|Photo courtesy earl53 at Morguefile.|
However, an estimate wasn't good enough. I needed to find out the real number. So, starting in July, I began saving all of our food receipts and tallying them up at the end of the month. The result - I was underestimating our food spending by a few hundred dollars!
Here's how the totals add up for the last three months:
July - $854.28
August - $932.89
September - $780.27
I feel the above numbers deserve a bit of explanation.
July was the first month of tracking, so I decided not to do any cost cutting measures. I shopped like I typically would. I bought meat on sale for the most part, but not always. I bought a bit of produce, but my garden was starting take off, so by the end of the month, I wasn't buying produce anymore. Other than that, I wasn't meal planning or trying to cut back in any way. We ate out a couple of times.
We went on vacation for a week in August. I shopped before we left so we could drive to Florida with a stocked cooler. Still, we got pizza one night on the road, bought meal plans at Universal and ate out once or twice more.
At the beginning of September, I set a goal to not spend over $750. I came very close and would have made it if I had done a little more planning. I didn't knuckle down to plan until the second week of the month. I was already playing catch up by mid-month when I decided I needed to shop every other week instead of every week.
The totals weren't what I expected at all! I'd been feeling pretty smug about how thrifty I was. I guess I was way off base. I've always made a lot of our food from scratch. We don't buy junk food (though maybe we'd spend less if we did! Ha ha!). We typically eat out only two or three times a month. Our eating out consists of either pizza or Mexican food. It's not like we hit the fine dining establishments. Clearly, though, I need to work on this a bit.
My goal for October is to spend no more than $700.
What am I doing differently?
I'm shopping every other week instead of weekly. The less time in a store, the less spent.
I'm buying a few things in bigger packages. For instance, instead of a 5 pound bag of flour, I bought a 10 pound bag. It costs less per pound and I won't have to buy it again for awhile.
I'm buying meat on sale only. Last week, this meant I did my major grocery shopping at Walmart, but went to Price Chopper for meat because they had much better prices.
|Photo courtesy xandert at Morguefile.|
I'm planning meals for two weeks at a time.
I'm going to "shop" out of my cupboard and freezer when I plan the next two-week menu.
Ultimately, I want to get our food budget down to $600 a month. Now that I've been keeping tabs, I don't think $500 is reasonable for my family, which includes myself, my husband and three growing boys, one of which is a teenager. Teenage boys are notorious for their big appetites and, I have to say, my son seems to fit right into that stereotype. He's also got the growth spurt to match!
How do you compare? Do you have a budget for groceries? Do you go over it often? Do you eat out a lot? If you think you spend a certain amount each month on food, have you ever actually tallied it?