Give Me Back My Five Bucks

Inside my grocery bag

On my last trip to the grocery store, I spent $45.67, and here’s what I bought:

Produce (Asian grocery store) – $15.81
– 4 bananas
– 2 peppers (red & green)
– 2 onions (red & white)
– 5 oranges
– 1 peach
– 1 mango
– 2 cucumbers
– 2.5 pounds of potatoes
– garlic
– mushrooms
– 1 bunch of carrots


Safeway – $29.86
– 1 loaf of bread
– 1 bag of chips
– 6 spinach wraps
– 1/2 dozen eggs
– 1 jar of pasta sauce
– 2 bags of bagels
– 11 chicken thighs (11 servings = 5+ meals)

For those that are curious, in my quest to spend $100 this month in groceries, I’m up to $89.47 for the month. The food pictured above will last me until the end of the month. With the extra $10 left in my budget, I’ll probably buy more fresh fruits and vegetables sometime next week, but other than that I don’t need anything else. I have enough bread and meat to last me well into August.

The majority of my money has been spent at a local Asian grocery store within walking distance to my townhouse. Anything else was purchased at either Safeway (ugh) or Real Canadian Superstore.

During the past 3 weeks, I have made simple, healthy meals – like steamed vegetables and quinoa, pasta, hummus and pita with cucumber, and spinach salads. Breakfast is also pretty simple: a slice of toast with Nutella, and a piece of fruit. I also make sure to pack my lunch for work each day, which usually includes leftovers from the previous night’s dinner, and raw vegetables or fruit to snack on – usually whatever is on sale.

A really easy, cheap thing to make is homemade pizza. Because I already had the ingredients to make the crust from scratch, I only had to spend $5.88 on deli meat and fresh produce. The pizza was so big that I was able to make full 4 meals out of it. That’s $1.47 per meal!

While this grocery challenge was meant to prove to myself that I could reduce my spending on food for the month, my main goal is always to try to eat healthy meals. I generally only eat meat once or twice a week – not because of this challenge specifically, but because that has always been my lifestyle. This significantly cuts down on the cost of my grocery bill, which leaves me with more room in my budget to buy the fresh fruits and vegetables that I enjoy.

Author: Krystal Yee

I’m a personal finance blogger and marketing professional based in Vancouver. I’m a former Toronto Star (Moneyville) columnist, author of The Beginner’s Guide to Saving and Investing, and co-founder of the Canadian Personal Finance Conference. When I’m not working, you can usually find me running, climbing, playing field hockey, or plotting my next adventure.


  1. Mark says:

    We love to make pizza at home. The great thing is that you don't need to make one big pizza, you can make smaller individual pizzas that you freeze for later. Or, if you have a big family or picky eaters, everyone gets to choose their own toppings. If you don't want to spend the time making your own pizza dough, you can put your toppings on a tortilla.
    My recent post Sage Advice

    • gmbmfb says:

      Ohh, good call on freezing smaller individual pizzas. I never really thought about that, but it makes sense. Maybe I'll do that next time.

  2. Kathrin says:

    Jealous of how cheap your fruit and veg are. Due to floods in Australia earlier this year – price of bananas are through the roof – $14.00 a kilo!

  3. Dave says:

    That is some very healthy and good looking food for only $45! I would have trouble cutting meat down to once or twice a week, but I do love veggies.
    My recent post Ideas for Unemployed College Graduates

  4. @applecsmith says:

    Yum! Looks like you did a great job. Lots of good fruits and veggies, and healthy items. Thanks for idea about the homemade pizza, I will have to try that. Good luck for the rest of the month, I know you can stay in budget!

  5. Jessie says:

    that all looks really tasty and healthy too!
    My recent post It's coming…help!?

  6. Financial Uproar says:

    Hey… those aren't Frito Lay potato chips.
    My recent post My Experience With World Financial Group

  7. Robyn says:

    I never doubted your ability to make $100 for groceries last for the month. I was a little "what were you thinking?" when I saw that you purchased a bunch of food from safeway. When I continued reading however, I can tell by the "ugh" that you feel the same way about Safeway and that they are overpriced 99% of the time.

    • gmbmfb says:

      Yeah, the only reason I've been going to Safeway is because it's within walking distance to where I live. The Superstore is about a 15 min. drive.

  8. I kinda wanna weep. One of the things that really bothers me about living way up north (although it is mitigated by the higher salaries) is the insane cost of groceries. I spend $200+ yesterday, on 3 bags of basics (cereal, fruit, milk, eggs – not even any meat!). Well done on taking full advantage of city living re: groceries!
    My recent post Money Tips for Travellers: Keeping your wallet happy in Thailand

  9. chipsforsupper says:

    I make home-made pizza on a pita bread. And my local produce store has pitas for 89 cents. Not each, per bag of 6!

  10. Christine says:

    This is fun! I should totally do this. For some reason, pictures of groceries is exciting.

    I try to buy spaghetti sauce in cans, it's usually cheaper. I used to always splurge on Classico sauces – still a splurge when on sale, because really, it's the best pasta sauce from a jar – but now I know a bit more about spices and the power of FRESH tomatoes (or canned tomatoes) and I make my own pasta sauce. With chickpeas? OH YUM.

    This recipe is my homeboy:

    I'd love to hear if you have reasons for choosing what you did. My first thoughts were:
    buying the garlic loose is usually cheaper; field cucumbers, rather than the English cucumbers that comes wrapped, usually save you about 30 cents. And those small potatoes are more expensive than the big ones (but I do like them better because you don't have to peel them – I just stick to the big ones and scrub 'em real good and chop them up to the size of the small ones). Time = money, I suppose :P and then eggs last a long time, even past their best before date, so buying 12 is more economical even if you don't eat very many.

    Does weight play into what you buy? I'm always limited to what I can carry home, and I have limited upper body strength :P :)
    My recent post Rich Christians

    • gmbmfb says:

      I would love to make homemade pasta sauce, but unfortunately I hate the smell, texture, and anything really to do with fresh tomatoes, so that's out of the question. haha :)

      No real reason, except that I bought what was on sale, and what I like to eat. I like the small potatoes in the recipes that I make (and they were on sale), and as for the eggs, I wouldn't have been able to eat a dozen eggs by the expiry date on the package – which is why I opted for 6 instead. And the 6 eggs were about $1.50. Didn't really think about the garlic (will examine the prices the next time I'm in need of some), and those were the only cucumbers at the store.

      Weight plays a bit of a factor, but I live maybe 800m from the Safeway, so it's not that big of a deal. I consider it to be a bit of a workout if I buy heavy things. :)

    • Vickie D says:

      Thanks for the MS receipe! So simple, I will try it for sure!

  11. Jenny~Z says:

    It's unfortunate you don't like fresh tomatoes, I find there is so much I can do with a can of diced tomatoes (and I can usually stock up when they are on sale!!) For example earlier this week I made jambalaya and chili that will last me into the middle of next week. So it's like 12 meals for less than $20!!

    I'm curious how you only eat meat a couple times a week.. I find it difficult to plan a meal without some kind of central meat.
    My recent post What a funny moment in my life..

    • gmbmfb says:

      I don't mind canned tomatoes at all, especially when they're going to be incorporated into the dish. I just can't deal with fresh, raw tomatoes. Weird, but true.

      As for eating meat 1-2x/week … I don't find it that hard. I eat a lot of tofu, chickpeas, etc. and find those are good substitutes. Most of the time, I only eat meat when I'm entertaining or out at a restaurant. That's just how it's always been, so maybe I'm just used to it. Don't get me wrong, I really love the taste of meat, I just don't feel the need to eat it every day.

  12. StackingCash says:

    Not that it matters much these days, but are you referring to Canadian dollars?

  13. Nicole says:

    Someone may have already mentioned this, but have you ever head of the blog Poor Girl Eats Well ( Her mission is to eat good-tasting, healthy food on a tiny budget. I've used some of her recipes and their great.

  14. Christina says:

    Yum…quinoa is one of my favorite new foods. Buying it at Costco saves mucho money! One of the best ways to use it as a super-healthy hot breakfast cereal – with a little soy milk and a drizzle of real maple syrup, it is SCRUMPTIOUS.
    Take care,
    PS. LOVE your grocery challenge…I need to eat gluten free, so I find it a bit more challenging than when I could eat wheat-based products.

  15. fabulouslyfrugirl says:

    I love Chinese supermarkets for help stretching my dollar :)

    Every time I hit up Superstore or Metro or Sobey's I always go over budget so I try to avoid them unless there is something in particular.

    At my local corner store, things are usually over priced but I find that if I hit up the clearance section and cook things as soon as I get home, they are usually fine and super cheap (though a bit mushy). And it's also about 500m away from my house, so it's really convenient. I've gotten a whole bag of zuchinnis for $1 or a whole bag of eggplants for $1.50.
    My recent post Vacation Preview: The Maritimes (East Coast Canada )

  16. Melissa says:

    Congrats on sticking to your goal! I totally failed this month with my goal to stay under $100. I didn't really try hard enough.

    One quick tip, though. I'm sure this won't make much of a difference, but off-brand Kettle Chips are AWESOME. And like, a third the price. I know it's weird, because normally no-name chips are something I never buy, because they never taste that good, but for some reason this doesn't seem to apply to kettle chips. It's a mystery of the junk food world. The Metro "Irresistible" brand is my favourite.
    My recent post Summer Mixtape: With Love And Trust And Friends And Hammers

  17. haha. I love how you bought all your produce from the asian supermarket and then went elsewhere for everything else. Just like my family. XD
    My recent post A Station Work-In-Progress

  18. Katy says:

    Looking forward to more of your posts related to grocery shopping budgeting! I'm buying my first condo soon and I need to start budgeting too, especially with food! It's been really hard trying to correct bad spending habits but I feel if I'm put in this situation, it'll force me to change.
    My recent post On Top Of The World

    • Krystal Yee says:

      Definitely. I found when I bought my place a few months ago, it forced me to completely rethink my budget. I guess hundreds of thousands of dollars of debt will do that to a person! :)

  19. kateb1_2_3 says:

    Krystal, I love your blog! Especially hearing about your attempts to reduce your grocery budget. I'm trying to do the same now! Have you ever tried using coupons? I'm finding them really helpful for everyday things (not fresh produce, of course). Do you find that shopping at an Asian Grocery reduces the price of fresh produce? I have so many near me but I usually just end up going to a chain store. I won't if its cheaper!
    My recent post To the EXTREME!

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