A month ago I announced that I would be diligently tracking my grocery expenses, down to the last cent, so I could see exactly how much our family was spending in a month, and then break it down into different categories, so we could see how much we spent in different categories. I had a rough guesstimate that altogether my family spent 425 dollars a month on groceries, but since I never tracked things down to the last cent, I wasn't 100% sure.
Turns out my guess was very close- we spent $433 dollars in the past month.
Two years ago, with 4 people in our family instead of 5, when we ate less healthily, when we used more processed foods, ate gluten and white sugar and less healthy oils, and before prices in our area were raised tremendously, we were able to get our grocery bills as low 250 dollars a month... but that simply isn't doable now, both because our family is larger, our kids are older (and pickier), and because we have health issues that we are taking care of via our diet.
However, most people with families our size and gluten free/sugar free, etc... end up spending a lot more than what we spend each month, so I'm pretty happy with what we're spending. Even so, there definitely are things I would like to cut back on, and would like to lower our grocery bills further.
So, what are we spending in each of the areas?
We spent the most on produce- something I am totally fine with, as produce is very nutritious and it's ideal that we fill up on this and not with less healthy foods.
Total spent on produce: $124.
The produce can be broken down into three categories- fresh produce, canned produce, and frozen produce.
Fresh produce: $90
Canned produce: $33.20
Frozen produce: $2.53
The fresh produce was a mix of fruits and veggies, including lots and lots of bananas, as well as onions, carrots, tomatoes, cucumbers, pumpkin, apples, clementines, persimmons, oranges, zucchini, grapes, pears, potatoes, sweet potatoes, butternut squash, avocado, celery, radishes, scallions, cabbage, and some cilantro. (I'm probably forgetting to list some produce.) I don't know how many pounds, but it was a LOT, because for most of the produce I paid around 40 cents a pound.
The canned produce was a lot of canned applesauce, some hearts of palm that I love and found on incredible sale, and some canned pineapple and mushrooms that were also on sale. And also one can of leechees which I bought on sale, for a treat. The cans, on average, were $1.50 per can.
I bought one thing of frozen produce- frozen green beans for $2.53 for the package. (Frozen produce in my area tends to be very expensive. This was a terrific price for the frozen green beans.)
We spent way too much on junk food. This is something I am trying hard to cut back on. The junk was occasional treats for my kids to bribe them to go to school with, plus a random treat for myself here and there... and on top of that, when I forget to pack my husband lunch, he goes to the nearest gas station and buys himself doritos and cottage cheese, which fills him up. But is super expensive. So for next month, I'm trying to keep the costs down and stocking up, so at least on these stuff from cheaper stores, to keep at home for him to take with him, for when I don't have a chance to make his lunch. Yes, I know it's not so healthy, but its his choice- he's a grown up, this is what he wants to eat, and it's not my place to force him to comply to my wishes. I'm just trying to fulfill his wishes, more cheaply.
So, total spent on junk this month: $57.50
Among that junk was lots of Doritos and potato chips, some chocolate, gum, lollipops, and jello. [The jello was actually medicinal... My daughter was sick, and dehydrated, and we were going to take her to the ER if she didn't drink, but she refused to. I enticed her to get liquids into her by giving her store bought, ready made jello. (No time to make homemade healthy jello, or even unhealthy homemade jello from a package, because we needed to get liquids into her ASAP.)]
Speaking of junk food- there also were the store bought drinks, which, in my opinion, are another form of junk.
Total spent on drinks: $13.55
This includes orange juice, one small thing of chocolate milk as a treat for Lee, energy drinks that I bought on sale for very cheap , and some coca cola to help with my nausea.
The total amount spent on proteins this month was $108 dollars.
This breaks down to:
Nuts and seeds: $5.30
Other vegan proteins: $3.46
The only dairy (other than that chocolate milk) this month was for my husband's lunch- it was either cottage cheese or this spreadable soft cheese that comes packaged like cottage cheese...
The eggs are expensive! But they're a staple in my house. I don't eat them, but everyone else has eggs when I need a quick healthy and filling food to feed them.
The meat includes ground beef and frozen hamburgers (no fillers) that I bought on incredible sale. (We already had chicken in our freezer from a shop we made before this month started.)
Nuts and seeds is mainly peanuts, plus a little almonds for almond extract I want to make.
The other vegan protein is really just a thing of tofu- that's how much a small package of tofu costs here. I was craving something with tofu, so even though I usually avoid soy, especially tofu, both for health and costs, I bought one package this month. We did use other vegan proteins this month- I had lentils and beans in my stockpile.
Total spent on dry goods this month: $40.
This includes lots of rice, including brown rice, risotto rice, and regular white rice, rice cakes, rice noodles, corn meal, potato starch, and a few boxes of gluten free cereal, plus sugar for my kombucha making.
Total spent on spices: $6.05
This includes lots of garlic powder, nutmeg, allspice, and a few dried herbs.
Total spent on healthy sweeteners: $31
This includes raw honey, date syrup/honey, and date paste.
Total spent on non food grocery items: $25.63
This includes disposable diapers (yes, I've been bad about using cloth lately), sandwich bags, aluminum foil, baking paper, a few disposables, and eucalyptus essential oil.
Total spent on eating out: $23.95
So, overall, looking back, the only thing I'd really change how I'd spend, is getting less junk, and if we do buy junk, buying it in cheaper places (already done- bought a bunch of doritos and potato chips at the grocery store yesterday, for less than half of what it costs at the gas station), and buying dairy at a cheaper place. (I found a place that sells each container of cottage cheese for 65 cents less than my husband was buying it, so I am stocking up.)
Another thing that affected our groceries a lot this month was my laziness to cook legumes... I am going to try to cook more of them instead of eating so many animal proteins, and maybe cooking in advance so I don't end up relying on eggs as a back up option so many times this month. (And I bought chicken wings yesterday on an incredible sale... they are less expensive per meal than eggs, so I'll be doing that more when I don't want to do legumes.)
Additionally, we had two bouts of illness this month- stomach bugs, and flu, so I ended up buying a lot of things I wouldn't have, like tons of bananas NOT on sale, canned applesauce (it's a fortune here!), and jello, plus freshly squeezed orange juice. Hoping that other months we'll be spending less because hopefully we won't be sick.
Also, we have incredibly cheap produce sales one day a week here- last week I was very lazy and didn't feel like going out on the day of the sale, so when we ran out of all produce, I needed to supplement at the grocery store for much more money than they would have cost at the sale, so I'm going to try to be a little less lazy this next month.
Because of all these factors, and the fact that I had bought chicken right before this month started, and just needed to buy toilet paper yesterday, I decided I'm going to repeat this experiment next month, and see how much I end up spending, to get a better picture of our "average month".
My goal- next month get our grocery bill down to $340 dollars. And if possible, $280. But that's really stretching it- not sure it's doable at all. We'll see! Wish me luck!
If you were tracking your grocery expenses this month, how much did you end up spending for the month? Was it more or less than you were expecting to spend?
How do your grocery bills break down? What are you spending the most on? What are you spending the least on? Are you happy with your grocery bill breakdown, or is there anything you'd like to switch? If you're trying to lower your grocery bills after seeing your expense breakdown, what are you going to try to do to lower it?
Again, if anyone is local and wants to see my exact breakdown on my groceries, in my local currency, send me an email to pennilessparenting at yahoo dot com to find out the address of my local blog, where I wrote all my receipts, etc....