Penny Pinching in the Kitchen: My $100 Grocery Budget

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A $100 grocery budget seemed daunting at first. At a time in my life when I had disposable income (i.e. ‘life before working on a cruise ship at a soul-crushing office job’), I was easily spending between $300-$400 per month just on food. Bad habits seemed to get away from me; ex: going out to eat with coworkers 2-3 times per week even though work provided a free lunch everyday.

Would that I could go back in time and shake myself.

Now that I’m making considerably less money than I was a year ago (but happier by far!), frugality is more ‘an act of necessity’ than it is ‘just casually trying to be disciplined with my money’. There’s some bills in life that I can’t control much, but I can always stretch a dollar in the kitchen.

One month in, and I’m happy to report that my kitchen has been frugal to the max.

My winning combination for a grocery bill under $100

  • Coupons! I started using my Kroger member’s card in earnest. They have digital coupons you can load right to your phone and scan at checkout. For every digital store coupon I saved, I did a quick Google search to see if there were any manufacturer coupons. Sometimes there were, and I was able to double up!
  • I made use of rebate apps like Ibotta and Checkout 51. I also used Shopkick to earn ‘points’ for auditing store items. The points can later be redeemed for gift cards, but I didn’t redeem anything this month, so it’s not included in my totals.
  • Coordinated my shopping trips with store sales and bought sale items in bulk.
  • Forced myself to meal prep. It’s seriously so much easier to keep yourself accountable and within budget when your meals are just an easy grab and go. I portioned everything out ahead of time, made use of a food scale, and froze what I wasn’t going to use right away.
  • Grew my own food! Mushrooms and rosemary to start, but I want to start cultivating a full-fledged herb garden. I live on a half-acre, which is a lot of land for one person. Why not put it to use?

    Here you see a picture of my garden, and the money I’m saving by growing it instead of buying it. For reals.
  • Not spending money on alcohol, which has been a positive change for me. Seriously. I know I tweet about drinking wine all the time, and I do love my adult grape juice, but it’s a lot of empty calories and too expensive of a habit for a frugal girl. Once my wine stores were depleted, I made a point to take a break from any alcohol buying.

Did it work? I think so. My grand total this month was $94.59. 

Before I get into the breakdown, here’s some things to note:

  • Even though I’ve got a Pinterest board of recipes about five miles long, I was lazy. That is, I had the same thing for breakfast and lunch every day and only rotated between three recipes for dinner. Whoops. In my defense, buying in bulk lends itself to sticking with the same recipes.
  • I keep a ketogenic diet. Therefore, you’ll see next to no grains, pastas, cereals, breads, fruits, or sugars on my lists.
  • I make my own hot sauce (peppers + vinegar + spices) and ranch dressing (mayo + buttermilk + spices) because it is so much cheaper per ounce, is really easy to make, and tastes a million times better than store-bought.
  • Unless I say otherwise, it came from Kroger and it was probably store brand.
  • There’s some factors that made my own food stores last a little longer:
    • I’ve done two restaurant mystery shops this past month. Both times, I brought home left overs and made a second meal out of them. That’s four, paid-for meals.
    • I house-sit as a side hustle. Most of the time, the homeowners will tell me to help myself to whatever is in their fridge. I’m not cheeky enough to clean them out entirely, but this past month, I did engage in some selective pilfering.
    • I also face-paint as a side hustle. As a way to offload all the extra food, the party hosts always seem to make me a plate for the road.
    • My father makes cheese. At any given point in time, I have a pound of homemade mozzarella in my fridge. I snack on it here and there, like a mouse.

 

What I Ate and How Much I Spent


Breakfast – $20.86

My breakfast every day is two fried eggs on avocado toast. It’s come to be my morning ‘wake up’ routine, and I’ve got it down to an almost perfect rhythm.

Food of the gods, here.
  • I stocked up on eggs when they were on sale for $0.69 per dozen and bought 10 cartons like a crazy lady. I used half for breakfast, and I used the other half for making hard boiled eggs, which are good for snacking or for a salad ingredient. The eggs were $6.90 total, but Ibotta had a 50 cent rebate on one carton of eggs, which put it down to $6.40. Ibotta also had a 50 cent rebate on your total purchase at Kroger. So, we’ll say $5.90 total.
  • It’s hard to stock up on avocados since they go bad so quickly. I only bought 12 this month, and only when they were on sale. $9 total.
  • My ‘toast’ is actually Kroger brand sandwich slims. I almost always am able to find them on the ‘Manager’s Special’ rack, discounted to $0.89 for an 8 pack. I bought 3 this month for a total of $2.67
  • 1 lb of butter, which I use for pan greasing and general cooking, was $3.29

Lunch – $21.69

My go-to lunch is a Cobb salad of sorts: chopped romaine, hardboiled eggs, sunflower seeds, and bacon. The only times I didn’t have my a salad were 1.) when I ate leftovers from my mystery shops, and 2.) a family member took me out to lunch. 

  • 7 romaine bunches on sale at 99 cents per pound was $6.93
  • One of the few times I didn’t shop at Kroger, Gordon Food Service had a sale for 3 lbs of bacon for $9.99 – I use these for making bacon bits (or, in true keto fashion, for snacks). I still have bacon left over for next month.
  • Another non-Kroger expense: I bought 3 lbs of sunflower seeds in bulk when they were on sale at a local farmers market. It was $1.59 per pound, for a total of $4.77. I sprinkle these in magic seeds in my Cobb salads as well as use them in my chicken salads for dinner.
  • I grow my own mushrooms for free!

Dinner – $37.01

Like I mentioned in the opening, I cycled through three different dinners: chicken salad wraps, taco salad bowls, or grilled chicken breasts with a dipping sauce (my go-to dipper is equal parts spicy mustard, mayo, and hot sauce).

I’ll be honest, however cheap (cheep cheep) it is, I’m pretty friggin’ sick of chicken and need to switch it up for next month.

EAT SOMETHING ELSE, SYLVIA.

Chicken Salad Wraps

  • I bought 6 lbs of chicken breasts when they were on sale for $1.69/lb for a total of $10.14
  • One 8-pack of Mission Carb Control Tortillas, which I found on sale at Target for $4.04! These are usually so expensive everywhere – I was SO excited to find this. It was a random accident that I found them, too.
  • 30 oz of Kraft mayonnaise, on sale for $1.99
  • 4 green onion ‘bunches’, 50 cents each for a total of $2
  • 2 whole garlic cloves, 50 cents each, $1
  • I was gifted a rosemary bush for Christmas and have somehow managed to keep it alive all this time, so… free rosemary!

Taco Salad

  • I bought a 3 lb tray of ground beef on sale for $10.47. I divided them up into half-pound chunks and froze what I wasn’t using for the day.
  • At the aforementioned farmers market, they had colby cheese on sale at $2.99/lb. I bought two bricks for a total of $4.98; I grate it myself and use it in my salads and as a topper to the taco salad.
  • Sour cream, on sale for $1.25 per 16 oz. container. I bought two for a total of $2.50, and I only used like half of one container.
  • 1 can of diced tomatoes and green chiles, $0.89. Only one because I realized I don’t actually care for tomatoes all that much…
  • Four 1 oz. packets of taco seasoning for $1

Snacks and miscellany – $13.03

 

  • Greek yogurt, which is either a snack with chopped up strawberries or as a base in a protein shake. Kroger sent me a ‘buy one, get one free’ coupon for their brand of Greek yogurt (with minimum purchase of $10), which I was all about. Total of $3.89 for the two tubs, 48 oz total.
  • 2 lbs of strawberries for $1.98 when they were on sale for 99 cents per lb at the new farmers market. I don’t know if those prices will last or if it’s just introductory hype, but that’s still the cheapest I’ve ever managed to snag strawberries.
  • 1 ginormous bunch of kale, on sale for 99 cents! I cook this with bacon and garlic. Mmm, so good.
  • 1 cucumber for 50 cents. Not my favorite veggie, but I mainly just use it as a vehicle to get ranch into my mouth.
  • 1 lb of Jalapenos for making baby, not even all that hot sauce, $1.69
  • Vinegar for making hot sauce, 1 bottle for $0.89
  • Buttermilk for making ranch, $2.09 for a half gallon (yes, yes… I know I could have DIY’d my own buttermilk for cheaper).
  • Spicy mustard, a huge 30 oz. bottle for $1.00 from Big Lots!

TOTAL: $94.59

Not too shabby, I think!

What do you think? How did I do? How was your grocery budget for the month? Do you think you could live off a $100 grocery budget per month?


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2 Replies to “Penny Pinching in the Kitchen: My $100 Grocery Budget”

  1. Man, less than $100 for the whole month?! That’s great! I can eat the same meals over (breakfast is always hard boiled eggs, lunch is a salad of some sort) but dinner is what gets me.

    It’s cool you follow the ketogenic diet! I am on day 4 of starting a keto diet and it is going okay. In some ways I feel better and some ways worse. I’m hoping for it to even out here soon.

    1. I will say, I’m currently house-sitting for a friend. He threw me an unexpected amount of cash, and I splurged and ordered out like immediately after I posted this XD Oh, well. Such is life.

      Keto! Yes, girl. The ‘keto flu’ is real. It can affect different people differently. For me, it lasts 3-4 days, and I’m extremely lethargic. After I get past the initial hump, though, the energy levels are crazy and my taste buds and cravings seem to change overnight. I’ve been doing keto off and on for the past five years, and it’s legit the only way I’ve ever been able to lose weight. Plus, diabetes runs in the family, so it’s always good to stay off the sugar. I’ve been slacking the past few months, but I’m determined to save some money and shed some weight… especially since I’ve got a wedding I’m a bridesmaid in in September :3 Let me know how it goes for you!

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