Home > Cutting Spending > Fanatically Fixated on Food

Fanatically Fixated on Food

The Plan

As I explained in a previous post, I set a goal for myself to cut my food spending budget by 40% (from $520/mo to $310/mo).  This was one crucial spending cut that helped me increase my after tax savings rate from 20% to 49%.  You may be thinking to yourself, “Cash Rebel, you’re bananas!”, but remember I only set this goal after a careful analysis of potential waste.

So here’s what I learned about what I was spending on food.  My major three spending categories were groceries for cooking, buying lunch every day at work, and eating out at restaurants with friends.  It was easy for me to waste money on all three of these categories mostly because they had all become a habit.

After my cash analysis, I decided to try some radical changes; some worked, and some didn’t.  So here’s how I cut $210 from my monthly food budget.

Gorging on Groceries

So I originally had this theory about spending money on groceries.  I thought that as long as I was buying healthy food (fruits, vegetables, whole grains), I was making a good investment regardless of the cost.  So I would go to Jewel (pretty expensive in my area) and buy fresh fruit regardless of price a couple times a week.

After applying my “operate like a corporation” perspective, I realized that buying healthy food only provided a great ROI if it was reasonably priced.  By shopping at a cheaper store (which comparable produce), and by seeking out in-season fruits and vegetables that are priced around $1/lb, I was able to increase the return on my investment of cash. Since I was spending about $250/mo, this approach reduced that by about 30%, or $75/mo

The other large change I made with respect to groceries was joining CostCo.  Now a membership costs $55, so I did some comparison shopping writing down the prices of various equivalent items (more on this later), and I few things that were way cheaper at CostCo.  The trick is that I only purchase things that are actually cheaper, which tend to be dry goods like cereal and almonds.  Based on the dry goods I eat, I’ve calculated that I save over $200/year (or $17/mo) , by investing in this $55 membership.

Lazy Lunching

This was one category that I decided to eliminate entirely.  I had started the habit of buying lunch at work every day since it was convenient, healthy, and tasty.  I would typically make a salad (which ended up costing $5-$7).

Now I see the error of my ways.  I already like cooking at home, so I switched to taking left overs for lunch, and I’ve never looked back.  This was, perhaps, the easiest and most effective switch I’ve made.  And just like that, Bam! I’m saving $100/mo.

Restaurant Riot

So I when I realized this was a problem, I didn’t have a great solution (and I still don’t).  It’s shocking to me that all my friends always propose eating out, when I think we are all pretty cooks.  I have suggested dinners in and it always ends in a veto.  I’m thinking this will change as we get older, and have nicer places, but it is a source of endless confusion for me.

Anyway, I’ve attempted to cook more meals for friends and for myself, but it hasn’t worked all that well.  At least I do consciously consider the cost of everything I order.  Now I always reject appetizers out of hand.  They are just an extra expense for added calories I don’t actually want.  So I think I can attribute $20/mo savings to this attitude.

How’d it go?

So as I’ve mentioned before, I’ve had a lot of success reducing my food budget.  While bringing my lunch everyday, and shopping for produce <$1/lb seem like insignificant changes, they are one piece in my overall reduction strategy.  In the end, I was actually able to cut my food budget by 40% while maintaining about the same level of health, abundance, and fun.  So now I spend $310/mo on food instead of $520! (that’s an extra $2520/year in the bank!)

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  1. November 26, 2012 at 6:11 AM
  2. December 27, 2012 at 7:03 PM

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