Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Getting a grip on grocery spending

It still amazes me that most month's we are over $1000 in the food category. Now, this does include more than just food (cuz I'm too darn lazy to spend time trying to split up the categories of a receipt that has items from all sorts of categories). It includes pet food/supplies, household/cleaning supplies, and personal care items, and fast food/take out.

I do the bulk of the grocery shopping once a week - or at least that is always my goal, but I usually end up back at the stores at least a couple of more times during the week. So, for now, I'm trying to just keep the monthly spending at no more than $1000 and I'm writing down what I spend daily, in a notebook. So, $1000 a month works out to about $250 a week in the budget, most months (sometimes there are those months with 5 Fridays, my usual grocery shopping day, in them.). When I go do my main day of grocery shopping I usually end up spending around $150, sometimes a little less. The problem is I really do try to make a complete list of everything I think I'll need for the week - so why do I end up at the store so many more times?! ARGH!!

If I try to overestimate what we need/will eat I end up with excess and have to throw out (strawberries are a good example), but if I buy just the minimal amount I run out. I bought a 3lb container of strawberries, thinking this would be plenty for the week and they were gone as of Monday night. I bought the same amount of bottled water (DH won't drink our well water because he doesn't trust that the well owner does the "required" annual testing - since it's basically on the honor system in this county) as I usually do, but am almost out already. A warm week and lots of outside work is probably the reason he drank so much more.

This is where I am at so far in spending on food for this week (starting last Friday):

Main grocery shopping trip:  $110.86 (this is pretty low for me!)
Take out                                      15.09
Small grocery trip                       19.50
Take out                                       14.59 (I got DH and DS McD's the night DD and I went to eat        where she works)
Dinner out with DD                    12.19 ($8.19 meal -we had a free meal that we split, just had drinks and a side of hashbrown, plus $4 tip)
Dairy Queen                                9.59 (because I was out of strawberries and DH wanted a dessert snack last night)

Total so far out of the $250 budget - $181.82.  I do my main grocery shopping trip and come out of the store thinking 'woo hoo - I only spent $110 and I think I got everything I'll need for the week!'
I'll need to stop at the store today to pick up water, soda, strawberries and a loaf of bread, adding approximately another $16 to the total. If I can stay out of the store tomorrow, I will still have $53 leftover from my $250 budget. Not bad, considering I have apparently been spending more than that each week, but it frustrates me to make a list of everything I think we need and spend $110 and then find myself back at the store spending more money because we are out of things. I am hoping this exercise of writing all the expenses down will help me to plan my grocery list even better, so I am not making all these extra trips. I plan out meals, etc, but just either don't plan quantities right on misc things or just plain forget to add something to the list.

That extra $53 this week, that I didn't spend out of the $250 budget, is going toward my total failure at estimating DH's driver's license renewal! Due to him having a construction company for 20+ years, he's always had a CDL endorsement on his license. Even though he can't drive anymore, he is not willing to let that expire off his license. There is always hope in the back of his mind that the doctors will figure out something to help him and he could one day go back to work. That, plus that fact that our state now makes it damn tough to get a CDL without spending LOTS of money. Used to be you could just learn to drive from someone who had a truck (for free) and go take the test. Now you have to go to an approved driving school that costs min of $3000 before you can take the test. DH really wants DS to get his CDL (even race car drivers have need of it if they are pulling a race hauler) but we can't afford the $3000! Anyhow, I had budgeted $50 for DH to renew his license, totally forgetting that the CDL endorsement would cost more - his total driver's license renewal was $145!.


  1. I'm single and I spend $350/mo for all the same categories. I know I spend a lot on wine. Food is expensive.How often do you eat fast food? I do manage to go to the store only once a week but I do plan my meals ahead and know what I'll make all week. I subtract one lunch and two dinners that I usually eat out with friends. Could you buy popsicles or something the kids will like once the strawberries run out?

    1. We do fast food 1-2 (more often 2) times per week. Well, DH does 2 times, the rest of us do one time. But DH loves soft ice cream so we've been ending up getting Dairy Queen ice cream treats about once a week (though I do find coupons sometimes!). I looked into buying a soft icecream maker, but from what I read they sound like a lot of work.

      It's not the kids with the snacking issue - it's DH. The kids will eat whatever I have around, but DH is worse than a little kid!

  2. I had a thought about your spending on bottled water.
    Why don't you look into a reverse osmosis filtration system for your faucet? You can get one for about $200 or so now. That should take care of any supposed problems your DH thinks your water has, plus I hear that water using this system taste better.
    If you add up what you are spending on bottled water, this should pay for itself in short order.
    If I thought I had questionable water, I'd get one.....and we all know how parsimonious I am! lolz

    1. I second Sluggy about the reverse osmosis system. We have well water that was tested for bacteria and nitrates so we knew it was okay to drink but it tasted terrible. We always bought bottled water and it wad expensive and a royal pain. My husband is a plumber and he installed the system for us. We got a deluxe one (because plumbers don't like cheap stuff for their house) and it cost around $300 with all the tubing. But we now have water that tastes like bottled water from our tap.

      Also, what if you just decided not to go back to the store no matter what? Like buy some frozen fruit in case you run out or going a few days without bread if need be. When I have that attitude, we spend less and I don't really think we suffer because of it. Just make sure you menu plan for everything if you're having guests over.

    2. Add me to the reverse osmosis fans. We live in the suburbs and the water tastes fine to me, but DH is a water snob (tap water tastes funny) and would only drink it under extraordinary circumstancse. He did the research on systems and ours costed about $300, which DH also set-up and installed himself. I admit I still can't taste the difference, but he's happy and I certainly don't miss the gallons of water that used to live in our garage.

      I really wish I were more disciplined about the grocery shopping myself, so I have nothing to offer you there. It's just DH and I and we tend to be in the grocery store every couple of days for fresh produce and fruit. We also tend to eat primarily organic, so our grocery bill is embarrassingly huge for two adults.

    3. I'm going to look into this reverse osmosis system! DH mentioned one time he'd probably drink the water if we had some sort of filter system on it, but we didn't know what to look for. Part of the reason I buy bottled water, is DH drinks those little "to-go" tea packets that you just pour into a water bottle - like 5 a day, so it's convenient for him. For other water (like in my coffee maker) I buy a big jug of drinking water. If I try to put our tap water in, it it way too hard and plugs up the machines.

  3. We use to spend about what you spend on your groceries....But I did what you did with writing everything down... Then I started looking for sales which I didn't before... I buy my paper products once a month at Aldi's... Pet food once a month at Walmarts... then I food shop every 2 weeks... I plan a menu for those 2 weeks and also try new recipes every week... It takes a little time to adjust to the 2 weeks... I do go in between for milk and eggs only and take cash for it.. leave the debit card home.. because I always picked up extras...We buy 2 dozen bagels at Panera's every 6 to 8 weeks... I freeze them so we can have a nice bagel on weekends or a soup and bagel for dinner...

    We also put a filter on our faucet for drinking and cooking..its the filter you screw on the faucet.... but I agree about the filtration system may do a better job for the well water... My hubby likes Tea.... He would buy the bottled tea... So I started making all different kinds....I usually have two different teas going at once... We use to be pop drinkers and cut way back... it's water or tea or milk...and if we have been working in the garden that is when we like our pop....or a night we have pizza, pizza and pop is good....

    I slashed our pet, paper and food bill buy $300 the first month... at the beginning of each month I budget everything out and leave a little extra money since prices are going up...I try and use coupons when I can... Usually with cleaning products only... We don't suffer at all,,,,, I don't do without... The menu planning was the key for me to slash our food budget...

    With eating out I have a miscellaneous budget for eating out or movies each month... We rarely go to a movie... Russ usually goes with our adult kids to watch sci-fi... I would rather go to a fabric store... We decide on what we want to do each week if we want to eat our....what we don't use we leave that money alone and let it add up...Our anniversary is this month we have a nice size amount to have fun....

    We also get allowances....

    By writing things down to see where and how much you spend on things is going to blow your mind...especially with the bottled water...

    Hope this helps...

    1. I tried 2 week shopping and it was a fail - I was still always back at the store during the week. I must be a terrible planner! I do use coupons and shop sales all the time. I wish I could get DH and DS to cut back on drinking pop, but I've given up on that dream.

      Good job on getting your food bill down by $300 a month! I can't imagine what my monthly bill would be if I didn't shop sales and use coupons. We live in a very high cost of living area, so that doesn't help the situation any, and high sales tax on everything but food. (though pop, candy, etc are taxed)

      I think my main problem is not so much how much we are currently spending, it's that I'm not budgeting for it! I go to the store thinking I'll spend about $150 a week and in using I see I am really spending $250 (or more). When I'd write out my monthly budget I was putting down like $700 a month for food,etc and then wondering why I didn't have the money left in my account that I thought I would! Now that I am more aware, I am budgeting better, but I'd still like to bring the cost down by not wasting so much food.

  4. I think, when you have kids (especially the ones that try to make their own recipes :), you spend more and go back to the store more. I usually shop once a week but then go back for milk and produce. But I do write a menu every week, and plan around it. Maybe, now that your DH does so well with eating leftovers, you would be able to lower your bill a bit :)

    1. That's what I'm hoping, Lena! Use of the leftover food and cut down on waste and spending.

  5. I spend a bunch on groceries too, but have had to really watch it. My cupboards are not stocked as they used to be!