Monday, March 7, 2016

Latest Food Shopping- Spending Money to Save Money

Some of what I spent my money on
For someone who decided that this coming month I plan on lowering my grocery bill, its a little bit disconcerting to see how much money I've already spent in the month of March, and its only 7 days into the month. So far, the total I've spent on food since March 1 is $372, and last month I spent $496 total for the month, so if I want to lower my grocery bills, I have less than $124 dollars left for the month before I meet last month's total, and 24 days left.

But then I have to remind myself that you can't be short sighted when you want to save money, that looking at the long term is certainly more important. Sometimes, in order to save money in the long run, you have to spend more in the short term.

So why did I spend so much money just in the past 7 days?

To save money.

It all started with getting a phone call from my mother. "Josh is right outside the P, the bulk food store- tell him what you wanted to order!"

Erm. I was kind of caught there off guard. I like to pre-plan large expenses, and any shop at the P store tends to be on the larger end.

I've been buying in bulk from the P store for over 6 years already, and I found it has helped me save a lot of money on my monthly grocery bills by buying staples at a fraction of their prices in the regular grocery store. The thing is- you need to lay the money out upfront, and then over time you see the savings. But even having the money to be able lay out initially can be quite hard- however it is possible to bulk buy even without extra cash lying around. But I digress.

I was buying bulk from the P store in various ways. First, my friend M would go drive there occasionally for herself, and when she was there, would pick up some orders for me.  Once in a while when I was in the area (a few hour drive from my house) I'd stop by and pick things up myself. When that no longer was an option for various reasons, M would organize group bulk orders- as long as a certain threshold was met, the P store would deliver the bulk orders to her house, where we'd split it up and each take what we'd ordered.
Unfortunately, the person in charge of deliveries for the P store has messed up the orders so many times recently that M no longer will be organizing deliveries from them, which means that getting things from the P store would be pretty much an impossibility for me anymore. That would be really frustrating, since there are some things I rely on buying from there, like coconut oil, which costs $1.29 per pound there but at least $8 per pound not in bulk, and as that is my standard cooking oil, I don't fancy paying more than 6 times the cost buying it at retail prices instead of bulk.
So, I didn't know what to do, because I don't want to be spending extra money on things- my motto is "Why pay retail when you can get it cheaper"- well, one of my mottoes anyhow. My supply of bulk purchased foods was running low, and when I went to price them at the regular grocery stores, and even bargain grocery stores, those items still were much more than I used to pay for them in bulk.

So therefore, when my mother told me that Josh was right in the area of the P store, and was planning on walking in to buy some stuff anyhow, I decided to take advantage of that, and even though I hadn't planned on spending that money then, I had it set aside anyhow and was able to afford to buy those items in bulk. And so, even though I spent $156 in one go, it's going to save me money in the long run, guaranteed.

What did I buy? A 40 lb jerrycan of palm oil, a 50 lb bag of instant mashed potatoes (ok, I'll admit it, I can be lazy in the kitchen but my kids still need to eat, and mashed potatoes are my quick fix that isn't too unhealthy, especially once I mix in healthier nutritious additions), a 50 lb bag of baking soda, and a 2.2 lb bag of gelatin. Each of these were expensive, but once I compared them to how much they cost at the store store and they were at least half the price, if not much more. (Baking soda is 6 times more expensive at the grocery store.) And these are all things that I use regularly, so it was very worth it to buy in bulk.

For now, I am putting it in a separate category on my grocery and expenditure tracking, not considering it as part of my monthly grocery shop, but as another category. In the long run, I'll see how many months this lasts us and be able to calculate how much it cost us per month on average.

Not counting the bulk shop, then, I only spent $216, which still is a large amount, considering the fact that its only the 7th of the month, but again, it wasn't just throwing away money- it was a conscious decision to make a big shop and buy things cheaper there, so I don't run out of them and pay more money at the local mom and pop's store because I needed things.
The majority of my shop, in fact, was stocking up on cheaper quick proteins, namely cans of sardines on sale for 70 cents a can, because when I run out of them, I end up buying more expensive quick things, especially if I need food on the go. I've been going out of the house a lot, working, and I don't always prepare in advance foods that are easy to transport, which means that I end up buying something expensive and less healthy last minute- things like cheeses, hot dogs, and deli meats to eat while out. So buying all these cans of sardines- and tuna- (I think I bought close to 40 cans of sardines and 10 of tuna) should hopefully prevent me from needing to go to the expensive store last minute for proteins to eat.
Even when not traveling, I'm always looking for what is the cheapest paleo protein source that I can eat (eggs are out, unfortunately, as they bother my stomach), and I suspect that sardines are among the cheaper ones, and work out cheaper per serving than chicken breast, but I'm not sure. I still need to do those calculations.

So for now- I am aiming to spend no more than $285 more on groceries for the rest of the month, and ideally not anywhere near that. If I can keep it down to $200-$225 for the rest of the month, that would be pretty terrific, but the question is- will I? Will my preparing in advance actually pay off, and my overall grocery bill this month be less?
Who knows.
Only time will tell.

But I do maintain also that sometimes you need to spend money to save money. And hopefully, by the end of the month, I will see that this paid off.

Do you find that if you spend more money in the attempt to save money in the long run, it pays off? Or do things typically come up and you don't manage to save money and just end up spending more, overall? 
What things do you spend money on in advance to be able save money in the long run?


  1. I am kind of doing this as well. We came in under budget last month and had a little extra from another source, and instead of throwing the extra toward debt, I started a separate "stock-up" fund that would save me more than the interest I am paying on our debt. I am trying to lower our food budget gradually, but I can empathize with you on spending a lot at the beginning of the month! :) Right now we are a family of 6 (4 kids ages 8 and under) and our food budget is about $410 a month. We also have to pay sales tax on our food of over 9%. :(

  2. Wow! How long does it take you to go through 50 lb of baking soda? That seems like a lot!

    1. About 2 years or so, give or take. But baking soda doesn't spoil and its expensive here- $2.30 per pound vs 45 cents a pound in bulk.

    2. But don't you find that there baking soda loses some of it's efficacy? My baked goods don't rise as well with old baking soda.

  3. Same question about the baking soda. Maybe I go through two small cans a year. I guess I don't bake as much as you, but still it's a lot! Just curious.

    1. I use baking soda in large quantities for cleaning. I like it as a stove scrubber, to clean sinks, empty drains, and whiten laundry. As well as in cooking. It lasts a while and doesnt spoil so why not? :-D

  4. Do you use a lot of baking soda for cleaning? I mostly use it for cooking and 1 pound lasts about a year.

  5. One thing I buy in bulk is spices; especially the more expensive ones like ginger or cloves. At the store you get a tiny container for $5-$6, and at the bulk food place I can get 4-5 times that amount for $3. The savings are phenomenal.

  6. I have started to keep track of our spending because I was curious. I don't care how much I spend in any one month since I know there are those bulk purchases that add up. I plan to average the amount I spend over the year rather than trying to stick to a budget monthly.

  7. I was doing great this month so far and then I started small shopping. Little trips for a few items, like after work I'm going to Kroger to get some little Red Baron pizza's, travel size baby wipes, cranberry sauce and 2 banana's. This simple quick trip will probably cost me about $10 and it makes me mad because I'm not getting any of it on sale. My last trip to Kroger, armed with paper and digital coupons had me spending $80 and saving $63. I felt good after that shopping trip.

    So I digress....I am keeping up with my receipts, I'm curious to see how much March cost me.


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