One Way to Decrease your Grocery Spending

One Way to Decrease your Grocery Spending

I had a realization the other day: I almost never eat snacks*, and I think that's a big part of how I save money on groceries and stay healthy.

 

I've found that just eating 3 normal meals throughout the day fills me up enough so that I don't actually need snacks. Just an observation about my life and maybe a place where you can look at cutting your spending. If you find that you're spending a lot of money on your grocery bill, and you find that a big chunk of it is pre-made/pre-packaged snacks (granola bars, individual sized yogurt, nuts, crackers, etc), pay attention to WHY you're getting those foods and see if you can change your habits to cut down on those.

 

 

For example:

If you always need a snack before you go to your grad school night class, could you try packing a dinner (bring it to work with you to stash in the fridge) and eating that before going to class? Or maybe on those days that you have class, make a bigger than normal lunch and have half at lunch and then half later in the afternoon to keep you full until you get home from class, when you can have a late dinner.

 

If you always need a mid-morning snack, maybe your breakfast isn't big enough. Try making bigger breakfasts that will keep you full for longer. (my current favorite breakfast food for work days is Breakfast Burritos- SO good and they keep me full all morning, esp when we bulk them up with red and green peppers and fried potatoes)

 

This one is my personal downfall: I come home from work and start raiding the cabinets because I'm tired from work and tired from commuting, and also because I want to postpone my workout :) Instead of eating snacks I just need to suck it up and do my workout, which means I can start making dinner sooner, and then I can have a real meal rather than snacks.

 

 

What if I really do NEED a snack?

Some days I notice that I am EXTRA hungry. When this happens, I usually can make do with whatever we have in the house. Things like a bowl of cereal, carrots with peanut butter, toast, or a spoonful of straight peanut butter (we recently discovered natural PB with just peanuts, omg, SO good) are the stuff I snack on if I am really hungry.  It's very rare that I specifically buy snack foods. We do, however, buy ice cream- oh and I always have some form of chocolate to go in my lunch box- it helps the day go by ;)

 

A disclaimer:

Living life like this is a bit harder, I will admit. Some nights I get VERY annoyed trying to wrangle something together for breakfast or lunch for work the next day. But those extra 5 or 10 minutes finding food is ALWAYS worth it. For example, last night I was prepping our breakfasts and lunches and realized that we only had 1 breakfast burrito left. I gave that to Mike (no, I'm not really that selfless- it was one of the burritos without cheese in it so I didn't really want it haha) and then had to decide what to make for my breakfast. I settled on cereal to go- cereal in a tupperware container, milk in a small mason jar. It took me a few minutes to make the cereal, and I probably could have saved time if I had a granola bar or individual sized yogurt that I could just grab and throw in my lunch. But that's ok- I'm willing to spend the extra 3-5 minutes to prep my breakfast in the absence of those items.

 

Another thing that I will admit: sometimes I REEEEALLY want a traditional snack food and then I get irrationally angry that we don't stock anything in the house like that. But then I eat a spoonful of peanut butter with chocolate syrup and mostly get over my anger.

 

 

I was NOT always like this.

I remember I used to buy granola bars, nuts, individual yogurts, crackers, string cheese, etc almost every week. I just assumed that I needed a mid-morning snack to get me through the day until lunch, or I needed an after-work snack. But it turns out, if I just eat better meals, I don't need those snacks!

 

I've basically been forced to discover that I don't require snacks throughout the day :) Mike never really snacks (yes, he's a robot, I am aware) so by living with him I've just gradually shifted my eating habits to align with his. He eats 3 real meals so I might as well eat 3 real meals too. And because of that, I don't get hungry at other times in the day, which means I don't need to buy snacks.

 

 

It's quite insane how many snack foods there are in the grocery store, and how much those can drive up your grocery bill. Start paying attention to how many snack foods you're buying and see if you can cut down on those at all!**

 

 

 

* Key word = ALMOST... except for the times we buy Tostitos Lime chips for taco salads and devour the entire bag in less than 24 hours.. no really, less than 24 hours. EVERY.TIME.

 

** Unless you are my mom, because I enjoy raiding your cabinets to find delicious trader joe's snacks and lime cookies when I come over. Don't cut down your snack supply!!! ;)

 

 

Do you keep snack foods at home? 

 

My Current (FREE) Workout Routine

My Current (FREE) Workout Routine

I used to work part-time at the front desk of Gold's Gym. I LOVED the fancy gym environment; I loved all the equipment, I loved the classes, I loved the fancy locker rooms, I loved the smoothie bar (90% of my meals back then consisted of smoothies I made myself during work... yum).

 

Once I quit that job and no longer had a free membership, I signed up for an actual paying membership, and HATED it. I hate monthly fees for anything, and I hate contracts. I still loved the gym itself, but I hated paying the fee and being locked into a contract.

 

So I cancelled my membership (once the contract was up, ugh) and have been gym-membership-free for 4+ years.

 

I like to think that I am still in pretty good shape, even without having a fancy gym membership, and I want to share my current workout routine with you in case you think it's impossible to be in shape without a gym membership.

 

NOTE: I am a big believer in investing in your health, so if you really do get tons of value and happiness from your monthly gym membership, and can afford it, then by all means keep doing your thing! I frequently debate signing up for a yoga membership somewhere because I really like taking yoga classes, so I'm definitely not opposed to paying for workouts. This is just what's working for me right now!

 

 

1. Walking.

Walking is by far my biggest form of exercise at this point in my life. Walking is SO GOOD FOR YOU. We are lucky* to live in a super walkable, super cutesy area and take walks all the time. It's fairly normal for us to walk 6+ miles on a weekend day just for fun. Before I lived here, I did still take walks, but it wasn't nearly as enjoyable because there wasn't anything exciting to look at. BUT I STILL DID IT. I love walking and listening to audiobooks (downloaded for free from the local library) or podcasts.

 

I try to walk hourly at work (just for a few minutes up and down the hall) and go on a 10-15 minute walk at lunch time. Mike and I also started doing 15ish minute long walks after dinner, because I read in a book that it's really good for you after eating to walk around. I try to keep my phone with me when I walk so I can keep track of my daily walks using the pedometer in my iPhone (I refuse to give in and get a fitbit). I aim for a walking total of 3.5-5 miles a day, or 10,000 steps!

 

*brief side note- I wrote the word "lucky" then immediately knew I shouldn't have used that word. There's no luck in this situation at all; we prioritized living in a walkable, cute area and in order to make that happen, we are spending more money on rent and less money on other activities. Not luck, just prioritization. But I left the word "lucky" in there as a teachable moment to myself :) It kind of reminds me of this post I wrote a loooong time ago about jealousy.

 

 

2. Circuit Workouts.

I used to be obsessed with this workout from Nerd Fitness. Now I've gotten hooked on some of the Fitness Blender HIIT workout videos (for example, this and this) or this video from Jessie James Decker (I loooove her). I try to do these circuit/HIIT workouts 1-2 times a week.

 

 

3. Occasional running.

Truth time: I feel slightly bad when I think about how much I used to run, and how little I run now. Back in 2011/2012, I was doing a ton of half marathons. I liked training for them; it gave me something to focus on, especially when I wasn't so happy with my living situation. (house full of random craigslist roommates - not my happiest time) Running gave me an escape from being home. But then I met Mike, and we moved into our own place, and suddenly I had my own home where I actually LIKED being there! So escaping to go run for hours wasn't necessary anymore. I sometimes get bummed that I'm not running as much, and maybe I'll get back into it one day (Mike keeps threatening to make us start doing long runs on the weekend again), but for now, I like going on occasional ~2 mile walk/runs, 1-2 times a week.

 

 

4. Yoga.

Our previous apartment building offered a free yoga class once a month that I went to. Because of that, I've realized that I really like yoga but I only like it when I'm in a class. I will occasionally do a Yoga with Adriene video now that I don't have the free classes anymore, but it's not quite as awesome as a real class :(

 

 

 

So that's my current FREE workout routine! How about you- what free or paid workouts do you do?

Podcasts I'm listening to

Podcasts I'm listening to

WHOA. it's been a year since I last shared my favorite podcasts!! WHERE does the time go? In the last year I've changed many of the podcasts I listen to; ditching some and adding others. Also, I recently switched to a new method of listening to podcasts. In the morning, while driving to work (~25 mins) I listen to a work-related podcast. Any other time in the day, I listen to my other podcasts. So I'll break them into those two groups in this post.

 

I got smarter after writing my last podcast post and in this post I decided to copy in the podcast description from iTunes, so you can actually read about what the show is about. I am not good at summarizing, haha.

 

Also, as I mentioned in last year's podcast post, I don't listen to EVERY episode of these podcasts. I pick and choose episodes that sound interesting. So yes, this is a very long list, but I don't spend 24/7 listening to all the episodes.

 

Oh! And in case you're in the market for a podcast app, my podcast player of choice is Overcast. I like it much better than the one built into the iPhone. It takes a bit to get used to how to build playlists and how to include a show in that playlist, but once you're up and running it's a great app. (I think at some point I paid a small fee to get the premium version so I don't have ads on it)

 

 

Work Related:

Manager Tools

Manager Tools is a weekly business podcast focused on helping professionals become more effective managers and leaders. Each week, we discuss specific actions for professionals to take to achieve their desired management and career objectives.

I am a team lead at work and this podcast, while it definitely is made for actual managers, helps me learn how to be a better team lead.  It also helps me as an employee learn what managers are looking for in my performance. I will warn you that this feels more like a classroom lecture than like a traditional podcast (aka... it can be kinda dry), but it's worth listening just for the knowledge.

 

Radical Candor

A show about how not to hate the boss you have...or be the boss you hate. Hosts Kim Scott and Russ Laraway, Candor, Inc. co-founders and Silicon Valley veterans, will share stories from their experiences and change the way you think about management. Join us each week for actionable tips for doing the best work of your life and building the best relationships of your career.

I recently started listening to this one; it's also very manager focused but is a little more down to earth (aka, they laugh and joke around). I really like that the hosts are more casual; it feels less like a lecture and more like a traditional podcast. It has good knowledge for managers (or team leads!) and also for employees.

 

Beyond the To-Do List

Learn how to choose the right projects, tasks, and goals in work and life. This show will help you do that with conversations with the people behind the productivity. We talk with people on all aspects of productivity, including getting the right work done, getting good work done, and the true end goal of productivity: living a meaningful life.

I'm a sucker for anything related to productivity. I recently started listening to this and am liking it so far!

 

 

 

 

Others:

(in order of how much I love them)

 

The Lively Show

The Lively show is a weekly podcast designed to uplift, inspire & add a little extra intention to your everyday. Episodes touch on various aspects of our lives including possessions, personal habits, relationships, and career. Entrepreneurship and online business also appear from time to time.

I've been listening to The Lively Show for probably 3 or 4 years now, and I've really been loving her episodes lately! She talks about a lot of "woo woo" stuff like the law of attraction but also shares some very practical advice. I am loving listening to her recently because she's always so positive about life.

 

Happier with Gretchen Rubin

Gretchen Rubin is HAPPIER, and she wants you to be happier too. The #1 bestselling author of The Happiness Project and Better Than Before gets more personal than ever as she brings her practical, manageable advice about happiness and good habits to this lively, thought-provoking podcast. Gretchen’s cohost and guinea pig is her younger sister, Elizabeth Craft, a TV writer and producer living in Los Angeles, who (lovingly) refers to Gretchen as her happiness bully.

As I've posted many times before... I love Gretchen Rubin! This podcast is great; I love the tips she and her sister share and the subjects they talk about. There's always something new they introduce that makes me think.

 

Reply All

A show about the internet. And trained rats, time travel, celebrity dogs, lovelorn phone scammers, angry flower children, workplace iguanas, and more.

I don't even know how to describe this podcast (and that official description above doesn't really help either, haha) It's basically just really funny and discusses technological problems/stories. (like a recent 2 part episode where an uber account was hacked by someone in Russia, and NO one could figure out how it got hacked) It gets even funnier as you get to know the hosts of the show better. My favorite episodes are when they do "Yes/Yes/No" - their boss comes to them with a social media post that he doesn't understand, and the two hosts try to explain it to him.

 

The Minimalists Podcast

Joshua Fields Millburn & Ryan Nicodemus discuss living a meaningful life with less.

Listening to this podcast keeps me motivated to remain minimalist :) Once you've been listening for awhile, sometimes the show does seem repetitive, but I want to keep filling my brain (brainwashing myself? haha) with ideas about minimalism so I don't mind when it gets repetitive. And in their defense, what should I expect, how many new ideas can you have about minimalism? It's a pretty simple concept.

 

By the Book

By the Book is half reality show, half self-help podcast, and one wild social experiment. Join comedian Jolenta Greenberg and her skeptical friend Kristen Meinzer as they live by the rules of a different self-help book each episode to figure out which ones might actually be life changing.

The first (and only, so far) episode was based on the book "The Secret", so they tried to follow the suggestions of that book and learned what benefit that gave to their life. I've never read The Secret but have heard of many of the concepts, so it was funny to listen to two skeptics implement the ideas in their lives. They announced that their second episode would be based on The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up, and I can't wait to hear what they say about that book!

 

Planet Money

The economy, explained, with stories and surprises. Imagine you could call up a friend and say, "Meet me at the bar and tell me what's going on with the economy." Now imagine that's actually a fun evening. That's what we're going for at Planet Money. People seem to like it.

Just started listening to this one- it sounded boring by the title (even though I like money stuff) but it's more like little mini stories that just happen to do with money or the economy.

 

Side Hustle School

A daily show for everyone who works a regular job and wants to start an income-earning project on the side. In each episode, listeners will hear a different story of someone who's started a side hustle—along with what went well, how that person overcame challenges, and what happened as a result.

Super short (usually around 5-8 minutes) daily (yes, DAILY- I skip many of them when they start backing up in my playlist) episodes about people building side businesses. It's very motivational if you're into the side business thing.

 

Freakonomics

Each week, hear surprising conversations that explore the riddles of everyday life and the weird wrinkles of human nature—from cheating and crime to parenting and sports.

I skip many of these episodes, but the ones that do catch my attention are really good! I like when they talk about motivation and building habits.

 

Stuff You Should Know

How do landfills work? How do mosquitos work? Join Josh and Chuck as they explore the Stuff You Should Know about everything from genes to the Galapagos in this podcast from HowStuffWorks.com.

I skip a lot of these that don't sound interesting, but the episodes that DO sound interesting are really cool. The hosts dive into one subject each episode and explain how things work. The hosts themselves are really funny which brings humor into some very dry topics.

 

The Tim Ferriss Show

Tim Ferriss is a self-experimenter and bestselling author, best known for The 4-Hour Workweek, which has been translated into 40+ languages. Newsweek calls him "the world's best human guinea pig," and The New York Times calls him "a cross between Jack Welch and a Buddhist monk." In this show, he deconstructs world-class performers from eclectic areas (investing, chess, pro sports, etc.), digging deep to find the tools, tactics, and tricks that listeners can use.

I used to have this in my feed, then got rid of it, then brought it back when he interviewed my hero, Mr. Money Mustache. (listen to that episode here) I still skip a lot of the episodes (like the ones focused on fitness or nutrition) but there are a few good ones that will catch my attention and I'll listen.

 

 

On hold pending a new season: Serial and Mystery Show... although in researching the website to link to for Mystery Show, I just now discovered that the show was cancelled!!? So I guess no new season :(

 

 

 

Phew... That's a long list.

 

What podcasts do you listen to??

Resisting Impulse Beauty Purchases

Resisting Impulse Beauty Purchases

I think one of the very difficult parts, for me, about being frugal is that I have an instinctual desire to buy every sort of beauty product that promises any sort of result that I want. Soft skin? Shiny hair? Pretty nails? GET IN MY CART.

 

(This is precisely why I have to avoid advertisements; I fall for everything)

 

On one hand I want to save my money and not buy these things. But on the other hand, I just wanna live my life! I enjoy trying new products and want to buy them.

 

So I've come up with a compromise (with myself).

 

 

The compromise --> I must research things before I buy.

 

This has a two-fold effect: First, I can't make impulse purchases, which MAJORLY helps in avoiding dumb spending. Second, it forces me to learn new things.

 

For example, a few months ago I needed new shampoo and conditioner and I wanted to find something that would make my hair less frizzy. So I started researching causes of frizzy hair, and that opened up the world of sulfate-free shampoos, which opened up the world of silicone-free hair products, and ended in me learning a lot about hair care science that I never knew! (I ended up getting this shampoo and this conditioner and really like them so far- I have greatly increased the time I can go in-between shampooing, WIN)

 

 

Here are some of the resources I've started utilizing:

 

For hair stuff - the Haircare Science and Curly Hair subreddits (I don't have curly hair but they have good hair tips in general), specifically the Basic Haircare Guide to get started educating myself.

 

For skin stuff - the Skincare Addiction subreddit, specifically "The SCA Routine" and "Evaluating your Routine" to get started.

 

For fashion stuff - the Female Fashion Advice subreddit, specifically "So you want to do a wardrobe overhaul" and "Finding a Style, Building a Wardrobe" to get started.

 

(Yes, if you can’t tell, I just discovered Reddit and I'm hooked!! I love getting so many points of view about topics. I have started google-ing things like "[product name] reddit" just to find what people on Reddit said about it)

 

Buying as cheap as possible

Additionally, part of my research process is finding the cheapest place to buy an item. If I'm buying online, I use ebates to search the item name to see where it's being sold and then I'll check those prices and see if any of those retailers are having a big ebates cash back percentage. (that's an affiliate link to ebates - if you sign up through that link you get a $10 bonus after making a purchase of $25 and I get $5!). I also check ebay to see if it's being sold there, or poshmark if it's a clothing item, etc.

 

 

It takes a bit longer to make purchases when I have to thoroughly research like this, but I feel so much better knowing that I'm picking a product based on my research rather than advertisements. And I still get to try new products! It's just more of a deliberate process.

 

 

How do you manage your impulse beauty buys?

What came first: being a homebody, or saving money?

What came first: being a homebody, or saving money?

A recent realization: I absolutely LOVE my current lifestyle. And my current lifestyle just so happens to save me an insane amount of money each month.

 

I love hanging out at home rather than being out and about shopping (yes, even at Target) or at the movies or an amusement park or even a coffee shop. 

 

I love laying on the couch reading a book. 

 

I love watching Parks and Rec with Mike on Netflix. 

 

I love batch cooking 16 breakfast burritos at once (here's the recipe I found, SO GOOD, we’ve been eating these for breakfast for weeks and I am obsessed). 

 

I love walking around our neighborhood listening to podcasts. 

 

I love having our friends over to have a few beers rather than going to a bar. 

 

I love listening to new playlists on Spotify while cooking dinner or writing a blog post (as I write this, I'm listening to the “Lighten Up, Man!” playlist on Spotify, it’s good!)

 

I love NOT driving to places on the weekend or after work to shop. I hate traffic and hate having my precious non-work time taken up by driving all over the place. Ugh.

 

 

But what came first?

Do I love being home because that's my personality, and this has the unintended consequence of helping me save money?

 

Or does the fact that I want to save money have an unintended consequence of making me like staying home?

 

It’s an interesting question to ponder.

 

In my case...

I probably trend towards being a homebody at heart. I guess I’m lucky that I enjoy the solitude of being at home and not feel like I need to go places and spend money to keep myself occupied.

 

In YOUR case...

However, if you are the type that feels like you need to always be out and about to keep occupied - I bet if you start slowing down and cutting down on some of your paid activities, you’ll realize how much you like doing other, non-spendy, things. 

 

I found this post on the Mr. Money Mustache forum the other day and absolutely loved it: What frugalities do you find the most pleasant, and why? I loved reading through the responses and realizing how many of those things I enjoy also!! 

 

I think too many people equate saving money with NOT having fun. If you find yourself thinking that way, change your thinking! Focus on what things save you money AND make you happy. Once you’ve figured out those things… do more of those and less of the money spending activities.

 

You'll be shocked at how much money you start to save while having an even MORE enjoyable life!

 

 

 

What things do YOU enjoy doing that also save you money? (once you've listed them in a comment below, be sure to start DOING them more often!)

Some more of mine: Skipping the hair salon by cutting my own hair, having ice cream at home on the couch rather than out at an ice cream shop, making my own food because I can tweak it to taste just like how I want, bringing lunch to work because it means I don’t have to take time off to go buy lunch somewhere, making coffee at home because I can make it taste just how I want it, using the public library, listening to free podcasts, helping Mike plant fruits and vegetables in our backyard garden, making homemade salads because I can put as many delicious toppings on without being charged a fortune... I could go on and on :)