How I cut my food bill by nearly $1,200 in one year

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All year long,‘s Michael Timmermann is sharing quick and easy ways to save money as part of our Michael Saves series. Check in every Monday as he puts new and familiar savings strategies to the test. Sign up for our newsletter to have these stories delivered to your inbox!

Dining out can be a real budget-buster, but one simple rule has helped me cut my food bill significantly over the last year!

Reducing food spending by 15% was one of the five money goals I shared with you in January 2017, but was I able to do it? This is my accountability check.

Here’s a look at the side-by-side charts of my food spending for 2016 and 2017:

Grocery spending

  • 2016: $3,352
  • 2017: $2,900
  • Difference: $452

Restaurant spending

  • 2016: $3,062
  • 2017: $2,348
  • Difference: $714

My total food spending for 2017 came out to $5,248, which is $437 per month. I spent a combined $1,166 less at grocery stores and restaurants this year compared to 2016.

I know these numbers aren’t going to break any records, but they represent a 20% drop — my goal was 15%.

My restaurant rule 

Here’s the change I made: At the start of the year, I made a rule with myself that I would avoid buying restaurant food when it wasn’t part of a social experience.

I love going out to eat with family and friends to catch up, so I’ve continued to do that at least once a week.


But what I eliminated is those nights when I would order takeout from a Chinese restaurant or pizza place and sit alone in my condo watching TV. That’s not very social! 

As a result, I learned to get better about cooking my own food, primarily on Sundays when I prep for the work week.

Two kitchen gadgets have proved to be worth every penny. My Instant Pot pressure cooker and Crock-Pot slow cooker have made preparing meals at home a lot easier — and tastier!

Since I bought the Instant Pot in May, it hasn’t left my counter. I use it that much.

Using both of these for meal prep!

5 ways Instant Pot makes life easier

Why exactly are people so obsessed with Instant Pot and other pressure cookers like it? I’ve identified a handful of ways it has come in handy:

Saves money: Instant Pot is so easy to use that you won’t need to buy canned or prepared ingredients. One recipe I tried called for dried beans, which are less than half the price of canned beans.

Saves time: Not only is this appliance easy, it’s also fast. Chicken breasts are cooked to perfection in 12 minutes!

Saves energy: Instant Pot is one of the greenest kitchen appliances, according to its website. It saves up to 70% electricity compared to other appliances, like the oven or stove top.

Saves space: The 6-quart pressure cooker can easily fit on the counter of even the smallest kitchen.

Saves dishes: Many Instant Pot recipes utilize several of the features, but you only get one pot dirty. And when you’re finished cooking, the inner pot goes right into the dishwasher.


Final thought

Something I didn’t expect was that preparing more homemade meals would make me appreciate those nights out with my family and friends even more than I used to — I really look forward to them!

Living by my restaurant rule, eating out is now a special treat and not an everyday indulgence.

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