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Money Mondays - My Grocery Budget

This week for Money Monday, I'm going to talk a little bit about myself. ☺  I want to talk about my personal grocery budget, and ways that I am going about cutting it down (which, as you will see, needs to happen!) I'm not 100% sure what exactly I can cut it down to or what my goal ultimately will be, but I wanted to get some suggestions from you, my readers, and also to bounce ideas around. Remember that if you are commenting on posts, leave a comment on the Kitchen Tools Bamboo Set giveaway and tell me which ones you left because you get extra entries in the giveaway!  Ok, here it goes...don't judge me too harshly!

This month, all in all, I spent $530.46 for groceries. I am including in this definition household items like toilet paper, cleaning supplies, toiletries, all grocery items, and pet food. So basically anything you would buy at the grocery store. This is for me, my husband, and our 17 pound dog Charlie.  I also want to throw out there that we eat almost every meal from items that we make. My husband brings breakfast and lunch to work every day, and I eat at home. We make dinner most nights, but actually did go out to eat this month 3 times, for a total cost of roughly $109.  Additionally we went camping for Memorial Day Weekend, and we ended up spending almost $60 just for food items for the camping trip, which probably skewed the results somewhat. Regardless, those are the numbers.

May is the first month that I have ever religiously tracked every time we went to the grocery store, and frankly I must say that I am rather appalled. I expected to spend around $400, and I was even okay when we got up to $450, but $530! That averages $132.62 per week, which I guess makes it sound somewhat more reasonable, but still seems like a pretty high number for just the two of us (our dog only ate one, $8.50 bag of dog food this month, so he's not really very expensive).  I think the thing that bothers me the most about it is that we spent the additional $109 on eating out. That brings our total "food" budget for the month to $639.46. Yikes! That just seems crazy to me.

I'm not opposed to spending money to get good, high quality foods. I knew that our grocery bill would go up once we started buying more organic items, and unfortunately I wasn't reliably tracking the expenditures beforehand, so I don't have a number to compare to. I'm going to look at $530.46 as my starting point, and work from there to get it down. I am not trying to get down to $30 per week or anything like that (see post here), but I would like to spend around $450 per month on the two of us. I think that is reasonable and doable.

I also want to point out that while I am disappointed to know that we spent so much on our groceries, I am pleased to know that we save a total of $142.11 through the use of coupons and grocery store saver programs. In total we saved about 22% off the cost of our groceries through combining this two ways of savings, and I feel pretty happy with that. I'd always like to be able to increase that number without compromising the quality of our foods, but again I feel like it is an okay starting point.

Here are my goals for the next month:

  • Reduce grocery bill to around $450 this month
  • Reduce eating out bill to $30, which would be 1-2 eating out meals depending on what kind of restaurant we go to (something like Red Robin versus something like Chipotle)
  • Continue to explore new ways to get quality food items (specialty stores, ethnic markets, ordering online)
  • Not compromise the items that I am buying to save cost. Even my husband agrees that foods that we are eating make us feel better and they taste better, and I do not want to save money by cutting down on quality.

I'm planning on saving a little bit of money by doing the following things:
  • Continuing to use coupons when I can find them. Right now on Coupons.com there are coupons for Cascadian Farms products, Muir Glen products, and Boulder Canyon Chips. You can usually print these up to two times each per computer. 
  • Meal Plan. Part of Keeper of the Home's Cook More Real Food series involves some meal planning, and I've written my own thoughts on Money Mondays - Meal Planning. I'm planning on only meal planning for one week at a time though, as I find that two weeks at a time just gives me too much time between trips to the store, and we run out of healthy items like fruits and fresh veggies. Key to making meal planning work is sticking to my grocery list when I go to the store, which brings me to the next bullet.
  • Make a grocery list and stick with it! I get so hungry/gluttonous when I go to the store, and I just want to try everything. We do usually end up eating it, so food rarely goes bad in my household, but that doesn't mean that we would have missed it if I hadn't bought it. 
  • Make less cookies - I know this sounds like a weird one, but I always have homemade cookies sitting around, and my husband loves them.  He really loves to eat them with a big, tall glass of ice cold milk...organic milk, that is! This can get rather expensive, as we go through about 2 gallons of milk per week. Not only is it not great to be eating cookies all the time, I'm planning on cutting down our milk purchases through having less cookie options (shhh, don't tell the hubby!)
  • Go to the store 2x per week to check out the reduced price items. We can often get organic milk, cheese, and eggs for 50% off when we hit the reduced item section.
  • Exercise self control. My biggest problem is that I love to shop, and I really love to grocery shop. I have a lot of trouble not picking up new items every few days, because it always looks so good. This month, however, will be an exercise in self control for me.
  • Hit up the farmer's markets. According to the information I found online, one of the ones in my town is opening this week, and most of them should be open by the end of the month. As we've talked about before, shopping at the farmer's markets can help to reduce the cost of items like organic fruits and vegetables, as you are cutting out the middle man. 
  • Last, but certainly not least, we are going vegetarian for at least two to three meals out of the week. I find that I spend quite a bit on meat, and that is without even buying organic or grass fed meat (I didn't think we could really fit it in the budget). I am hoping that by cutting down on the meat, we can buy better quality and healthier meat. This may be a wash in terms of money spent, as we'll be eating less meat but it is pricier. I'm okay with that though, since I am not a huge meat eater, but I want the quality of our meat to be better. 

That is my plan of action for the upcoming month. I'm really optimistic about my progress, and I know that we can cut down on our expenses simply by being more aware of the times we are going to the store, and how often we are throwing things into the cart just because it looks good at the time. 

Have you cut down on your grocery bill without sacrificing quality items? What are some tips that you want to share with the rest of the readers? Any secrets of the trade? I would love to hear from you about all that you've learned! And remember that each comment up to 4 earns you an extra entry in the giveaway!

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