I Saved $100 on Groceries Last Month — and I Didn’t Make a Meal Plan

A woman peeling vegetables in her sunny kitchen.

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The trick is to make it a challenge, not a chore.

Important points

  • Setting a budget is crucial if you want to control your food spending.
  • Make a household-wide commitment to avoiding food waste and give yourself permission to be creative with leftovers.
  • Online shopping can help you avoid impulse purchases and control your spending.

Food costs are over 10% higher than a year ago and many households are feeling the pinch. For many people, wages are not increasing nearly as fast as their cost of living, and they are looking for ways to save. The challenge is that many savings strategies are also time-consuming. Some are also calling for fairly significant lifestyle changes.

That’s why last month I set out to cut my grocery bill enough that anyone could apply. I love the idea of ​​making a meal plan and sticking to it. But our house just doesn’t work that way, and I guess we’re not alone. We rarely know what we’re doing a few hours in advance, let alone a few days or more. So I focused on staying flexible and still saving money. Here are five of them.

How I saved my monthly grocery bill by $100

Our household spends about $300 a month on groceries. We live in Bogota, Colombia where the cost of living is much lower than most US cities. However, we also pay a surcharge for imported goods such as cheese and spices.

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1. We created a budget and set a goal

Setting a goal is often the biggest step in making something a reality. I live with my partner, so we sat down to go over our expenses over the past few months. We totaled our expenses and talked about what we could possibly save. Our idea was to make saving money fun and a shared challenge.

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Almost every time I stopped by the store, avoiding impulse purchases of chocolate looked like an easy win — I usually shop more than once a week, and at nearly $4 a bar, I was able to make $20 right away save up. With a few other changes, we decided it would be feasible to cut our grocery bill by two-thirds.

2. I switched to online shopping

Online shopping isn’t for everyone, and it means paying extra for delivery. However, it is much easier to control your costs and compare prices when you can see it on screen. After setting a budget for how much we were going to spend, I wanted to be able to track down every penny. If you’re not a fan of online shopping, that’s fine. Instead, try to make a list and stick to it — or find other tricks to avoid impulse buying.

We have also reduced the frequency of our purchases. Every time you go to the store, even virtually, it’s too easy to buy a few extra little things or be tempted by a special offer. Instead of taking one weekly ride, we split our monthly groceries into two rides at $90 each. That left $20 for extra fresh fruit and veg if needed.

A major disadvantage of shopping exclusively online is that you cannot take advantage of in-store discounts on items that are about to expire. The upside is that it’s much easier to compare prices and manage your spending. I added things to the cart thinking of things we needed during the two week period. When it came time to complete the order, we had to make some cuts and trades for cheaper products to stay under the $90 goal.

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3. I’ve cooked and frozen several meals

If you’re making a pasta sauce or stew, or sautéing vegetables, double (or triple) the amounts. You can often get better prices if you buy in bulk, and if you’re cooking one meal, you might as well cook several at once. Especially if you’re cooking something that needs to go in the oven – once it’s hot, make the most of it.

We cheated slightly to get our $100 savings by eating several meals that were already in the freezer. When you don’t want to create a meal plan, freezing extra groceries means you can handle even the most unpredictable week without breaking the bank. When you have time to cook, you can stock up the freezer with all sorts of delicacies.

4. We are committed to zero waste

Like setting our spending goal, making a collective decision not to throw away food was half the battle. Without them, it’s easier to ignore the veggies that are wilting at the bottom of the fridge. Or hope someone else does something about it. With this we could prepare a starter dish from leftovers once a week and consciously avoid waste. Turning leftovers into a decent meal became more of a challenge than a chore.

Since we didn’t want to plan every single meal, we stocked up on lots of staples like canned goods, pasta, and rice instead. If you have a lot of foods that will keep for a long time, you can almost always put together a balanced and inexpensive meal — even if it’s tuna pasta with a few frozen veggies.

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5. I used a rewards credit card

Here in Colombia we don’t have many cashback apps that reward you for spending, but I can get some benefits by paying with my credit card. In the US, you may be able to combine cashback app rewards with a credit card that pays rewards for groceries or everyday expenses. It might not feel like much, but those rewards can add up. At least enough to pay for a couple of $4 candy bars.

bottom line

If you can involve the entire household in first setting and then sticking to a food budget, you’ll be amazed at how much you can save. Likewise, it is easier to avoid food waste when everyone is on board. As with many things in life, the decision to do something is often half the battle.

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