How I keep my grocery expenses down so low

A common question people are asking me is how I keep my grocery spending to a minimum, but when I look back and what I’ve spent in the past year, it doesn’t look extraordinarily frugal to me.

In fact, it looks like in the month of September I’ve been eating my budget out of house and home (partly true, if you’ve seen me eat before).

However in months of May and October in particular, it looks like I’ve been starving myself.

How to reconcile the two!? :)

Here are a few of my reasons why my grocery budget looks so off-kilter at times.


(Seafood market in Hong Kong)

WHEN I TRAVEL, I DON’T HAVE “GROCERIES”

While I travel, I don’t count what I eat while I am traveling as “Groceries”.

It is more under the category of “Travel > Food”. In this past month in Europe alone, we spent $700 CAD each buying food to eat because we didn’t have a kitchen to cook in, and we had to buy pre-cooked foods to eat.

When we went to Europe the first time around for a month and a half, it was $900 CAD each buying food to eat.

It is clearly a lot more expensive to eat out and buy pre-made foods than to have a kitchen and do it yourself.

WE USE A LOT OF POINTS

As we’ve come to the agreement that we should use my PC Mastercard for everything, we rack up a lot of points between the two of us. From living in hotels to traveling to paying for every little thing in between including things for my company, it all adds up to big savings for us in the end.

I’d estimate that we get about $40 a month free in groceries on average. That means between the two of us, we spend about $4000 in cold hard cash on average, which is a hell of a lot of money, but not unreasonable for this year, seeing as we’ve been traveling for work and play since January.

Check out your local credit card rewards, I’m leaning towards going for cash back this time, seeing as we can easily hit the $2000 minimum required to spend each month, and get back 2% in cash rather than points to use for shopping at the grocery store.

WE DON’T BUY PROCESSED/JUNK STUFF

I admit to being a bit of a nosy person when I am at the grocery store.

I am always curious as to what people buy, and generally speaking, their carts are full of huge bottles of soda, canned foods, prepared frozen meals and boxes of stuff, and that ADDS UP at the till, even if it seems cheap to throw it in the cart on a whim.

Our cart in comparison is usually these 8 things:

  1. Organic Milk (3 cartons of it… we drink quite a lot)
  2. Organic Eggs (2 cartons of it)
  3. Vegetables (we do buy canned tomatoes, they taste better)
  4. Fruits
  5. Condiments (Oils, Sugar, Salt)
  6. Baking things (Flour)
  7. Dried foodstuffs (Rice or Pasta)
  8. Fish/Meats

On the rare occasion, we will pick up a bottle of pop, but we don’t do it on a regular basis, nor keep the fridge stocked with it.

I am also not trying to condemn anyone who buys soda and so on by saying how much healthier we eat in comparison, but it’s the honest truth that it is very rare for us to buy frozen, (99% of) canned or packaged items.

As a result, I think our food budget is kept quite low.We are buying food in its rawest form possible for less than $5, so we can cook and transform it into a meal that would otherwise cost $15.99 to buy as a family-sized frozen dinner.

Other things like cereal costs money too. Have you seen the prices for the boxes of cereal lately!? I remember the boxes being twice the size and half the price!! Outrageous.

So there you have it, the 3 main reasons why it SEEMS like we don’t spend a lot on groceries, when in fact, I think we’re piglets.

About the Author

Just a girl trying to find a balance between being a Shopaholic and a Saver. I cleared $60,000 in 18 months earning $65,000 gross/year. Now I am self-employed, and you can read more about my story here, or visit my other blog: The Everyday Minimalist.