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How I Keep Grocery Costs at $125 a Month

July 28, 2014

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Think it's impossible to only spend $125 a month on groceries? How 1 (sometimes 2) people spend only $125 a month on groceries!After many questions about how I keep my grocery costs so low, I’ve decided to dedicate this post to fill you in on how I manage to feed myself for so little each month.

I know there are lots of posts on the web about how you can save money on groceries. They explain various shopping techniques, how to use coupons, etc. But this is about how I personally keep my grocery spending under control and eat healthy, delicious, and nutritious meals for only $125 a month.

The first thing you need to know is that this is my budget for food from the grocery store only. Period. I do not use this money to buy other things like paper products, personal hygiene items, cleaning products, etc. This is for food only and it does not include the amount of money I spend on eating out.

Another variable to consider is that I’m single. So, I don’t have to feed a family, and I’m not a huge eater most of the time. I’m not growing anymore, though I’d really love to be taller. 🙂

That said, I do feed my dad lunch a few times each week. In exchange, he usually pays whenever we have lunch out. I also have a younger brother that lives with me. But he contributes to the grocery bills. Since he eats more than I do, his share of the grocery bill each month is about $150. Mine is $125 since I eat less than he does.

Here’s how I spend only $125 a month on groceries.

Keep it Simple

I also do really simple breakfasts for myself. I usually have a bowl of cereal out of a box that I paid between $.25 and $1.00 with coupons.

I also keep things simple for a lot of my other meals too. Cooking for one person isn’t the most fun thing in the world, so I do eat simple things like eggs, cereal, or a PB&J sandwich for supper a couple of times each week.

While I do utilize coupons, I don’t generally stockpile many food items because I usually can’t use them up before they expire. Even if you find the best deal in the world with coupons, it’s not really saving you money if you can’t use it up before it expires. Plus, I hate food waste!

Shop Sales

In addition to doing some couponing, I also shop sales.

When I select my fresh fruits and veggies for the week, I only get what is on sale.

I plan my meals and snacks for the around the sale flyer from my local grocery store. We only have one grocery store in my rural town, so I can’t shop around or take advantage of price matching. But if you have the opportunity to do so, take advantage of it! Just be careful to weigh the cost of your time and your gas if you plan to visit more than one store to get things on sale.

Shop Once a Week

I avoid spending on food temptation items by only going to the store once a week. If I forget something or run out of something early, I try to just tough it out until the next weekend when I go to the store again.

At first this was really hard, but once I got used to it, it got easier. I also found that I’m a much better planner when I know I can’t make another run to the grocery store if I forgot something the first time.

Limiting my trips means I only get tempted once a week to buy something that’s not on my grocery list, instead of being tempted and giving in to an impulse purchase several times each week. That is an easy way to save some money on food. I also try to avoid shopping when I’m hungry to cut down even more on those impulse purchases.

Having a Generous Family

My parents are also very generous. We are farmers and we also raise livestock, which we then harvest about once a year. This is how I get my beef and pork.

In exchange for helping on the farm, my parents provide these meats to my brother and I free of charge. The only meats I have to pay for out-of-pocket are chicken from Zaycon and seafood. This is why I don’t eat chicken or seafood as often as red meat.

I do have to supplement my meats occasionally by buying things like bacon. I save on bacon by only buying when it’s at its rock-bottom price at the grocery store or ordering it in bulk from Zaycon. When I get my chicken and bacon from Zaycon, I freeze the majority of it in vacuum sealed bags so it lasts a long time.

I’m very lucky to live in a low cost-of-living area. The midwest truly is one the of cheapest places to live. And I wouldn’t be able to save much money on my proteins without having such a generous family.

At some point, I will probably have to increase my grocery budget. When I started this journey to get out of debt, I had a stocked pantry and freezer thanks to using coupons.

Since then, I’ve been on a very strict grocery budget and I’ve managed to stick to it while also slowly cleaning out my pantry and freezer. This clean out isn’t a bad thing. It is forcing me to eat the things I’ve passed over before. But at some point I will have to re-stock some of these items.

What are some of the ways you eat on the cheap?

Think it's impossible to only spend $125 a month on groceries? How 1 (sometimes 2) people spend only $125 a month on groceries!
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Kayla

Kayla is a mid-20s single girl living in the Midwest, USA. She is focused on paying off her consumer and student loans, while simplifying her life and closet. You can join her on her journey at ShoeaholicNoMore or follow her on Twitter.

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35 responses to “How I Keep Grocery Costs at $125 a Month

  1. Great tips! We try to stay at around $200/month (sometimes more) for the two of us and we do a lot of what you suggest. We don’t eat much meat or dairy since it’s just so much more expensive. You’re totally right about buying what’s on sale too–very wise!

    1. I don’t eat as much meat as I used to and I only use about 3/4 of a gallon of milk/week. So I balance the milk thing out by buying a gallon one week and a half gallon the next week. Alternating means I never have more than I can use in a timely manner.

  2. Sounds like you have a great plan in place, Kayla. It’s very nice that your parents provide most of your meat for helping them on the farm as meat is always so expensive. I try to stick with the fruits and veggies on sale and in season too. They are often the tastiest anyways. My biggest food expense is waste. I try to be very mindful and cook what we will eat (we’re not big on leftovers) but I still find that I throw out too much food.

    1. I am so lucky that my parents are willing to provide the meat for me. It works out well for both parties 🙂

      Food waste is something I struggle with as well. I don’t really like to eat leftovers, at least not more than a time or two at the most, so cooking smaller portions is how I try to combat that, but it can be hard to cut recipes down to just 2-3 worth.

    1. Even though I get my meat “free” I try not to eat meat too often. I wouldn’t want to take advantage of my parents and on the chicken I have to pay for, I don’t want to pay more than I have too 🙂

  3. That is so awesome that your parents help you and your brother out, in exchange for helping them. With the cost of meat going up, I’m finding myself passing over it quite a bit at the store. Other than that, it looks like we have similar eating habits. Most days I have cereal or eggs for breakfast, and then either a sandwich or leftovers for lunch. I love breakfast for dinner on the “cheap” days we try and have twice a week. I’m pretty simple and boring when it comes to food!

  4. When I lived alone my monthly grocery bill was just a little above yours Kayla. I didn’t cook elaborate meals and instead kept things simple. I would cook enough to have food for several days so that helped also. It’s wonderful that you and your parents can help each other out. I always thought that’s how it should be 🙂

    1. I’m glad your budget was close to mine. People ask me ALL THE TIME how my food budget is so low. I didn’t think it was that out of line… 🙂

  5. Thanks for sharing how you are able to keep your grocery costs down, Kayla. Definitely meat and waste are big factors for us. In addition, my grocery budget includes paper products and cat food/litter, sometimes even pool chemicals because I can’t be bothered to split it out (all bought at Costco). We eat breakfast for dinner at least once per week too. Our weekend leftovers for a couple of meals and then either beans on toast or nachos for another night. Some nights I might even just eat cereal.

  6. I try to plan our meals so we get two dinners out of them (leftovers on the second night). And, like debt debts, we have breakfast for dinner once a week, which saves a lot.

    Meat and organic milk are probably are biggest regular costs at the grocery store. We don’t eat a ton of meat, but it’s still not cheap.

    1. I agree! Meat is expensive and I’m sure anything with the word “organic” in it is expensive too!

  7. I love this! I keep my grocery budget right around yours, but I do include paper products in mine. HOWEVER (and this is a big one), I definitely have a healthy “eating out” budget, as that’s where I socialize. But I’ve WAY cut back on the eating out side of things and I’ve started couponing for groceries.

    I love your tip about shopping once a week. I totally agree that it’s so much easier to not eat out when you’ve got yummy stuff to come home to!

    1. I don’t have much in the way of a “eating out” budget either, but I’m hoping to be able to spend a bit more on socializing/entertainment/eating out once a couple more debts are paid off.

  8. Kayla, great tips!! So cool that you guys can help your parents on the farm in exchange for meat. We use a lot of the tips you do too in order to keep food costs cheap. We also have a pretty large list of super cheap meals ($5 and under to feed all six of us) that we sprinkle in throughout the month in order to keep food costs low. Then if we have a spendier meal, I don’t feel so bad. 🙂

    1. Balancing some cheaper meals with some more expensive ones makes for a good balance Laurie. I am guilty of occasionally having a popcorn and movie night at home by myself with just a bag of microwave popcorn (and maybe a little fruit or veggies). It’s quick, easy and a good way to relax!

  9. You’ve made me a bit nostalgic for my pre-family days! I would make a big fancy cook-book meal once a week (left overs in the freezer for lunches), but most nights have a microwaved potato, half a can of beans, cereal or s’mores for dinner. Best part of living alone? No one sees you to judge it! I honesty do miss it.

    Now, I’m still trying to balance my food budget because I want to do what is right for my daughter. I feel like I have to (and I want to) give her the opportunity for a balanced, whole meal even if she chooses not to eat it.

    1. I forgot to say thank you for sharing! Great idea and I think I need to start making eggs for breakfast again. Low calorie, yummy, quick and cheap. Stick them on an English muffin, and it’s better than a Mcdonalds breakfast 🙂

      1. That is totally true! I have a cute little pan that makes the egg perfectly round and then I put it on toast or english muffin with a slice of cheese! YUM!

    2. I think it’s great that you are providing her with choices and access to healthy, balanced food. I should probably try to eat healthier, but at the moment I’m trying to do both – eat healthy and eat cheap – which is not easy!

  10. I’m a pretty simple eater so it’s relatively easy for me to keep my food budget low when I’m paying attention. That being said it’s a little more difficult with the bf because all sorts of weird processed products always end up in the cart. What’s the deal with the price of bacon these days? It’s SO expensive. Last time I got a good sale I bought 4 packs and stuck it in the freezer. I really can’t justify spending full price for a food we enjoy but don’t “need” to eat.

    1. I too only buy bacon when it’s on sale. They have pretty good deal on the “expensive” brand every now and then, and when they do I stock up on 3-4 packages usually.

  11. We rarely eat meat since it is soo expensive. We don’t have a lot of room to stockpile, but we try to buy foods the kids like when they are on sale. We also have a great produce market close by were we can get lots of fresh produce at a reasonable price.

  12. I find that grocery budgets vary tremendously from person to person. Since I live in a completely different country, it’s difficult to compare spendings, but we keep our grocery budget low by buying little highly processed food, cooking a lot from scratch and buying huge amounts of vegetables really cheap at a special market in our town. Kind of an outlet for vegetables, you might say: they sell old stock supermarkets didn’t buy anymore, whole boxes for really cheap prices. The stuff isn’t bad yet, there have just newer fruits and veggies arrived, so no seller is buying the “old” stuff anymore. We plan our meals around these veggies and fruit and thus get some healthy and cheap food. Since I save so much on that I spend a little more money to buy our little meat at the butcher’s and our bread at the baker’s (if I don’t make it myself). I am not really fond of that supermarket culture and to be honest, it doesn’t make such a huge difference, and as it’s by far tastier and nutritious I use less cheese or butter on the bread and less meat in the sauce.

    1. I do try to stretch my meat too by using less than the recipe calls for. My dad is a BIG meat eater, so somtimes he “complains” about it when there’s not enough meat in things, but really by using less meat in things I’m saving him money too by not using as much “free” meat from my parents. It’s great that you can get such great deals on produce. That sounds awesome! We don’t really have a lot of options for shopping here since I live in such a small town, but I don’t buy much in the way of meat from the grocery store because I like the farm-raised meat better.

  13. Freezer cooking really helps with food waster, I can prepare meals that use the same ingredients to avoiding wasting it (Cook for one usually) It also helps when you don’t want to cook or don’t have time to. I also take leftovers to work.

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