Tuesday, May 27, 2014
Breakdown Of Grocery Expenditures This Month, and Analysis
I have to say I got a little bit of "sticker shock" when I added up the totals from my grocery shopping this month. The first month I started keeping track of my grocery expenses and their breakdown- October-November 2013, we spent $433 on groceries for the month, and I was hoping to get it lower than that- but the next month it went up to $480. This month, the total for our groceries was... wait for it... $619! Yikes!
I must admit though, that part of the reason why it was so high was that it was the first month I started actually stocking up on staples post birth- my house was soooo empty before I did my first shop of the month, so I ended up spending more on that than I'd typically spend on groceries. And, as you'll see, I bought some stuff in bulk this month, which will last me a good few months at least, if not more, so all in all, it'll probably average out to much less per month. On top of that, some of what I bought (some of the cheeses) were for a special one time event, so that also upped the price.
But... That doesn't mean that there aren't any things we spent on that were a waste, that we'll try to change for the future.
In fact, after I added up the grocery total, and the breakdown on money spent in each category, Mike and I sat down together and evaluated what we spent on, what we were happy with, what we weren't happy with, and discussed strategies on what we plan on changing in the future, etc... and, of course, I'll be sharing that with you.
Here's the general breakdown-
Total- $619.10, of which $168.14 was for animal products, $102.97 for produce, $85.95 for dry goods, $53.71 for sweeteners, $44.85 for oil, $41.71 for pure junk, $41.62 for spices and herbs, $35.77 for processed foods used for meals, $18.23 for drinks, $13.66 for non food items, and $8.49 for vegan proteins...
So, I guess I'll start with produce, since that was a sizable junk of our grocery bill. I am pretty content with it, despite being very large. You know why?
Because it was for a lot of healthy food, and I am glad my family goes through so much produce.
Of the produce, $15.43 were spent on 9.9 lb frozen veggies- green beans, peas, peas and carrots, $6.90 was spent on dried produce- craisins and dehydrated hot peppers, $3.14 was spent on 3 cans mushrooms... and the rest of the money, $77.50 was spent on 233.2 lbs of fresh produce! Yes, you read that right. A TON of produce, which averages out to only 33 cents a pound for produce! The produce I got was - onions, carrots, cucumbers, zucchini, tomatoes, peppers, celery root, pumpkin, grape tomatoes, sweet potato, beets, green beans, potatoes, radishes, fresh dill, bananas, oranges, apples, pears, peaches, nectarines, cantaloupe, watermelon, fresh dates. In order to get it that low, I made the trek into the city 3 times this past month, and brought home insane amounts of produce for my family to eat using only a stroller to take it back on trains and buses, and that paid off. If I had bought all these stuff locally, my produce would have cost at least double that for the same amount. So, I'm not going to try to change anything. I do have a decent amount of fruit and some veggies in my freezer still from my last trip to the farmer's market. The only thing I will try to change next month is that there were a few things I bought locally for more money, so I'll try to get those at the farmer's market next month... but other than that, Mike and I agreed that we won't try to change anything about our produce bill.
Next up is our animal product expenditure- $168.14.
This breaks down to 28.3 lb of meat and poultry for- $61.12. This includes 2.2 lbs ground beef for $7.14, 6.6 lbs ground chicken for $18, 8.27 lbs of chicken gizzards for $11.82, 2 whole chickens- 8.34 lb for $16.13, 3 chicken legs (thighs and drumsticks)- about 2.3 lbs for $8.00. You may be surprised at the prices for the meat/poultry, but, for the most part, these were good prices for what I got- they are just expensive locally.... I didn't use up all this meat- we still have a lot left in the freezer, so this price should average out lower over the next month, but we'll see. I did serve meat more often than I needed to this month, so will try to lower our meat consumption next month.
We spent $61.66 on dairy- 3.9 gallons milk for $20, 12 containers of sour creams for $7.20, 1 yogurt $0.71, 14.3 lb cottage cheese for $33.49, various hard cheeses, including some goat and sheep cheeses- $39.64. So this is the area I want to cut back on, and we've already found ways in which to cut back. Number one is- I haven't been really in the mood of making any effort for breakfast, so nearly every day, my kids had cereal and milk or yogurt with fruit or some other dairy, with maybe a few times this month that I made a different breakfast. I will be honest that I am not at the point where I have the energy to cook breakfast every single morning, but I want cereal and milk to be the fall back option and not the standard breakfast that I serve, so I'll be making more of an effort over there, which will lower our milk usage. Additionally, this inspired me to want to finally finish my analysis that I was doing, comparing the costs of different milks- dairy milk vs many different homemade non dairy milks (that's been started and has been sitting on my computer for the past few months, waiting for me to analyze the results)... so we can use the cheapest in our food.
I made cream cheese a few times this month, and while it is still cheaper than store bought cream cheese, I don't think I'll be doing that next month since it was just an extraneous expense...
I also made quite a lot of yogurt, which, again, while it is cheaper to make yogurt than buy it, it still ended up adding a lot to our grocery bill, so I probably won't be doing that this coming month.
And as for cheese... I splurged on cheese more than once this month, and not cheap cheeses, but expensive goat and sheep cheeses. I wanted to pamper myself, but I think I might have done it a drop too much, and if I'm trying to lose weight, not sure that so much cheese is the way to go. On top of that, I think Rose is also sensitive if I eat dairy, so that probably won't be happening again. And as I said, part of that cheese was for a one time event, so regardless of everything else, wouldn't have been a recurring expense.
We went through a ton of cottage cheese, I know! 14.3 lbs of it! My husband likes taking a container of cottage cheese to work every day to eat for his lunch. While it definitely would be cheaper for him to take a home cooked frugal meal, it means a lot for him to have his cottage cheese for lunch, which he eats with potato chips (I'll get to that in a minute). But he is willing to look for more frugal ways to do it. I had been buying his 250 gram (.55 lb) containers of cottage cheese at a sale, where it is $1.28 per container instead of $1.74 (so he only ended up buying from the more expensive place 3 times this month), but recently found containers that were 100 gram (.22 lb) for only 81 cents at the local sale, and Mike has been taking one of those for lunch the past few days, and says he's cool with taking that instead of the 250 gram containers... so if he keeps that up, it'll only $21 for his lunch's cottage cheese for the month instead of the $45.24 it would be if he was buying it full price or the $33.28 it would be if he was using the 250 gram containers that I buy on sale... so that'll save a lot of money each month.
Fish- I bought 4 cans of tuna and ~3 lbs of cod for a total of $6.29 this month, and have most of it left over. We bought 10 dozen eggs, paid $34 for the lot, and still have a decent amount left. We could use fewer eggs if I were more conscientious of having meals ready on time for the family so didn't scramble to make eggs at the last minute (har har, pun intended), but I wouldn't try to get it to lower than 7 dozen a month.
The next category I am calling processed food used for meals... which I might be inclined to call "junk" only it is used to replace meals, even though it isn't ideal from a health perspective. We spent $35.77 on this category this month. The two things in this category are cereal and potato chips.
My husband likes to have chips with cottage cheese for lunch. Is it super healthy? Not in my opinion, and I try to send him with a fruit together with his chips and cottage cheese to healthy it up a bit... but he's a big boy and able to make his own decision about what he wants to eat. Before he was having flavored chips or Doritos with his chips, but he's switched to having plain potato chips, which, to be honest, aren't really so bad. Three ingredients- potatoes, palm oil, and salt. From a traditional foodies perspective, none of those are unhealthy. And though carbs and fat together can be fattening, my husband is skinny as a rail, so if it causes him to "fatten up", that's not something we're worried about at all- he'll just be very skinny instead of super skinny in that case...
My bigger issue with the chips is really the cost. At first my husband was buying them from the store near his work, for $1.80 for a small bag each day. I found them cheaper at the local grocery store and was buying them $1.28 when I remembered to buy them. But then my husband thought to buy a larger bag from the store near his work, and a $4.28 bag would last him 3 days (instead of the $5.40 he was originally paying every 3 days). Occasionally he'd buy a larger bag from the local grocery store, so $2.85 for 3 days, and now I found a place that sells the larger bags for $2.43 for 3 days' worth... so this ends up costing only $21 per month instead of the $46.8 a month it would cost him if he bought the more expensive one as he had in the past. Altogether, that makes his lunches average out to be $42 a month for his lunches, which isn't so bad...
As for cereal- I bought cereal super cheap from a scratch and dent store, and still have a decent amount left, and I will be trying to cut back our our cereal usage to begin with, so next month I assume the amount spent in this category will be less.
On dry goods, we spent $85.95, and this includes 55 lbs of rice for a total of $45.50- 24.2 lbs of white rice (average $0.56/lb), 11 lbs risotto rice (average $1.03/lb), and 19.8 lbs of brown rice (average 1.03/lb)- of which we still have most, and nearly all was bought on sale. The rest was spent on 1 lb cocoa powder, 11 lbs sugar, 2 packages yeast (lost one and had to re-buy, then found the one I lost... will be selling it to a friend at cost), 4.4 lbs salt, 3 super size packages of rice cakes, 1 package of rice paper wraps, and about half a pound xanthan gum and gelatin. I expect a lot of this to continue over to next month, so I expect next month's dry goods total to be lower, but other than that, I am not trying to change this at all- Mike and I are perfectly content with the amount of money spent in this category.
We spent $44.85 for oil and $41.62 for spices and herbs. Of this, the oil was a bulk order of 39.6 lbs (approximately 5 gallons) of palm oil, and of the spices, $28.86 was a bulk order of 11 lbs of spices (garlic powder, paprika, and hot paprika), so these should last me a long while- at least a few months, probably longer.
The rest was dried herbs and spices like cilantro, dill weed, fenugreek, mustard seeds, red raspberry leaves, and ginger roots. I have no regrets or desire to change how I spent in these categories this past month, though obviously my expenses in these categories will be drastically less on months in which I do not make a bulk order.
The most embarrassing category is the $41.71 we spent on pure junk, because it is pure wasted money. The occasional splurge, the occasional treat is one thing, but over 40 dollars on nonsense is just too much. This included chocolate, marshmallows, and halva, and lots of it. This is a category I definitely want to minimize next month and in general, also for cost reasons, also for health, and also because if I want to lose weight it would be much easier if I wasn't eating so much junk! I will try to have it that if I do get treats, it'll be homemade treats like chocolate chip cookies, because a) they're healthier b) they're cheaper and c) if I have to make them at home whenever I want them, they'll be eaten less frequently than if I buy junk...
I spent $53.71 on healthy sweeteners this month. (Oh, the irony of the juxtaposition- justifying why it's worth it financially to spend more on healthier sweeteners, right after I mentioned how much garbage I ate... Does eating raw honey cancel out the negative effects of the junk, or does the negative effects of the junk cancel out the benefits of raw honey? Who knows... Lol.) 9.9 lb raw honey for $41.14, and 4.4 lb date syrup for $12.57. Because these sweeteners are expensive, I try to make them last- I just bought a bunch at once since it's inconvenient for me to get to the store that sells them cheaply, and I only buy them there. This should probably last me 2.5-3 months, but I will try to stretch it and get it to last me longer. So yes, next month this category's expenses should be much lower.
For drinks we spent a total of $18.23, $13.70 on wine and grape juice we needed for religious reasons, and the rest on nonsense. Soon grapes will be in season and we'll be making our own wine and grape juice so we won't be spending as much in this category. (Last summer when grapes were in season, I was pregnant and in my first trimester and in no state to make and can/bottle all the wine and grape juice we'd need all year, but this year it'll be happening.) But all the wine and grape juice was bought at the scratch and dent store for terrific prices.
$8.49 was spent on vegan proteins this month- peanut butter and flax seeds. This isn't all the vegan proteins we used- I got a 11 lb bag of lentils from a friend, and I have a ton of lentils and beans, etc... in my stockpile which we've been using, and we still have a ton left, so I don't expect to increase this amount next month, however I would like to cook more vegan meals which would hopefully lower my animal product expenses category significantly...
For condiments, we spent $4 on Dijon mustard, and for non food items we spent $13.66 on 1 package of garbage bags and 1 package of diapers for Anneliese.
So, all in all... there's work to be done. And we're up to the task. I'm eager to see how my grocery bills average out now over the next few months, now that I'm mostly back in the swing of things, and now with a family of 6.
Am I embarrassed of how much I spent? To be honest... its more that I'm annoyed with myself a little because I know I could do better, especially since I was able to spend $433 the first month I tracked and I would like to, at the very least, get it back around there... But overall, for a family of healthy eaters (minus the junk, of course) who is off gluten, etc... I think we probably are spending a lot less on groceries than you'd expect a family like mine to be spending. So I'd give myself a grade of B- pretty good, but needs improvement.
So, how much are you spending on groceries each month, and how much in each category? Are you happy with how you're spending, or are you trying to lower your spending overall and in specific categories? What are your strategies to try to lower your grocery bills?
I am curious- how many pounds of produce do you go through in a month? How many pounds of meat/poultry, and how many eggs?
But please, if you feel like criticizing me or my husband at all for the less than perfect grocery breakdown this month, keep it to yourself. We're not perfect, and I'm sure if your grocery bill were dissected publicly the way mine was, yours also would have things you wouldn't necessarily be so proud about.