We also noted that the comments attached to our link on Reddit involved a lot of speculation on how exactly it is that we manage to eat for so little money, with most people of the opinion that the key is not eating meat. This is probably not entirely off the mark. Meat can be really expensive, assuming it’s from a reputable source. But I’d also point out that while we’ve been on this budget for a little over a month, I’ve been vegetarian for over a decade and easily spending twice (or three times) as much for weekly groceries.
Another factor that helps us get food on the cheap is our membership at the Park Slope Food Coop. This is a members-only coop, so everybody who shops there has to work a 3 hour shift once a month. As a result of the low labor overhead, the markup from cost (usually 50 to 100% in regular supermarkets) is fixed at, I believe, 21%. The coop’s most recent price comparison shows an average savings of 40% off of regular New York City supermarkets. Shopping at the coop helps us substantially reduce our grocery bill because, like cooking at home rather than eating out, it involves an investment of time rather than money.
In fact, spending time rather than money is a strategy that can help you reduce your food budget in all sorts of ways. One idea we’ve had for this site is to start sharing some ideas (some from us, and hopefully some from readers) about basic kitchen skills that allow you to save money by spending a little more time in the kitchen. For instance, we’ve mentioned a couple times that you can save a lot of money by making your own seitan rather than buying it (for non-vegetarians, we can also provide a little introduction to seitan, which is mock meat made from wheat gluten…don’t be scared). Also, using dried beans rather than canned and growing your own herbs. Any other suggestions, we’d love to hear them.