Studies like this one from Gallop show that the average Joe is spending $151 per week on food. For two adults and two kids (let’s say the kids cost 1/2 that much) that’s $1,800 per month! And this is in a country where people say, “you need two incomes in a family to get by these days.” NO YOU DON’T! You just need to stop spending your money like a moron, like I was.
You see, in June of 2013 we spent $1,500 on food in one month. At the time we were stressing about our finances, because Kelly was pregnant with our second kid. Kelly’s dream job was to be a mom. She didn’t want to go back to her full-time job with two young kids at home or in daycare.
So we had a choice to make. Either Kelly could give up her dream, and we could keep wasting money like every other American idiot out there. Or we could make some changes and she could live her dream. And that’s when we realized that our opulent, indulgent, and luxurious eating habits were out of control.
How did our food spending get so ridiculous? Here’s what were spending in a typical month around June 2013:
- $400/month on my meals during work. I was eating out at 2-3 times per day, typically:
- Coffee at Dunkin’ in the morning $2 (sometimes plus a breakfast sandwich)
- Lunch at Panera $8
- Coffee, bottle of water, pack of almonds at Starbucks $6
- Dinner at Chipotle $10
- $700/month on PeaPod grocery service – groceries you buy online that get delivered right to your kitchen. The delivery part was only $10. The expensive part I’d later found out is that the groceries came for the WORST GROCERY STORE IN THE WORLD (in my opinion) – Stop and Shop.
- $400/month or more on dinners out, Kelly’s Dunkin’ runs, near-weekly pizza delivery, and spontaneous take out. June 2013 was our also our fifth anniversary and we spent more than usual dining out at restaurants.
What does all that wasteful spending really get you? Convenience? Maybe. Tastier food? I don’t think so. Happiness? Definitely not.
This month we made the family decision to have Kelly stay home with the kids permanently.We chose freedom!
People tell us we’re “lucky”. And it’s true, I am lucky to have a good job that pays me more than the average fella, but just a year ago my wife HAD to work. Cutting food spending was just one way we reduced the need for that second income, and if push came to shove (or if the SHTF as you preppers like to say) we could live off of a much much lower income.
Here’s what we did to reduce our total food bill to under $500/month saving us $1,000 each month:
- First we found some inspiration from awesome blogs like Mr. Money Mustache and Budget Bytes.
- Then we created a Mint.com account, put in my bank account info, and began tracking all of our spending.
- Next we committed to cooking all meals and snacks at home. Now I don’t buy anything out. Nothing. I even make my coffees at home in the morning before leaving for work. No bottles of water, no Starbucks coffee, no delicious McDonald’s french fries, no King-Size Diet Cokes for Kelly, no Chipotle burrito bowls for either of us. (Note: this isn’t a diet plan, but you’ll notice that cooking your own food is going to be much healthier than eating out. But you don’t have to do it healthy to save money.)
- Most days should be $0 spend days. You can slip up here and there and still spend under $500, but I find that at least 4 out of 7 days are $0 spending days for us. The downside to this is that you will regularly forget where you left your wallet.
- Save dining out a restaurants for special occasions, or limit to once per month. And this is from an ex-foodie. Foodies irritate me now. It’s just fermented grape juice. Take it easy.
- The biggest savings by far was switching from Stop and Shop to THE GREATEST GROCERY STORE IN THE WORLD – Aldi. I swear to you the quality of the food at Aldi is as good or BETTER than Stop and Shop, but Aldi’s the prices are literally 1/2 or less. Here’s an Aldi receipt from last year I found crumpled up in my trunk. It’s a bit wrinkly, but you can still read it. Look at those deals! A shop like this lasts us a week, and we only need to do this 4 times per month. Some weeks are a bit more, but some weeks are as low as $75.
So here’s what I eat in a typical day…
- Breakfast: One egg over easy on an English muffin with one slice of 2% American cheese
- Coffee: 3 black Aldi’s K-Cups per day. They’re about $0.40 each compared to the $6/day I was spending on Dunkin/Starbucks. Doesn’t sound like much, but that’s $180/month down to $36/month
- 10:00 Snack: Fiber Now protein bar
- Lunch: Brown rice bowl with black beans, salsa, lots of broccoli, 2% Mexican blend cheese, and hot sauce
- 3:00 Snack: 1/4 cup of cashews and 2 mandarins
- Dinner: Pepper, onion, and black bean OR chicken, onion, corn, and pineapple quesedilla night (also know as quesedilla dance party night #QDPN)
- Bed Time Snacky: Multigrain O’s cereal with 1% milk
And here’s what my wife Kelly typically eats…
- Breakfast: Hot rolled oats with cinnamon and a banana
- 10:00 Snack: Blueberry cereal bar
- Lunch: Same rice bowl as John above minus the hot sauce, add some fat free sour cream
- 3:00 Snack: Fat free cottage cheese
- Dinner: Pasta with peas and part-skim mozzarella cheese
- Bed Time Snacky: Crispy Rice cereal with 1% milk
Our three-year old Jack will eat something like this…
- Breakfast: Scrambled eggs with multigrain toast
- 10:00 Snack: 1 cup blueberries
- Lunch: Grilled cheese on multigrain with broccoli
- After school snack: Popcorn
- Dinner: Homemade pizza and Frank Sinatra night
- Bed Time Snacky: 1 package of brownie bites
And then Baby Gracie Pie is still the easy one. She just eats…
- Mama milk
Kelly’s decision to stay home was easy when you weigh her potential income versus what we would spend the money on. We WERE using her income to pay for:
- $1,000/month on wasteful food spending
- $1,000/month or more on daycare
- $200/month which we saved by cutting cable TV
- A lot more other things we changed that I’ll write about in the future (i.e. car payments, insurance, credit cards, mortgages, etc.)
Even if there was a bit more money left to spend what would we spend it on? Fancier cars? More stuff? A bigger house? Maybe we’re just too simple/traditional to get any enjoyment out that crap. I’d rather live simply, kind of like my grandparents did, and have a really happy family.