How to save 20% on your grocery bill (That doesn’t involve clipping coupons)

This is a guest post by Dave, who is also looking to retire no later than 45, but unlike Tim has no kids and doesn’t want any.  Dave is from Ontario and is working towards his CGA certification.

[Editor’s Note: Recall this blog has a disclaimer towards the bottom of the far right column.  The following is strictly the opinion of the writer and not a recommendation for you to try something similar.]

Dieting is a huge business, these companies spend a ridiculous amount of money on advertising to get you into their programs where they basically tell you (from what I can understand) to eat less food every day.  The whole idea of a diet is to create a calorie deficiency so that you’re burning more calories than you’re consuming.  The vast majority of diets attempt to do this by calorie or point counting or portion control by carefully measured pre-made foods.

I have a different idea and have implemented it over the past month or so, not so much for weight-loss purposes more so because of the health benefits that are being found in study after study over the past year or two – I just don’t eat for a couple of days a week.

This periodic fasting has a couple of impacts in my life:


I don’t eat for 24 hours at a time – I eat a normal breakfast or lunch, stop eating at noon one day and start eating at around lunch the next day.  In the process I miss 2 meals (Dinner and Breakfast), doing this a couple of days a week, I’m not paying for 4 meals per week (out of 21), effectively decreasing my grocery bill by 20%.  This kind of eating takes a little bit more planning around leftovers, so that things aren’t staying in the fridge for extended periods but there has been a noticeable decrease in my household grocery bill.


The main reason why I started doing this was for health purposes.  I would prefer to live longer than average, and from reading various books and research studies this method of eating seemed to provide the best chance of achieving this.  In a recent study from the American College of Cardiology in New Orleans it was found that “Fasting causes hunger or stress. In response, the body releases more cholesterol, allowing it to utilize fat as a source of fuel, instead of glucose. This decreases the number of fat cells in the body” (1)

In addition this same study “confirmed earlier findings about the effects of fasting on human growth hormone (HGH), a metabolic protein. HGH works to protect lean muscle and metabolic balance, a response triggered and accelerated by fasting. During the 24-hour fasting periods, HGH increased an average of 1,300 percent in women, and nearly 2,000 percent in men.”(1)

I realize that this is just one study with a relatively small sample size (200 people), but there are many others that have been done over the past decade or so that show similar positive results.  For me health wise, I haven’t experienced any negative effects – in fact I would say that I have been able to lift heavier weight now than prior to eating this way (I have been setting personal bests in squats, and bench press in the last few weeks).

So, although kind of different it is a method that saves money while not really changing what you eat, more when you eat.  The health benefits associated with this type of diet are also significant, both for weight maintenance as well as overall health.

Would you think about such a drastic change in your diet for money or health?


(1)A summary of the study can be found here

(2) A really good source of information for Intermittent Fasting can be found at

14 thoughts on “How to save 20% on your grocery bill (That doesn’t involve clipping coupons)”

  1. Fasting is definitely not for everybody.

    I personally have never fasted for even 24 hours but I certainly believe that there are health benefits to doing so.
    (I had never considered the financial benefits of regular fasting.)
    I have considered fasting but never did it mainly because I generally don’t feel well if I don’t eat something by noon.
    Maybe your method of starting at noon might work for me. I’ll have to give it a try after further research and maybe start easy with a juice fast the first few tries.

    I don’t see myself doing this more than once a week though and so it would really be more for health than savings.

  2. Dave,
    There are many more studies that show this is a horrible thing to do to your body. I hope your readers would consult a medical professional before doing something like this.

  3. Dave, I’m going to look into your study. It’s indeed encouraging.

    I’ve read Dr Fuhrman’s “Fasting and Eating for Health”, and he mentioned that short fasts, one to three days, are not beneficial. While I’ve done a number of short fasts, I always thought I was not doing my body enough good by not fasting longer.

    I have done a number of fasts also from one to two weeks. But needless to say, they take quite a bit of commitment.

    If short fasts are indeed beneficial, I find that very exciting. I’ve read a few books on caloric restriction (CR), and there appears no doubt that CR with proper nutrition does extend life and its quality.

    My experience in the past is that just about everyone will pooh-pooh any ideas of fasting. It is just not part of our culture.

    Obesity is the norm, but someone that actually talks about fasting is quickly shot down.

  4. Unfortunately, this is probably not a sustainable way of saving money.

    Eating 20% less calories than you need will lead to weight loss and savings… for a while. As long as you have sufficient fat, doing this will likely work (kinda like having emergency funds in the bank).

    However, much like in real life, once your savings are gone (fat) you will start to go into caloric debt (thus atrophying your organs and muscle tissue). In essence, your body will eat itself to survive. Unchecked, this will lead to death.

    I get your point about caloric restriction and living longer, as I studied biology and physiology, however, I dont think this should be presented as advice for saving money. It is kinda like suggesting cutting off your lower limbs to save on shoes and calories (you need less food when you weight less no?).

  5. Hi Valerie – on top of fasting, I eat a very low carb diet, which helps (I think) in not eating as my body is somewhat predisposed to derive most of my day-to-day energy from fat, as opposed to glycogen (which happens when you eat a lot of carbs)….Over a 24 hour period, I don’t really notice too much in the way of hunger.

    @ Eclectic Indulgence: I did a search for the downside of fasting and could not find a significant downside to it – the upside, including:

    longevity, better blood lipids (hopefully reducing the need for pharmaceuticals), easier compliance to restricting calories, the possibility of reducing cancer incidence, increased growth hormone secretion (I’m 31, this has already started to decrease), Increased brain health (increase in neuronal plasticity and the promotion of neurogenesis), maintenence of muscle mass, fitness, and mental clarity

    Seemed to be very beneficial effects, although I am always interested in reading about contrary opinions.

    Also, my thoughts around human physiology and fasting are that our bodies are built to survive (and possibly do better) without food all the time. I don’t think we as a species were built to eat every 2-3 hours, otherwise why would we have fat cells for the famine times?

    @ Guillaume – I was simply pointing out the positive impact (thus far) to my grocery spending. I’m unsure of the long-term financial aspect of it, but even cutting down to 1 fasting day per week would still reduce my grocery bill by around 10% – many people do this as a “maintenance” diet in the same way that someone has cut their calories from 2000 to 1400 per day increase them to 1800 when they have achieved whatever weight loss they would like to.

    Most people really eat too much, cutting out a day or two worth of eating is probably not a bad thing.

  6. @Dave: Have you considered the cost of eating more nutrient rich aliments in the equation? You can cut calories alright, but you need to make sure that you are not also depriving yourself of other necessary micro elements(vitamins, minerals, oligo-elements etc).

    When one considers cutting their caloric intake to the minimum one can survive on, one must also increase the “quality” of the aliments one eats.

  7. I don’t do well with fasting, but I did switch to a vegetarian diet and find that that has indeed cut down on my food bill.

  8. There is also an increased risk of forming gallstones if your weight loss is too rapid, depending on your genetic predisposition.

  9. I have followed this exact regimen of intermittent fasts. I didn’t do it for money saving but for weight loss. I have lost 60lbs so far by doing this. I believe Dave is correct that it is a very healthy option for almost everyone. I have found that fasting twice per week results in fat loss, while fasting once per week is a good way to maintain my weight.
    Note that the fast can begin at any time and last for 24 hours. My favorite is to wake up and eat breakfast, then not eat until the next day’s breakfast. The best thing to do is to sleep through the portion of the fast that is most difficult for you.
    The book EatStopEat by Brad Pilon gives a great description of the health benefits of intermittent fasting, and it’s easy to read, not a lot of technical jargon.


  10. Sorry.. but I think this is pure craziness.

    Sure you save 20% on groceries but you cares when you’re dead.

    I’ll read the study, but I have read so much that disproves this.

    Want to lose weight? Eat lean meats, good fats and eat a normal amount of carbs. Combine that with weight lifting and cardio and BAM. No starving required.

  11. I’m not sure what you’ve read that disproves this, I would be very interested in reading it.

    The way I look at it – do you really think that humans as a species evolved to eat lean meat? Or to eat every 2 hours or so? If we got weak and frail after not eating for a day or so, how would we get more food in the wild? I doubt I would die – in fact I’ve reduced body fat and put on muscle over the past two months, which could mean I’m healthier (it does to me).

    Lean meats, good fats and a normal amount of carbs is fine, but is essentially a calorie restriction diet, but rather than over a couple of days you’re constantly watching everything you eat.

    Most carbs (grains, beans, etc) are full of toxins (lechtins). There are various researchers who are hypothesizing that “leaky gut” which could be caused by these toxins and cause a myriad of autoimmune diseases.

  12. My dad is 91 now and has eaten low carb / high fat his whole life. He’s on no medications, no Alzheimers (which runs in the 80+ y.o. members in his family), eats like a farmer – minimal breakfast, sometimes no lunch, big dinner/supper, fairly heavy on the meat and fat. With respect to physical health – put it this way, he retired at 88 from the physical labor of a farm – and could have gone even longer if he’d wanted to.

    Last year I followed “fast-5” for quite a while, eating from about 10-3 p.m. every day. It was easy peasy and fit into my life well since I never get hungry in the morning and sometimes am busy enough in the evening that I just don’t have time to eat.

    There’s so much research out there on intermittent fasting and longevity. Caloric restriction is the only *proven* method of increasing our life span. I don’t care about living longer as much as living with all of my brain cells though.

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