I Tried the “6 to 1” Method and I’ve Never Dreaded Grocery Shopping Less (and Saved So Much Money)

published Apr 21, 2024
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Produce in Trader Joe's grocery cart.
Credit: Meg Asby

No one is more shocked by my adult-onset frugality than my parents. There were exactly zero childhood signs that I would one day stick to a budget, thrift everything, and even cut coupons. Expert saver that I (now) am, I’m rarely surprised by a new way to save money, but when I saw a recent TikTok about the 6 to 1 grocery shopping method, it stopped me in my tracks. 

Quick Overview

6 to 1 Grocery Shopping Method

In Chef Will Coleman’s 6 to 1 grocery shopping method, shoppers purchase six vegetables, five fruits, four protein sources, three starches, two sauces or spreads, and one item just for fun. This system simplifies shopping, reduces waste, and saves money.

What Is the 6 to 1 Grocery Shopping Method?

Chef Will Coleman (@chefwillco) is the creator of the 6 to 1 grocery shopping method. In the TikTok viewed over 900,000 times, Coleman explains, “We’re all trying to save money this year, and my 6 to 1 grocery shopping method … is super, super simple … you grab six veggies, five fruits, four proteins, three starches, two sauces or spreads, and one fun thing for yourself.” 

The viral video offers a simplified alternative to the traditional ways to reduce grocery bills, such as menu planning, sticking to the list, coupon cutting, sale shopping, and/or eating at your parents’ house (just me?). 

We reached out to Coleman to get his real talk on the viral grocery shopping method. “The 6-1 method helps people reclaim time spent shopping and navigate rising grocery costs by shopping intentionally and prioritizing fresh ingredients and meals made with whole ingredients,” Coleman tells The Kitchn.

How to Shop, the 6 to 1 Way

I arrived at Trader Joe’s with no list, and rolled into the produce section to choose six veggies. This sounds like a lot — “You lost me at 6 veggies,” one commenter says — but it goes fast. Once I included garlic and onion, I was down to four vegetables, and because this trip is meant to last a week, that felt reasonable to me. I chose Trader Joe’s Southwest Chopped Salad for something easy, plus mushrooms, Brussels sprouts, and snacking peppers. Yes, peppers are technically a fruit, but I decided this wasn’t a botany exam.

Next up, I chose five fruits, beginning with bananas, lemons, and avocados. I also grabbed grape tomatoes and some frozen raspberries (yes, frozen and canned foods count). I had olive oil on hand, but I totally would have snuck it into this category if I needed it. 

I admit to some angst about the four proteins. I needed milk, but did that count? Should I get dried beans or just nuts since that’s easier? In the end I left with bacon, tofu, cashews, and frozen shrimp. 

Credit: Meg Asby

For my three starches, I grabbed cereal for my kids, pappardelle pasta, and jasmine rice. This way, I knew I could, at the very least, create a rice bowl out of my random selections. 

I tried two sauces that were new to me: Trader Joe’s Bruschetta Sauce and Crunchy Chili Onion Oil. You’re not likely to have space in the list to purchase the building blocks to make your own sauces and spreads, so I’d say this step is pretty important.

Choosing one fun thing was hard, but buying only a single treat made it feel extra special, too. I picked “crew fave” Pecan Kringle, and it tasted like a fancy Pop-Tart; it was nostalgic and delicious. 

Credit: Meg Asby

Why the 6 to 1 Method Is a Game-Changer

It saves money (without sacrificing fresh foods). 

I almost never leave Trader Joe’s without spending $150, but my total on this trip was only $87.63. For a cart full of fresh produce and protein, I’d say that’s pretty incredible. I used to save money by eating pancakes the last week of the month when funds were almost exhausted, but never again.

It eliminates food waste.

Limiting the number of items in my cart does two things: I don’t overbuy on produce and I actually use the fruits and vegetables during the week because that’s the bulk of what I bought. I can’t say, “Let’s just toast bagels for dinner,” because I didn’t buy any

It limits mental labor. 

There’s no list to make or menus to plan. I buy what looks good in the store, and at home I simply search, “recipe with pasta, mushrooms, and bacon.” Boom: Dinner plans done. 

Credit: Meg Asby

It simplifies the math. 

Counting items is much easier than adding prices, and I still saved money — in fact, I saved more than usual. 

It’s fun and fast. 

The 6 to 1 method gamifies shopping. I love choosing what to keep instead of trying to resist impulse purchases. It’s also fast. I was in and out of the store in a half hour, which never happens. 

You can make it your own.

The 6 to 1 method is totally customizable. For my family, I definitely need to add a dairy and beverage category. For a large household, simply adjust it to buy more of each item to feed more people.

Keep in mind that this is a way to save money by limiting the number of groceries you buy. If you don’t need to limit your purchases right now, then feel free to fill your cart to bursting with these Trader Joe’s must haves

But if you want to simplify shopping, reduce waste, and spend less (time and money), then this method is definitely worth a try. As Coleman says in the video, “This makes grocery shopping way easier, way … cheaper, and you get in and out so you’re not there all day long.”

This post originally appeared on Apartment Therapy. See it there: I Tried the “6 to 1” Method and I’ve Never Dreaded Grocery Shopping Less