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My personal budget is setup so that I only need to spend around $200 a month on food, which in mind is a very reasonable amount. This includes meals that are both filling and healthy, packed with vegetables, chicken, olive oil, and all other things that are supposedly good for you.
Then I came across a YouTube video by Brother Green Eats that shows how you can live on just $3 dollars a day, assuming you eat a total of 3 meals per day at $1 each. While a little skeptical at first, it totally made sense. You can find the video below.
It’s Not What It Seems
What we actually perceive in the supermarket may not actually be true. Here are a few things to keep in mind the next time you go shopping.
Dried Foods Are Usually Cheaper
Most people think that canned foods are a lot cheaper, but Brother Green explains that dry is the “way to go.” A lot of food that you normally buy in a can can be purchased in a bag.
Beans, for example, can be found in all different varieties whether it they are canned or dried. The only difference is the amount of work that goes into it. With dried items, you might have to boil them for a few minutes before they can be considered edible.
Dried Foods Actually Have A Higher Quantity
Each food label should list the net weight of food that you are getting. Even though it doesn’t say directly on the packaging, you’re actually getting quite a bit more food if you buy the dried foods.
The reason for this is because when you soak dried beans in water, they end up expanding. When you buy foods that are canned, they’ve already expanding and thus are taking up a larger amount of volume.
Think of bagged foods that are condensed into a smaller area but in reality have a higher quantity than canned foods. Some great foods to do this with are beans, chickpeas, and croutons.
You Can Afford Meat
Before you complete your shopping trip and decide to skip meat due to its expensive price, check again. There are often specials that have discounts on the store brand or meat that’s about to expire.
If meat is about to expire, take a a few slices out to use for cooking and put the rest in the freezer. As long as you eat it within the next six months, you’ll still be fine. When I shop at Safeway I always notice that there’s one brand of chicken breasts that only sells for around $2.49 per pound.
What To Buy For Produce
The cheapest things that you’re going to find here are potatoes and onions. Try to buy potatoes in bulk (5 pounds for $2). Make sure to be aware of exact prices of things by weighing them on the scale.
Scallions are one of the easiest vegetables to regrow. Simply stick the white tips that you cut off and put them in a glass of water. Within a week or two they should regrow to what their full length. In fact, there are over 30 different foods that you can regrow in your home.
What To Buy For Grains
You would think that bread is cheap, but if you want something other than white it’s going to be a problem. Try going to the tortilla rack instead, as you can usually find a pack on sale for just under $1. Rice is also a great staple food, and look between brown and white rice to find whatever is cheapest.
How To Spend Less Than $3 Per Day
You should’ve watched the video by now getting some good ideas on how to make a dramatic cut in your food budget. However, using some simple yet crafty, frugal tricks, we can get some extra cash back on our purchase.
Get A Cash Back Credit Card
I can’t stress this enough, and it always irks me when someone uses cash at the checkout line. Get yourself a cash back credit card at all costs. If you’re going to make the purchase anyways, you might as well get something for making your purchase.
The card we recommend here is the Citi Double Cash Card, which gives you 2% cash back on all purchases; 1% when you make the purchase and 1% when you pay your bill.
There are other cards that give you more than just 2% back on grocery purchases, but in terms of all-around best cards, this is the way to go. Let’s take a quick look:
- No Annual Fee
- 2% Cash Back On All Purchases
- No Cap On Cash Back Earned
- Free Concierge Service
- First Late Payment Waived
If we can only spend $90 dollars a month with our budget, this brings our total expenses down to just $88.20.
Use Receipt Scanning Apps
If you aren’t already, make sure to download all of the receipt scanning apps available for grocery purchases. These apps are created in order to collect market data and pay you for it because companies want to gather information about what’s being purchased, when it’s being purchased, and where.
Each time you take a picture of one of these apps with your phone, you get paid a certain amount of cash depending on the app and the product that you’re buying.
The one that I’m going to use as an example is my personal favorite called Ibotta (new users get a $10 sign-up bonus after scanning their first receipt).
This app has the widest selection of cash back options on groceries, and often times there are generic selections (meaning it doesn’t matter which brand you buy) that can get you cash back. Every week I save at least $.50 cents on my milk and egg purchases.
Make sure to use as many apps as you can, as they can be stacked with just 1 receipt. For example, let’s say I bought a dozen eggs. I can get $.50 cents back with Ibotta and $.50 cents back with Checkout 51, and then I can use Fetch Rewards and CoinOut to get another $.20 cents or so.
It depends on what products you buy, but if I would estimate that you could probably save another $5 dollars off of your $90 food budget. The only reason I use these apps is because there’s nothing to print out (since I extremely hate coupon clipping).
What surprised me most in the video was how considerably healthy Brother Green was able to eat. Even at just $1 a meal, he included vegetables, meat, eggs, and a lot of other essential nutrients for the body. In fact, by spending more you’re probably going to end up eating less healthy.
If we take the amount of cash that we saved using our cash back card and receipt apps, we end up only spending roughly $83 dollars from our $90 food budget, leaving us with an extra $7 toward groceries.
If you’re really in a jam and need to save some money on food, try this experiment for a week and see how it goes. You’d be surprised at how far $1 can stretch you. If you have any questions or would like to share some recipes that are under $1, feel free to share with us down below. Thanks for reading and good luck on your grocery shopping!
My name is Jason Wuerch and I'm currently located in Madrid, Spain running a personal finance blog called Frugal For Less. My goal is to help everyone and anyone willing to make and save money through easy and simple ways that don't require much effort. Just because you're frugal doesn't mean you have to give up life's luxuries.