Grass Fed Dry Aged Ribeye Steak

Sizzling on the grill. Juices hitting the coals. That wonderful seared aroma meets your nose. Mmmm.

Now you’re hungry, let’s talk about food.

If you’re new to frugality (as I am) and new to the early retirement world (as I am) you’ll probably find yourself reading the seminal post by Mr. Money Mustache entitled killing your $1000 dollar grocery bill

I’m going to be completely honest here. My initial reaction was that the idea of reducing our bill to ‘just’ $1000 spent on groceries per month would be fabulous! How on earth does one do that? What magic and trickery do I need to learn?

Mr. PIE and I started tracking our expenses at least 2 ago years ago. Just the basics: Find out where the money goes, make some changes. This is where we became aware of our grocery bill, and it was averaging $1400 to $1500 a month. That’s for four people, and I really can count the small PIES as two full people when it comes to eating – believe me! Now let me make one clarifying argument. Our grocery bill includes all food, all household products and all beer and wine. I realize that many people split out these costs when tracking expenses, which makes for difficult comparisons.

Was this something to be concerned about? Probably. However, we had bigger fish (and steak) to fry at that point. There were other expenses that needed our attention. The groceries continued.

Step 1 – Understand Your Expenses

We made some changes to our grocery shopping habits. Small ones. Very small ones. We investigated the local Stop & Shop as an alternative to Whole Foods. We even did some price checking. We became aware. However, We didn’t seem to be able to make a big shift in our expenses. That’s most likely because we didn’t really change anything substantial. We continued to buy whatever we wanted to fit the recipes we wanted to cook. Fancy some steak? Sure! The grass fed dry aged ribeye will be perfect! Need that perfect pasta dish? Great! There’s that artisanal pasta that’s so delicious!

Now, the last thing I want to do is come across as ‘poor little rich girl’, but I’m not sure I can argue against the moniker. It’s as simple as this. If I didn’t have the money to spend, I wouldn’t spend it. If I had to feed my family on far, far less, that’s what I would have to do. As Aristotle tells us: “ we are what we repeatedly do.” I don’t imagine he was talking about grocery shopping, but you get the point.

It was not until about 6 months ago that Mr. PIE and I had a good handle on other expenses and the energy and brainpower was in hand to finally, really attack the grocery spend. It was time to develop some new habits.

We have made progress and here is the proof. This handy bar chart from shows just under 1 year of expenses (we switched from Bank of America’s transaction tracking to Mint in May 2015).

Updated groceries


After a halfhearted effort with some results seen in the summer of 2015, we hit the holidays with houseguests and related expenses. Please focus on January through April. Not only is this a trend in the right direction, we believe this is sustainable too.

Step 2 – Make Changes

Why is this sustainable? This is all about new habits. If you stop doing things the old way, you can start doing things a new way. Who knew?! This is a list of some of the strategies we have implemented:

  1. All grocery shopping is now done at BJ’s Wholesale Club and Stop & Shop
  1. Purchase more food at BJ’s not just household goods. This includes items we consume a lot of as a family. Milk, cheese, eggs, cereal, fruit, pasta, canned tomatoes, tortillas……
  1. Make use of loyalty programs and use targeted coupons
  1. Know what’s on sale and buy bulk when it is
  1. Shop the weekly circular: identify the deals for the week (I focus on meats, fish and fresh produce) and plan meals round these deals. This is probably the single change that has made the most difference to us
  1. Buy only what is needed and use all of it. Which leads into…..
  1. Don’t make a mid-week trip for a forgotten or depleted ingredient. Substitute what we have instead
  1. Learn new recipes. Mr. PIE and I have always loved to cook and try new recipes, so actually trying new recipes isn’t the big deal here. What is the big deal is the type and quantity of food we now cook. My go-to for great recipes are Epicurious and Bon Appetite. Want to know how to prepare that grass fed dry aged ribeye steak to serve two? Epicurious is the place to be. Want to cook a crock-pot full of pork shoulder for the family and left overs for the freezer? My new favorite is Budget Bytes.
  1. Eat less meat. This is hard. It’s a 3-guy household. At least two nights a week is eggs, home made soups or similar. We’re learning the joys of beans, especially the Budget Bytes Hearty Black Bean Quesadillas.
  1. Buy and drink less wine and beer. Easy. Don’t buy it, don’t drink it

Step 3 – Refine and Optimize

There is a way to go yet. These efforts have had our grocery bill close to $1000 a month and we’re pretty proud of that. What we do realize is that this is a learning process. New strategies become habits and the door is then open for seeing the possibility for further changes. Our next goal is to get this spend down to around $900 a month and to do this there are several things yet to be realized. It’s time to move towards the store brand goods: laundry detergent, storage and trash bags, cleaning products for example. We’ve found there’s an Aldi fairly nearby that we need to check out (my parents in the UK swear by Aldi), and we need to get better at bulk buying dry good like rice, beans, and flour.

This doesn’t mean the ribeye is off the menu. It means the ribeye only comes out for a particularly special occasion – and is even more appreciated when it does.

What grocery shopping habits have you found helpful? What pitfalls do you still succumb to? How do you like your steak cooked?


  1. My husband and I cut our grocery bill in half last ear. It’s a little different since there are only two of us, no kids, and we track all non-grocery expenses separately, but here’s what we did. We stopped buying so many prepared foods. We do buy frozen pizza because it keeps us from ordering delivery. We buy in bulk when we can. We start our shopping trip at Aldi, then go to a warehouse club for things we use in bulk, then finish up at regular and Asian grocery stores (we eat a lot of Asian foods). I’ve found several items at Trader Joe’s that are less expensive than anywhere else. We don’t even go into the more expensive stores anymore. I don’t keep a price book, but I take pictures of prices with my phone if I can’t remember. We split half of a cow with some friends, so we have all the grass-fed beef we’ll need for the next year at about $5 a pound. That required buying a small chest freezer for storage, which has come in handy for other bulk buys. I read Budget Bytes all the time for ideas. When I have more ingredients than ideas, I search the internet for my ingredients and figure out a way to put them together. I make our bread and buns when I have time. Finally, I focus on not wasting food. We take leftovers to work for lunch, make smoothies with old fruit and greens, thrown things in the freezer than can go into soup, turn stale bread into breadcrumbs, etc. It all adds up!

    1. Wow! cutting in half is very impressive, well done!
      Those are some great Ideas, thanks for sharing. I had not thought of freezing left over veggies etc for soup. That’s a keeper. I make bread too. I have a wonderful bread maker that is in use every day. I’ve whittled down the cost of some of those ingredients, but even without that I know it’s a lot cheaper (and yummier) than store bought.
      Now, where to find that half a cow?! 🙂

  2. Hey Mrs PIE, thanks for sharing your thoughts on this 🙂

    The ways we have really saved on money:

    Buy as much as possible from Aldi
    Have a list. Buy only what’s on the list.
    Bulk buy ingredients (particularly non-perishables) when possible.
    Have more chicken meals, red meat costs a lot more.
    Large batch meals can save a lot.

    Australian food costs more than most countries, but we spend around $100-$110 a week to eat healthily for 2 people.


    1. All great ideas, thanks for sharing! It’s funny, I have always shopped with a list, but the important part really is only buying what is on that list. That’s where quitting Whole Foods has been good. the impulse buying potential there is huge!

  3. We have been able to trim our grocery bills significantly over the last few years also, it does just take mindful spending. And it helps that my toddlers and I aren’t big meat fans. I just tend to always buy whatever meat is in on sale, so on occasion I may buy Mr. SSC a steak or two, but only once a month. We also spend a lot on veggies, so I have learned that if I go to the grocery at 7am on the weekend, the market puts 50% off stickers on salads and prepped veggies that expire in the next 24 -48 hours. Meat they do they same way with 25% off, and I’ll just toss it in the freezer. I kind of make it a game for myself to spend less than $100/week on those weekend trips.

    1. I think you’ve hit the nail on the head. Mindful spending.
      I imagine the other advantage of shopping at 7am is probably the lack of crowds! That’s a great tip about the markdowns, I should look out for it.
      Thanks for sharing!

  4. Aldi does seem to have some of the lowest base prices around. Sometimes you can still do better with sales at your local large chain grocery store and stack on coupons which they sometimes will double. The trick is to really know your prices. Each week, I look over the sale papers and note anything that’s a really good deal. I won’t always go to 4 stores a week to save a few dollars but if I have some errands to do nearby then maybe Ill stop in to grab the sale items. One thing I took notice of at BJ’s: They sell 2lb packages of their house brand cheese (Wellsley Farms) sealed in the fridge case for a lot less per lb than if you buy it at the deli counter. Also this quarter if you have a Chase CC, they offer 5% cash back for warehouse clubs like BJ’s. Every little bit adds up.

  5. My inaugural trip to Aldi will be this weekend – should be interesting!
    Thanks for the heads up about BJ’s and the Chase CC. We’re doing some CC travel hacking, but haven’t yet optimized the different categories of spend for maximizing points.
    I’ll keep an eye out for the cheese. We eat a LOT of cheese!

  6. When going grocery shopping, I go with a list and try to stick to the list.

    When items are on sale, I take profit. Buy 3 tubes of toothpaste and pay only 2. That is 33pct return in 3 months… risk free! It is not a lot, but the small ones add up in the end.

  7. Funny you mention toothpaste. The way our two boys leave more toothpaste wasted in the sink than on their actual teeth is alarming!
    We hear you on the small wins and baby steps to develop new habits.

  8. Speaking as a parent of two early teenage boys myself, cutting the grocery bill is not easy – and getting more difficult by the day.

    And Ms. Financial Slacker and I also have a weakness for good food, good wine, and lots of other luxuries that MMM would not approve of.

    That said, our grocery bill may also be growing as we wean ourselves of regularly dining out and delivery services.

    1. Hi, thanks for stopping by! That’s a good point you make about restaurants and take out. We have significantly cut our restaurant spend, and it definitely impacts grocery spend….and the need for better meal planning too! The other thing it impacts is time in the kitchen. We’ve always cooked a lot, but I’ve noticed a definite increase in time spent in that room of the house!

      1. We’ve also been trying to adopt a healthier approach to eating. But that requires more time spent preparing and cooking meals in the kitchen and typically more expense as well.

        But I think the expense side offsets by not buying as much of the expensive processed food.

        Feels better too.

  9. #8 is really the key here, having a reliable list of recipes to fall back on that don’t require expensive ingredients (ie. meat being the star of the show). My wife is of Cambodian descent, and that’s really opened up a huge world of insanely tasty dishes that require very little meat, and it often doesn’t need to be the best cuts.

    1. ooh, I don’t think I’ve ever tried Cambodian food. Mr. PIE and I love spiced, tasty dishes. I think one of the things I have learned from cooking slightly differently (less meat, and less expensive cuts) is letting the seasoning and spices really make the dish.

  10. Oh it’s good stuff, like most South East Asian food, although I might be a little biased 🙂 Definitely give some dishes a try though. You’re right in that it’s all about the preparation, seasoning, and spices.

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