Minimalist Diet: How to Save on Groceries and Simplify Your Life

Have you ever sat down and calculated how much money you spend on groceries and food? Do you know what your cost per meal per head is roughly (I would love to hear more about that in the comments section below). What would happen if you worked out the cost of coffee, groceries, takeaways, meals and and nights out at the pub?… too scared to look at the numbers? I was right there with you! I feel like when you are cooking for one, there are no economies of scale.

When I made the decision to buy a house last year, I decided to do some forensic accounting while I watched TV and put together a spreadsheet of how much I had to come in, getting saved, and what my income was getting spent on. I went back 12 months, and have kept doing this just to make myself more aware of my spending.

HOW TO conduct a personal SPENDING AUDIT

  1. Create a google docs Spreadsheet
  2. Create columns across the top for
    1. Money coming in Income
    2. Money Saved
    3. Takeaways & Social Meals out and Drinking (and cabs)
    4. Coffee
    5. Groceries
    6. Clothes
    7. Beauty
    8. Travel/ Holidays
    9. Health
    10. Gifting / BDAYS
    11. Misc
    12. Car – Petrol, Rego, Warrants, Oil etc.
    13. Phone & the Internet
    14. Insurances – house, contents, renters, health etc
    15. Rent / Mortage repayments / rates
    16. Anything else – could be fitness/ Log intc.
  3. Login to your online banking, and cut and paste all of your entries for the month into a sheet on the spreadsheet.
  4. Go through each line of your bank statement and paste the amount that came in or went out into whatever column it belongs to.
  5. When you are done you can total the columns and see how much you spend on each thing per month.
  6. I created a master sheet with the totals for each month and then worked out a monthly average at the bottom to see how I compared month by month.


How much are you spending on food per month?

This allowed me to take a really good look at how I was spending my money and where I could cut costs. When I added together groceries, takeaways, coffee and meals out I COULD NOT BELIEVE how much I spend on food (and coffee) in any given month.


Take the total amount for the month and divide it by 90 (3 meals x 30 days).

e.g. $1000 a month / 90 meals = $11 per meal.

Now obviously it will vary from breakfast to dinner but you get the idea if you have multiple family members divide it by the number of family member.s

e.g. ($1000 a month / 90 meals )= ($11 per meal / 2 adults) = 5.50 per meal.

The problem with cooking for one

 I feel like when you are cooking for one, there are no economies of scale. It feels like I am constantly spending money on produce and “gluten free”, “dairy free” and “paleo” good to eat healthy, only to open the fridge and find floppy produce and mould growing on things I only just purchased.

Food is expensive in New Zealand

And we all know how expensive groceries are here in New Zealand in comparison to other countries. So what are the options when it comes to groceries AND … how much are other kiwi’s spending per adult in their household?…

I will open that up on facebook and see if any other kiwis are willing to share.

10 Ideas for saving on your grocery bill

Last night I spent a few hours scouring the internet googling strategies to lower your grocery bill, some of these were overseas and did not really apply to New Zealanders because of the size of our country and the lack of competition in the grocery market. Here are the ones I came across, some I agree with, some I don’t… Here is why.

  1. Bulk buying – Good in theory. There are so many times I have purchased produce in bulk, only to have it go mouldy 2 days later. I could freeze it – but 2 days… seriously!
  2. Buying Frozen Veggies – These days frozen veggies are snap frozen to lock all the goodness in, if your veggies are going flaccid and you’re spending a fortune in food wastage, this is an EXCELLENT way to go. Not to mention the fact that veggies at the grocery store sit in storage for so long, they often less than fresh when they get out on the shelf and have a short lifespan.
  3. Only shopping once a month – This is good in theory and a great way to save because you can buy things in bulk and avoid extra visits to the grocery store. That way no impulse bags of salt and vinegar chips, or pineapple lumps, or some new dairy free ice cream make their way into your trolley and BAM an extra $20 is gone.  There is a slight problem in that unless you are buying frozen produce, there is no way I can eat healthily and shop once a month. But this is probably a viable idea if you do groceries one a month, but visit your local market or fruit and veggie shop in between.
  4. Shop twice a week – When you are cooking for one this can be a good way to avoid food wastage as you only buy as much as you need. As long as you stick to a budget and do not impulse purchase things while you are there.
  5. Avoiding trips to the supermarket to get just one thing – The supermarket near my house here in Wigram is smaller, and I feel like every time I go there they only have 2/3 of the things on my list. So I either don’t end up making the thing I have most of the ingredients for OR I end up visiting another supermarket later in the week and buying stuff that was never on my list.
  6. Shop the Specials – Create a spreadsheet to compare prices on your staple products, Jump online and write down the price per 100g or unit for each supermarket. Tally it up at the bottom. Let this decide which supermarket you shop at this month, OR visit both. TIP: running a car is expensive about 80c per km, so make sure the savings are going to outweigh the cost of driving to two supermarkets and your time before you start driving all over town.
  7. Eat meat and three veggies and stop buying fancy sauces and packs – My parents did it, my grandparents did it… and I think I have been watching too much master chef and stopping doing it myself. While I do cook in bulk and usually end up eating the SAME OLD THING for 2 lunches and 4 dinners in a row… My addiction of Pinterest has been cooking things with lots of ingredients. I think I need to have more meals with meat and three vege.
  8. Have a few meatless days a week – This is something I need to do more often… I think I eat to much meat and should incorporate more falafel and legumes.
  9. Stop Snacking – I recently started paying myself every time I didn’t cave into my cravings. If I wanted salt and vinegar chips, and I didnt drive to the supermarket to get them, I will pay myself $5 into a holiday fund to do something fun with. I managed to save $70 last month… not to mention a few cm around my waist.

Ok … Your turn…

How much do you spend per person on your groceries/ food/ Alcohol/ Takeaways/Coffee per week or month?… Do you know the number? What do you aim for your average cost per meal to be? I would love to know more…

I will start… The numbers are in and it varies between 850-1100 per month. Depending on if I buy hair dye, skincare products at the supermarket, am out of town for work or have a night out on the town with friends….

How about you?