I saved $106 in 1 week by cooking all my meals instead of eating out

Lindsey UpdykeThe author, pictured above, saved $US106 by cooking all of her meals for a week.
  • My weekly food budget is $US200, but most of that is spent eating at restaurants, ordering takeout, and buying coffee – I typically spend just $US32 a week on groceries.
  • I decided to cook all my meals for an entire week to see how much money I would save.
  • I managed to save $US106 in one week alone by cooking every meal.
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I love going out to eat. Ordering takeout and eating it on my couch is one of my favourite things to do. And whenever a friend is coming to town, I’m usually suggesting we go out to fun restaurant.

Unfortunately for me, I eat out too much. Even when trying to budget restaurant spending, I almost always overspend. Living in Manhattan certainly has its perks, but not when it comes to my wallet.

At the same time, although I love cooking, I know I don’t cook at home as much as I should. Instead of spending my time and energy making a meal, I tend to spend money instead.

As a consequence, my weekly food budget has risen to about $US200 a week. And just $US32 of that is spent on groceries.

Read more:
My family of 4 spends $US946 a month on groceries and eats at home for almost every meal – here’s exactly what we buy

Between the Starbucks coffee runs, takeout lunch deals, and dinners with friends, I end up spending way more than I bargained for on restaurants, and way less on groceries and home-cooked meals. I’ve been trying to make an honest change for a while, but it’s never actually happened.

That’s why I recently challenged myself to cook all of my meals for an entire week.

And by the end of the week, I had managed to save more than $US100 on food.

Here’s what my spending and saving looked like.

In a typical week right now, I buy about $US32 worth of groceries. My grocery list consists of a few go-to meals I tend to revisit.

Here’s a typical week’s grocery list for me. It adds up to about $US32 of groceries a week:

  • Chicken breast: $US5.99
  • Pasta: $US2.29
  • Pasta sauce: $US3.19
  • Bananas: $US1.89
  • Broccoli bunch: $US4.99
  • Eggs: $US3.59
  • Salmon: $US7.14
  • Couscous mix: $US2.79

I know what you’re probably thinking: How does she live off of this? The simple and honest answer is that I don’t. More often than not, I use the excuse of not having a lot of food in my pantry to eat out more.

For instance, you’ll probably notice there aren’t many breakfast options that can be made with my grocery list. Sure, I make myself eggs some mornings. But truthfully, I usually end up walking to Starbucks and getting a breakfast wrap with my morning coffee.

This means after grocery shopping, I usually have about $US168 to spare in my weekly food “budget,” if you can call it that. I like to make myself pasta for lunch sometimes, but I also like to sit on my couch and order Uber Eats soups and sandwiches. I routinely make dinner plans with friends or my boyfriend a few times a week, too. Add appetizers or a glass of wine and my bills can really climb.

After taking a hard look at my food spending habits, I knew I was ready to save some money and go grocery shopping. I scoured the internet for new recipe ideas and made an effort to roughly plan out my meals for the upcoming week.

On Day 1, I paid a visit to my local grocery store, City Acres Market in Lower Manhattan, and bought groceries to last me the week. I ended up spending $US94.

City Acres MarketA City Acres Market in Lower Manhattan.

Here’s what I bought from my local supermarket, for a grand total of $US94:

  • Unsalted butter: $US3.99
  • Instant oatmeal package: $US5.79
  • Bananas: $US1.89
  • Salmon fillet: $US7.14
  • Couscous mix: $US2.79
  • Broccoli bunch: $US4.99
  • Spaghetti: $US2.29
  • 1 lb. boneless chicken breast: $US5.99
  • Bread crumbs: $US3.29
  • Iceberg lettuce: $US2.29
  • Onions: $US1.99
  • Tomatoes: $US2.49
  • Minced garlic: $US4.49
  • Eggs: $US3.59
  • Shredded mozzarella cheese (2): $US6.48
  • Ground turkey meat: $US5.99
  • Coffee K-Cups: $US10.99
  • Taco shells: $US2.39
  • Diced tomatoes: $US2.19
  • Loaf of whole wheat bread: $US3.29
  • Pizza crust: $US4.49
  • Tomato sauce: $US2.29
  • Corn: $US2.49

When I finished shopping, I had a much fuller shopping cart than usual. Even the grocery prices in New York City annoy me, but I had a good feeling I was about to save some money. I also had an idea I was going to have some leftover food, which excited me even more, knowing I could potentially save more and more if I make this a habit of mine.

There were times during checkout where I definitely got a bit nervous. Coffee K-Cups are not cheap, although they’re clearly kinder on my wallet than a Starbucks coffee.

The final tally came to about $US94 overall. I was honestly so happy that I called and bragged about how much money I saved to my best friend and fellow big food spender on the walk home.

I generally spend about $US200 a week on food. But when I decided to cook all of my meals for a week, I only spent $US94. That’s $US106 in savings.

Lindsey Updyke

Here’s a recap of my experiment: I generally spend about $US200 a week on food. But when I decided to cook all of my meals for a week, I only spent $US94. That’s $US106 in savings. I spent half as much money than I usually do during the week I decided to make my meals.

Throughout the week, I definitely had a couple of moments where I needed to motivate myself to cook. With as much that I stress about money nowadays, however, it was a lot easier than I anticipated.

Ultimately, it came down to how much money I actually saved. Because I saved a lot, I think it was easier to motivate myself to continue cooking as the week went on. Finding some delicious new recipes also helped!

Although I expected to save some money while completing this experiment, I didn’t expect to save this much. I’ve learned a lot about myself and my spending habits throughout this process. It’s forced me to evaluate how I spend my money, especially when it comes to eating out.

Knowing now how much money I could have been saving all this time definitely hurts, but it also inspires me to actually make a change now. Ultimately this experience has been positive, and I have confidence it will help make a more permanent change in how I choose to spend my money in the future.

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