I received a lot of positive feedback from my recent article in the Financial Post: How this man plans to be mortgage free by age 31. I consider myself an extreme saver – my ambitious goal is to pay off my mortgage by the end of 2015. Through hard work and determination my dream will soon be a reality.
Photo Credit: Sjoerd Lammers street photography
The most common question I received from readers was about my budget – they couldn’t believe I only spend $100 per month – or $25 per week – on groceries. For most families, food is the third highest expense behind housing and transportation, so how have I managed to spend so little? I’ve managed to spend less through careful planning and frugal choices.
You Don’t Have to Eat Like a Pauper to Save Money on Groceries
$100 per month on groceries may not seem like a lot, but for a single guy it’s plenty. I cycle 45 minutes back and forth from work every day, so I need all the energy I can get! The good news is you don’t have to have a diet that consists solely of ramen noodles and peanut butter sandwiches to get by on only $100 per month. You can still eat like a king –or at least a prince – if you make wise purchases.
Here’s what a typical meal consists of for me in a day:
Bagel and Peanut Butter
Spaghetti and Sauce / Kraft Dinner and Frozen Vegetables / Brown Rice and Frozen Vegetables / Homemade Pizza
Daily Grand Total: $3-$4
As you can see you don’t have to starve yourself to survive on less than $100 per month. I’m living proof that you can still eat plenty without spending a fortune. The good news is you don’t have to eat exactly like me to save money; by following my simple tips you can shave plenty of dollars off your grocery budget each month.
Why pay full price for groceries when you don’t have to? Many discount supermarkets like No Frills, FreschCo, and Walmart allow you to price match. Price matching for me is like a weekly ritual. Each week before I go grocery shopping I make a shopping list. I go through my fridge, freezer and cupboards for any products I’m running low on. Once I have my shopping list for the week, I’ll go through the flyers for the supermarkets in my area (delivered to my doorstep conveniently on Thursday). I’ll look for any products I’m running low on and circle the product and add a posted flag (this saves time when you’re at the checkout line). Instead of wasting time and gas driving around to different supermarkets, I’m able to purchase everything on sale at my local store. It doesn’t get any easier than that!
Shop at Discount Supermarkets
News flash: you can save a bundle by shopping at discount supermarkets over premium stores. By choosing No Frills over Loblaws, the savings will quickly add up – at premium stores you’ll find yourself spending a dollar or more on everything from breakfast cereal to coffee and the nickel-and-diming really adds up. If a family is able to save $20 per week by switch from premium stores to discount stores, that would add up to $1,040 per year in savings – not bad!
I know what you’re thinking: although most grocery stables like cereal and coffee are the same, premium stores have better quality produce and meat – that’s where you’re wrong. MoneySense did an excellent article dispelling this myth: Why No Frills has the best value produce. Not only do discount grocers have produce at or near the same grade, some discount grocers had better quality produce at a lower cost. Hopefully you’ll consider shopping at discount grocers now that you know the truth!
Buy Items on Sale and in Bulk
When you see a grocery item on sale it’s a good idea to stock up. Before loading your cart with jars of spaghetti sauce, there are a few things to keep in mind. Not all sales are created equal – see how much money you’re saving to see if it’s worth stocking up. Some items that appear in the flyer might be listed for regular price. Watch expiry date; you don’t end up saving any money if you end up throwing away expired food. By freezing bread you can make it last weeks beyond its expiry date; simple thaw it out as needed. Lastly, purchase enough of an item on sale to last until at least the next sale.
Buy Produce in Season
I know this may seem like common sense, but you’d be surprised. You’ll pay an arm and a leg if you purchase produce out of season. By buying fruits and vegetable in season, you can save a bundle. Summer is the perfect time to enjoy watermelon and cherries, but consider switching to a less costly fruit like apples and oranges during the winter months.
Cut Back on Meat or Consider Going Vegetarian
Working in supermarket, I know firsthand how much the price of meat has skyrocketed. For example, four years ago you could purchase a 2 pound tube of ground beef for $4.99 at No Frills; today that price is $8.99 – nearly double!
A recent article, Meat prices soar in time for grilling season, says a piglet-killing virus and fewer cattle being sent to slaughter are to blame. As you may have noticed from my diet I’m vegetarian. While I’m not suggesting that everyone goes vegetarian, by cutting back on meat you’ll save money and eat healthier. Try to limit yourself to red meat once per week.
Stay Away from Processed Foods; Make Your Own Meals Instead
Instead of buying TV dinners or fast food, make your own meals instead. I often work 80 to 90 hours per week – if I can manage to cook my own meals, so can you! What’s my secret? I prepare everything in advance. Over the weekend I cook my meals for the upcoming week. When I get home from a long day at the office, all I have to do is put my food in the microwave and it’s ready to eat in less than five minutes. It doesn’t get any easier than that!
Do you have any personal tips for saving money on groceries you’d like to share? I’d love to hear them.
Sean Cooper is a personal finance freelance writer and blogger residing in Toronto, Ontario. He is a first-time homebuyer and landlord who aspires to be mortgage-free by age 31. You can request his services and read his blogs on his personal website: http://www.seancooperwriter.com/