New Year, New Grocery Budget

1 week of groceries

1 week of groceries

The grocery budget at our house has morphed a few times in the past 2-1/2 years. First we started reducing packaged food and making more things from scratch, then we became vegetarian, and now we are avoiding most paper products and commercial cleaning supplies. Meanwhile, I stopped making bread and muffins due to time pressures, but I hope to add them back in.

We are always stocked up with the basics like rice and pasta; lentils and beans; nuts and peanut butter; eggs, cheese, and milk. I used to stop at the grocery store on the way home from work 3-4 times a week, but I’ve changed my tune. Now we shop once a week, and if we run out of an ingredient, we make or use something else instead.

Each week we usually make 2 or 3 dinners in big batches that will last for two meals each. When we go grocery shopping, we specifically buy fresh ingredients for that week’s meals. We buy very little that’s not in the meal plan. Β To be honest, we’re not tempted by sales much. I suppose we could buy some extra quinoa if it’s on sale (for example), but most items we buy aren’t advertised or marked down much.

So every week we buy stuff for breakfasts and for the lunches we take to work, including fruit and veg, salad fixings, breads, cereals and crackers, coffee, tea and milk.

Our last grocery trip for 2013, on Dec 31, cost $19 for just vegetables and milk.

Following in the footsteps of Laura from No More Spending, I posted a little video chat about our latest grocery order over on YouTube:

For blog readers who prefer to actually read (!), I spent $78.58 on the following:

Packaged Foods

  • Shreddies cereal $5.99
  • Spoon Size Shredded Wheat cereal $3.99
  • 2 cansΒ decaf coffee @ $4.49 each
  • 1.89 L (2 US quarts) blueberrycocktail $4.69 incl tax and deposit
  • 2 L soy milk $3.79
  • 1 pkg honeybush tea $3.00
  • 1 lg loaf rye bread $3.69
  • 3 pkg crumpets @ $1.89 each
  • 2 loaves whole wheat bread @ $1.88 each (cheapest brand this week)

Dairy

  • 2 pkg Greek yogurt @ $2.99 each – it was $2 cheaper to buy the individual cups versus the big tub 😦
  • 1 L 2% milk $2.25

Produce

  • Cauliflower $3.99
  • Grape tomatoes $3.47
  • Celery $2.99
  • Broccoli $2.00
  • Bell pepper $1.46
  • Bananas $1.14
  • 6 oz radishes $0.77

Snacks

  • Frozen yogurt $3.99
  • Note the absence of candy; I over-indulged for the holidays!

Non-Food

  • 2 boxes tissues @ 1.15 each incl. tax
  • Dishwashing detergent (local brand) $4.68 incl. tax

In the video, I mention a chopped salad. It turned out like this!

Chopped salad

Chopped Salad

The grocery budget for 2014 is $490/month, to include all food for 3 meals a day at home and/or work, snacks, cleaning supplies, personal care items and (minimal) paper goods. This should be easily attainable.

Are you off to a good start this year?

37 comments

  1. ** sorry I’m chatting today – long comments all round!**

    We spent HEAPS last night ($101 + $30 + $7I think) We bought more than a kg of chicken, some salmon (the $7), and some sirloin. Otherwise, I bought a premix salad, cause otherwise I waste most of the shallots, and I can never get the cabbage as fine (yes, you know I hate the packaging, and the sachets of noodles and dressing I won’t use!). The BF likes to get away less than $100 pw, but I tend to care less cause he likes meat in all meals, and that bumps stuff up!

    I had to go to the green grocer for the $30 as the chicken delivery didn’t come to the big grocer! Also picked up my snacks for the week (fruit) and vegies that weren’t in stock at the grocery store.

    We shop once a week, either on the weekends (I’ll go pre 9am if at all possible, but definitely in the morning to beat crowds) or he/we will go on a Monday night. We plan 5-6 meals, ensuring some have leftovers for lunches. I try to actively avoid buying snacks unless the BF says something specifically, then we get museli bars. I also buy savoury rice cakes or similar once in a while to have on my desk. Other than milk, we only buy tonic water for the BF. We buy coffee out, or at work, and my tea stash lasts endlessly it would seem.

    As I’ve said before, spending more on groceries is net spending less, as we’re not eating out, so I try not to worry as it creeps up. There’s really nothing ‘bad’ in there – no candy, no preprepared foods other than the salad, and no bakery items other than wraps.

  2. So far, so good.. but we’re big carnivores here, so account for that as well. I’d love to keep our grocery bill at around $150/week with $30/week for “stocking up” on sale items, so we’ll see how that goes! πŸ™‚

  3. Tina Lemna

    Thank you for sharing what you buy at the grocery store. That was very interesting! And I loved the video. I think meal planning might be my answer. I make a list of what we are running low on but don’t really plan specific meals. I rarely waste food but might be able to save money by planning three meals a day like you do. Thanks again.

    • Thanks, Tina! My old system used to be: keep a list of basic foods and buy more of them whenever I ran out. Then I would always have ingredients in the house to make meals – out of packages and cans and frozen foods. Then I would overbuy produce and meat, and get lazy about cooking it, and try to freeze stuff before it spoiled! Meal planning has really been the answer for me. We buy food to make those meals, and almost always actually make them, and force ourselves not to slack off and make a frozen pizza instead (well, maybe once a month!) I suppose it is self-discipline to stick to the plan, but we always know what we are having, and look forward to the meals, so it feels like a reward after a while!

  4. Fiona

    I’m not at home just now and the video won’t play on my phone ~ can’t wait to see it when we get back! It is about discipline in making and sticking to meal plans. We’re not quite there yet…I go well for a few weeks, then delay shopping, then get into the 3x a week shop and quick snack meals. It’s great to see other people’s grocery hauls to keep on track!

    • By the end of each month, there’s usually a planned meal or two we haven’t made because we went out. The last week of one month and the first of the next, I sometimes delay making the new monthly meal plan, and I can lose good habits very quickly!

  5. Wow, that is a very frugal budget. Mine is usually much more but we do have two teenage boys who are always saying there is nothing to eat. They’ve been away for a few days and I have noticed a huge difference, we just aren’t running out of food!

  6. It makes me so happy that you did a video!

    I think I only really started to get control of my grocery budget when I started meal planning – it’s the key. Add in ‘once a week only’ grocery buying and you’re on to a good thing!

    PS. How expensive cereal is in Canada!?

    • Thanks, Laura! For me, it was going over to “Real Food” and buying raw ingredients rather than packaged food. Then that required meal plans, because all of those things have to be combined and cooked, rather than just opened. And you’re right, the “once a week” trips have made a big difference – I would be spending $15-20 several times a week in addition to the weekly shopping. And often used those last-minute purchases to substitute for better meals that were planned! As for the cereal, sigh, it’s ridiculous – like the shredded wheat that is nothing but 100% Canadian wheat. I would like to think that farmers are getting a good price for it, but I doubt it.

  7. Claire/Just a little less

    I’m very keen this year to keep tight control of my grocery budget with the help of menu planning and one online shop a week plus one shop to one of the German supermarkets. We like to cook enough to last for two days as well (mainly at the weekend). Good luck with your budget this year πŸ™‚

  8. Fiona

    Oh gosh – both you and Laura have such lovely “radio voices”! It’s so funny hearing the voice-behind-the-blog for the first time. Both of you are lucky though to come from countries with naturally good accents! (vrs. the Aussie strine here!)

  9. It’s nice to hear your voice! I should do a post about a typical week’s worth of groceries too. It’s interesting to see what others buy. Cereal is expensive here too, and it seems to go on sale less and less which boggles my mind. I pay $4 a box for 13 ounces! My husband would love it if there were hockey cards inside cereal here – he’s a big fan πŸ™‚

  10. Love the video! We have yet to do any major grocery shopping this year since most of us have been sick. There were a few side trips for things like Gatorade and crackers. I was able to make one meal where I just grabbed a bag of tortilla chips and avocados to make nachos instead of going out. We usually budget $100/week for our family of 4. We usually have at least one or two weeks that are far over, but that’s because we make a Costco run for bigger items and just average the rest of the weeks out, so our monthly total is around $400 πŸ™‚

    • $100 a week for a family of 4, now those are some kickass American prices πŸ™‚ Sorry to hear you’ve been sick – I hope you’ve reached the turning point and feel better now!

  11. Lane

    Great post! I like to track things as well, although I’m not as expert as you are. We’ve been running about $600. US a month, but that includes dog and catfood, cleaning items, wine and food for dinner parties. I love to cook and always did even when I worked fulltime; we don;t mind reheating meals either, so helpful to be able to come home and just heat something and make a salad. I would say we have meat a couple times a week at most, many times stewed with lots of veg or made into a pasta or polenta sauce. We grow a lot of food as well and put some up for the winter months.

    Thanks for this way of keeping track; I need to refine my methods! Oh, and my husband loves a Canadian cereal called Nature’s Path– the Heritage flakes and Smart Bran are really good and no GMO!

    • Hi and welcome! Are there two at your house as well? We don’t grow anything – that would be nice! I think Nature’s Path Ginger Zing Granola is the best cereal I ever tasted!

      • Lane

        Well, usually, but we have one of our ’emerging adults” here for a bit while she arranges an apartment. This means a very high yogurt bill! I make my granola, but will look for this ginger one.

      • Emerging adults – I love that term! I have one of those who was home for 2 weeks over the holidays. I switched to making my own granola too, and I add very finely chopped candied ginger!

  12. EcoCatLady

    I’ve gotta agree with some of the other comments, you have an AMAZING speaking voice! You should do voice-overs or stuff like that! I wouldn’t have the faintest idea how to record or post a video!

    For the moment, I’m trying something new and focusing less on price than on quality – sort of a gift to myself for paying off the mortgage. I still can’t bring myself to spend $5 for one bell pepper, but other than that I’m trying to buy organic for the “dirty dozen” and allowing myself more things like frozen veggies and salad “treats” like avocados and snap peas.

  13. Alice

    Hi! That’s a lovely post and I do love the video ( and the accent, too!)! Thank you for sharing!
    Thumbs up for the Greek yogurt! It seems to be very convenient that you plan your meals and track down your grocery shopping. We are at the ‘effort phase’ in meal planning- at least for lunch, which is our main meal.
    Best wishes for the new year!

    • Thanks, Alice. I am told I don’t have much of an east coast regional accent. It does take some time and effort to start meal planning and get used to it, but I think it pays off. Happy 2014!

  14. jamielredmond

    We are living away from home at the moment, so only have a bar fridge. With the weather being so variable at the moment the fridge is really struggling to cope, moving between freezing our fresh produce (!) to defrosting the freezer section at random!
    Our living situation is also playing havoc with my meal planning and shopping trips. Because we can fit so little in the fridge, and almost nothing in the freezer, I’m finding myself at the supermarket most days. That makes it hard to stay on budget. Still, I did a bigger trip yesterday and tried to buy for Tuesday lunch through until Friday evening. It came to just over $100 for a family of 5. Interestingly, we had friends visiting on Monday and the trip to the supermarket for that day alone came to the same amount! I think this is proof that meal planning is essential, as our trip on Monday was unplanned, but our Tuesday trip was well planned.

    P.S. 4 small red capsicum (red peppers) cost $7 yesterday. I was in a bit of shock, especially as they are currently in season here in Australia.

    • Hi Jamie, the red bell peppers here cost $8.80/kg so I hear you on that! I try to buy green ones when possible because they’re so much cheaper, but they’re not sweet. I don’t know how I would manage without a fridge or freezer (or without a big, reliable one as the case may be!) For instance, bread will only last 2-3 days at most before getting mould, and milk is only good for about 24 hours (much less in your heat?) I guess I would eat more canned and packaged foods! Actually about $200 a week for a family of 5 in Australia sounds pretty good (especially with visitors).

  15. I agree with everyone else and think you have a lovely speaking voice πŸ™‚

    I also only shop once a week (or once a fortnight if I can get away with it!). This is mostly because shopping is a hassle and I don’t like going during the week. I don’t really plan my meals, just buy whatever is cheap and then turn it into meals throughout the week. However, now that I’m going to be sharing a kitchen again, I’m going to cook more bulk meals so that I don’t drive my housemate crazy with a messy kitchen all the time!

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