Ouch! Food Budget - Mothering Forums

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Old 02-01-2010, 01:11 AM - Thread Starter
 
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As part of our resolution for this year (and an ongoing commitment to spending less than we make), we kept track of every cent we spent this month to get an accurate sense of what it looked like. It had been almost 2 years since we did this. At one point we had some debt and we did some of DR methods (like cash envelopes) and we paid it all off. After we paid it all off we started saving and got really good at that. Then, I started making a lot more money and we had access to more money than we ever have had in our lives. So, we stopped keeping track of day-today spending. We have saved a lot (we have the 6 months in savings DR recommends).

Anyhow, all of that is just making myself feel better about us being responsible adults when what I came to say is OMG we are insane food spenders. We spent about $1600 this month on food (groceries, take out, cafes) and household things(sponges, soaps, etc). I'm embarrassed to admit this because that is just insane. Yes, we live in a high cost of living urban area but we used to be at about $650 when we were being tight and then at $800 when we were being less tight. We doubled that!!!

We are a family of four -- mom, dad, and two boys under 10.

Not really looking for advise I guess, since I know largely what we need to do to bring it down. We have done it before and can do it again for sure. Time to get out the envelope again!
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Old 02-01-2010, 02:16 AM
 
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Good luck to you as you tighten your belt again.

But I have to say, your post made me feel a smidge better about my own finances. We just did our monthly budget, and our food envelope (for both groceries as well as eating out) is about $800 and I think that's insanely high.

But at the same time, I'm not terribly willing to make any changes.....

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Old 02-01-2010, 03:41 AM
 
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You are in the same boat as we are as far as tightening down and doing the envelope thing for groceries. We just started that recently and it is pretty tricky so far, but we are doing well. IMO our grocery budget before was also insane, but we didn't really notice and thought we were doing well until we went back and added it all up and tracked.
It is hard to be so closely mindful of every little penny, but a great habit to get into. Even if we had unlimited funds, it is still important to be aware and make sound decisions and understand small changes can add up into big money. That is what I tell myself anyway :yawning
We are in debt, want out, and don't want to go there again.
Good luck to you. This is a good area of the forum to hang out for these types of goals.

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Old 02-01-2010, 11:44 AM
 
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It's quite easy to spend that much, I think. But you've already proven that you can do much better; I'm sure you'll do great this month!

By the way, we are also tracking every cent this month, for some of the same reasons you mentioned, and I am not looking forward to seeing the total for groceries.

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Old 02-01-2010, 01:39 PM
 
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We are a family of 4 too. I think we spend around $800/month on food too. Really, really trying to cut back a bit! January was the first month that I've ever actually written down all costs. I hope this is helpful and plan to try to cut back somehow, just not sure yet! I think that accountability will help me!! I'm really reading on the frugality and finances for helpful hints! Loving reading other responses and gaining knowledge!

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Old 02-01-2010, 04:25 PM - Thread Starter
 
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I know what some of our big issues are (very expensive cheeses, speciality items like fresh squeeze blood organe juice or the like, etc). We have some things I won't change (like we buy almost all organic, favor local, frequent the farmer's markets even though some stuff is more pricey) but there are other things we could absolutely do better on. Under $1000 seems like it should be totally do-able!
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Old 02-01-2010, 04:33 PM
 
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I did the same thing for all of our food spending this month. We came out to about $850 for our family of three. $150 of that was dining out. Yikes!

I broke down our food and household products into 17 categories. I made a spreadsheet that has a vertical row for the days of the month and a horizontal row for the 17 categories.
The spreadsheet adds the horizontal line categories to show the total we spent for food on any given day. ($55.01 on January 5th, $0.00 on January 6th, $10.81 on January 7th, etc...)
The vertical categories add up so we can see what we spent in any given category for the month ($121.00 on produce, $35.37 on bread products, $28.98 on alcohol, $145.00 on dining out, etc...)
The spreadsheet also adds up the total for the month.

I am SO glad I am doing this. It was extremely helpful to see where we are spending our food money. I know it is going to help me see where I can budget, make more homemade things, and otherwise save money.

I plan to keep this going for the entire year, as I am really curious to see what we will spend in a calendar year all together. I know some months will seem like a lot (like when I buy bulk fruit for freezing, 1/4 of a cow, and things like that). And other months will seem slim. I hope I can keep it up for the whole 12 months and beyond.
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Old 02-01-2010, 04:37 PM
 
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Tracking expenses is something I enjoy and am very good at, I've been doing it for over a year, I have a dh who eats anything I put in front of him and three young kids whose tastes can be satisfied very, very cheaply (like fresh fruit and Kraft Macaroni cheaply), I live down the street from a generous MIL who loves to "pick things up" for us during her multiple weekly trips to Costco- and our monthly spending on food in 2009(just food, no household goods) averaged $782.53.

It's just a really, really hard budget to control. For me, it's a hugely emotional thing to be hungry/thirsty, or have the kids be hungry/thirsty, and not go through the drive-thru or to the concession stand. And if they ask for a specific item in the store, or dh asks me to buy something, or I want an impulse item, nine times out of ten I give in.

No advice, just empathy. I spent $800 on food in January, and we didn't exactly eat gourmet. There are woman on this board who could cook their way through Julia Child with $800/month to spend
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Old 02-01-2010, 04:48 PM
 
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I'm committed to getting a firm handle on this in 2010. I know I'm spending a bit more right now as I've begun buying fresh flowers again. Two bouquets. Sometimes every week.

And ice cream. 2 or more containers. Almost every week. And worse, we're eating it! My husband can devour a 1/2 gallon in a few days.

It's basically just us and our 4 yo daughter. The baby's biggest vice is that he can eat half an avocado in a sitting!

Good for you for working to get it in check again. For me, the focus will be to increase our emergency fund - ok, fund it really! - with the fat I cut from our spending.

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Old 02-01-2010, 07:42 PM
 
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Originally Posted by honeybunmom View Post


Good for you for working to get it in check again. For me, the focus will be to increase our emergency fund - ok, fund it really! - with the fat I cut from our spending.
Us too.

Good luck, OP!

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Old 02-01-2010, 08:37 PM
 
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Our monthly food/groceries bill is second only to our mortgage in size.

Someone moved my effing cheese.
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Old 02-01-2010, 08:45 PM
 
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I think what's helped us in our food budget is not going to the store weekly as often instead going when we need things for dinner that night. That way, it saves us from buying things that we don't need and things that will get wasted. We also try and stock up when our local stores have a 10 for $10 sale. It's almost always on things that we need - one store does it one week and the next store does it the next week. We're currently a family of three - almost 4 soon - and our monthly grocery bill is around $450?

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Old 02-01-2010, 10:18 PM
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Originally Posted by journeymom View Post
Our monthly food/groceries bill is second only to our mortgage in size.


Sometimes it's more than our mortgage.

"Our task is not to see the future, but to enable it."
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Old 02-01-2010, 10:22 PM - Thread Starter
 
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We shop mostly at a food coop where there are no sales ever. So, stocking up and shoping sales and other tricks I often read here don't really have relevancy in our context. Our big issue is really just buying too many costly things too often ($15 peices of cheese, dh's obsession with coconut waters and kombuchia and such).

Inspired by the budget, I made a ton of food from the fridge tonight so that we will have things to eat for a couple days.
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Old 02-01-2010, 10:27 PM
 
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We spend a ton on food, too, and I also hope to cut it down quite a bit this year. It's hard, though, b/c we have 6 people and it adds up fast. Best of luck getting your grocery budget down.

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Old 02-01-2010, 11:58 PM
 
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I wouldn't say ours is out of control- but I have made it my 2010 goal to lower it quite a bit.

In 2009 I spent $543/mo on grocery/toiletry and $109/mo eating out. We raise most of our own meat and milk. I believe I can do much better- simply by staying out of the grocery between trips. You know- the stop and pick up x which actually ends up buying xyz and costs $50.

Good Luck OP!

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Old 02-04-2010, 01:23 PM
 
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In January I kept a written record of grocery/food spending. Just added it up today and I spent $748.65. My goal in February is to spend $100 less and keep track again of all spending. I hope I can reach my goal, at least this is a starting point as I've never kept a record. Hope I can eliminate some spending! Plus I just need to see if roughly $800 is a lot, or the norm for our family.

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Old 02-04-2010, 06:33 PM
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I can relate, its usually around 900 or 1000/month for DH, DS (both huge eaters), and myself. That's groceries, eating out, and toilitries.

However, DH is on a candida-type diet of only meat and veggies..so that's a ton of meat.

DS and I eat mainly organic and since I work, I rely on some 'healthy' packaged foods and eating out after work for convenience/necessity.

Anyways, I used to beat myself up over it, but seriously, I consider contributing to Organic farmers part of a 'donation' for the month. And there are some things (like pp mentioned better tasting/quality cheeses, coconut water, raw nuts, etc,.) that I just won't give up.

So no, I don't think its an outlandish amount, all things considered!
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Old 02-04-2010, 06:40 PM
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Oh, you were looking for tips to bring it down

I used to get by on $50/week for myself when single/childless...

Lots of quinoa, Kale or Collards,Tofu or Tempeh. Rice and Beans, would buy 10lb. sacks of oranges or grapefruit when in season, sprouted beans/seeds and even made sprouted breads... I was mostly vegan, and I never ate out.

I was actually eating healthier and weighed 15lbs less....hmmm..I should probably take my own advice and start switching back...
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Old 02-04-2010, 06:42 PM
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Old 02-04-2010, 07:07 PM
 
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Yes I agree we all have to manage our budget carefully. We definitely need to control our impulse buying, a lot of us have to battle with that.

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Old 02-04-2010, 08:46 PM
 
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I have to agree with how hard this is. Lately I have found myself looking in my pantry, writing down as many meals as I can from what I already have and going to the store for a few more dinners/lunches/etc. Then I don't go to the store until all of those meal ideas are used up. Literally the pantry, freezer, and frig are bare. I will buy fresh fruits and veggies as needed though. This saves me money b/c I am truly using everything I have. I do spend quite a lot when I go to stock up (maybe half of our food budget for the month?) when I do go to the store but since I'm not throwing away as much I see this plan as a gain.
We are getting ready to prepurchase a grass finished cow and pastured pig share so my freezer will at least be full of meat! I am hoping this will bring my monthly costs down.
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Old 02-04-2010, 09:05 PM
 
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Last month I was under $150 for DS (9) and myself. We ate alot from the pantry. We ate out too but with coupons and only from my 'slush fund'.
I packed my lunch every day for work, same with breakfast. So I only had to deal with dinner and weekends.

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Old 02-05-2010, 07:02 PM
 
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For years our grocery budget has been kicking my butt. We aim for $600/mo (family of 4 - parents + 6 yo/3 yo kiddos), but invariably blow through that fairly often. A few things that help a bit:

* decreasing frequency of shopping trips (at my peak, managed to go bi-weekly)
* discovering the kids + I really like eating at our local hospital's beautifully renovated, healthy cafeteria (DH works in the ER, so he doesn't get quite as excited about eating ostensibly at work) - everyone gets what they want, fresh fruit + veggies abound, there are 12 flavors of fresh gelatto, + our entire meal is nearly always under $8 (plus there are 2 enormous fish tanks to watch while eating) - this is a great go-to for times when I really don't want to cook, but also don't want to drop $30+
* taking the creativity out of meal planning - wrote down breakfast/lunch/dinner + snack master list of mostly inexpensive/healthful items - just pick from the list when creating a meal plan: http://wp.me/pp0Q2-2u (keep the list in the front/back clear covers of a binder that contains all recipes)

Hoping the above help us keep Feb. grocery spending under $600 (esp. as Jan. was $1,100 - ack! - included a b-day bash but still...)

Good luck!
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