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I saved 50% of my income for a month — here's the simple strategy I used to keep my grocery bill under $60 total

By Emmie Martin,Samantha Lee of Business Insider | <p>For the month of September, I emulated <a href="http://www.businessinsider.com/mad-fientist-early-retirement-spreadsheet-2016-8?utm_source=msn.com&utm_medium=referral&utm_content=msn-slideshow&utm_campaign=bodyurl"> a financial plan for retiring early</a>and put<a href="http://www.businessinsider.com/save-half-income-experiment-2016-10?utm_source=msn.com&utm_medium=referral&utm_content=msn-slideshow&utm_campaign=bodyurl"> 50% of my disposable income into savings.</a></p><p> After rent, utilities, and all my other fixed costs for the month, I was left with roughly $140 per week to spend on food amd entertainment (even less when you consider I had to factor in an expensive bachelorette party at the end of the month). While that's certainly more than enough money to live on comfortably, it was immediately challenging to adapt to a much lower budget than I was used to.</p><p> Over the course of the month, I only made two trips to my local Trader Joe's, which set me back $24 and $34, respectively. While I ate out a few times and was blessed with a free box of pasta that got me through a few meals, that $58 covered more than 90% of my meals for the month.</p><p> I followed a few pieces of conventional wisdom to keep my bills low - swap beans for meat, cook in batches, bulk up meals with carbs - but <strong>the biggest factor that contributed to my modest total was that I only bought exactly what I needed.</strong></p><p>I've followed a simple meal planning strategy for years that forces me to maximize the ingredients I already have on hand and only purchase a limited number of items each week, which helps me avoid ending up with random perishables that inevitably go to waste.</p><p>"Meal planning" sounds complex and time-consuming, but it takes me less than half an hour per week. Here's my super simple strategy:</p>

For the month of September, I emulated a financial plan for retiring earlyand put 50% of my disposable income into savings.

After rent, utilities, and all my other fixed costs for the month, I was left with roughly $140 per week to spend on food amd entertainment (even less when you consider I had to factor in an expensive bachelorette party at the end of the month). While that's certainly more than enough money to live on comfortably, it was immediately challenging to adapt to a much lower budget than I was used to.

Over the course of the month, I only made two trips to my local Trader Joe's, which set me back $24 and $34, respectively. While I ate out a few times and was blessed with a free box of pasta that got me through a few meals, that $58 covered more than 90% of my meals for the month.

I followed a few pieces of conventional wisdom to keep my bills low - swap beans for meat, cook in batches, bulk up meals with carbs - but the biggest factor that contributed to my modest total was that I only bought exactly what I needed.

I've followed a simple meal planning strategy for years that forces me to maximize the ingredients I already have on hand and only purchase a limited number of items each week, which helps me avoid ending up with random perishables that inevitably go to waste.

"Meal planning" sounds complex and time-consuming, but it takes me less than half an hour per week. Here's my super simple strategy:

© Emmie Martin/Business Insider

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