Healthy Grocery Shopping on a Budget

New Years Resolutions…Such a divisive topic. Around the first of the year in 2013, I set myself a few Fitness Goals for the year and checked in occasionally (see my last check-in in September here) to see how I was doing. Having a blog and stating my “resolutions” publicly for the internet to see definitely made me more likely to hold myself accountable.

If you read my About Me, you’ll see that I call myself a 20-something on a budget. When I wrote that, I basically figured that since I didn’t make much money, and didn’t spend a ton each month, I considered myself to be living “on a budget”.

Welp, it may not have been before, but that’s about to become literal, folks.

Next week, I start a paid internship, and although it is exactly the job duties and experience that I’m looking for, it pays a little less than I’m used to making. 1/3 less, to be exact…and teetering close to California’s minimum wage. So instead of fitness goals, I’m resolving to establish a monthly budget for myself – and actually follow it!

Because I don’t own a car, I don’t have to worry about a lot of the costs associated with a vehicle, like gas/insurance/parking/repairs. Our rent is on the pricey side for Midtown Sacramento, but my roommate and I are pretty frugal when it comes to utilities and internet bills.

The budget about which I am going to have to be more wise from here on out is my food budget. (OK, and no more shopping sprees on my Macy’s Credit Card…)

I constantly hear that eating healthy is not only more time consuming, but also more expensive than just relying on fast food or pre-packaged/processed meals. I’m here to prove that while the first half might be true, it is absolutely doable to eat healthy on a budget! Here is the monthly food budget that I’ve established for myself:

foodbudgetMy average monthly food spending in 2013 (including groceries, bars, and restaurants) was about $425, with almost 1/4 of that being spent in bars each month. (Thanks, dodgeball)

I’m hoping to spend $15/week at the Farmer’s Market and $15/week at the grocery store. I rarely spend more than $20 at the Farmer’s Market, and the only times I’ve gotten close were when I’ve bought flowers (#TreatYoSelf!). If I do most of my shopping at Grocery Outlet and use coupons at Safeway, that will be plenty. An extra bit of miscellaneous spending money in case I run out of anything during the week or want to treat myself to a bottle of wine or nail polish from CVS will provide a safety net. (again…#TreatYoSelf)

Going out is another area where I can save a lot of money. I will be limiting myself to $10/week at the dodgeball bar (which is actually almost 3 drinks + tip!) that I frequent twice a week, and $10/week to spend on other evening activities, such as other bars, movies, ice skating, etc.

Finally, I am limiting myself to $20/week in eating out expenses. This is actually a generous allowance, since I don’t eat out often.

You’ll notice there’s not a lot of extra money allowed for alcohol. That was no accident…I’m just trying to follow through on improving my lifestyle for maximum Half Marathon success!

Now…for this week’s groceries.

DSC_0966

Before I go into what I bought, let me tell you what I already had in my fridge & pantry. I was pretty low on perishable goods, since we were gone to Oregon for 4 days.

ALREADY HAD:

1/2 bunch kale
1/2 head broccoli
tub of farmer’s market salsa
pasta
onions
quinoa
old fashioned oats
candy/chocolate/etc leftover from christmas
half a dozen protein bars
chocolate peanut butter spread
crackers
a few wedges of Laughing Cow cream cheese
frozen tilapia filets
frozen fruit
most other pantry staples (garlic, ginger, oil, vinegar, butter, etc)

Here’s what I bought:

foodbudgetweek1DSC_0965

How epic is that 2 lb bucket of hummus for just $2.58?! Thank youuuu Grocery Outlet! Unfortunately it expired yesterday, lol, so I’ve gotta eat it fast!

Since I have enough bread and beans to last me for a couple of weeks, next week I’ll probably stock up on tortillas and almond milk instead. It’s all about divvying up the staples between grocery trips!

DSC_0967

And to finish, here are some ideas of meals I will be eating with these groceries and what I already had:

Breakfast

Toast with hummus or Laughing Cow wedges or chocolate PB
Eggs and cheese (with or without toast)
Breakfast nachos
Oatmeal with frozen fruit
Toast with eggs

Lunch

Stir fry (brussels sprouts, kale, cauliflower) and toast
Salsa, eggs & stir fry veggies
Grilled cheese sandwich

Snacks

Protein shakes with frozen fruit
Chips and salsa
Hummus and chips/crackers
Cheese and crackers

Dinner

Tilapia with sauteed greens
Cauliflower soup
Black bean soup
Moar stir fry (it’s my fave)
Roasted acorn squash stew

.

Now if I could just tackle the whole “it takes too long to cook and eat healthy” part… Looks like I am going to get back into the Sunday Food Prep routine come next week!

Would you be able to live on $30/week for groceries? (Assuming you’d only be shopping for yourself)

I already asked this yesterday, but how do you keep track of your budget? I downloaded Pocket Expense to use for now, but have heard good things about Mint as well.

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15 thoughts on “Healthy Grocery Shopping on a Budget

  1. OMG you’re making me wish I only had myself to worry about food-wise.. $30 a week on groceries would be absolutely fabulous. Mine would probably be a little more expensive because there’d be some meat purchased too. I’m trying to cut back on my spending this year too – started using Mint today – and I hope I can get to close to what you’re doing! Good luck with it!

    • Yes, the lack of meat in my diet is definitely helping the cost! However, I found a coupon for a bag of 8-10 frozen tilapia filets for only $6 a few weeks ago so I’m hoping I’ll get lucky and find more so I don’t have to eliminate meat from my grocery list completely. I tend to eat meat more often when I go out than I do at home!

  2. This is AMAZING and you’ve made me feel like I am absolutely ridiculous with my food budget haha! I am going to try your techniques, this is brilliant.

    • Very true! I am not strictly organic, so I save more when I don’t buy from the organic stands.. But the market can definitely be pricey if you’re not smart about what produce you buy! Stuff that’s in season should always be cheapish :)

  3. This is awesome, Katie! I need to get better about a budget… In college, I lived off of $10/week of groceries – crazy, I know! I would only buy things on sale and ate mostly private brand items. But it works – pasta is cheap!

  4. You have inspired me to be better about my groceries. I’m trying to reduce how much I spend willy-nilly throughout out the week. Ok, it’s not the best, but I surprise myself how much random junk I buy! I use mint but let’s just say I don’t really check it except at the end of the month when I balance my checkbook. Oops. I’m going to try the $30/week idea!

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  11. This is so impressive…I really can’t wait for farmer’s markets to start popping up again so I can really improve what I’m buying. This winter was wayyy to full of bread/cheese/pasta/cheese and did I mention cheese? You are pretty stellar, only spending that much on groceries. I need to reevaluate my life haha

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