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This Is What Happened When I Spent $1,500 on Food

  March 7

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1500 on food

Over the past few years, I’ve tried many different ways to reduce my grocery bills. There were times in my life, even recently, where I would try to spend only $250.00 a month on groceries.

I wrote posts on how to spend $50 a week on groceries. It was hard, but at that time, I was trying to be extremely frugal and to put it bluntly, just trying to survive while dealing with variable business income.

Unfortunately, the past year hasn’t been great for my health. While I’ve always been tall and thin and outwardly look healthy, I suffered from poor sleep, stress, and depression last year.

Although I spent the majority of the past few months improving my health and making it a priority, the one glaring thing that was missing was better nutrition.

Knowing I Needed to Make a Change

My husband tried so many times to get me to eat better. I’d put several spoonfuls of sugar in my tea and coffee in the morning and then by 3:00 would do it again.

I never got fat (I know, you can hate me) so I thought the way I was eating was fine. I was still struggling with poor sleep though and my stress continued to be very high. My depression improved dramatically but there were still some days where I slipped back into those feelings of despair and had a hard time getting out.

I knew I could do better and be better, but I just wasn’t sure how.

I was able to finally complete this puzzle when I went to a doctor’s appointment in December of last year, and after talking to my doctor about everything that happened in the last year, she took a long, hard look at me and advised me to change the way I ate.

More specifically, she advised me to eat the way she and her husband have been eating for years: low carb, high fat, high protein. Meat and veggies. No sugar. No bread. No pasta. She said it would change my life, and that I would drastically improve my health not only today or this year but for the rest of my life. I’ve had so many doctors tell me in the past to exercise more or to try to get more sleep, but her tips were so actionable and only required discipline…oh, and money.

The Cost of The Highest Quality Food In the World

You see, eating the highest quality food in the world definitely comes with a cost. I actually sat down with my husband to find a way to afford it. We looked at our budget and found some more things to cut out. We decided not to eat out at all in order to allocate $1,000 to groceries.

We started the first month of January with a Whole 30, which is taking paleo to the extreme. 30 days of no sugar, no alcohol, no dairy, and no gluten. It was very challenging at first, but after a while, it became easy.

Because we weren’t eating gluten, we got all grass fed meat as well. We needed lots of supplies to do this since pretty much everything we had had sugar in it. My husband even made our own ketchup. We found soy sauce that didn’t have any sugar in it. We followed every rule. And we actually ended up spending $1,500 in January to do this, not the $1,000 we projected.

Was the Cost Worth It?

$1,500 for groceries in January might seem shocking especially coming from someone who has written extensively about budgeting in the past. However, it was worth every penny, and I’ll tell you why.

In 30 days, my husband lost 15 pounds and I lost 5. But, that was actually the smallest change we saw and since we didn’t weigh ourselves one time until the end we were able to really notice the other things that improved.

The very first thing I noticed was that my skin started to look amazing.

I’d tried three different face washes in the past to try to improve my skin, but none of them really worked. All of a sudden, there were no blackheads or any issues with the skin on my face at all. It started to look radiant. I even got an e-mail from my friend who asked me how my skin looked so good in a recent YouTube video.

Then, there was the energy. I was eating so much protein and good food that I wasn’t having 3:00 slumps. I started drinking my coffee black with a little bit of coconut milk. I didn’t have any blood sugar spikes or drops, and my mood was better. I snapped at my husband less. I felt like I could play with my kids more.

I started sleeping sounder because I wasn’t drinking wine before bed (which I learned helps you fall asleep but actually doesn’t make you sleep that well.)

A lot of these changes were really slow, and when my 30 days was over, I went on a bit of a crazy streak and ate a lot of chocolate and ordered pizza. (So sue me. I’m human.)

Well, guess what happened? My skin immediately deteriorated. I had one of the worst stomach aches of my life after the pizza that lasted two days. I felt horrible, like death really, and I wanted nothing more than to eat a heaping amount of vegetables and meat to get me back on track.

It’s More About Value Than Cost

I never thought I’d be the person to spend $1,500 on groceries. All those times my husband tried to get me to eat better, I told him we couldn’t afford it. Now, I really believe I couldn’t afford to go without it. I had no idea how much better I’d feel or how much it would improve my life once I started eating better. I  know not everyone will be able to spend over $1,000 a month on groceries and believe me, it took me a long time to get to this place too.

What I do know is that many people spend $100+ on eating out every month. Many people also spend a considerable amount of money on packaged foods and soda within their grocery budgets. I know, because budgeting is one of the things I’ve been doing for years, and there’s always more wiggle room than you think. There is always something you can shift, take away, or add if you really take the time to look at the numbers.

For example, you can always spend less on going out to eat so you can spend more to get organic eggs instead of the cheap ones. If you have little kids, going out to eat is a nightmare anyway and ordering in food, while far easier, is bound to make you feel more sluggish and tired than a high-quality meal.

To be honest, I don’t even want to focus on the cost difference between all of this but more of the value difference. I’m not here to convince people to eat all organic, but rather to show through my example what a difference higher quality nutrition could make in your life.

Like I said, my medical student hubby has been trying to get me to do this for a long time, and now I finally understand.

Permanent Changes

A few months ago, my husband and I were trying to challenge ourselves to only spend a few hundred dollars at the grocery store. We were constantly eating soup and red beans and rice and neither of us felt very great. So, I’m glad that our focus stopped being about trying to save money and trying to squeeze the grocery budget as tight as we could and instead became an overall shift where we gave up other things (like eating out) to be able to afford better food.

As stated, because of this value shift, we noticed other benefits, like both us losing weight and my skin somehow becoming amazingly clear and my energy becoming so high. Although it’s expensive month to month, I can’t even quantify what this will save me in the long term. Being healthy (and not just outwardly looking healthy) will save significant healthcare costs over the course of my life not to mention allow me to be mentally healthy, well rested, and an overall a happier person.

I know it’s a lot to attribute to the type of food I eat, but I’ve experienced firsthand how good nutrition can positively influence your life, and that’s why I’ll spend $1,500 time and time again – even if it means giving up a few things in the meantime.

How much do you spend on groceries each month? Have you ever tried a Whole30 or eating paleo?
1500 on food

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39 responses to “This Is What Happened When I Spent $1,500 on Food

  1. Great article, Cat!! We do lots of Paleo and Macrobiotic type of eating. We manage to do it relatively cheaply (might be the different stores or prices here as opposed to there) but we absolutely notice a difference. I agree: it’s totally worth it. Keep up the great work!

    1. Thanks Laurie! I’m always amazed at how your family eats so cheaply! I’m sure ours will be a little cheaper now that we’ve bought many of the basic staple items to get us started, as long as they don’t all run out at the same time. 🙂

  2. I think $1,500 to eat clean and feel much better is totally worth it. Cutting out the sugar, white flour, and booze always makes me feel better. And, honestly, I’ve kind of given up trying to keep my food budget under control. Better health is worth the added expense.

    1. Yes! It was so hard to keep our food budget that low after a while. We weren’t eating well or enjoying our food, plus those cheap filler meals weren’t helping our health or energy either.

  3. I’m trying to eat mostly fish, veggies and fruit, but it’s so hard because I love cheese, bread and wine! I’m getting better though. The dry January I had was good as I was sleeping better and my skin improved too! We’re definitely spending more on groceries, but also feel better about our health.

  4. Congratulations on your weight loss! That is amazing. I know I spend a lot more on food when I want to cook good, healthy meals. I don’t eat out and I really cut expenses on my grocery list where possible, but whenever I’m trying to cook more or eat healthier, my grocery bill goes up, unfortunately.

  5. Once you get into the habit of eating healthfully, you will find ways to cut back on your grocery costs. $1500 won’t be your bill forever unless you don’t modify at all from the Whole30 diet.

    For example, for my best health I have to avoid alcohol and refined sugars (including honey or maple syrup), but I do just fine with oatmeal, rice and beans (including hummus, yummy!) which are cheap and easy staples.

    Organic animal products are really expensive (about 4X regular costs), but when they are on clearance, I stock up. I like the flavor of organic meat and dairy more, and I feel a little better but not a lot, so I’m okay with spending less for now. As for fruit/veg, I rarely purchase organic, but I try for seasonal items that seem to be have the best flavor which means I eat more of the good stuff.

    1. We have found that some of the organics make more of a different taste-wise than others, but since we started with all the organics at once it’s hard to know exactly which ones have more or less of an impact on our health.

  6. What a coincidence I started on the paleo train a few weeks ago and have really noticed a difference. My diet used to consist of a sugary coffee almost every day form dunkin donuts and something greasy and full of carbs for lunch. I set a big personal fitness goal for myself and I figured eating healthy would be a big component.

    I love seafood and meat so the main transition has been replacing a fish sandwich with a fish salad. And keeping those iced coffees down to once a week for now. I noticed a positive difference in a few days and while it has been a little more expensive, the gorcery bill hasn’t been that bad.

    Good luck to both of us on our new diets!

  7. We spend approximately $1,600 a month on food per month for a family of 6. Our health is our biggest asset with the highest ROI possible: our lives. I am all about building wealth, but as someone who has self healed from various serious health conditions and is currently recovering from Postpartum pre-eclampsia, what we eat is crucial to the quality of our life.

  8. Great article, in this moment I”m in a rigid diet for the next 42 days but I am consuming a lot of fish and veggies and believe or not my skin is better than last month…I think everyone would must to find a balance that permits to eat healty, food is very important!!!

  9. What a fascinating story! I have a pretty low grocery bill, though we supplement by raising organic chickens, vegetables, and fruits (and preserving some for the winter). I recently heard that gluten can contribute to acne, as I’m intrigued as I still struggle with this. The idea of a month trial is interesting, because it gives the chance to compare the value over the cost. I’m glad you feel so much better!

  10. Thanks for the post. I’ve had skin eczema for a number of years and have spent a lot of time trying to figure out the triggers. I’m now to the point where I’ve ruled out just about everything but diet. I may have to start making some changes, but after 40+ years of developed habits, I know it won’t be easy!

  11. I can testify to everything you are saying. I did about 4 months of low carb high fat in 2014 because I was having trouble conceiving with my son. I started in June 2014 and by October 2014 I was down 40 pounds and I got pregnant (go figure, lol). I’m really trying to get back on the wagon but I fell off and binged during Halloween last year and I’ve been struggling ever since. I miss the days of having clear skin, shiny hair, and great energy. I’ve already gained about 20 lbs back…so I basically weigh about 15 lbs more than I did when I found I was expecting our son. The juggle with freelancing and working full-time isn’t helping my eating binges either, but I’m determined to get back on track. I’m glad you tried LCHF and had success with it. I think this way of eating is the best and if I can convince my daughter and hubby to stop eating processed food, we all will be better for it.

    1. Candy is a struggle for me too! Trying to freelance and work full-time is rough – I’ve been there. When you are that tired after working hard all day and night it’s easy to give in to those cravings.

  12. Excellent article! While my family isn’t as extreme as the whole 30, we still manage to eat well and stay on a tight budget. I spend around $400 a month on groceries for two people. We do eat bread, but I make it myself so I can control what goes into it. I always buy organic dairy and try to stick to organic on the “dirty dozen.” Our CSA has been our Godsend! It is a $1700 per year investment but it provides us with a huge box of fresh, local, organically grown produce for 29 weeks of the year. I also have a small raised bed garden which provides a fair amount of veggies as well. We freeze the excess and eat on it throughout the winter. As far as meat is concerned, look around for a local source. If you have a freezer, you can save a lot by buying meat in bulk from a local organic farmer.

    1. We might look into CSAs and other options once we get more settled into our next location. We will be moving soon, so we won’t put in that effort to find alternatives until after that.

  13. I could stand to lose some weight, get an energy boost, and I’d love to have clearer skin – especially with my wedding coming up in just a few weeks. However, it’s so hard for me to justify spending more money on food. But like you said, it’s more about value than cost. Just by taking it slow, I’ve noticed some changes when I stopped eating red meat and started drinking more water each day.

  14. I’ve never tried Whole30 but flip-flop being on the Tim Ferriss 4-Hour Body diet, which is pretty similar except you get a once a week binge day. Cutting dairy is harder for me than cutting carbs though because I love both milk and yogurt. I admire the two of you stick to it and finding value in the healthy food! Sometimes it really is worth the cost. I do always spring for organic eggs and milk. I’d love to hear some of your recipes though. I detest cooking, so I take any opportunity to hear about healthy eating recipes.

  15. While my family doesn’t do the Whole 30 or paleo, we manage to save a lot of money by making our own food, planting our own veggies, and replanting what we buy from the stores. We were able to slash our grocery budget to around 200 dollars a months, that’s between 2 adults and one 2 year old kid.

    I agree that healthy foods cost a lot of money. But when it comes to food, I rather eat healthy, spend a lot of money now and save money later on medical bills than eat cheap-priced foods, save money but spend a lot later on medical expenses. In addution, I believe that a healthy body is an investment.

  16. *drools* Wow, we could eat really well on that much a month! We spend about $150 a week on groceries and don’t get a lot for that – unfortunately food, along with everything else, costs a bomb.

  17. Congrats! I notice huge differences when I eat better. I mostly try to follow the 21 day fix plan (which is relatively low carb). After sliding a bit over the last few months I’m back on it and noticing that I already feel (and look!) better.

  18. Paleo diet is one good, healthy strategy to keep those groceries expenses minimal. I am using this diet plan and has helped me save money on food and keep my family healthy as this diet excludes processed food or junk ones. Though at first it was hard to live by with this as kids kept asking me to buy them those processed products they were used , it is worth it after all especially when I see I getting the benefits afterward.

  19. Catherine,

    My wife and I have done a very similar thing with our diet. We try to minimize carbs and eat more fruits and veggies. It has helped us to lose weight. We do pay 30% – 50% more overall, but I think it is worth it. Investing in your health through healthy eating will pay off long-term with reduced healthcare costs as we age.

  20. Sorry, really late to the party on this one. I definitely feel better when I’m on a low sugar/lower carb diet. I’ll never give up gluten. Been there, done that a couple of times. When you don’t really cook and you’re too tired to care, you basically end up eating nachos constantly. Which (eventually) isn’t as fun as it sounds.

    Honestly, as soon as this pregnancy thing is over (one way or another) I’m looking forward to getting back off of candy. Something I never thought I’d say. But the sugar crashes suck. Especially when you have chronic fatigue and can’t tell whether you’re having a bad energy day or just need to eat.

    And yep, with higher protein/lower carb diet I’m less hungry and definitely less grumpy. We’ll never eat well enough that I’ll see the kind of skin results you’re talking about, but I definitely think mine will improve once I’m back off (a lot of) sugar.

  21. I can completely relate to this, Cat! As you may recall, in my “old” life, I shopped with coupons and tried to buy as much food on sale as possible — and it meant eating a lot of garbage food. Bottom line: I felt horrible, plus all the stuff you talked about — bad skin, mood problems, terrible sleep, etc. Since cleaning up our diets, and accepting that it’s okay to spend more (we now average about $600 a month for two of us, instead of the $250 we spent before), we feel SO MUCH better. Definitely worth the extra money!

  22. We also spend oodles of money on food and don’t regret it at all 🙂
    When I was sick in February, I subsided on almost exclusively simple carbs, like plain pasta, because I couldn’t stomach the idea of eating vegetables or soup. It took me nearly two weeks of eating properly again for my skin and body to stop hating me.
    Food is cheap in Michigan! 🙂

  23. Hey Cat! I believe it eating healthy and I have never compromised good food even when struggling with money. But for those that can’t afford to spend $1000-$1500/month on healthy options, I’d love to hear alternatives. It sounds like you are in a better financial position but some people still have very limited resources… Like the $250/month you and your hubby once attempted. Oof! Thanks!

  24. Amazing!! The fact that you were able to dive in is so great! It seems overwhelming to change your life that drastically, but most people don’t even know what it feels like to feel GOOD.

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