurry or don’t want to cook. They are great because all you have to do is defrost and reheat. With soups, I just run them under hot water until they are thawed enough to pour into a bowl, then reheat! I also froze turkey from Thanksgiving and ham from Christmas and Easter! After all of those holidays when you are tired of eating leftover, freeze it for a few weeks down the road!
Save Money When Grocery Shopping
I wrote a whole blog post about saving money in the grocery store. This is also a huge reason I can keep my grocery budget so low. It really all starts in the grocery store. If you can save a good amount of money in the grocery store, making the most of it at home will really cut your grocery budget!
Sleep til 10/ Skip meals!
The honest truth of my life. If I sleep til 10 am, then I will wake up, drink coffee and eat lunch. Always saving money on skipping breakfast because I am too busy sleeping. Truthfully, it is because I am a bartender and often don’t go to sleep until 2 or 3 am! So sleeping til 10 really isn’t that late for me.
I don’t always eat three meals a day. There are days where I will eat two bigger meals or eat one big meal and snack on stuff the rest of the day! I am definitely not a nutritionist, I have heard all sorts of different timings on eating, but I truly keep it simple. If I am not super hungry, I won’t eat.
Go Home to My Parents
Love you mom and dad! No matter the age, you are never too old to go home to your parents for a good home cooked meal (or free dinner out). I honestly feel like I don’t go home enough, but this one is definitely a helpful tip. I am by NO means living off of my parent’s food. Most of my meals are on my own, but there are just some meals that taste better when I am at home. My dad is awesome at grilling (and I am awful!!), so when it comes to summer meals on the grill with burgers, steaks, or chicken on the grill, my dad takes the cake every time!
I am spoiled by my parents but I also know that they really do appreciate when I come home. Often times, I will bring home food and I always offer to bring things for holiday dinners. My parents truly do not pay for much, but a free meal is definitely VERY appreciated when I do come home!
There are my nine tips on how I keep my grocery budget so low after the food is home. Overall, it is really dependent on your household. Because I am only cooking for me, there is no one to complain. Sometimes I eat the same meal for 3 days in a row. Other times, I eat something different every day. You have to find out what works for you and your household on your budget. Some have stricter diets or allergies that don’t allow, but each tip can be modified a little bit.