Advertisement

I Cut My Food Expenses In Half Using The Viral "6-To-1" Grocery Method — Here's How

If you overspend on groceries (or if you think you're overspending on your groceries), I've got some good-ish news for you: You're not alone. According to a recent Census Bureau survey, the average American family spends about $270 on groceries per week, which climbs to $331 for families with children.

Family with a shopping cart picking out vegetables in a grocery store aisle
Andresr / Getty Images

Of course, we now commonly see higher grocery budgets chalked up to factors like inflation and supply chain issues, but I'd like to bring a third potential reason to the table: grocery shopping is, in general, hard as hell. Overbuying for yourself or your family is ridiculously easy these days, and there's no manual on how to do it the "right" way.

To be clear, rising grocery costs are not OK. When the increase in grocery prices outpaces the last four years of inflation by 19%, we've got a problem that can't be fixed by individual consumers "shopping smarter." But until we see that much-needed progress, it can never hurt to sharpen our own shopping skills.

As a potential solution to our collective grocery cost malaise, chef and TikTok creator Will Coleman went viral when he pitched the internet the "6-to-1" grocery method, which claims to make grocery shopping easier, more intuitive, and more affordable. And as someone who's trying hard to spend less on food in 2024, it immediately piqued my interest.

"Whenever you go grocery shopping — Trader Joe's, Whole Foods, I don't care if you go to Erewhon — use the 6-to-1 method," Will said in his viral video, which has now been viewed over a million times. "You buy six veggies, five fruits, four proteins, three starches, two sauces or spreads, and one fun thing for yourself." From there, you combine the ingredients (along with pantry staples and seasonings) as you see fit to create as many meals as possible.

Person gesturing, wearing a striped shirt, with text overlay about grocery shopping tips
Chef Will Coleman / Via tiktok.com

According to Will, the 6-to-1 grocery method offers several key benefits compared to however you're currently shopping for groceries. "The 6-to-1 method was born out of the need to streamline my grocery shopping experience," he told BuzzFeed. "Frustrated with spending excessive time in stores, wasting groceries, and exceeding my budget, I designed this method to simplify the process and address these challenges."

As evidenced by the outpouring of thankful comments on his TikToks, Will clearly isn't alone in his grocery-shopping frustrations.

Person smiling, with text "my 6 to 1 grocery shopping explained" above
Chef Will Coleman / Via tiktok.com

But after going viral, it didn't take long for other commenters to air their qualms and questions, which included everything from the quantities within each category to how the method translates to households larger than two. Will addressed these in a follow-up video, with his main takeaway being that the 6-to-1 method can and should be customized.

Person holding up hand with text "6 to 1 METHOD FAQ's" above

Since his initial viral hit, Will has continued to share videos depicting numerous applications of the 6-to-1 method across different stores and circumstances. He's even created one-off videos highlighting his favorite go-to ingredients across each category.

A person points to broccoli in a grocery store with caption "My favorite vegetables to cook with during January!"
Chef Will Coleman / Via tiktok.com

So, with a wealth of resources at my disposal and a personal goal to seriously minimize my grocery spending this year, I decided to try the 6-to-1 method for myself to find out if it's the cost-saving grocery method that everyone needs these days or just a passing TikTok trend that won't stand the test of time.

Here's what my experience was like, including how much money I spent, how many meals I made, and whether or not I'd recommend this method to all my fellow budget-conscious home cooks out there.

Fresh vegetables on display with text "My 6-to-1 Ingredients."
Alexander Spatari / Getty Images / BuzzFeed

Before we get into all the juicy stuff, allow me to start by offering some key details about my own cooking situation, in case it helps to give some more color to my decisions:

• Most of the time, I'm only cooking for two adults — In my house, it's just my husband and me. I guess our dog technically gets bites of People Food every now and then, but as a non-rent-paying member of the household, he doesn't get a say on the grocery list. (Sorry, Homer.)

• We don't tend to eat "planned" breakfasts — If I'm hungry in the morning, I'll have some yogurt and granola with my coffee or an egg and toast, but making a full-out "recipe" for breakfast is pretty uncommon for us.

• Leftovers basically make our world go round — Since most recipes out there are portioned for four people, we tend to cook dinner recipes as-is and eat the remaining two portions the next day for lunch. Even though I primarily work from home these days, the thought of making lunch every day makes my head spin, so I try to rely on leftover-friendly dinners as much as possible.

• I often order groceries online to save money and time — The grocery store two blocks from our NYC apartment is criminally expensive, so we usually reserve it for one-off odds and ends. For cheaper groceries, we're left with online shopping or a 30-minute subway journey to Trader Joe's. With round-trip subway fare at nearly $6 these days, paying a small delivery charge and tip almost always feels worth it; I end up saving hours of time, avoid lugging groceries onto the train, and even find that I make cheaper grocery purchases since I can edit my cart in real-time.

With these realities in mind, I set out to buy my groceries — or, in my case, open up my phone to "browse the aisles" online.

Since one of the main reported advantages of the 6-to-1 method is making grocery shopping quicker, I did my best to choose whatever looked (or sounded) good to me while browsing each section instead of pre-planning the recipes that I'd make.

I love nothing more than trying new recipes, but sometimes the reality of choosing a handful I've had my eyes on and turning them into a long grocery list is enough to make me say, "Yep, takeout it is." So, I loved how fast and easy the 6-to-1 method made my process for actually choosing what I wanted to buy.

First, my six veggies. Will told BuzzFeed that onions, garlic, and greens (I chose baby arugula) are his go-to veggies when shopping the 6-to-1 way, so I started there and rounded things out with broccoli, cabbage, and green beans.

Assorted fresh vegetables including arugula, broccoli, an onion, garlic, cabbage, and green beans on a kitchen counter

To all the "six vegetables is way too many!" commenters on Will's video: I'd like to state for the record that once garlic and onions were out of the way, picking four additional veggies felt extremely doable!

Ross Yoder

Next, five fruits. Before you scroll to the comments to call me out, yes, bell peppers, butternut squash, and tomatoes are technically fruits! Actually, after watching many of Will's 6-to-1 hauls, I'll note that he also tends to opt for "fruits that people think are veggies" instead of standard fruits like apples and bananas. I also grabbed frozen peppers instead of fresh ones since he recommends choosing frozen or canned goods when it makes sense to do so.

Groceries on counter: Three Pepper Blend bag, small tomato pack, coconut milk can, butternut squash, two lemons

And since I grab a can of coconut milk on every grocery run I do, I also added that to this category since it felt the least wrong...though still not 100% right. IDK, I stand by my decision regardless.

Ross Yoder

I chose chicken thighs, eggs, extra-firm tofu, and a bag of red lentils for my four proteins.

Various grocery items including organic chicken, pasture-raised eggs, extra firm tofu, and red lentils
Ross Yoder

For my three starches, I went with items I always keep at the ready in my pantry: tortillas, pasta, and rice. The logic? You can pretty much pasta-ify, rice bowl-ify, or taco-ify any ingredient in a pinch. And that's me speaking from experience, of course.

Packages of flour tortillas, Rummo pasta, and Indian Basmati rice on a countertop
Ross Yoder

In the "sauce and spread" category, I opted for a Calabrian chile stir-in sauce and a jar of Momofuku's chili crunch, which can basically make anything taste delicious.

Two jars of chili sauce on a wooden surface, one upright and one upside down
Ross Yoder

And last but not least, I chose a box of frozen veggie potstickers as my "one fun thing."

Package of 365 Whole Foods Market Vegetable Pot Stickers on a wooden surface
Ross Yoder

With all the items added up and tallied, my grocery haul set me back $79.65, though I paid a bit more in the end after the delivery fee and tip were factored in.

Screenshot of a mobile shopping app highlighting the $79 total with an arrow

I'm used to spending well over $100 on a week's worth of groceries, so I was pretty impressed with this figure. I'll admit that this list would've been $15–20 cheaper at a more budget-friendly grocery store, like Trader Joe's or Aldi...but sometimes convenience is worth the extra cash!

Amazon
Assorted fresh vegetables on display with the text "The Meals" overlaying the image
Alexander Spatari / Getty Images / BuzzFeed

On a regular shopping run, I'll normally purchase ingredients for five dinners (that usually become five leftover lunches), which accounts for one takeout dinner and a restaurant night each week. I'll be honest: My 6-to-1 haul felt like it wouldn't even come close to producing five recipes — but lo and behold, I wound up with eight different dinners (!!!) for a whopping 28 total servings of food. Here's what I was able to create.

Also, FWIW, know that there will be a few cameos from odds and ends that I already had in my pantry and fridge. This isn't cheating, I swear! Actually, Will told BuzzFeed that a well-stocked pantry of essentials complements the 6-to-1 method.

1. Coconut Curry Potsticker Soup with Cabbage

A bowl of chicken noodle soup with lime garnishes on a wooden board next to a blue bowl

2. Any-Ingredient Egg Tacos

A person holding a plate with two stuffed tortillas, possibly tacos, filled with a mix of vegetables and protein

3. Spicy Calabrian Chile & Chicken One-Pot Pasta

Cooked pasta with sauce and herbs in a skillet on a stove
Cooked pasta with sauce and herbs in a skillet on a stove
A person is holding a bowl of penne pasta topped with grated cheese; a kitchen stove and utensils are in the background
A person is holding a bowl of penne pasta topped with grated cheese; a kitchen stove and utensils are in the background

Ross Yoder

Using the standard 1:2 pasta-to-water ratio for one-pot pasta, this haphazardly assembled meal easily became the best thing I ate all week. Actually, my husband said it was the best, so naturally, I've already added all these ingredients to my grocery list for next week. I'm easily swayed! As a true one-pot meal I made from beginning to end in my handy Dutch oven, I think my favorite part was how easy this dinner was to clean up afterward.

How to make it: Place a Dutch oven (or another large, heavy-bottom pot) over medium-high heat. Once hot, drizzle in olive oil and add three boneless skinless chicken thighs seasoned with salt and pepper. Sear for 4–5 minutes on each side or until a golden brown crust develops. Remove the chicken thighs to a plate and reserve — it's OK if they're not totally cooked through yet.

Sauté half of a diced yellow onion in the rendered fat. Once soft and translucent, add four cups of water or stock (I used water with Better Than Bouillon) along with the chicken thighs. Then, stir in one pound of pasta, a cup of Calabrian chile sauce (you can substitute with your favorite tomato-based sauce), two tablespoons of cream cheese, and a generous sprinkle of salt and pepper. If the cream cheese makes me a Pinterest-coded slow cooker girlie, so be it. I also added a hefty sprinkle of Trader Joe's incredible new aglio e olio seasoning, which you could substitute with any Italian spice blend you like.

Simmer over medium heat, stirring frequently for 13–15 minutes or until the pasta is al dente, adding splashes of water as needed if the mixture starts to look dry. Remove the chicken thighs from the pot and shred the meat. Return the shredded chicken to the pasta, along with a handful of baby arugula, and stir in until wilted. Spoon into bowls and top with grated parmesan cheese, if you have it.

4. Roasted Soy Tofu & Veggie Rice Bowls

A hand holds a bowl of rice with roasted broccoli, carrots, and tofu cubes, garnished with seeds and lime wedge

5. Crispy Leftover Fried Rice

Person holding a bowl of fried rice with assorted vegetables

6. Chicken Burrito Bowls with Citrusy Slaw

A plate of food with rice, grilled chicken, sautéed vegetables, shredded lettuce, and diced tomatoes next to a container of salsa

7. Soy-Seared Tofu with Air-Fried Green Beans & Tomatoes

A meal in a clear container with grilled asparagus, cherry tomatoes, and two slices of tofu

8. Dal-Inspired Spiced Red Lentils

Bowl of rice with lentil curry and a side of naan bread
Various fresh vegetables on display with a large label "The Results:" across the front
Alexander Spatari / Getty Images / BuzzFeed

Ultimately, my 6-to-1 haul lasted me a little over one week since we also enjoyed a dinner out and had a few takeout meals here and there. TBH, I was wildly surprised at just how easily I was able to stretch a single sub-$100 grocery haul into eight separate dishes that produced a whopping 28 servings of food.

This feat feels even more impressive when you compare my 6-to-1 grocery run to the "normal" budget-minded haul I'm used to doing. When I finally ran out of groceries, I shopped according to my usual strategy where I buy ingredients for around five meals at a time. Even at a "cheap" grocery store like Trader Joe's, my total came in nearly $40 higher than my 6-to-1 run.

Hand holding a Trader Joe's receipt listing various grocery items and their prices, with a total of $117.43 at the bottom
Ross Yoder

I'm a cook, not a mathemetician, but according to my calculations, this actually means that I saved a ton of money using the 6-to-1 method. On average, each serving of food I made from my pricier TJ's haul clocked in at about $5.85 per serving, while 6-to-1 servings were about half the cost at $2.85 per serving.

So, yes, it's very evident that Will's viral shopping method has the potential to save you a decent chunk of change on your next grocery run — but actually, I found some of my biggest takeaways to have very little to do with money itself.

Variety of fresh vegetables on display with a "Takeaways" sign at the bottom
Alexander Spatari / Getty Images / BuzzFeed

✅ I LIKED: How streamlined, easy, and approachable the 6-to-1 method made my grocery shopping process.

Walking into a grocery store with a predetermined list can feel like a daunting task, but Will's method (whether you're in a grocery store IRL or shopping online) makes the process a lot more manageable. If you're in a physical store, the categories also follow the layout of most grocery stores, so you won't have to backtrack when you realize you forgot that sprig of rosemary as you saunter down the freezer aisle.

IMO, starting with ingredients instead of "recipes" also allows you to experiment with new items that you might not have otherwise reached for, which will organically shake up your meal rotation. It's a fun way to learn and implement what's in season, too.

🤔 KEEP IN MIND: If you're a beginner cook or have less experience "creating" dishes out of whatever you have in your kitchen, you might find yourself struggling to turn a bunch of assorted items into a cohesive meal — but you have plenty of resources at your disposal.

Though I'd never consider myself a true chef, I do think I'm a pretty good cook — but even I found myself struggling once or twice to come up with interesting meal ideas out of the ingredients I had on hand. Frankly, I don't think that's an altogether bad thing; I tend to overcomplicate everything I do, including cooking, so I quite enjoyed the forced return to "protein, veggie, carb" for dinner. Still, I'd minimize your expectations for turning around consistent A+ meals using this method.

If you do run into roadblocks, don't forget that you have the internet at your disposal. A quick Google search for "What can I make with X, Y, and Z?" can work wonders, and it's easy to find simplified instructions for cooking just about any ingredient you have across a variety of methods. Will also recently published an e-book (which you can purchase for $10) that offers plenty of suggestions for both your grocery list and meal plan if you find yourself stuck. Heck, you can even use an AI recipe generator to come up with some sort of idea for how you should make your dinner. AI might not be the surefire answer to all of your cooking problems and questions, but I have found that it's a great place to source baseline inspiration for using up lots of assorted ingredients.

✅ I LIKED: How produce-heavy my meals were compared to the dishes I normally opt for.

With 11 separate fruits and veggies, I constantly found myself thinking, "How can I add one to this meal?" as I cooked through my haul, and as a result, I found that the produce elements of each meal were often my favorite. As someone who's trying to cook fewer recipes with meat this year, I love that it forced me to stretch my proteins across multiple meals. That stretching, in turn, very much lessened my reliance on meat for the week I used Will's 6-to-1 method.

To illustrate my point: Normally, I'd turn a five-pack of chicken thighs into four servings of food, but here, I actually turned that same amount of chicken into eight servings by focusing on other food groups first, like the succulent peppers and onions and crunchy cabbage slaw in my chicken burrito bowls.

🤔 KEEP IN MIND: It's not all or nothing. Frankly, you could incorporate elements of the 6-to-1 method into your existing grocery shopping practices to make sure you always have ingredients on hand for last-minute meals, which is likely how I'll be approaching my grocery runs in the future.

I can't lie, y'all: I loved cutting my grocery budget in half, and I loved that this simplified approach to cooking helped to make dinner feel like less of a production every night...but I missed recipes!

Moving forward, I actually think I'll balance the 6-to-1 method with a much more abbreviated version of my process of picking a handful of recipes to cook every week. For me, I actually think something like "5-to-2" — five veggies, four fruits, three proteins, and two starches — could make a lot of sense, especially if I'm choosing ingredients that have a long shelf (or freezer) life. Coupled with shopping for no more than two dinner recipes a week, I think I'll save some money and simplify my meals, all while continuing to cook through all the new and exciting recipes that I look forward to on a regular basis.

Overall, I wouldn't hesitate to recommend Will's 6-to-1 grocery method to anyone out there who's trying to spend less at the grocery store. Actually, I think pretty much anyone could learn something from doing the 6-to-1 method at least once; in my case, I realized that I could really afford to simplify my weekly meal plans, so there's no telling what you could learn, too.

For more recipe inspiration and grocery shopping tips, you can follow Chef Will Coleman on TikTok and Instagram.