Grocery shopping can be expensive. But what about when it gets really out of control?
Mavis Butterfield used to spend $800 dollars a month on groceries. Over the course of eight years, she revolutionized her lifestyle, and today she spends less than $200 a month on food. How does she do it?
Mavis writes the blog One Hundred Dollars a Month, where she catalogs her thrifty ways. She uses a combination of bartering, gardening and coupons to feed her family of four on the cheap. In one post, she cataloged her family’s savings over the past five years, writing:
“In 2008 I spent $9,768 on groceries. An average of $814 a month.
In 2009 I spent $7,584 on groceries. An average of $632 a month.
In 2010 I spent $5,004 on groceries. An average of $417 a month.
In 2011 I spent $1,198.64 on groceries. An average of $100 a month.
In 2012 I spent $1,195.67 on groceries. An average of $100 a month.
In 2013 I spent $2192.32 on groceries. An average of $182.69 a month.
In 2014 I spent $1907.34 on groceries. An average of $158.95 a month.
In 2015 I spent $1798.07 on groceries. An average of $149.83 a month.
In 2016 I spent $2059.07 on groceries. An average of $171.59 a month.”
She went from spending $814 a month to $150-$180 a month—talk about a budget overhaul.
Mavis is all about a good deal, and she’s not shy about it either. Between serious thriftiness and her penchant for gardening, she shaves money off their budget constantly.
And she’s happy to share her secrets. So how does she do it?
Couponing and Bartering
That’s where couponing (and bartering) come in. Mavis has been couponing seriously since 2010. “I initially started because I’m frugal to the core and the idea of spending less really appealed to me,” she wrote on her blog.
Bartering is also a great way to cut down on your food budget. Mavis barters with neighbors and friends for any number of things, whether it be eggs or Advil. In one post, Mavis trades apples, a book and butternut squash with her neighbor. That’s one way to avoid a trip to the store!
“As my garden has grown I’ve tried to eliminate a lot of the processed food from our pantry. My priorities have shifted and couponing has taken a backseat to gardening,” writes Mavis.
Though she says using coupons are a great way to slash your grocery budget, she prefers being able to grow her own food rather than buy processed things at the store.
Mavis and her family live on more than an acre of land in Washington state, so they have plenty of room for a garden. They have 12 raised garden beds (!!!!), a raspberry patch, a greenhouse full of tomatoes, strawberries, peppers, herbs and a flock of chickens that provide eggs. Mavis actually has a goal to produce two tons (yes, that’s 4,000 pounds of produce) from her garden one day
“I do live in high-maintenance suburbia, and all my neighbors think I’m crazy for growing my own food when you could just go to the store and buy it,” Mavis told CNN in an interview from 2012.
Obviously, they grow much more than Mavis, her husband and two children can eat, which helps with the bartering. But in addition to that, the family also donates plenty to a local food bank and to anyone else who’s hungry.
Mavis updates her blog frequently with garden tallies, and the results are envy-inducing. Pounds and pounds of gorgeous produce, everything from broccoli to bok choy to garlic to apples. Meanwhile, I can’t keep a mint plant alive for more than a month.