#9 – How to Take a Bite Out of Your Food Costs

Food, Savings

In this episode, the Mechanic, the Accountant, and the Economist discuss how to take a bite out of your monthly food costs. We’ll sample a few new beers as usual too. If you found this podcast you’re probably familiar with the FI/RE movement that has grown in popularity recently. Here at the FI Garage, we’re all on the path to FI, however, we consider the RE part optional.

Beer #1 – Magic Hour Grapefruit Gose – Brewed & Bottled in Victoria, BC by Vancouver Island Brewing [0:47]

Interesting Article [3:11]

A lot of Canadians seem to have stopped investing to pay down their debts by Rob Carrick of the Globe and Mail

How to Save on Food Costs [6:40]

  • Meal prepping and having quick to prepare homemade food available [7:39 & 23:47]
    • Some go-tos: Chili, Chickpea Curry, Pasta or rice dishes, Thai Red Curry
    • Leftovers and freezering
  • Buying in bulk [11:18]
    • Costco
  • Knowing what you are buying costs [12:40]
  • Shopping with a list [12:55]
  • Per meal costs [14:00]
  • Time savings of cooking [15:02]
  • Having staples in the house and making a one-off meal in a hurry [15:30]
    • Some go-tos: Tuna melt, Breakfast for dinner, Salad, Mini-Pizza [16:55]
  • Growing fruit/vegetables/herbs [19:15]
  • Being conscious of your food waste [22:26, 24:47, & 49:45]
    • Planning to reduce waste – using recipes with similar ingredients
    • Using the whole vegetable
    • Proper food storage
  • Avoiding pre-packaged food [25:33]
  • Meal Prep delivery services – pros and cons (the one the Economist tried) [26:40]
    • Expensive
    • Lower-cost alternative to eating out
    • Building a habit of cooking at home
    • Expand your recipe base
    • Reduces food waste
    • Expensive Add-ons
  • Not buying meals out, delivery, take-out, and convenience foods [30:04]
  • Food delivery services – Marketplace Video [33:20]
  • Shopping for deals [45:20]

Beer #2 – Twisted Stalk Blackberry Helles – Brewed & Bottled in Victoria, BC by Vancouver Island Brewing [35:12]

Deep Dive [38:18]

  • How much does it cost you to eat out for lunch every day at work? Let say you buy lunch out for $10 per day every day and that bringing your lunch each day would cost you $5.
    • In most cases, people spend more than this and would be able to make lunch at home for less but we will use these numbers to keep it simple.
  • This means that by not bringing your own packed lunch it is costing you an extra $5 per day or $25 per week. Assuming you work 50 weeks a year this means you’re spending an extra $1,250 per year because you choose not to pack your own lunch for work.
  • This may not seem like a lot but let’s take an investment of $1,250 per year over a 30-year career earning a modest 5% per year return. When we plug this into a compound interest calculator we get an ending value of $84,725. Looks like those lunches out are costing you a little more than you thought.
  • With 9% return instead (closer to the annual return of the S&P 500 over the past 90 years) this increases to $183,963.
  • Now for something more realistic: we make lunch for an average cost of about $2.50 per day and the most people in our city spend closer to $15 a day on lunch the real cost of lunch may be closer to $12.50 per day or $62.5 per week. This would be $3,125 a year and would hold a future value in 30 years at 9% of $457,408. It’s amazing how something as simple as deciding to pack your own lunch can have such a significant impact on your future financial situation.
    • The value of $457,408 in hours at a $40 wage rate is 11,435 hours of working time, 1,429 work days, or 5.5 work years.
  • Is this the Latte Factor? [42:17]

Stupid Money Move [47:22]

How Much Money Are You Throwing Away Each Year

Reading List


  1. Of course I was listening! LOL. Great show guys. Lots of useful tips.

    Re: kids and food, they don’t eat all that much when they’re little. So you’ll barely notice any extra cost until they’re maybe 3.

    After that, their appetites gradually increase as they grow, but balancing that is the fact that you can buy more in bulk. So your cost per serving will be less, even if you’re cooking up more servings.

    Our family of four (with two boys aged 11 and 13) spends about $550/month in groceries and $150/month on eating out. (But our grocery line item should be lower—I don’t break out things like cleaning supplies and toiletries that we also buy at the grocery store.)

    We meal plan around sales and rarely buy anything at full price. But we also don’t deprive ourselves. We mostly eat what we want, and we eat well!

    One way we save compared to most families is by avoiding prepackaged snacks. They’re not only pricey but bad for the environment and their health. Instead, we try to feed our kids fruit and homemade snacks.

    If we do buy the occasional snack foods, we’ll buy them in bulk and dole out servings in plastic containers. Way cheaper that way!

    So yeah, kids do increase your food budget, but not exponentially. There are lots of ways to economize without going to extremes.

  2. Meal planning will help reducing the food cost. Making a big pot of food and eat that over a few days also is a great idea. Food cost definitely increased once we have kids but it didn’t grow exponentially. Staying away from packaged snacks and foods and eating less meat will help too.

    1. I agree, any kind of convenience food or pre-packaged snacks really add cost to the food budget. Basically just try and avoid 3 of the middle aisles in the store. Just about every grocery store has the cracker and cookie aisle, the candy and chip aisle, and the frozen junk food aisle. Oh, and the pop/soda aisle. Shop the outsides, fresh food. Totally agree too that a vegetarian diet is a substantial cost reduction without buying meat. I’d say we are very light meat eaters, but we do like our eggs and cheese. We’re always conscious of price and shop the sales.

  3. Hey Guys, I’m sorry about the four star review … I thought that was a good rating, and only noticed that you had a perfect rating till after I had posted. I really do enjoy your podcast!

    We really lucked out and bought an acre that had an enormous amount of food growing on it, both wild and perennial. We have since planted a small orchard, a fruiting hedgerow, a few nut trees, started to raise a few animals for eggs and meat, built a grape arbor, and set up a small garden

    I have to admit that not all of this would be possible in a city, and that some of our projects have a low return on investment (nut trees for example), our garden is an exception though. It is no larger than one that someone who lives in a city could keep, and produces enough to be worthwhile.

    Some other hacks we use include:
    Making our own bread and crackers (this doesn’t have to take a long time!)
    making our own kombucha, kiefer, and (soon) yoghurt
    Making our own sauerkraut and kimchi.
    not being afraid of items marked down due to impending expiry date (depending on the item!)

    feel free to email me if you’d you’d like to know more.

    1. I’m pretty sure The Economist meant it a little ‘tongue in cheek’ that you gave us a 4 star. I think that is totally normal, and you backed it up. I mean seriously, can everything always be 5 stars? We really do appreciate the feedback.

      Your garden sounds amazing! Is your goal to be completely self-sufficient? How much time would you consider it takes to tend to the garden? That is one of the ‘excuses’ we make. I won’t disagree that home grown is by far the best, but there is a time cost for all things that we DIY. Perhaps that’s only important while we are working and have a $$ amount to measure our time against. We’re very lucky to have some fruit trees in our yard and we turn the plums into cider and I dry the apples and pears. We definitely have enough room to grow our own veggies too. I even set up an irrigation system for drip and timed sprinklers. We were pretty productive the first couple of years, however I did notice a fairly large spike in our water bill over the growing season (approx $300). Now this shouldn’t be the single factor that prevents us from growing, but it is a consideration. I’ve also looked into larger rainwater storage, not only for the garden, but for some grey water plumbing for the house too. I’m struggling with the upfront cost and ROI, even though I think it is the right thing to do. I think the biggest factor for us was that between the two of us working out of town, we would miss harvest times, and we just didn’t use enough of what we were growing. Perhaps we should shift to things that have longer shelf life or could be preserved. I’ve suggested that we use our garden space to share-crop, but I haven’t got my wife on-board with that yet. What I really want to build is a hydroponic vertical garden in our sun-room for growing herbs and leafy veg.

      I’m also impressed with your other hacks too. I’ve never thought about making crackers. Are they dehydrated or baked?
      Thanks for listening!!

      1. Self sufficiency is a goal, there are 3 issues that will probably keep us from reaching it though.
        1) it takes far more than an acre to feed a family, especially considering that nothing will grow for half of the year here, and we keep animals which require a lot of land to feed.
        2) we have a 200 year old home that takes a lot of energy to heat. We would need a sizable wood lot of our own to meet this need.
        3) In our part of the country generating your own electricity isn’t very cost effective and takes a lot of capital

        I’d say that we spend at most 6h a week on the garden during the growing season. Some of this time can be discounted as it replaces trips to the grocery store. Even so, the savings we get from gardening would work out to less than our hourly rates of pay, I’ts also a hobby that we take satisfaction in though. That being said, I doubt we’d keep much of a garden if we were in your situation and both had to travel for work

        It’s great that you have a drip irrigation system set up, that’s something that we would like to do in the near future. The grey water system that you want to implement sounds like a big but interesting job. What are your water utility rates? Would it take many years to pay off?

        The crackers that we’ve been making most recently are baked and made from our sourdough discard.

        I’m looking forward to episode 20, and don’t worry, you guys are already good!

        1. Our water is metered in and also charged going out, which is unfortunate for what goes into the garden. Recent rates were $4.11 in and $4.62 out per unit (100 Cubic feet) Our usage was going up 21 units during the months we were watering the garden. So over a two bill period it gets up to around $300 extra. I did some rough estimates of what a larger 2800 litre cistern would cost. Just materials were going to be over $1500 plus my time and permits. I could probably just up my rain barrel count and plumb them together which should give me enough supply. I’ll have to look into it again though, I just found some rebates on my city website as I was looking up this info!!

          Drip irrigation is the way to go! I found an 8 channel digital controller at a garage sale with the valves for $20!! I still have to plumb it in though, currently we just have two sets of 3 beds controlled separately.

          Thanks, we’ll probably be a let down at episode 20!! At least we’ve had some marginal improvement along the way…

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