- DH = Dear Husband
- DD3 = Dear Third Daughter
Hitting our stride with frugal groceries
We used to spend over $200 per week on groceries. I can’t tell you exactly how much we spent because we didn’t budget, and we didn’t track. When DH and I started our journey out of debt in June of 2012, we took a random guess at what we could manage for frugal groceries, and came up with $150 per week. A few months’ struggle with tracking and a realization that we were always over budget led us to up that weekly amount to $175. As the New Year of 2015 approached, inspired by a burst of determination to ramp things up I resolved upon $150 again – for real this time. And it worked! This month, February of 2016, in an effort to shake off months of major spending on renovations, we budgeted $125 per week for groceries. And we’re on track to average under that number.
Eyes wide open to potential food pitfalls & being proactive
Amy at Debgal.com posts a weekly meal plan at her site. In response to a recent post of hers, I tweeted about how proactive she is – in terms of both food and parenting – and about how that proactive approach makes for smooth sailing. “Proactive is key for survival for me!” she replied. It’s key for me too.
One of the elements of effective proactivity is to be fearlessly honest about potential pitfalls to the achievement of a goal. When it comes to food, here are the forces that threaten to derail my frugal intentions:
- I’m not indifferent to food. I enjoy it immensely, and when hunger strikes, there’s an urgency to it. If I’m at work or out doing errands and I get hungry – without something ready-to-eat at hand – I’ll very easily capitulate and buy.
- I get bored with the same meal over and over again. So if I’m facing the 4th spaghetti supper of the week, I’m very tempted to leave it in the fridge and order take-out. Donairs please!
- I say to myself every morning, as I pack my lunch, that I won’t eat anything sweet during the work day. And then every day at about 1:30 in the afternoon, my energy crashes, and chocolate sings me a song, promising to be the answer. And it is. I know because I often buy some.
- I find it a challenge to accommodate the different tastes for food in our household, and the last thing I want to do when I get home from work is to become a short-order cook – so I resort to low-effort meals. But low-effort food is so often unappealing. How about some donairs?
- My knee-jerk reaction in gratitude, sympathy, celebration, and friendship is to go to Tim Horton’s for coffee or tea and a snack.
So in executing a frugal grocery shop, I proactively:
- Plan for a variety of meals.
- Give moderate accommodation to my sweet-tooth.
- Include easy-to-bring-in-purse-just-in-case items.
- Include ingredients for baking.
Meal-prep day & frugal fooding
The image above represents the hours of meal preparation that I devoted to a successful week of frugal fooding last Sunday. Featured are two quiches, chicken soup, chicken broth (for next week’s soup), chicken pot-pie, and chocolate chip cookies (baked by DD3). I baked the apple pie for Simon – the neighbour who rescued me from endless hours of shoveling last week when he appeared on the scene with his snowblower. Not featured is the lasagna that I cooked a while after the photo was taken or the chicken breasts and muffins that DH prepared over the next few days. Half of each meal went into the freezer, and the other half went into the fridge. We will almost certainly have some of it next week too.
The meal-prep day has paid off. There is no shortage of ready-to-eat food in our house, and I really haven’t been tempted to resort to take-out. It is easy to accommodate different preferences for supper in the household, and it takes a matter of minutes to put the evening meal on the table when I get home from work. I encounter no obstacles in packing a hearty lunch and just-in-case snacks in the morning to keep hunger at bay through my day at work. This Friday, when a couple of friends will be over for dinner, I won’t need to do a frantic, last-minute dash to the grocery store after work. Everything will be taken care of and ready to go. And as for my gratitude to Simon, what says “Thank you” better than a box of donuts? Homemade apple pie.
True confession: I haven’t had a completely successful week of frugal fooding. I once again decided each morning so far that I wouldn’t eat anything sugary through the work day – and on Monday and Tuesday, I gave into my predictable early-afternoon energy crash by spending on sweets. Lesson learned: Get real and pack a a little home-baking.
Variety and uniqueness in frugal fooding
One of the most effective ways to get a handle on your personal finances – whether to reduce debt, build up savings, or invest for the long term – is to be intentional about reducing the amount of money you spend on food. Some regular expenses in life are inflexible, but for those related to food, there is significant potential to adjust. The range of weekly spending that people practice in their purchases for household food is incredible – from several hundred dollars (especially when meals out are taken into account) to less than fifty. And while there’s no one-size-fits all recipe for frugal fooding, there is almost certainly some way for everyone interested to make it happen.
You can spend less on food by:
- avoiding meat
- eating beans
- searching for recipes and cookbooks designed for low budget foods
- buying in bulk
- buying on sale
- using coupons
- growing some of your own vegetables, fruits, and herbs
- having a “no restaurant” week or month
Harness the power of frugal fooding
DH and I don’t do all of the above, but what we have done has pretty well cut our expenditures on food, including groceries and meals out, in half. And that roughly $125 not spent each week is directed into lowered debts, higher savings, and more substantial investments – all ingredients for the recipe for financial freedom. There is power in proactive frugal fooding. Harness it, and steer it towards your vision of freedom.
Have you ever intentionally reduced your spending on food? What strategies have you used? What pitfalls have you had to deal with. Your comments are welcome.