Becoming Debt Free in 2009

November 13, 2008

Talking About the Grocery Budget – Again

Filed under: Budget,Food,Shopping — ambercouric @ 10:02 am
Tags: , ,

Saving Money 101 – I FAILED.  Budgeting 101 – I FAILED.  Reality Check 101 – FAILED AGAIN.

OK, so I sat down and calculated all the debits for October that were for the grocery store.   I also calculated the Target spending.

Remember each month I “budget” on paper $400 for groceries.  I also have a miscellaneous budget that would cover the Target items.

The total spent

Grocery store – $689.73

Target – $108.47 (I am estimating that about $40 of this was for grocery items)

Total for groceries for one month – $729.73 -WOW JUST WOW

I would have never guessed that we spent so much at the grocery store.  I knew we spent more than what I would budget but we almost doubled it.  I know this is the reason most personal finance people say keep a list of everything you spend for a month.  My husband often asked me to keep a list of the dollars spent on Diet Coke. Wow just wow.  I can’t believe it.  Can you tell I am shocked?

Unfortunately, I’m one of those people who thinks that certain things don’t apply.  You know the kind that think they don’t need to keep up with every penny spent.  The person who thinks they do a good job of shopping and they don’t need a price book.  Wow, I’m just WRONG.

You know the sad thing is this is only food for four people.  I buy a special diet food for my dog that is not at the grocery store.  I have a ton of miscellaneous health and beauty aids, laundry detergent, etc. that were all purchased from CVS months ago so none of that stuff is included.  This also didn’t include the two pizza takeout orders.

Oh, the funny thing is – we actually eat beans and rice.

For November up to this point I have spent $203 and have plenty of food but will need to go on Sunday for more milk, bread, cereal and that sort of stuff.  My guess is I will spend at least $75.  At this point I am estimating my grocery bill for November to be between $350-$400.

Sorry, this post is rambling but I am still in SHOCK. 

I have two teenagers and DH.  DH and older son are both over 6 feet tall.  DH weighs about 190, DS is a runner and eats tons -he weighs 145, and my younger DS is 5’7 and about 100 pounds.  I know these are skinny people but they can EAT.  We don’t eat a lot of processed food because of my allergies.  The boys do like their frozen pizza, cheese sticks, and such.  I also have to buy a few things that are very expensive compared to the average family.  Rice milk $5 half gallon, Rice noodles $4 pound, rice flour and a few other things like that.  DH and the boys eat the regular stuff so the special food is only for me. 

I just can’t believe it.  Absolutely, can’t believe it.  No wonder I don’t balance the checkbook.  I would absolutely have a coronary every month.  Just think how fast I could be debt free if I would go through all my expenses like this. 

Now for your input.  How much do you spend on groceries?  Point me in the direction of lowering my food bill.  HELP.



  1. Ouch! I feel your pain. For our family of three (and the smallest is only 3), we spend $140/week. We rarely go over, I’m happy to say.

    The less visits to the store, the less I spend. So I make up a meal plan, a list from that plan, and try to only go once a week. If there’s leftovers, we can splurge on a tub of ice cream on the weekend if we want.

    Sounds like you’re on track for a better month though, so keep it up!

    Comment by MadeMistakes — November 13, 2008 @ 11:19 am

  2. Hi there-Well one good thing is Novembers bill should be a good couple of hundred dollars shorter than last month with any luck. I only go grocery shopping once a week and budget £45 a week. I shop at Aldis, which is fast becoming popular in the UK as it is cheaper than a lot of other supermarkets and still good quality food. The reason they can charge less is they don’t offer brand choice, just 1 brand of something and thats it. My bill at other supermarkets was a good £20 extra a week. We have started to use long life milk and buy enough for a whole week, so I don’t have to buy milk in an extra shopping trip. Likewise, I buy 2-3 loaves and freeze what I don’t need. I also buy what we will eat, rather than be tempted by deals which look good, but are just more money to the bill in reality. You’ve made really good steps-in one month, you’ve achieved so much, so don’t lose sight of this, well done!

    Comment by sharon rose — November 13, 2008 @ 12:54 pm

  3. I think it must be the teenage sons! Boys can eat so much, especially if they are athletes. I’ve never counted how much I’ve spent on food each month, but I bet it’s hundreds just for 2 of us.

    Comment by Movingonup! — November 13, 2008 @ 1:20 pm

  4. I was shocked at how much we spent at the corner store when I first started my blog, we saved a lot by tracking it, shopping at aldi and getting back to making do instead of running to the shop when we ran out of something.
    We spend a lot less mainly because we have cut down on eating red meat, eating big meals every night and buying junk food (for me it was chips and chocolate!)

    Comment by Louise — November 13, 2008 @ 1:22 pm

  5. Just for you I went and added it up, I confess I don’t track the total. For October we spend $35 eating out and $515 at the grocery store! I thought it was a little lower than that, we’re only a family of two. But, food prices are a lot higher here than much of the country. I grew up in Virginia and still go back to visit, the same box of crackers there will be $0.60 to $1.00 cheaper compared to california. We tend to have better prices on produce since a lot of it is local, but everything else is higher. It would be interesting to do a project comparing prices around the country for the same item.

    Comment by Miss M — November 13, 2008 @ 1:56 pm

  6. I am feeding 2 adults. I spend $70/week. ($280/month – I used to spend upwards $500)

    The trick i found that helps is shopping at home first. Plan your meals based on what you already have in your cupboards, pantry and freezer. You’d be surprised what you already have on hand. 🙂

    I also bring a calculator to the store with me. I know, it sounds tacky, but it works! That way there are no surprises when i get to the cashier. 🙂

    Good luck!!! 🙂

    Comment by frugal dreamer — November 13, 2008 @ 2:59 pm

  7. This month is going to be much better for us. As long as I stay out of the store. I seem to be doing pretty good at that.

    @Made Mistakes – DH likes leftovers. I like leftover soup and beans but I won’t eat any left over meat.

    @ Sharon Rose – we have an Aldi’s but most of the produce and fresh food is not very good. I have heard there are really good Aldi’s out there but ours isn’t one of them. They do have a few items that I really like so I should make a trip over there to stock up on those items.

    @Movingonup – During the summer my older son would get up at 3 in the morning to eat. I wonder what age they actually start to get full.

    @Louise – here you go mentioning Aldi’s too. I must go try them again. Also, our grocery stores are like the corner store they are so close.

    @Miss M – thanks for adding your totals up. I agree that it would be interesting to see the difference in certain items across the country. I am in SC in a low cost of living area. I’ll do a post and list 10 items and maybe others from around the country can check in with the prices.

    @Frugal Dreamer – I am a little like a human calculator. I can usually add the total up within about 50 cents even on a large order. The problem with the last trip was DS was adding to the cart. Planning is a whole nother thing I just haven’t got the hang of yet.

    Comment by ambercouric — November 13, 2008 @ 3:25 pm

  8. I discovered something similar of my spending habits when I did my initial analysis at the beginning of the year before getting on my budget plan. While trying to answer the question “Where did all my money in 2007 go?” The answer was two-fold. Apparently I ate most of it and traveled on the rest.

    Food was the biggest thing I could lose control of in terms of spending. I have 4 grocery stores within 3 miles of my house. My worst habit was swinging by the store and picking up something on the way home because I didn’t feel like eating whatever was in the house.

    So, since food was my biggest struggle, it also seemed like one of my biggest opportunities. It was easy to cut out travel because I don’t HAVE to buy plane tickets, but food was different. Food was going to take a plan.

    When I calculated my budget, I decided to try a month on $200. Because I’m big on keeping things simple, I wrapped anything purchased at the grocery store in that budget. Trash bags, cleaners, food, etc. and eating out as well. Pet supplies are separate – I have $60/month set aside for my dog (she’s small). Anyway, the first month I did it, I literally took $200 in cash and refused to let myself spend more than that. When the food envelope was empty, I stopped eating out and started getting really creative with what was in the pantry.

    It was HARD that first month, and I’ll be honest and say that I’ve not always been able to stay that strict. Some months is just downright impossible, but I still have tried to not go over budget by more than $50 because it is still the only way I’ve found to really curb my food spending. My sister & I have this conversation a lot – I keep encouraging her to try giving herself a strict limit and sticking to it for just one month, but she’s still not convinced.

    Now she’s married and I’m not, but I think that the struggle is still the same – keeping the food spending under control. Now I actually don’t think that $600 for a family of 4 is that bad (my sister has been spending $600 for just her & her husband which is insane!), but if you feel you need to trim it down, just try doing the cash-and-when-it’s-gone-it’s-gone approach for one month and see what happens!

    Comment by Deb — November 13, 2008 @ 4:00 pm

  9. We spend $200-$250 on grocery money each month for two adults and two cats. That includes garbage bags and cat litter and cleaning supplies and such too. We also only go to the store every two weeks.

    Some tricks/advice I (try to) use:
    Use things up, don’t let it go bad.
    Eat your leftovers.
    Set limits on things – for example, only one snack food for me and one for him
    If we do have more snacks or something in the house I try to finish one before opening the other. Sometimes I’ll eat the new thing and let the old get stale – waste.
    Make large meals of filling food that reheat well – spaghetti sauce, lasagna, homemade pizza, stews and soups, pot roast. Freeze some before you get tired of eating it and it goes bad.

    Comment by Slinky — November 13, 2008 @ 4:49 pm

  10. Just to add one more bit onto this – I concur with Slinky’s advice, and was going to say that since I started setting strict limits on my grocery spending, I have also noticed that I shop WAY differently (e.g. always have a list, only buy certain products when they’re on sale, etc.) I haven’t totally segwayed into Coupon Girl yet, but I’m getting there and do generally have a handful on me for items I buy regularly anyway. Like Slinky, I also go only once every two weeks – no in-between trips. There’s also an awesome site I would recommend – She’s got great suggestions and a helpful weekly email that I love.

    Comment by Deb — November 13, 2008 @ 5:20 pm

  11. I feel your pain. The day before I do groceries, I draw up a list of meals for the next week based on 1. what I have on hand and 2. What is on sale in the grocery flyers. Then I make a list of what I need to get. I take the list and cash shopping with me. I can’t spend it if I don’t have it, so when the cash runs out, I am finished shopping. $400 for a family of four with 2 teenage boys sounds quite ambitious. I am in Canada, and the Canada food guide says that food to feed one teenage boy for a month should cost about $200CAD. I have a family of four (my two kidlets are much younger than yours) and I pay an average of $150/week including household and toiletries. Don’t be so hard on yourself, teenage boys eat incredible amounts of food (I have seen my brother eat) 🙂

    Comment by Money Minder — November 13, 2008 @ 5:40 pm

  12. Never discount teenage/20ish males–they do eat alot. When our youngest son moved out we suddenly had leftovers! I had to learn to cook for normal people.

    Comment by Pokeberry Mary — November 13, 2008 @ 8:46 pm

  13. Now you know, you are off to the right start. Just being aware of what you spent means you will spend less in the future. Good luck!

    Comment by Mary@SimplyForties — November 14, 2008 @ 12:01 am

  14. I wrote this about eating cheap & healthy earlier this year. Thought it was relevant to your post.

    Comment by M. Wade Nichols — November 14, 2008 @ 1:08 am

  15. I feel your pain! I have three teenage boys and boy can they eat! One thing I did want to suggest was making your own rice milk. I did it when I was a vegan, and I can tell you, there isn’t much of a difference between homemade and store bought. Here are some recipes you can try.

    Comment by Krista — December 8, 2008 @ 1:23 am

  16. I’m a family of 2 adults (not married, so we split our expenses, and I track mine for myself only), and 2 kittens (they eat like your teenagers, but in cat-sized portions).

    Before Budget: I spent very little on groceries ($150-$200) but would spend a LOT on eating out ($450-600).

    After Budget: I just recently revised it to $300 grocery (for one person) and $100 for 2 very large kittens (high-end food, top $) and $100 for restaurants (which I have been under every month so far). I don’t coupon clip, since I don’t buy the things that coupons are good for. I try to shop bulk a lot, and I almost never eat out (now). I’m trying to bring lunch as much as possible. IT’s still a lot. I live in an expensive place (Seattle), shop fairly natural and unprocessed, but pay a premium for nature/organic food. Plus a few high-end ingredients. I’m trying to get better but I don’t think I could be happy lower than $250/month for myself.

    A few suggestions: Try buying unpackaged large quantities of stuff (ie, not snack packs of food, buy the big bag and portion out). Buy a vacuum sealing thing to buy large quantities of food and reseal them in smaller bags so that the food won’t go bad before you have a chance to eat it. This will work for large bags of rice, flour, pet food, chips, you name it.

    A friend at work was looking at buying a 1/9th of a cow, and having it butchered (off of craigslist). You’d need a freezer to store it all, but you’d save a LOT in the long run. Maybe go in on part of a cow with friends and family?

    Be flexible with your shopping list – if something is higher priced, don’t buy it. Either wait for the price to come down, or comparison shop for another store.

    Start paying really good attention to what you like to buy regularly and where you can find it. Find out the best places to buy that item. Then, after a few weeks, you’ll know where to shop for what. I started paying attention to the kitty litter we buy. The shop that has the cheapest cans of catfood don’t have it in that size (I’d have to buy a smaller, more expensive bag). The other natural cat food store has it for $14.99. Petco has it for $12.99. Fred Meyer (which I go to maybe once a month) has it for $9.99 sometimes, or 10.99 at most. So I should buy it when i’m at Fred Meyer, when I find myself there. I just have to put myself in the mindset to plan my spending to maximize my budget.

    And like everyone else mentioned, make a list in advance and stick to it pretty darn close!

    Comment by debtmaven — December 10, 2008 @ 12:32 am

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