Eating on a Budget

I am a total priss about food. And I LOVE takeout.

But you know what doesn’t love takeout? My wallet. And honestly, neither does my gut (more about that later). One day, after listening to this awesome podcast from BiggerPockets Money (if you aren’t familiar with BiggerPockets, it may change your life- especially if you are interested in real estate investing), I stumbled upon this Frugalwoods article. I decided that I would cut out takeout- not an easy feat for lazy ole’ me! Coincidentally, a couple days after I decided this, I had to start an extremely restrictive diet, and I would have had to mostly remove takeout and restaurant dining from the situation anyway.


For fun, I decided to tally up my grocery and restaurant food bills from February. I was beyond shocked. My grocery bill, which I thought would be maybe $200, was $430.18. Even worse, my restaurant charges (which I, again, thought would be small- I only ate out once or twice a week!! Or so I thought…) was a whopping $478.29. I was spending nearly one thousand dollars a month on food. When compared to the national averages, this was appalling, even given the cost of living in my area. And remember, this was me thinking I was being conservative with my food spending. I buy on sale! I buy extra large meals at restaurants so I can have it for lunch (and dinner!) the next day! I am frugal, dangit!

Given that the average American spends $605 a month on food, my $908-and-some-change was not looking too hot. And I have no excuses- I have a wide variety of grocery stores to choose from within 5 minutes of home, I work from home, I have a decent cooking space, etc. I am signed up for all the gas/grocery rewards programs (side note: if you haven’t done that, make sure you do!! Discounts on both gas and groceries.) So I decided to employ a two restaurant meals per month policy and cut back both my grocery and unnecessary expenditures for March.


And let me tell you- I failed. BUT, I did save about $317. And that is not a small amount! And like I said earlier, I am massively prissy about my food. I only eat organic, cage-free meat and eggs, and my unfortunate diet right now means that I am eating almost exclusively protein. I don’t eat red meat, so I am eating a lot of chicken, cheese and fish. I can’t have much in the way of carbs, including wheat, corn, potatoes, rice, and whatever else is actually tasty. Many vegetables are off-limits, as are most fruits. (Yes, SIBO sucks!!) This is the SIBO Specific Diet, which is essentially FODMAPS + SCD (Specific Carbohydrate Diet). I’m at the point now where I can eat small amounts of wheat, rice, and potatoes, but still no garlic, leafy greens or dark green vegetables, fruit, onions or garlic, etc. It’s rough! But I’m getting there. I did learn how to make amazing gluten-free Red Lobster copycat biscuits with coconut flour, which was delightful! I have also purchased a yogurt maker, and make probiotic-rich 24 hour yogurt.

Anyway, back to the budgeting! My total spending on non-home cooked food was $136.20. I ended up getting takeout/delivery twice and having dinner with friends or lunch on the go three times. Not great, but soo much better than $478! My total grocery spending- amazingly- only went up a few bucks, to $454.65. Whaat, so I can spend almost the same amount on groceries and cut my takeout bill by 72%?! Sounds like a deal. My goal for this month is to cut back on both groceries and restaurants. I do feel like I’m doing okay so far- I spent about $13.50 at Trader Joe’s to make turkey and bell pepper burritos, and I ended up with five meals. That breaks down to $2.70 a meal for organic and cage-free ground turkey, organic avocados and three types of bell peppers, tortillas, and goat cheese. I did use some of my 24-hour probiotic yogurt in place of sour cream.

What do you currently spend on food every month? If you don’t know for sure, keep track for a month and find out. I bet it’s more than you think! If you were able to cut that bill back by 64%, what would you spend that extra money on, or save it for?