The grocery bill is, without question, one of the sneakiest ways to misspend your money. Food is a necessity that you have to buy, usually every week. Often, it is broken down into many smaller expenses that you aren’t keeping track of unless you’re using an app or shopping online.
In addition, food also has a social and creative aspect which often necessitate more than one trip to more than one store, if you’ve ever thought that you wanted Mexican food and swung by the store on your way home to pick up half a Taco Bell worth of ingredients you’ll know what I mean. However, with a little planning it is possible to have a varied and enjoyable diet while maintaining you spending and saving patterns.
Weekly Food Shopping
Before we begin it is worth mentioning that this guide uses a ‘weekly option’ to cater to people that rely on smaller stores or smaller food packages. Ideally, we all should bulk buy when we can (within reason of course, no 80lb sack of beans here). However, a lot of people live in cities and/or don’t have cars which makes it impractical to buy large quantities of food at a time. The great thing about this is that if you can bulk buy, you will be saving money over what is listed below. This is a free morale boost for you 😊
In addition to this, we have decided to write this article on a ‘per person’ basis so that you can easily scale it up when bulk buying instead of the much more difficult job of individuals or smaller homes having to scale down. A good rule of thumb is the multiply by 1 for an adult or teenager and 0.5 for any child, so a family of four with two parents and two kids, aged 8 and 14 would multiply this list by 3.5*.
If you’re interested in some delicious budget recipes please click here to view our constantly updating Bear Eats section.
*This is likely to lead to fractional results so feel free to round up or down to your nearest egg!
Firstly, let’s talk about the building block of any sensible diet, Proteins.
Protein is a macronutrient that is used in many functions such as muscle growth, DNA replication, and the creation of vital hormones. Our bodies require regular, large amounts of it with the average adult requiring approximately 0.8g per kg of lean body weight per day (likely somewhere around the 55-60g mark) and significantly more for those that are very physically active.
The most effective sources of protein are meats like Beef, Chicken, Fish, and Pork. Additional sources include eggs, beans/legumes, and products such a soy. A varied and affordable budget is going to include a mixture of most of these foods for the sake of both variety and cost.
Our Budget goal for protein is to reach our daily target as cheaply and safely* as possible with enough variety to still enjoy our food.
*processed meats are usually way cheaper but are way less beneficial to your long-term health.
Protein Grocery List for 1 Week.
1 X 2lb or 1kg packet of Chicken Breasts = $20-25
1 X 2lb or 1kg packet of Sirloin Tip Steaks = $15-20
1 X 2lb or 1kg packet of Pollock or similar Fish = $6-8
1 X 2lb or 1kg packet of Hard Tofu = $6-8
1 X packet of 12 Large Eggs = $4-6
2X 1lb or 400g Tins of Mixed Beans =$6-8
Total protein list for one: ~$16-53
Carbohydrates (carbs) are your body’s source of fuel, the gasoline for your brain (unless you’re on a special non-carb diet of course) that keep you focused and moving throughout the day. In addition, fiber/fiber is a form of carb that helps with your digestion and overall health.
The average adult is going to need a median 275g of carbs a day and it is likely not going to be a problem for most people to meet this as most people in North America get too many processed carbohydrates in their diet.
The most effective sources of carbohydrates are going to be products derived from wholegrains and brown flours/rices/noodles etc. These used to be significantly more expensive that their processed counterparts (e.g. white flour) but you should be able to find them at similar price points in most grocery stores.
Our carbohydrate goal is to get filling and healthy choices that will bulk out our diet a taste great. For this reason items such as breakfast cereals are completely excluded from this list. Also, it is worth noting that some items will last a lot long than one week in even the smallest available packet (oats for example)
Carbohydrate Grocery List for 1 Week.
1X Loaf of wholemeal bread =$3-5
1X2kg bag of unflavoured Oatmeal (lasts over a month) = $6-8
1x 2lb or 1kg bag of brown rice = $1-3
1x 2lb or 1kg packet of wholemeal noodles/pasta = $1-3
1x 2lb or 1kg bag of potatoes/loose potatoes = $2-4
Total carb List for one = $11-20
Fats are the delicious substances that make life worth living! They are a key component in many immune functions as well as a vehicle for vitamins. It also plays a role in fueling your body as it outclasses both carbs and protein in terms of energy delivery. Many growth processes are also reliant on this macronutrient.
The most effective sources of (good) fats are certain fish, nuts, and many different types of cooking oil. There are many sources of fat that can have negative health effects on people, and these are often crammed into processed foods such as dairy spreads or cookies.
The average adult is going to be about 20-35% of their calorific intake to come from fats, this is in the region of 45-75g per day on a 2,000-calorie diet. Our fat goal is to fulfil this need with healthy fats that will add taste and valuable macronutrients to our diet.
Fat Grocery List for 1 Week.
1x400g or 1lb butter (will last >two weeks) = $2-4
1x 400g or 1lb container of mixed cheese (or cheese of choice) = $4-6
1x400g or 1lb container of 100% peanut butter (only peanuts!) = $4-7
1x200g or ½lb bag of mixed nuts= $3-5
1X100g bar of >70% dark chocolate = $2-3
1xCooking oil, preferable non-virgin olive oil or coconut oil = $5-10
Total fat List for one = $13-28
Vegetables, Seasonings, and Treats
So far this list provides the basics of what you will from a macronutrient point of view but a well rounded and enjoyable diet will require complimentary pieces.
First, you will need to secure a significant number of vegetables. Leafy greens like spinach or kale are great alongside more carb-heavy offering such as carrots and peas. Vegetables are full of macro and micro-nutrients and should form the majority of food that you consume.
Vegetable Grocery List for 1 Week.
1x400g or 1lb bag of mixed leaves = $3-5
1x1000g or 2lb bag frozen vegetables of your choice = $3-5
1x1000g or 2lb of loose fresh vegetables of your choice (discounting potatoes) = $6-10
Total vegetable list for one: $7-15
Seasonings and Treats
Seasonings and Treats are a matter of personal preference and as such it is worth setting a general spending target here and encouraging you to seek out the right balance between healthy and affordable. Some things to watch out for are high levels of sugar, saturated fat, and products with incredibly long ingredient lists.
Total Seasoning and Treat list for one: $5-20
Good seasonings(monitor salt content): Mexican Style, Italian Herbs, Indian Herbs
Good treats: Popcorn, Dark Chocolate, Frozen Yogurt.
You will have noticed by now that this budget has a significant range of $52-136 per week (with the monthly spend being less owing to certain things lasting longer than a week). This may seem very high for some people but it is worth remembering the large range of prices people pay across North America for food. Also discounted are the savings that buying in bulk can create.
If you are able to buy on a monthly basis your per week spending could drop as low a $30-40. Nevertheless, it is possible to have a relatively complete nutritional profile for approximately $300 per month. You would be very surprised at the amount of people who are spending double this for lesser results.
This is often the easiest area that financial changes can be made in without any loss of quality of life. So, before you look at your other expenses like your cable, take a look at the role your food spending plays in both your budget and your overall health. If you’ll pardon the pun, it really is low hanging fruit.