Half-Year Grocery Tally 2013

Photo credit: medialifemagazine.com

Photo credit: medialifemagazine.com

It’s time for a half-year grocery tally! Last year I added up all the food I purchased over the year – not just the cost, but how many of each item. I wanted to know what it would look like on paper to describe our grocery buying! I think I had a rose-coloured view of our grocery buying habits that didn’t match the reality.

Some background: We are a family of 2 adults. We have been eating Real Food, making meals from scratch and menu planning for over 2 years. A year ago, we decided to go vegetarian (95% of the time). We had a reduction in grocery costs when we stopped buying meat.

For the first 6 months of this year, we have spent $2373 on groceries, or $396 a month, on just food. I am happy we broke the $400 mark! Another $78 per month is needed to account for paper goods, cleaning supplies, personal care products, and cat food and litter. So the “total total” at the grocery store(s) is $474 a month.

Last year our grocery food costs were $481/month but I had included paper goods. So for a fair comparison, this year (so far) they are $412/month including paper goods. We have reduced our spending by $69/month, or 14%.

I used to do a menu plan a month at a time, and buy groceries weekly. However, I would find that sometimes we had too many leftovers and we didn’t use up all our fresh ingredients on time. (Rather than throw them out, I froze them or made soups). I think it happened because we were new at vegetarian recipes and were too keen, wanting to make new dishes several times a week! Now we have a repertoire and don’t feel the need to mix it up quite so much. My current practice is to stop by the grocery store, buy enough food for breakfasts, lunches and candy fixes snacks, and enough ingredients for a big one-dish meal. We are willing to eat the same thing for 2 or 3 days, then go back to Sobey’s again. So that has resulted in our 14% savings.

Photo credit: whealthysolutions.com

Photo credit: whealthysolutions.com

Areas where our spending went down because of buying “just enough”:

  • Fruit – all
  • Vegetables – all except tomatoes, mushrooms and eggplant (used often in veg stews)
  • Potatoes, pasta and rice – we used to have these with every meal when we ate meat, but now we have mostly one-dish veggie meals
  • Milk and cheese – we have reduced our dependence on these since learning to cook more vegetarian recipes. We still like dairy, but no longer fear vegan food!
  • Flour – because of not baking lately

Areas where our spending has gone up:

  • Canned baked beans – Rom’s staple food when I work evening shifts (!)
  • Nuts – all
  • Candy and desserts
  • Bread – because of not baking lately

One thing I’m deeply displeased about is that I have stopped baking entirely. Even before I started doing my big home inventory on the weekends, I had stopped making bread, muffins and granola. It would save even more money to get back in the baking habit! One thing I’m pleased about is finally starting to cook beans from dried, instead of buying canned. Now to find a recipe for baked beans that Rom will eat when I am at work  – he likes the UK-style Heinz ones in tomato sauce (but the Heinz Canada ones aren’t the same so he actually prefers the store brand!)

Just for punishment   fun, I decided to track how much of our grocery budget is paying for packaged snacks, and the answer is $209 from January to June, or 8.8%! I am OK with that. However, I do solemnly swear that for the second half of the year, I will eat less candy, aaghh!!

To complicate things further, our “dining out” costs have been creeping up. There haven’t been any concerts or plays we’ve wanted to see in the past two months, so we had more dinners out instead. I calculated that we were out for 18 meals over 6 months, had take-out 3 times, and bought 2 frozen pizzas! Clearly we could have saved that money, and just didn’t choose to. It sure is an eye-opener to do the math, though.

If I were going to make just one change, it would be to have a couple of quick “emergency” meals in the freezer in case something comes up and we don’t have time to cook…other than KD or frozen pizza!

All in all, I think we are moving in the right direction, eating mostly healthy real food, and not being wasteful. There is room for improvement. But making meals is still an adventure and I like food and eating – not everyone does!

Have your grocery buying, cooking or eating habits changed this year?


  1. I agree with a more ‘meal focused’ shop is less wasteful and more budget friendly. I know that doesn’t work for everyone, but it does for me! I’d love to have no packaged snacks – for a $ and a waste point of view, but I’m not sure it’s realistic. I agree too that you need some ‘easy’ or ‘freezer’ meals for when life’s too hard, and you don’t want to cook. What they are (and not eating them all up too quickly) is the key! I’d love a post on your top 5 vego recipes, and maybe 5 for both summer and winter (if that changes your cooking, I know it does a bit in Australia)

    • That’s exactly it about the “meals in reserve” – I know they’re there, and it makes me lazy – I realize I could have them right away! So it would have to be something I kind of like, but am not wild about! I haven’t posted recipes before and I’m not sure how I can do it without making each one again and taking photos – so stay tuned – I will work on it!

      • Yay, I’ll stay tuned. I agree, you need a ‘not so nice’ stockpile in the freezer – so if you’re truly too busy you will eat it otherwise it’ll stay there.

  2. My grocery and meal habits changed quite a bit when the fridge died, I think I actually do better and have less waste. I know how much I spend but haven’t broken it down. There is food I buy for me, then things I but for the grandchildren when they are over, which as you know is often.

    • Are the kids gradually getting used to any of your everyday food? I bet they will like (or will learn to like) things they’ve grown.

      • They are starting to. When I least expect it one of them will decide to try something and decide its not so bad after all. Unfortunately they do eat a lot of processed foods and ask for that first.

  3. Fiona

    You are a tracking guru, Dar! Must be so useful to have the breakdowns with different categories (dairy, vegetables, fruit etc.) I know you’ve mentioned before but I can’t quite recall…what is the cost difference between your old meat diet and the move to a vegetarian diet? (only if it’s an easy figure to pull out!)

    • It was 15%. We were never big meat eaters anyway, but I did think it would be more. Also, as vegetarians, we do buy some luxury products like pesto and goat cheese!

  4. Although I’m v. far from being a vegetarian, I’ve taken to eating the same meal as M but only adding enough meat for him – I’ll say make a beef casserole and just have the sauce/veggies etc. It’s keeps our meat buying at a minimum and definitely helps to keep the costs down.

    I’m in awe of your tracking too 🙂

  5. Juhli

    Wow, your food costs are great. I always thought it cost more to live in Canada but I just tallied our costs at $560US a month for the first six months for food only. We are not vegetarians though. If I add in toiletries, household and beer/wine it comes to $593US a month. The dog food and treats are included in her overall costs that include vet and grooming as I am more interested in what it costs to maintain her than feed her LOL.

    • Hi Juhli, I am surprised; I always thought your costs would be a lot lower. I used to spend about $560/month for one teenager and myself when we were eating both meat and packaged foods – cat food might have been included in that, too!

      • Juhli

        Well we do buy some non-dairy prepared foods and meat/poultry/fish. However I think it is simply that food costs are higher in my location than even in some other parts of the US.

  6. You are the diva of details…love these posts!

  7. I would be scared to tally up our groceries and really look at it like this … which probably means I should do exactly that.

  8. oh, I just found your blog and this is the type of post I love 🙂
    I plan to get back to tracking all my grocery spending in detail for the new financial year, I know I can save more on our food bill. I eat mainly vegetarian and that has helped lower the bill

  9. I would love to see some of your favourite vegetarian recipes as well. I think the cost of living is similar here to in Canada. I’m struggling to keep my spending under $200 a month for one person now that I’m no longer vegetarian, but am just managing by buying very cheap cuts and using the slow cooker a lot.

    • We can’t quite do $200/month per person and we are vegetarian, plus we realize some economies of scale by cooking for two, so your food budget must be very tight!

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