How to Survive on $100 a Month of Groceries

Below we’re pleased to publish the second piece here at the Hub from Sean Cooper, a millennial who really “gets it” when it comes to financial independence. His first contribution was on how he plans to become Findependent, or at least debt and mortgage free, by age 31. The key to this is what the book, Findependence Day, calls “guerrilla frugality.” If the term is new to you, see this primer on the term (as well as “frooger”), which is right below Sean’s article here in the Debt & Frugality section of the Hub.

Sean’s piece is a classic example of guerrilla frugality. Because we all have to eat!

Sean Cooper

Over to the maestro of frugality!:

By Sean Cooper

Special to the Financial Independence Hub

Do you find it challenging to keep your grocery spending on budget? You’re not alone. For most of us, groceries are the second-highest expense after putting a roof over our heads. With temptation down every aisle, it’s easy to let grocery spending spiral out of control.

I’m living proof you can spend less and still enjoy your favourite foods for under $100 a month. I’m able to use the extra money I save towards goals like paying down my mortgage. I know not everyone can live on $100 a month worth of groceries, but maybe my strategies can help reduce your grocery spending a little bit. I’ve found the secret comes down to making wise spending choices.

How I Spend Only $100 a Month on Groceries

Spending $100 a month on groceries is about making specific choices. Instead of going shopping every day, I make a shopping list and go only once a week. Not only does this save time, it helps me avoid impulse purchases. I’ll bring the flyers of other grocers so I can price-match. In a typical shopping week I usually buy only the basics: fruits, vegetables, bread and milk. For under $15 I can get everything I need for the coming week. I’ll only splurge and spend more if I’m running low on something and it’s on sale. For example, if spaghetti sauce is on sale for half price I’ll buy 20 jars — enough to last me until the next sale. As for protein, I stock up on peanut butter and almonds when they’re on sale and never pay full price. I also like to cook for every meal, including breakfast. Instead of buying expensive breakfast cereal, I cook oatmeal. It’s a lot less expensive and more nutritious.

I want to tell you the tale of what I did. I’m not expecting you to become vegetarian, but consider taking a look at some of the changes you can make in your own life.

Evaluate Your Budget

How would you like to buy your everyday grocery items for a lot less? Have you ever considered shopping at discount supermarkets? That’s what I do. The savings can really add up. Shaving $20 off your grocery bill each week will add up to yearly savings of over $1,000. I find discounts grocers often have produce and meat that is just as good in terms of quality as the so-called premium stores. I’m not telling you to stop shopping at your local grocer, but by re-evaluating your budget you can find new ways to save.

Make a Shopping List

To avoid overspending, consider making a shopping list and browsing the flyers for deals on products you’re already planning to buy. I save even more money by price-matching, Many discount grocers match the price of rival stores simply by showing a competitor’s weekly flyer. I show a flyer of the rival grocery store to the cashier and I’m given the lower price. You don’t have to price-match, but just by making a list you’re less likely to overspend.

Consider Cutting Back on Meat

Steaks on barbecueNo, that’s not your steak being grilled, it’s your wallet. Sizzling meat prices can really take a bite out of your grocery budget. I’m a vegetarian; instead of eating meat, I get my daily dose of protein from foods like nuts and dairy products. I’m not saying you have to give up strip loin steaks and pork chops, but you might choose to eat meat less often, or buy cuts that are on sale.

Try to Limit Fast Food

I know it can be tempting to pick up fast food on the way home after a long day at the office. We’re all guilty of doing this once in a while. But if you can limit dining out to only once a week, the savings can really add up. By cooking at home instead, you’ll save money and eat healthier, too. Have you ever considered cooking your meals in batches? That’s what I do. I’m not saving you have to give up takeout food, but by eating at home more often you can save a lot.

Consider Buying Items on Sale

If you’re willing to stock up on grocery items you buy every week when they’re on sale, it can add up to big savings. When you see your favourite non-perishable items like canned vegetables and coffee on sale, consider stocking up. By buying enough to tide you over until the next sale you can avoid paying full price. (For some perishables, like meat, and frozen dinners or desserts,  a freezer can come in handy if you stock up when the items are on sale: JC.)

Buy in Season

Buying your favourite fruits and vegetables out of season can cost you a bundle. Have you ever seen the price of cherries in January? Yikes! Consider substituting your favourite fruits and vegetables for produce that’s in season. For example, instead of buying watermelons during the winter, I purchase less costly fruits like apples and oranges. If you’re not ready to give up your favourite fruit, you can still save money buying it less frequently – perhaps only once a month instead of every week.

You don’t have to follow my example to the letter, but if you’re willing to make small changes, they can have a big impact on your monthly budget.

Sean Cooper is a Personal Finance Expert and Financial Journalist. He is a first-time homebuyer and landlord who aspires to reach findependence by age 31. Follow him on Twitter @SeanCooperWrite and read his blogs and request his writing services on his website:


One thought on “How to Survive on $100 a Month of Groceries

  1. There is no way that this is accurate. Living on $3.33 a day for food is impossible. You are either not eating nutritiously or you have miscalculated.

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