Thursday, February 5, 2015

Monthly Grocery Breakdown and Analysis for December and January

So I stopped tracking our monthly grocery expenses like I had been doing, because it wasn't working well- it ended up feeling like I was micromanaging my husband's spending, and that wasn't the best idea for our relationship. So I decided to start tracking our monthly grocery expenses, but leaving out my husband's spending. He has a set amount he tends to spend for lunch at work every day- he spends $14 a week on lunches from his work, so that's an extra 60 dollars a month on that, plus a few other odds and ends here and there. But for the most part, this monthly breakdown is what covers 3 meals a day plus snacks for 1 adult and 4 kids, plus 2 meals a day plus snacks for another adult.

I must admit, as enlightening as it is for me to look at the breakdown of our monthly expenses, it's really annoying to tally it up afterwards and analyze it, which is why the month that was from December 14th until January 13th is only being written up and posted today- when the next month is nearly over...

When I was doing this tally, I was realizing how much I spent during the month, and it shocked me... and then I took a closer look, and saw that a large percentage of it was actually spent on money making things- like the ingredients of a cake I made for pay for a friend, and on buckwheat which I bought in bulk, and used to make my gluten free bread mixes which I sell, as well as the coconut sugar I bought in bulk...
And then there's also the expenses I spent on my daughter's birthday party. So then once I subtracted that, I realized I wasn't doing too bad.
Because business expenses. And nice things like birthday parties...
And also some things that just make life easier, like canned fish, purchased gluten free bread, treats, etc... all bought on sale but not the cheapest options out there....
 I am not opposed to having nice things if I can afford them... and fortunately our financial situation is in a position where we can do more than just the bare bones basics. So this past month's expenses are a drop higher than I'd like to, but in part as business expenses, but in other part just because it improves our quality of life...
So not going to eat myself up for it. I will, however, try to keep my expenses down in future months. And if I manage, I manage. And if not, then not. I do know where I can trim my expenses should I want to...

I'll admit here- I'm kinda nervous to post this breakdown, cuz I feel some of my readers my judge me for it... but, in the spirit of honesty, this is it 100%, splurges, excess and all...

So, here's the breakdown:

Including the 16.5 lbs of coconut sugar I bought in bulk, and the 55 lbs of buckwheat I bought in bulk...
We spent $804.71. Not counting the bulk, $644.71.

The 55 lb sack of buckwheat was finished a couple of days ago, so that means that the 75 dollars I spent on the buckwheat should be spread over 2 months, meaning only 37.5 of that should be counted towards this month's expenses (I'll be adding the 37.5 into the next month's records) and the coconut sugar I bought for $85 will last three months, so only $28.30 will be going toward's this month's expenses.
So if I factor that into this, the adjusted expenses for the month would be $709.71.

Our largest expense, by far, was on animal proteins- $155.05 on animal proteins. It breaks down to $28.23 on chicken (9.3 lbs chicken wings, 4 whole chickens (about 17.5 lbs)), $38 on beef (1.75 lbs steaks, a 7 lb roast, and 4.25 lbs beef bones), $33.83 on dairy (1.5 lbs cow cheese, 1.65 lbs goat cheese, and 4 liters milk), and $27.71 on 90 eggs, and $27.29 on fish (9 cans of sardines, 2 salmon heads, and 20 cans of tuna).
If I were trying to be more frugal, I would definitely be buying less beef (or none at all), no goat cheese, and less dairy in general. And I'd be serving more legumes than I am now. To be honest, its simply easier for me to serve animal proteins than vegan protein sources, and my life is busy enough and budget free enough that I serve animal proteins more often than vegan proteins. I know this is the first place to cut fat. And for the record, I know meat and all animal proteins are much more expensive here than they are in the US, so.... Even eggs, which are the cheapo protein in the US, are not so cheap here- I pay 31 cents an egg, or $3.77 a dozen.

Our next highest expense was produce- $122.39 on produce, of which $4.28 was on dried produce (.5 lb naturally sweetened craisins and .17 lb dried unsweetened pineapple), $13.80 on canned produce (8 cans of tomato paste and 3 cans of peas), and the rest- $104.31 on 220.97 lbs of fresh produce (oranges, oroblancos/sweeties, apples, grapefruits, clementines, bananas, eggplants, cucumbers, radishes, beets, potatoes, zucchini, tomatoes, green peppers, avocados, cabbage, garlic, and mushrooms.
I have zero intention of trying to change this produce bill, since it worked out to 47 cents per pound on average for my produce, which isn't bad at all. Almost all the produce was bought super cheaply, though there were some things (mushrooms and bananas, mainly) that I didn't buy so cheaply, so they raised the average... so to be more frugal I could get fewer mushrooms and bananas, if I wanted to do that. And I could leave out the dried fruit which were totally unnecessary, just a treat for myself.

The next on list of greatest expenses is carbs (of which I'm not including the green buckwheat I bought in bulk)- $87.06. This included 4.4 lbs of short grain white rice, 17.6 lbs of white rice, 8 packages of corn pasta, 2 injera (ethiopian flatbreads), 30 gluten free pitas, 12 loaves of gluten free bread, 4.4 lbs of gluten free crackers. 1.85 lbs rice cakes, 10 packages of gluten free pretzels, 1 lbs of gluten cookies (for Anneliese's birthday party) and 2 packages of rice crispies. This was a really large amount of money spent on mostly processed food nonsense, to be honest. I got really excited because our local store was selling gluten free products- breads, crackers, and pretzels- for much cheaper than what they usually are, and I decided to "stock up"... But you know what happened? Remember my chocolate chips I bought in bulk cheaply? And then ate up really quickly, and then concluded it was a waste of money?
That's kind of what happened here. I assumed that stocking up at this price would mean that my stuff would sit in my stockpile and/or freezer, and when I needed the stuff, instead of paying full price for it, I'd "shop my stockpile" and use the stuff I'd bought cheaper than usual. But you know what happened? Since it was at home, I ended up relying a lot on these stuff, and using this processed expensive (even if cheaper than usual) junk as a crutch instead of healthier, cheaper made from scratch foods...
So yea, I could easily have not spent $57 of that....

Next down is drinks/liquids/etc... for a total of $65.14. So I bought 6 cans of energy drink total- on sale, but still nonsense, and a large can of apple juice concentrate to use as a sweetener- which is a good deal as long as I use it as sweetener instead of just using it to make juice like I've been doing all too often. The rest of the money in this category was spent on 7 bottles of wine bought on extreme sale, 3 liters of olive oil which were cheaper than I'd ever seen, 1 liter vinegar, and 1 liter orange juice which I don't remember buying, but I wrote it down so I must have bought it...

I spent $42.17 on vegan proteins- .5 lbs pumpkin seeds, 4.5 lbs flax seeds, .9 lbs sesame seeds, 4.5 lbs chickpeas, a 2.2 lb container of all natural peanut butter, and 4.5 lbs of quinoa bought on extreme sale. I wouldn't change this at all... Other than maybe finding a cheaper source for chickpeas.

Disposables is a category in which the $37.74 spent were pretty much all unnecessary and a waste other than a few things- 2 packages of wooden skewers, 2 packages of disposable plates, 2 packages of disposable bowls, 2 packages of disposable tablecloths, 2 packages of disposable cups, a package of disposable cups, 1 package of napkins, 3 rolls of aluminum foil, 1 large package of tea lights (125 of them) and 1 package of disposable diapers. Most of this was bought for Anneliese's birthday party.

$21.77 was spent on treats- 6 small packages of marshmallows, 11 bars of chocolate, and 6 bags of a puffed corn treat. All a waste of money, not healthy, and I probably should cut back... I think every single time so far that I've tallied up my grocery bills, I mention the same thing about junk/treats... Oh well...

Lastly- $17.28 was spent on try goods- 2.2 lbs powdered sugar, 1 package of tea, 1 package of yeast, about 10 cinnamon sticks, and 4.5 lbs of potato starch. The powdered sugar was for the cake I made, so....

All in all, I think the biggest lesson I learned from this month's grocery shopping was to remember the chocolate chips and not stock up on things that are still expensive, even if cheaper than they usually are, because they'll just end up being a crutch.
And to maybe incorporate more vegan meals into our diet.

So far, this next month's grocery budget is looking a lot better than this past one. We'll see...


  1. Penny, IMO as long as you aren't going into debt because of your higher than usual grocery bill, you can prioritize to spend more on meat/chicken instead of legumes if it makes your life easier. You have 4 little kids, make almost everything from scratch and really you don't need to be beating yourself up over having a higher than usual grocery bill. I have no idea what your actual income is, but knowing how frugal you are, I doubt you're cutting things too close. And the amount you spent on produce in amazing.

    1. Our grocery bills aren't putting us into debt, no, but we really would like to save money, to be able to buy a house one day, among other things... so the more spent on groceries, the less we can save, so I think about it... Our income isn't so high. It changes month to month, but on average its about 2000 dollars a month, of which 571 dollars goes for rent... So a large grocery bill makes a difference.

  2. That is a great breakdown, and it is very noticeable how much more things are there. I'm curious, though, why you would use disposable plates, tablecloths, etc. I ask that question because paper products were the first thing I cut out to save money and trees, etc., and remembering your post on re-useable toilet wipes, I was just curious. I would probably choose toilet paper over paper plates:-) I'm just curious and maybe I missed something in another post so wanted to ask.

    1. We don't have enough dishes to serve a crowd, so when there's an event like a party, we end up using disposables.
      Though I'll admit, I hate washing dishes. I really do. Its one of those things that build up a lot in my house- constant, constant dishes in the sink. I would love a dishwasher one day. But currently no room or money for one. So in the meantime, sometimes it works best to reduce my stress levels/mess levels to use disposables. As for cloth toilet paper- i've mentioned that I just vastly prefer it, and would do it even if I became rich. So no, i don't find that to be more work at all for me... but washing dishes is. So disposable dishes come before disposable toilet paper for me. For the record- we DO stock toilet paper in our house. I just generally tend to stick with the cloth...

    2. We have disposable dishes for the same reason, so that we can feed a crowd. I don't know where you store yours, but mine are on a way high shelf so that I'm not tempted to use them every time I don't want to wash dishes. :-) it's easier to wash a dish than balance on my tippy toes on a rickety ladder.

  3. I'm trying to figure out how to do paleo on a budget. I'm reluctant to give up the cheaper vegetarian meals. Any cheapereat iDea? How do you store 55lbs. Of flour in your small living space?

    1. If you can do eggs, that makes a difference financially on the paleo budget. If you can hunt, that makes an even bigger difference. If you can fish, that can help. Some people buy half a cow directly from a farmer, which also decreases costs of meat significantly. Foraging greens and getting free stuff like i do from the farmer's market, and buying reduced rack produce will also make a difference.
      I store this 55 lb sack if grain in my hallway. It makes our entrance more cramped, but makes my life easier so we prefer a more cramped entrance and saving all that money... And then I just grind a few pounds at a time of flour and store that in containers.

  4. When my children were young, I would sometimes buy a sack of 6 candy bars for a small price. We could each have one and one would be leftover to divide. These small pleasures are important, too, if not over done. I'm saying, I think it's ok for you to have some purchased treats even if it isn't bare bones frugality.

    1. I do have some purchased treats, and don't feel guilty about that. The question is how much I spend on junk, which isn't healthy to begin with... I'm not anti treats at all, question is how many treats and how often?

  5. I like these posts, and agree with Leila that you shouldn't beat yourself up about overspending on something like healthy food. (Though yes, I do grant your point...but still think you're being hard on yourself.)

    These posts remind me to look at my own spending behavior...which I should do more often. Especially at the grocery store.

    I really appreciate the work -- and self searching -- you put into this.

  6. Things that are for business should not be in your grocery budget. Chocolate that I buy for moulding is tracked separately. If you didn't know at the time that is something else entirely.

  7. I follow your blog primarily because I adhere to a vegan diet and you tend to have good recipes. I find your extreme frugality interesting and inspiring, but I tend to be a bit more laid back with our budget. That said, I am at a stage of life where I can get away with a bit more financial flexibility.

    I too remember living very frugally to save for a desired goal such as a house, and then actually to pay it off as quickly as possible. Yet, I also agree with many of your fans here. You feed your kids amazingly healthy meals, and are scrupulous about saving. A few treats here and there, or choosing convenience to save your sanity, are also worth a great deal!!! Be gentle with yourself!

    Thanks for an enjoyable blog.
    A reader in Canada


Thank you for leaving a comment on your blog. Comments are moderated- please be patient to allow time for them to go through. Opposing opinions are permitted, discussion and disagreements are encouraged, but nasty comments for the sole purpose of being nasty without constructive criticisms will be deleted.
Just a note- I take my privacy seriously, and comments giving away my location or religion are automatically deleted too.