Quite recently, J. Money, of Budgets are Sexy fame, featured an absolutely hysterical email/guest post entitled How in GOD’s NAME do you spend so little on food?? written by a fellow named Braden. I need you to go read it, immediately.
Don’t worry, I’ll wait for you to come back. I have already re-read it at least twice, because it is so funny.
Oh, you invented a new garlic, cajun, spicy sauce……… AND put it on a White Castle slider, move over son, let daddy have a taste.
While his email is highly entertaining, Braden is asking a very legitimate question, “How DO you not spend an obscene amount on groceries?”
Rice, Beans, Oatmeal, Cardboard
The comments on the post are a gold mine. Rice, beans and oatmeal are frequently recurring themes. Braden chimes in on that front, too:
I also eat beans and rice. I’m thinking the distinctions end in the preferred nomenclature, because my beans and rice is canned black beans, uncle ben’s aromatic basmati rice garnished with cilantro and lime juice, a slice or two of avocado (who am I kidding, I love that devilish fruit; I throw half of it on there), a light sprinkle of the always irresistible cheese and some finely chopped bell peppers. We haven’t eaten steak or chicken tacos in three years……..at home, at least. Definitely not a $1 meal.
Beans and rice, without some flair, seems, well, if I were in captivity in Singapore for gum chewing, I’d assume that would be the meal provided on a daily basis.
I currently have a giant resource post in the works on how to live on rice and beans, which, I’ll be honest, is a far cry from how I eat myself. My spouse’s stomach does not do well with beans. It does very badly, in fact, so they are generally off the table for us. For folks like the Frugalwoods, though, rice and beans are the ticket to financial independence and they’re sharing their golden ticket with you.
Maybe beans are for you, but they are certainly not for us.
Food = $$$$
Well, my friends, as it turns out, I am an expert on how to spend an obscene amount on groceries. Yes. I really ought to list it on my resume.
I would like to share my tips on the matter, as a bit of a tongue in cheek exercise, but I assure you that they are all very real habits that add up to a four digit grocery bill.
My comfort level with our spending aside, cost of living is a VERY real aspect of how much a household has to spend on feeding itself. The Grocery Prices Across North America infographic makes that extremely clear. If you want to get someone riled up, ask Jessica from Budget for Health about the cost of eggs in Calgary versus Michigan. She spent six months living in Calgary and couldn’t believe how expensive the food was there, even after they received a cost of living allowance for their time spent in Calgary.
Me? I stock up on groceries when I go to Calgary, because they are much cheaper than where I live!
While we do have a rather high grocery spend, we still buy things on sale, stockpile things when they have a good price (ie rice pasta, canned tomatoes, chia), buy whole animals from butchers and purchase most of our proteins on sale to put in the freezer (or eat hunted meat).
We also make virtually all of our meals from scratch due to allergies. Pasta sauce and some salad dressings are basically all of the pre-made foods that we consume. Oh, and I make a simple/rough meal plan for every week, so the food we buy lines up to actual meals.
How to Spend an Obscene Amount on Groceries – Tips from an Expert
Things we do that aren’t exactly frugal:
- Have allergies and buy our way out
- Eat canned artichokes
- Eat delicious, delicious cheese
- Eat a bunch of nuts, but not the cheap ones like peanuts
- Eat wild rice
- Use maple syrup and agave
- Buy name-brand instead of store-brand for some products
- Eat scallops
- Eat shrimp
- Eat canned crab in dips
- Buy specialty products like rice pasta
- Put Classico sauce on our pasta
- Buy organic vegetables and fruit
- Buy quinoa and chia
- Buy cashew butter, pumpkin butter and sunflower butter
- Buy rotisserie chickens
- Eat things we want to eat that are out of season
- Drink goat milk
- Are allergic to cheap frozen veggies like broccoli and cauliflower
- Are allergic to eggs
- Spouse can only stand one, maybe two, vegetarian meals per week or it leads to crazy over eating
- Stuff goes bad in the fridge with an awful frequency
- We don’t eat very much soup
- Live in a small town with limited grocery store options
- One of us is allergic to the cheapest fruit, bananas
- Eat avocados and mangos year-round
- Snack on goat cheese when we get home from work
- Live somewhere with a high cost of living
- Avoid beans due to stomach issues
- Eat a bunch of lamb, which is still moderately expensive even though we bought an entire lamb from a butcher
- Have a black thumb and live in a condo, so we can’t grow much food for ourselves
- Cook with fresh herbs
- One of us is allergic to tuna
- Participate in a lot of meal trains where I feed a lot of other families. My spouse loves this. (Sarcasm.)
- Host dinner parties on the regular
- Eat smoked salmon and goat cheese on (homemade) biscuits for breakfast when friends are visiting from out of town (I will feed you this if you come visit me!)
- My spouse dislikes peas and corn fresh, but even more so frozen
- Buy granola bars for biking and playing squash after work, but we’re allergic to most so we have to buy Glutino or Clif brand bars. We basically never make any at home.
- Eat organic brown rice, not white.
- Eschew carb-dense foods as often as possible and opt for veggies instead.
- Prefer wild salmon to farmed salmon (for many reasons. If only more farmed fish was inland!)
- Use coconut oil
- Like saffron
- Use real vanilla. No fake stuff. Sometimes, real vanilla beans.
- Coconut whipped cream is delicious.
- Cook fun things on occasion, like making our own gravlox (yum!)
- Eat hot salsa, which only comes in small jars, not big jugs
- Eat protein-filled breakfasts (this is a very good thing)
- Buy absolutely amazing locally roasted, fair trade coffee
- Eat homemade pesto
- Only make half of our sausages, the other half are store bought and GF
- When splurging on bacon, hot dogs, or lunch meat, buy the preservative-free versions (we rarely eat these things)
Things other people do to drop mad coin on food:
- Drink a bunch of beverages that aren’t water
- Eat pre-packaged foods, everything from salad kits to store bought cookies to lean cuisine to frozen lasagna
- Eat deli-prepared foods
- Buy food without a plan
- Buy candy and snack foods like chips and pop (soda, in American)
- Buy coconut water, kombucha and the like
While this may seem tongue in cheek, it is truly a list of things that cause our grocery spending to be higher than it could be. Read between the lines and don’t do these things, if you want to save.
Writing all of this down was actually a fantastic exercise in highlighting where we spend a lot of money. I would highly recommend that you do the same, if you have a goal to cut your grocery spending. Grab a piece of paper, or open a new excel sheet (that’s what the cool kids do) and start brainstorming. I came up with this list in less than 24 hours.
I make an awesome artichoke and asparagus side dish. It costs $15 or so every time.
Also, I miss being able to eat store bought perogies. So delicious and so cheap!
If you want to avoid this fate, maybe try some of these cheap crock pot recipes?
Please, dear readers, what are YOUR tips on how to spend an obscene amount on groceries? I am confident that you have some, even if you can’t match my own level of expertise 😉