Total Expenses on Groceries this Past Month- Breakdown and Analysis

One of my grocery shops this past month
This is the second month straight, and probably the 6th month total, in which I've tracked our family's groceries down to the last cent. The purpose of this is to get a better picture of where our money is going, and to be able to decide if it is what I would like to continue doing.

Today I was talking to my mother's helper, who asked me if I ever spent money on things, or if I liked to save money whenever and where ever possible. I explained to her my motto when it comes to frugality- not to spend as little money as possible, but rather, that all the money that I spent should be on things that I want to spend them on, that our spending reflects our values. I am very happy to spend money on something that is important to me (including my 2 home births that I paid over $1000 cash for instead of hospital births completely covered by insurance); I don't want to fritter money away on things that I'd regret after the fact.

That is why I like to analyze my grocery expenses.
Because I get to see precisely where my money is going, and I can decide if this is where I want it to go, or if I feel that the money I spent in each category was money well spent.
Analyzing my grocery expenses certainly has been enlightening.

And the more I do this, the more I get reminded that as much as each month's grocery breakdown is helpful to look at, I have to remember that there is a general picture as well, and that one month's grocery bill may be higher, and another one lower, but the average is more important.

Take this month's grocery tally.

It may just be the lowest since I've started tracking my groceries to the letter- $424.48 total spent this month, and $490.28 if I include in the amount of my bulk purchases (of coconut sugar and green buckwheat) that I used this month.

Compare that to last month's $709.91 (including the bulk usage)! What a difference! $220+ dollars, and 31.1% less!
But then once I average it out, I get a $600.09 average... Not terrible, but I really would like to keep my average lower.

Ok, so about this month's groceries...

I have to say, that lest you think this was a super skimpy month, with no extras, it really, really, really was not! I bought myself quite a few splurges, and even ate out once (included in the total). This $424.48 that I spent this month even included an insane amount of mackerel (26 cans!) and even disposables! If I were really trying to be skimpy, I would be able to go a lot lower.
Knowing that I was able to get my groceries this low without feeling deprived encourages me to try to keep it up in future months...
This tally includes just my expenses and what my husband purchased for the family- his occasional treats and his lunches (~$14 per week) aren't included. These groceries go for 3 meals a day and snacks and treats for our family of 6, minus my husband's lunches.

Ok, so what exactly did I spend my money on this past month?

Lets start from highest to lowest:

Animal proteins ring up at $104.29. Since animal proteins aren't cheap at all where I live, and because I bought quite a few splurges- namely cheeses- namely expensive cheeses- this month, and served animal proteins quite a lot and rarely vegan meals- it makes sense that it was this high. I totally could lower it if I want to... but if I'm able to get splurges and still keep my grocery bill this low, I'm not sure I see reason to change this.
So, within animal proteins, $34.26 was spent on dairy (1.85 gallons of milk and cheese), of which, $25.12 was spent on cheeses, including brie, manchego, and standard hard yellow cheese. Total splurging, but things the kids and I love.
Next highest, surprisingly, was on eggs. I don't eat them, but its my quick, go-to meal for my kids and husband... $26.82 on 90 eggs, working out to 29.8 cents per egg... This is one thing I don't plan on changing much, since eggs help my sanity a lot.
Next up was $25 on 17.21 lbs of chicken- a little more than half was chicken wings, and the rest whole chickens, working out to $1.45/lb on average. I haven't gotten really great prices for chicken lately- I heard of a local store with super amazing prices for chickens that I am going to hopefully get to in the near future to stock up, so that way I can lower my chicken total even without lowering the amount of chicken we eat.
Last in the protein category- fish! Even though I did a "bulk shopping". They were selling cans of mackerel for 70 cents each! At first I picked up 6, and then I sent my brother to pick up 20 more for me. Then I sent Mike and asked him to get me 40... but the sale was over. Oh well. Those mackerels are delicious and healthy and perfect travel food, and pretty much work out as cheaply as eggs for the amount of protein, with the added bonus of my not being sensitive to mackerels... so I often pop open a can for myself while the kids eat their eggs... But either way, in the end, I got 26 cans of mackerel for $18.20.

After animal proteins, my next highest expenses were produce.
Again, something I'm happy with, since I like my family eating a lot of produce- it's very healthy! Totally spending that money where my mind is!
We spent $96.81 on produce for our family this past month. A total of 154 lbs of fresh and frozen and 20 cans! This $96.81, for the record, also included some splurgy produce- including some super out of season and uber expensive produce!

I have to interject that in addition to what we spent on produce, I also supplemented this produce with greens and citrus fruit I foraged, as well as some past prime tomatoes, onions, and more citrus fruit I got free from a friend, and some kale and collard greens I got from a CSA where I gave a private foraging tour.

Ok, so now the breakdown of money spent on produce:
$19.77 on canned produce, including 8 cans of tomato paste bought on sale and 12 cans of peas bought at the scratch and dent store- 98 cents a can on average.
Frozen produce was $22.69 for 17.6 lbs of produce- 4.4 lbs frozen corn, 4.4 lbs frozen green beans, and 8.8 lbs frozen peas, averaging out at $1.29 per pound.
Frozen and canned produce are more expensive locally than fresh produce, but they also are a bit of a sanity saver for me sometimes. I could cut these out if I want to save some money...

$54.35 was spent on fresh produce, a total of 140.8 lbs! This works out to 38.6 cents per pound on average!
The fresh produce bought breaks down to:
Vegetables: zucchini, potatoes, carrots, avocado, fennel, beets, sweet potatoes
Fruit: banana, apples, persimmons, clementines, kumquats, kiwi, pears...
...nearly all bought super frugally, from the reduced rack, and at the reduced rack section of the farmer's market... well as a splurge of fetoya/dragon fruit, papaya, fuji apples, and a whole coconut.
These were definitely pretty expensive- $12.28 spent on them- so that raises the average.
If I exclude those splurgey fruits from the average, I spent 30.9 cents per pound for my fresh produce on average.

Definitely not bad.

Next up- grains.
Because I bought these in large quantities, this was pretty high, despite each item being pretty low priced. $50.71 on grains- 55 lbs- which includes white rice, brown rice, risotto, and corn meal- averaging out at 92.2 cents per pound. Not super low prices; I know there are places I can buy these things cheaper- and I'll try to do that next time I stock up.

After that- $44.60 on beverages and other liquids. This includes 1 25 oz bottle of olive oil, 2 cans of unsweetened juice concentrate- apple and apple cherry, 3 cartons of rice milk, 2 bottles of white wine, 2 large bottles of grape juice, and 1 bottle of pineapple juice. This is the first category so far that I say might be excess... quite a few expensive and unnecessary things here, and most aren't too healthy either. I mean, none are garbage, that's for sure, however, I've read quite a bit recently about how natural sugars are fine when they're eaten, but drinking your calories/sweeteners causes weight gain among other things... So I think I'll try to cut back on this, also for health reasons and also for cost.

Disposables cost me $34.34 this month, and this includes not just disposable dishes, etc... but basically all non food consumables. 1 package diapers, 1 package skewers, 1 package garbage bags, 4 packs of wipes, 2 packs of sponges, 2 of disposable plates, 3 of disposable bowls, 1 of dish soap, and 1 13.2 lb package of laundry detergent. In a pinch I could do without every last one of these (ok, maybe not dish soap because I haven't yet figured out how to make liquid soap and my bar soap doesn't work for dishes), but ehh... not sure my thoughts on this. They make my life easier, and sanity is worth something... but from environmental reasons and cost reasons... I don't know. I'm thinking about this category, if I want to be changing it. I have to say that even if most things in this category are unnecessary, I did make sure to get as low prices for these as possible by comparison shopping.

I spent $24.17 on processed starches, including 2 packages of gluten free pita, 3 injeras (Ethiopian fermented gluten free flat bread), and 5 packages of rice crispies. All these could ostensibly be skipped to lower cost. Again, I'm thinking if that's what I want to do, since these aren't too unhealthy, and make my life easier. And to be honest, I think the cost is pretty worth it...

Dry goods cost me $23.91, and this included 1 package yeast, 1 package of sugar, 1 package of xanthan gum, 1 jar of coffee, and 3 packages of potato starch. I'm pretty content with how this is- especially since I bought the potato starch from the scratch and dent store. The one thing I hope to do differently is buying my xanthan gum through a Celiac buyers club that takes place twice a year, and has the lowest price on xanthan gum around.

We spent $17.54 on vegan proteins, aka legumes- a grand total of 10.56 lbs of  various beans and lentils and natural peanut butter, working out to $1.66 per pound on average. I have no plans on changing this at all.

Junk cost us $11.66 which is awesome compared to how much I've spent on junk in the past ($21.77 last month, for example). Junk in this case is chocolate (bars and chips) and some random candies for the kids, mostly bought from the scratch and dent store... While I'd love eventually to be junk free in our house, I'm really happy to see that this area of our expenses is improving. In fact, since junk is what is least important to me, and is the last place I actually want to be spending my money, I am really happy to see that it is one of the areas in which I spent the least money.

The last two categories on the list are $9.02 on condiments (4 bottles of ketchup my husband bought on sale) and $6.57 on eating out (I bought a salad nicoise for myself from a takeout place while on a work related trip, to make it a treat for myself). (Ok, the last, last category is 83 cents spent on spices... but honestly, that is so little that I feel ridiculous even including it on this list.)

All in all, I'm pretty satisfied with how things worked out. I like that the order of most money spent to least money spent reflects my values and where I want to be spending my money more and where I want to be spending my money less, and that I spent a lot on the things that matter to me (animal proteins and produce) and didn't spend a lot on the things I'd rather not (junk), etc... I will try in future months to spend less money on beverages- that's the biggest area in which I think my shopping can use an improvement.
And I'm going to be doing some thinking about disposables and prepared gluten free starches, thinking about how much ease they provide in my life vs how much they cost, and decide if that is where I would like to be spending my money.

In short, I'd like to, at the very least, keep my next few months grocery totals either this low or close to it... and once I manage to do that, then maybe I'll try to work on lowering it even more. But for the next few months, my goal is to keep it this low.

How would you say you spend your money on groceries? Would you say the percentage spent in the different subsections reflect how much you actually want to be spending, or do you find you end up spending too much on things you don't care about/want to be spending on?
What would you say are the biggest areas of your grocery bill that you think could use improvement?

Penniless Parenting

Mommy, wife, writer, baker, chef, crafter, sewer, teacher, babysitter, cleaning lady, penny pincher, frugal gal


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  1. I buy bottled water at ALDI'S for $2.29/case (24 bottles) We don't have a water softeners on our faucet at the sink. Hubby likes to take bottled water to work.

    I get free magazine subscriptions via Cosmopolitan, Glamour, Real Simple, Southern Living, People mag, Woman's Day, Oprah, Ladies Home Journal, Elle, In Style, Redbook, Town & Country, Veranda, Health, Women's Health, Running, Family Circle, are the majority of the titles I receive...ALL FREE!

    We could do better in the meat dept. It's uber expensive here in NE Ohio...not sure why? I WISH my hubby liked fish..because we could cook the harvest from my BIL's fishing excursions in the summer....Lake Erie Perch and Walleye! YUM!!

  2. Your shopping is amazing! What is the average that people spend where you live? It seems like you are shopping and working at home everyday! Do you ever give yourself a break and say use your crockpot?

    1. Speaking to people around here, in my area, it seems that the average monthly grocery shop for a family my size that doesnt have any food sensitivities, and doesnt try to eat healthier, refined sugar free, etc... spends somewhere between 700-850 on average. So I'm lower than that AND gluten free, refined sugar free, etc...

    2. I don't shop every day, and some days i do super simple meals... occasionally i use the crock pot, but i use my pressure cooker more often- super fast meals without needing to plan ahead.

  3. Wow, awesomely frugal! Well done.
    Something your kids might like if you want to give them the occasional juice drink (we are like you and are generally refined sugar free) is to dilute it with soda water, as kids love bubbles. I did this for my 2 year old's birthday party and all the children loved it. Here in NZ I can get soda water for $1 a bottle.

    1. Funnily enough... my kids dont enjoy the bubbles. They like drinks minus the bubbles...

  4. A blogger in England, Frugal Ain't Cheap, recently had a recipe for homemade eco friendly dishwashing liquid made from lime, vinegar, salt and water. I haven't tried it yet but plan to when my current bottle is empty. Thought this might be useful to you.

  5. Could you tell us about your "mother's helper"? I am unfamiliar with this term.

    1. I wrote a post about it.

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