Today we will dive into how to spend less on groceries – by popular request. I’ve been wanting to do a post like this for a long time, so there it is!
Every month I post about my spending, which is always exciting for me as I can see how high my savings rate for that particular month is. I’m a big advocate of keeping my spending low, which is facilitated by my employer, landlord, and Lidl.
I have a leased car provided by my employer, meaning that I only pay added taxes on that as the government sees that as extra income. I live in a shared apartment, which costs me €280 per month. On top of that, I do groceries for about €60 per month.
I’ve gotten some questions about how the heck I spend less than $70 per month on groceries?! Today I will show how to spend less on groceries. More specifically, I will show you how to keep your grocery spending below $70 a month.
How To Spend Less On Groceries
The thing is, I’ve never paid too much attention to what I’m spending my money on. From my student days, I’ve learned to watch what I spent. It was easy: when I don’t spend much money on food I can spend money on things like festivals, holidays, and also provide for my friends. Luckily I’ve gained some confidence along the way to not spend my money to impress people. Those student habits of low spending on groceries are still ingrained in me. I never have to think about how to spend less on groceries.
From my fit girl days, where I worked out 5-6x per week, I watched my food intake. I learned that packaged foods are not so healthy for you, so naturally, I stay away from that as much as possible. This means that I bought a lot of whole foods while still keeping my food spending low.
When things are on sale I buy them, sometimes in bulk. Please take into account that I’m cooking for one person most of the time so if you want to adopt other strategies when you have a family – you do you!
There are several very important things that I do to lower my grocery spending. I’ve reverse-engineered and identified what makes me keep my food spending low. Let’s dive straight into them here.
Grocery Shop Once Per Week
The most important one is that I only go to the grocery shop once per week, sometimes less. Before I was going to the grocery shop every day because it was a one-minute walk. Now I have to walk 15 minutes (shocking, I know!) to get to the nearest supermarket. This is not the cheapest supermarket, so going there every day would up my grocery spending. I do my weekly grocery shopping at a low-cost supermarket.
I’m a big fan of Lidl, which is a low-cost supermarket in Europe that has great quality products. It’s similar to Aldi but with more choices in products. I go there once a week when I’m doing my weekly trip to the gas station. Two birds in one stone.
If you’re in doubt about how to lower your grocery spending, I would really recommend only going once per week. You don’t get tempted as much to buy snacks or treats, you eat healthier and it generally saves you time. win-win-win!
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Eat Everything In The Fridge
Because I only go grocery shopping once per week, I make a point out of first emptying the fridge and then buying new things. I share the fridge with one other person – making it necessary for me to empty out the fridge before new things can fit.
It’s good to eat everything at once, so you don’t have to throw food out. I hate wasting food – if something will go bad soon I will eat it for two days for lunch and dinner without hesitation. It’s just such a shame if you have to throw perfectly good food away.
Plan ahead so that you optimize the use of products that you have. When you buy things that go bad soon after buying them, plan to eat them first in the week. If you can’t eat it before it goes bad because of other reasons, putting things in the freezer until you get the chance to eat it can help!
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Make Things In Bulk
I don’t particularly like cooking, so I’m always making things in bulk. Mostly I only cook twice per week and make that last for lunches or dinner – depending on what I like.
Last week I made a whole batch of rice with sauteed vegetables, which I ate some days for lunch and some days for dinner. I still have two portions in the freezer, that I can eat later when I’m not down to cook or I’m short on time.
The other time I prepared kidney beans, black beans, bell peppers, and corn. I divide this into portions to warm it up and serve it with a wrap for lunch and dinner.
If I get tired of eating the same thing, I will simply cook a third time and put the leftovers in the freezer for later. Mostly that doesn’t happen.
It’s easy, it’s convenient, and it doesn’t have to cost much time. In this way, you’re only cooking twice a week and you’re having healthy and delicious things for both lunch and dinner. If you doubt eating the same thing twice a week, you just need a big freezer. You will still make things in bulk, but instead of eating them in the same week you can put them in the freezer and eat whatever you feel like at that moment!
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Eat In The Season
In most supermarkets, things that are in the season are often on sale. When I come into the supermarket, I’m checking the items that are on sale. When things are on sale that I regularly buy or things I enjoy eating, I get them. After I got the discounted items, I think about what I can throw into a dish that will make it a delicious meal.
When you’re eating in the season, things will often be for sale. For example, at this moment it’s the bell pepper season, meaning they will be discounted. When I went to the supermarket, the bell peppers were 50% discounted. In the winter when the kale will be discounted, I eat more of that.
When you eat in the season, you will also rotate the vegetables that you eat throughout the year. It’s good for your body to eat some different vegetables and have some variety in that regard. That way you get different vitamins and nutrients in your body, which will make for a happier and healthier you!
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Prepare Everything At Home
I enjoy going out to eat every once in a while for special occasions. In the Netherlands, we don’t have this culture of going out to eat every day or even every week. Most people prepare and cook their food at home. There are some people who order takeout very regularly, but it’s super expensive compared to regular cooking. For example, you order a pizza for €15 or you get one from the supermarket for €2. Spoiler alert: the ones from the supermarket are often tastier.
If you’re trying to keep your food spending low, I recommend you prepare everything at home. Stop getting lunch, stop eating out, stop ordering takeout, stop getting food delivered. That’s much more expensive than what you can make at home.
I am not saying that you can order takeout or never eat out, but I mean that you should be mindful of it. Make it a special thing that you do on occasions, instead of the regular office routine.
Basically, I’m encouraging you to challenge yourself in this regard. If you’re going out to eat regularly, think about if it’s adding value to your life. Is it something that you are enjoying? If you’re buying lunch every day at your employer, could you bring your own lunch?
Try to prepare as much as possible at home, to keep as much money as you want for things you truly value. It’s all about setting priorities in the things you want to spend your money on!
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Little To No Alcohol
One thing that will lower your grocery spending dramatically is not buying a lot of alcohol. I definitely notice the difference in my grocery spending. When I was studying and getting alcohol 3-4x per week from the supermarket, I was spending a lot more on groceries weekly. Seriously, I spent around €20 weekly on alcohol from the supermarket. That’s around €80 on average per month. That’s a lot of money!
Nowadays I like some alcohol every once in a while, but it’s not a staple for me. That saves me a whole lot of money, as alcohol is very expensive.
I drink alcohol mostly on the weekends, depending on what my plans are. Mostly I go to bars instead of buying it at the supermarket, meaning that it’s not included in my grocery spending.
Let’s just put it like this: if you’re getting a lot of alcohol from the supermarket and you’re spending a lot of money on it, this could be a huge saving for you!
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No Meat, Little Fish
Meat is expensive. There, I said it. Over the last few years, I’ve reduced my meat intake more and more. At the moment I enjoy eating meat every once in a while, but it’s not my staple. I never buy it in the supermarket, I only eat it when I’m out in a good restaurant and see something specific that I like.
When I make a meal, I just don’t put any meat on it. To be honest, when I’m making pasta pesto with vegetables and olives and sundried tomatoes, I’m not missing the meat at all. You don’t taste that it’s not there, so why would you spend a significant part of your grocery budget on it?
Fish, on the other hand, I love. I enjoy myself some shrimps, but daaammnnn that’s more expensive than beef (read: I’m only eating them when I go out to eat). I limit my fish cravings to discounted fish or white fish from the freezer section, very delicious as well.
If you want to reduce your grocery spending, this is a major category. Imagine that instead of putting ground meat in the pasta, you would just put some extra vegetables. Don’t worry, you’ll stay full and it’s much cheaper!
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What Do I Eat?
Let’s see what I eat in a week. I’m pretty repetitive with my foods, as I don’t mind eating the same things a few times per week. There is a picture of the food I got from Lidl, for a little over €10:
Breakfast is really straightforward. I always eat overnight oats with chia seeds, flaxseeds, vegan protein powder, and some cacao powder. Oatmeal is so easy! You let them soak overnight in water and eat them the next morning. I love oatmeal because it’s tasty and you can make endless varieties with it. Just add whatever you are craving on a particular day and you’re good to go.
Lunch and dinner are mostly the same meals. I have to admit, I have some weeks where I’m not really into cooking and I simply eat a peanut butter sandwich for lunch. I enjoy eating bread and it keeps me full until the end of the working day.
For dinner, I mostly prepare vegetables that are in the season or on sale. I eat a lot of spinach, zucchini, eggplant, and tomatoes. I prepare the veggies and depending on what I feel like, I combine it with a staple.
Example of staples that I love:
- Wraps – I eat everything in wraps. Just prepare some veggies, put them in a wrap with an egg or some hummus and you have a meal
- Rice – it’s easy and filling, great for batch-cooking
- Beans – beans are too easy to prepare, combine perfectly with almost everything
- Eggs – when I make something for dinner, I generally put one or two hardboiled eggs with it and eat it for lunch
- Pasta – it’s also easy, filling, and great for cooking in bulk
- Sweet potatoes – yaass I love sweet potatoes. I put them in the microwave for six minutes and they’re done – how easy do you want it?
- Freezer potato wedges – when I’m patient, I put some potato wedges in the oven with some vegetables and a piece of fish.
What are your favorite meals? What are your grocery hacks?
Founder of Spark Nomad, Radical FIRE, Journalist
Expertise: Personal finance and travel content
Education: Bachelor of Economics at Radboud University, Master in Finance at Radboud University, Minor in Economics at Chapman University.
Over 200 articles, essays, and short stories published across the web.
Experience: Marjolein Dilven is a journalist and founder of Spark Nomad, a travel platform, and Radical FIRE, a personal finance platform. Marjolein has a finance and economics background with a master’s in Finance. She has quit her job to travel the world, documenting her travels on Spark Nomad to help people plan their travels. Marjolein Dilven has written for publications like MSN, Associated Press, CNBC, Town News syndicate, and more.