If you come across any personal finance blog you will see the following articles from each:
- Remove your small and recurring expenses (AKA “The Latte” Article)
- The Big 3:
Well, it is time for our “Food Article”- we are going to break down what we spend on our food and how we stay on course for our early retirement goals by keeping this cost down. We will provide some helpful tips that you can incorporate as well.
The Winning Williams Monthly Food Cost: $225 average groceries + $40 average dining out
-We are still working to bring the dining costs down, but also know that we enjoy time with friends and family by dining out in social settings.
-This includes all alcohol expenditures (which we try to keep to a minimum) and incidentals (paper towels, Tylenol, etc.)
Cost per person per day: $4.42
How does this compare to the national average?
According to the USDA Food Cost Report from October 2015, the average monthly cost for a family of 2 (that’s us!) ranges from $390.90 on the thrifty end to $778.70 on the liberal budget end. Sorry, USDA but you’re going to need to reevaluate your definition of thrifty. We have you beat by $165.90, meaning we spend $49,770 less over a 25-year period. (And for those who are spending on the ‘liberal budget’ we spend $166,110 less on groceries over a 25-year period) WINNING WILLIAMS!
How do we keep our food cost so low?
We aren’t just eating spam, supplemented with rice and beans (although we do enjoy rice and beans as a side item to our entrees). We are eating lean and healthy meals filled with nutrients, vitamins, and plenty of meat! How can we eat so well and on so little?
ALDI!!!!! We will continue to endorse this amazing no-frills, low-cost grocery store. It has helped us to step up our salads with their great prices on fresh produce. Yes, the selection is limited at times, but that is because the items available are those that are in season. They also stock less items, so we are less tempted to buy things we simply don’t need. We don’t need lots of snack food items or a fancy shopping experience. Just quality food at a great price.
We do occasionally supplement mid-week with a small trip to Publix (We eat a lot of bananas and usually need a THIRD bunch by mid-week) and keep our purchases there to absolute essentials (bread and bananas) and buy-one, get-one deals. However, we have sometimes seen that ALDI has beat Publix on their prices even with the BOGO deal factored in!
We rarely do couponing; we have just focused on the foods that are good for us!
Time Investment (aka Meal Prep)
We try to never let any food go to waste. We believe it is the right thing to do; however, it does also help us to stay frugal. This means that we often assess what food we have on the shelves and in the refrigerator, when it will need to be consumed by, and how we can incorporate it into our meals. Mr. Winning Williams has been known to snack on chopped onions or chopped peppers when we have a small surplus. Sometimes we eat the same meal for dinner and lunch; good thing we make delicious meals!
We spend a decent amount of time (at least one hour) on Sundays chopping, cooking, steaming, packing our food for the week, and then cleaning the items used to prepare such food. It is a great amount of quality time that we get to spend together, working in concert and sometimes listening to good music. We can better control the ingredients for what goes into our food and appreciate the effort to make that goes into fueling our bodies. It takes a little effort, but the result is more time together during the week when our dinners are easier to put together and the satisfaction of not spending what could be funding our early retirement.
We Don’t Buy Prepared Meals
This one is a staple on all personal finance blogs, because it is a universal truth. Bringing your lunch to work saves you money. Not going out to dinner or buying a fancy breakfast sandwich, saves you money. Keep in mind that what some people spend daily on their ‘morning latte’ we spend for all of the food that we eat in a day! How’s that for a “latte effect’. (Disclaimer: if you enjoy your coffee that is fine, just understand the longer term impact when you want to retire early).
There are always a few exceptions: a group of friends is getting together at a local restaurant; someone invites you to a special work lunch. It happens. And we have a small budget each month for dining out. We don’t religiously measure each dime spent on meals out, we are just conscious of what is “convenient dining” and what is an experience dining out with friends and family.
So what can you do to start saving on your food costs:
- Save your receipts and look them over when you get home. Scan for the highest cost items on the list and make a mental note of what the most expensive items on your list were. You’ll start to get an appreciation for what those expensive items are and figure out if it is worth the cost. (High protein, high cost- probably worth it. High sugar, no nutritional value and a high cost- cut it out!)
- Find the ALDI closest to you (link to google maps) and start shopping there. https://www.google.com/maps/search/ALDI/
- Take an afternoon to start preparing your meals for the week. The first few times it will take a bit longer, but after a few tries you will become more efficient at it.
- Start tracking your “convenience dining” and see where you can cut it out. (HINT: if you are preparing all of your meals it should start to really drop!)
- Clean out your pantry- try to go as long as possible before making the next grocery trip. Try to go through every item in your cabinet. This means getting creative with new recipes and making the most with what you have. You become more grateful for the array of foods that you have access to after just a few days with a limited variety. (Which pales in comparison to some who live without any food… but that is another topic altogether.)