Eating Well Need Not Cost a Fortune

>> Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Yes. This is our most recent grocery bill. Fresh from last night's trip to our local Wegmans. In our "budget" (which we don't follow as strictly as we should), we have slotted around $75 for groceries each week. I feel it's possible to go even below that . . . but week after week we spend $85, $90, and more. Not only that, we typically visit the grocery store more than once a week.


We love to eat. What can I say? And being athletes who run (hah, get it?) a food blog -- we're bound to rack up high bills.

What do we buy exactly? Well, we do indulge a bit. Our most pricey items include avocados, coconut oil, cheeses (I love fresh mozzarella), nuts (more on that below), and Nutella. And bakery breads always tug at our heartstrings.

But I'm challenging the both of us to stop our careless spending. To really examine our cupboards and redirect our lust for certain foods. Over the next month, I'm hoping to get back down to our originally agreed upon budget . . . and hopefully go lower.

How are we going to do this . . . and still eat fabulous foods?

1.) Plan ahead. I tell everyone they should plan out their grocery lists and weekly meal plans before heading to the store. It's time to take some of my own advice. This involves sticking my nose in our cupboards . . . seeing what's really in there. Maybe planning to use a box or two of pasta. Inventing some new canned food masterpieces. Whatever. But making a grocery list/meal outline -- and checking it twice -- that's certainly the first goal.

2.) Develop staples. There are certain items (canned beans, wheat pastry flour, natural peanut butter, broccoli, etc. -- here's a good list that I'm planning to use as a guide) that make up the essentials. Vegetarian kitchen staples that are good to have on hand to create a variety of meals.

Right now, we're into exotics. We rarely make use of ingredients twice throughout the week. Maybe that isn't entirely true, but it sure feels like we're opening new bags of this and that at every visit to the kitchen. Developing staples will allow us to make better use of what we do have, so we're not tempted to rush out to the store.

3.) Cook smarter. Once a week, probably on a Sunday afternoon, I'd like to make a big pot-o-soup that could last for not one, but two full dinners. Soup is cheap. Chili is our favorite. It's filling and healthy. And if I calculate what I usually use in a chili, 1 can of corn (39 cents), one large can of kidney beans (80 cents), a large can of tomatoes ($1.50), water (free), salt (basically free), maybe some chopped peppers ($1.25 per pepper), etc. Basically, the whole thing ends up costing less than $5 . . . that's $1.25 a person (if you calculate 2 people, dinner for 2 nights).

And while we're on this topic -- I think we could make better use of leftover foods. Usually, I'm not a fan. I let Stephen be the "garbage can" -- eating everything I don't. But I'm sure our leftovers could be repurposed into another dish.

4.) Eat vegan. Yes -- we do eat vegan most of the time. But we do enjoy our cheese. However, cheese is EXPENSIVE! So, I'd like to say we'll likely only make one non-vegan dinner per week. Of course, this doesn't include meals out -- but that's another topic. Often, when we go on our second trip to the grocery store, it's to buy cheese. And, of course, if we buy cheese, we most typically must also buy bread, which leads us into . . .

5.) Make bread. I've fallen in love with the rosemary-salt bread at Wegmans. It costs nearly $5.00 a loaf. And I've eaten so much of it lately, I swear it's increased my waistline. Now when we want to nosh on fine breads, we'll make them from scratch. After all, our Garlic Tuscan Herb Loaf was awesome. And I'm sure I can adapt it to include the rosemary and salt flavors -- on the cheap.

6. Set a treats budget. We both have our things. For me, it's Nutella and Dark Chocolate Dreams (both are nearly $4.00 a jar). For Stephen, it's seafood. We need to set a budget for buying these items and stick to it. It'll be hard. But it'll make us treasure those blissful bites that much more.

These actions toward a lighter bill are all just a start. But if we can take at least $25 off each visit -- that's $100 a month. If we can stop going to the grocery store more than once a week, that's likely another $25. So, we're talking a $200 savings!

And another thing! What I wanted to mention about the walnuts (referenced above) is that here's yet another reason to READ YOUR BILLS. We never thought to really take a deep, dark look at our grocery receipt. But when I did (and it was only because I took a photo of the darn thing for this post), I noticed that we were charged for not just one, but TWO bags of walnuts. We only bought one. Scout's honor. But at $5.29 a bag, that's a pricey mistake on the checkout clerk's part. At this point, I think we may be stuck with it, though. How can we prove we have only one bag???

Has this ever happened to you? Or are you on your own quest to slash your grocery bills? Tell us all about it! We'd love the advice . . . and just knowing we're not the only ones out there embarrassed at how much we spend. So, leave a comment or email us at

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