In August I shared our trial grocery budget with you. We decided to watch our food habits more closely to see how much we were really spending. We decided to budget $560 for groceries for the month, giving us roughly $140 to spend each week.
For fun, here is 2012 Gallup poll in which Americans answered how much they spend each week on food.
I started off very determined. I saw our goal and knew we could hit it, so I went shopping for week 1. I got some great food and the trip totaled $140.07. All seemed well until I had to make a quick stop at Harris Teeter on Friday for some essentials to get us through the weekend, bringing our week total up to $176. Yikes.
Before tracking our budget, I didn’t realize I stopped by grocery stores and farmers market to supplement our food supply as often as I did and I needed to better account for that in my initial grocery haul.
The next week, to save money, I meal planned specifically to include a previously frozen meal and a vegetarian dinner.
While watching my budget I realized I often overlook meals and staples and I have on hand in the freezer and pantry. Using these helped me clean out food that might have been wasted, thus saving money.
At one point I realized I was buying things I wouldn’t normally buy in order to save money. I decided this was not the point of our experiment and instead bought the products that I wanted my family to eat to get a realistic picture of what we usually spend.
I realized that we don’t usually think of wine and beer as included in the grocery budget, but these items ended up costing around $75 and eating onto our “food” budget.
While I was being so intent on planning every meal for the week at home, I ended up being much more strict on eating out than I needed to be. We more than halved our eating out bill, which ended up saving us a ton. It’s amazing how a hot tea here or a quick sandwich there adds up.
However, I realized that I do need to factor in 1-2 meals out a week. It works with our budget and I find by Saturday I am burnt out and really appreciate the eating out treat to help mentally separate the weekends from the weeks.
My favorite money saving tips I stand by are:
-shopping more than one store to get the best deals
-taking advantage of the store-savings card
-planning at least 1 vegetarian meal a week
-using what is in your freezer and pantry
-meal prep (prepare dry bulk bin foods instead of buying them canned, wash and cut fruits and vegetables, etc)
-look for alternative protein sources, like black beans, hemp seeds for smoothies, and edamame
-use coupons when you can, but don’t waste hours of your time to save $1.00. This one may be controversial, but it’s simply what works for me at this time.
-make your kids’ snacks (like lara balls) instead of buying prepackaged, kid-specific snacks
this week’s Harris Teeter cart
So what were the results? Again, the target grocery budget for the month was $560. Our total grocery bill for the month clocked in at $676.13, an overage of $116.13.
I feel like I learned a lot and have a better sense of an appropriate target for our food bill. I’m more mindful of what I’m buying and we have readjusted our grocery budget for September to $650.
To share another fun fact, did you know that Americans spend less on groceries (by percentage) than many other countries?
Why do you think that is?