- Angela Rozmyn lives in Seattle with her husband and son and works as a LEED accredited professional.
- She and her husband are saving close to 50% of their income and plan to retire in their early 40s.
- Over the past two years, Rozmyn reduced her family's food spending to a monthly average of $US800 from $US2,000 by cutting out expensive weekday lunches and minimising trips to the grocery store.
Angela Rozmyn used to spend upward of $US2,000 a month on food for her family of three.
It seemed justified, she told Business Insider. They live in Seattle, where local and sustainable produce, high-quality meat, and craft beer often command a higher price. Add in food delivery and last-minute trips to the grocery store, and it's easy to rack up a big bill, she said.
Rozmyn, 30, and her husband have plans to retire by age 45, which she chronicles on her blog, Tread Lightly, Retire Early. They're homeowners who both work in construction - she's a LEED accredited professional - and earn a combined income in the low six figures.
But spending more than double the US Department of Agriculture's recommended monthly food budget for a family of three - $US770 for a moderate-cost plan - was no help on their path to early retirement. Rozmyn said that by the time she returned to work from maternity leave in late 2016, she realised her habit of buying lunch and frequenting coffee shops had "spiraled out of control."
Rozmyn instituted a monthly $US150 lunch budget for herself. She ended up spending just $US87 during the first month and eventually went six months without spending a dime on lunch during the week.
"Now I average maybe twice a month, and only when there's a purpose - mini-date with my husband, lunch with a friend - not just because I didn't pack food or didn't feel like eating what I brought," she said.
But there was more work to do for Rozmyn and her husband to hit their goal savings rate of 50%.
Buying a home within walking distance of a grocery store was supposed to be a strategy for saving money, Rozmyn wrote in a blog post. Instead, they ended up at the store most nights picking up last-minute ingredients or prepared meals.
During a "no-spend November" challenge, Rozmyn went to the store once a week instead of every day and started using leftover ingredients in the pantry or freezer to get creative with meals. She also started baking from scratch rather than picking up packaged sweets from the store, as well as tending to a fresh vegetable garden and marinating meats at home.
Rozmyn said that from July 2017 to this January, her family's overall food spending - groceries, restaurants, and fast food - fell to $US888 from $US2,027, and they were eating better than ever, thanks to more home cooking.
"Now almost all of our eating-out expense happens on vacations and our weekend getaways, because one of our favourite ways to travel is to eat through new cities, but even that is purposeful now instead of a free-for-all," she said.
Rozmyn said her and her husband's savings rate is up to 48% now. Spending does increase during some months, she said, but things like an increase in property taxes or the cost of preschool are out of their control. Ultimately, it's about staying the course and making progress.
As Rozmyn wrote on her blog: "Anytime I'm frustrated with our spending this year, I have to remind myself to re-read my words from just one year ago to keep my annoyance in check; our worst month this year is still better than the average for all of the previous years."