We realized in September that our grocery bill had gotten a bit higher than we wanted. While we don’t do a detailed review/tracking of groceries each month we figured we would do one for October. This would allow us to see what the big spends were on, and if there was anything we could do to reign it in, or if this was the new standard. We also realized that we have 2 other months that we did this detailed tracking so we have some other months to compare it with. It’s amazing to see some things change dramatically and some items remain status quo. For instance, our $40/month yogurt tab does not seem to be going down because we all still eat a lot of yogurt.
I think the biggest thing we do to keep our grocery budgets low is make a list before we go to the store. We found when we go to any store without a list, we overbuy, and spending goes up. During the week, we add things to the list, and then we stick to the list. We usually make our big grocery trip on the weekend, and then sometimes mid-week for things like bananas or milk, but not staple items. We also are mindful of sales, but we don’t buy something if it isn’t something we usually purchase. Meat is usually low priced, but we almost exclusively buy red meat and pork when it’s on sale. Otherwise, it gets really expensive really quickly.
Most categories stayed in the same trend as our previous Oct 2014 analysis, and our January 2015 analysis. Some things seem high because we stock up due to being low/out of something, and some things seem anomalously low because we stocked up the month prior. Protein bars are the perfect example, with $33 spent last Oct. (stocking up due to sale), $0 spent in January (we were already stocked up) and $8 spent this month – average spend if you buy month to month and there isn’t a sale or reason to stock up.
The big drop I noticed is coffee. I started buying green coffee beans off of Amazon and I just use a Whirly-Pop popcorn popper to roast the beans. Whereas before we were spending ~$8-$10/lb, now it is under $6/lb. We still buy some pre-ground coffee, but it’s only $2-$3/lb so it isn’t a big hitter on the budget.
The other 3 biggest things that jumped out to me immediately, were desserts/adult snacks, frozen prepared meals, and drink mix and juice. Last time the drink mix got high, I just started making tea with teabags, and you can see the difference in January 2015 is pretty big. Almost a $25/month savings which adds up to about $300/year. It falls into the paying for convenience category though. I drink about 1-2 pitchers (~1 gallon) of tea/lemonade or what not each day, and the kids like lemonade, so we give them watered down versions of whatever is made up. It still adds up over a month, so we’ll probably watch that.
Alcohol was higher this month. We did a Pumpkin beer tasting when the in-laws came in for a visit. This is usually only about $9 to make a sampler 6 pack of your own, but the selection was poor, so Mrs. SSC opted for 4 six packs at ~$8-$9 each. We also had the same tasting at a pumpkin carving hangout with some friends of ours since we had more than enough. As you can see usually alcohol is low on the bill. Frozen prepared meals are another thing that fluctuates as we get some frozen meals and other things that are easy for the kids. Weekends, we make a lot of food from scratch, and we save left overs for them when we make dinner, but not every night can be nice like that, so back to paying for convenience. The healthier options in those categories aren’t the cheapest either, so it’s a trade-off. When we enact our Lifestyle Change, there will probably be not much in this category as we’ll have time to get to do more cooking again.
Desserts/Adult snacks were pretty high this month as well. Between the layoff situation, and heightened anxiety, we realized we’re both comfort eaters to some degree. I know I eat more chips than I should, but chips and salsa or guacamole is just SO delicious! Mrs. SSC loves ice cream, and since Blue Bell was out of the stores due to listeria issues (they’re back, but limited flavors) Mrs. SSC found gelato as the only other same quality ice cream substitute but it’s kind of spendy.
Beyond that, cheese was a big drop, not because we had a lot, but we’re just not eating as much lately. We’re doing more baking, so baking supplies, eggs, and the like were a little higher. Surprisingly, “meat” was down. I guess we’ve been a lot better about getting meat on sale and that is reflected here. Mrs. SSC does the grocery shopping almost exclusively now, and I’ll watch the kids. It’s way easier this way for both of us. However, Mrs. SSC knows nothing about meat, except chicken and fish, as that is the only type of meat she eats. So… she will buy what she sees is on sale. It’s a bit of a gamble on my part though, so like on cooking shows, I get to see what’s in the mystery basket each week, and figure out how to cook whatever she bought. It’s been good in that I am learning lots of different cooking techniques that make cheaper cuts of meat tender and delicious and it also breaks me out of my culinary ruts. So I count that as a win on a lot of levels.
Let me know if you have tips or tricks you use to keep your grocery budget in check.