Our $160 Monthly Food Bill
To get that brain matter flowing and get you thinking about your answer throughout the article, we’re going to start this off by asking you a question. How much do you spend a week on food, namely groceries?
The big three monthly expenses everyone has are: housing; transportation; and food. Well, we’ve covered housing with: The House Hack that Allows us to Live for Free, and transportation with: How to Get Rich by Driving Crappy Cars, so we figured it was about time we dove a little deeper into the food budget a little more.
Ever since Mr. RRR was a guest on the Vegan episode of ChooseFI, we have been asked how much we spend a week on groceries and what groceries we typically get each week. So to answer the question, we usually spend about $40 a week for the two of us along with the dog food we cook. You might be thinking with such a low grocery bill, we must spend hours cutting coupons, and driving to every grocery store in town. Ain’t nobody got time for that. A few ways that we keep our food bill so cheap are:
- Since we are “Freegan” (Read more here: How We Make Veganism Work For Us) we don’t buy expensive meat, milk, or other “protein” (LOL) sources.
- Shop at Aldi, unless we know of a better deal elsewhere.
- Back to the “freegan” thing, we seldom turn down free food, and bring home leftovers from work & events.
- Our grocery list is seasonal, and we assemble it after checking out some weekly ads.
- We might eat out at restaurants once or twice a month.
I love making lists, especially about food, so when Mr. RRR asked me to write an article about what’s on our grocery list, I jumped on the opportunity…. and then sat on it for about 3 months, but life happens and it’s better late than never, right? If I go in Aldi without a grocery list, then I tend to go rogue and break the bank, like a kid in a candy store, well as much as you can break the bank at Aldi. There are certain foods that are a necessity every time we stop by the store, and there’s also foods that we don’t need to buy but once every month or two. Here’s a list of our last stop at Aldi:
- Sweet potatoes (3 lbs) $1.69
- Mushrooms $1.29
- Spinach $1.19
- Multi-color peppers $1.69
- Carrots $0.99
- Avocados x5 $0.69 ea
- Butternut squash $1.95
- Bananas $1.76
- Apples $1.99
- Kale $3.19
- Banana chips $2.19
- Tortilla chips $0.89
- Salsa $1.19
- Spinach & tomato wraps $2.29
- Guacamole $2.99
- Hummus $1.89
- Bread $0.89
- Eggs (for the little RRjR) $0.28
- Tomato pasta $0.39
- Tomato sauce $0.25
- Silk Protein Nut Milk $2.99
- Natural peanut butter $1.79
Total = $37.22 before taxes.
We try to buy seasonally, and if something is more expensive than usual, we will skip it or find substitutes. This list is pretty comprehensive, but somethings that we might buy every few visits include rice, quinoa, oats, different types of beans, tofu, or various types of nuts. We typically buy these things in bulk when they’re cheaper, so we don’t have to buy them as often, or we buy them when we have a hankering for something in particular.
These ingredients cover everything from sweet potato and quinoa chili, to home-made pizza. To give a peek into our meals, we usually cook up a large batch of black beans, rice and vegetables on Sunday, so we have stuff we can easily assemble meals for lunches or dinners, and give ourselves the opportunity to have a variety of meals. My favorite go-to lunch is a rice bowl consisting of rice, black beans, sautéed peppers, corn, guacamole and salsa. Mr. RRR’s go-to lunch is: rice, black beans, and any leftover vegetables that we have hiding in the fridge, along with a peanut butter & date sandwich.
We could go into a longer list of meals we make but honestly, we only cook a specific meal one or two nights a week because that’s all that time allows and it’s easier to cook in bulk at one time. We wanted to give everyone a general idea of what our grocery trips consist of, especially when eating vegan. Obviously, some trips will vary depending on what we have leftover from the week before, and what our schedule looks like. To us, food waste is a cardinal sin so we try our damnedest to not throw any away. We always consume the perishable goods before going out and buying more, and we talk about which items should be eaten first depending on when they were bought or cooked.
So tell us, how much are you spending on groceries? Are there things that you could forego buying? Are there must-have items that you could buy on sale or buy using a rebate app? Let us know in the comments!
Thanks for the update to the ChooseFI podcast. On a side note I was disappointed with Brad on that show and his follow up Friday. For someone who is always saying to be open to learning new things and improving ones life, I felt he was just the opposite about the vegan lifestyle. In my opinion he could have been better because the vegan lifestyle is holistic- good for your body, planet, animals, and pocketbook! But as far as my shopping goes, I do subscribe to a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) A local organic farm that I get a weekly share of veggies. This adds up to about $38 a week, then I buy essentials at Aldi or A local store called Woodman’s. So my food expenses could be lower but supporting local farmers is a priority of mine. I save by doing “mission shopping” I only buy what I need and I’m on a mission to get in and out quickly. Like you and your list, no list, things can go awry. Thanks for the blog, I truly enjoy reading your content.
Of course! The CSA sounds amazing. I’m not aware of anything like that near us, but that’s something I’ll have to look into. I think buying locally is important as well, but I’ll admit we haven’t done a lot of that recently. I like your term “mission shopping” it’s a good way to describe it! Thank you for the support! I really appreciate it.
Aldi is great. It used to be primarily for filler items but more and more it seems to be taking over as our top grocery choice.
I agree moneybeagle. It’s not the Aldi it was when I was a kid- lots of processed food. Now they appear to be healthy driven. Lots of good produce and lots of organic options in the produce aisle and throughout the store. They even took away the single snickers bars at the register. Not that I bought them, but the cashier was telling me she gets lots of complaints about that. Ha!
I’ve noticed that too. It helps to have the option to buy budget friendly organic foods. But I haven’t noticed the snickers bars not there anymore, maybe because I don’t pay much attention to those items at the register they try to tempt you with!
I agree. I’ve noticed they have been introducing more and more products too because I keep seeing “New at Aldi” signs on products, which is nice. Definitely our top choice 😉
Thanks for posting this. I’ve been periodically checking back to your blog to watch for this post. We’re not vegans but always looking to save money on the budget. We just have the challenge of getting our kids(6 and 3 years old) to eat this stuff. They’re pretty stubborn… but so was I back then. What goes around comes around, eh?
I guess my one question that I don’t see is, do you guys buy organic or is all of Aldi’s stuff organic now(or moving towards it)? That’s what seems to add up. We do grow a fairly large garden during the summer but still didn’t use it as much as I’d liked to have done this last summer. We don’t spray anything and while we love to eat more healthy… we hate the fact that so many pesticides are on the dirty dozen in the grocery stores(and more).
Haha so I hear! Unfortunately, not all of Aldi’s stuff is organic, but they have an organic option for almost everything. We currently do not buy organic except for items that are only available in organic, like kale, although it’s definitely something I’ve been looking into, especially after seeing that weed killer was found in oats and oatmeal products. We hate that too, and I didn’t realize it until I saw stuff like the dirty dozen lists or articles about chemicals in foods people eat every day… Based on everything we typically get, I don’t think we could keep it under $40 if we bought everything organic. But it could be a fun challenge to see what organic items we can get and live off of for $40! We’ve wanted to do a garden and grown our own food, but we’re never in the same house long enough to be able to do that. Do y’all buy organic foods?
Yeah we are not perfect with buying only organic(or local) but we really try to keep certain things that way. We’re not perfect by any means. As a family of four we’re spending about $500-$550 on groceries and another $125 on eating out to give my wife a break once or twice a week on average. My wife mostly cooks from scratch but I’d wager to guess about 50% of our grocery bill is organic. But we’ve been more focused on other areas lately(since it’s fall now).
For example, we recently got chickens and we feed them organic NON-GMO feed and our scraps from our house leftovers while also letting them roam our fall/winter garden for bugs. So we’re just starting to get our own backyard eggs and we’re very glad to know exactly how these chickens are treated and what they’re eating. Then we also buy our chicken meat from a local farmer who we can visit and see how her chickens are being raised and what they’re eating. By next summer I want to raise our own meat chickens. I also hunt in the fall for deer in a deeply wooded area where the deer are mainly eating acorns and such instead of GMO corn and soy fields. I know none of this would help you guys as vegans though—sorry! But this is where we’ve put most of the work lately.
So yeah if you guys try to buy local foods or organic for a couple weeks that’d be a good challenge. We’re nowhere near your grocery budget though! I’d be glad to get ours down to about $250-$300.
I try to cook mostly from scratch but it’s so hard to find the time and i can understand going out to eat to give your wife a few breaks. Although I’m loving all the fall produce!
I think it’s great that y’all have chickens and support local farmers and see how those chickens are being raised and treated. As Americans, we don’t really think about where our meat is coming from and the impact the meat farms have on the environment, so i think it’s different when you hunt for the meat yourself.
If we were going to live in one place for a long time, we’d look into doing our own farm and potentially chickens. I just realized that there is one of those community gardens just down the road from us that I’ll need to look into.
You’re doing awesome! My boyfriend and I have an almost identical weekly list. 🙂 We feel strongly about eating organic, locally-grown and in-season produce, so we spend $30-40 weekly at the farmer’s market, paired with organic nut milks, rice pastas, high-quality spices and treats (dark chocolate and kombucha) from the store for another $30-40. So, in total, $240-280. We’re overall pretty happy with our food budget. We do buy vegan mozzarella on occasion, which I hesitate on every time haha! We also spend a lot keeping our herb garden happy, but AZ is not the ideal location for any type of garden, unfortunately. Adhering to a vegan/vegetarian diet really reduces costs. My boyfriend has been vegetarian for 19 years (and vegan for the last 4) so I also eat mostly a 99% plant-based diet. It’s made such a difference in cost! Thanks for this–I always love seeing where other people are financially! <3
Thank you!! It sounds like you and your boyfriend are doing great as well! It’s easy to spend a lot of money on organic and other foods like you mentioned. I completely agree that a vegan/vegetarian diet reduces costs because that’s what lowered our grocery bill! I wish we could grow an herb garden, or garden in general, but AL isn’t the best location for a garden either (and I just have a black thumb so I don’t think I could keep anything like that alive no mater what the climate is).
Thanks for the comment, I appreciate the support!
Like!! Really appreciate you sharing this blog post.Really thank you! Keep writing.
Like!! Really appreciate you sharing this blog post.Really thank you! Keep writing.