It’s Year-End Grocery Tally Time

Peppers bought in 2013: 27 lbs! Photo Credit:

Last year I looked at how much food I bought with my grocery dollars. I was keen to do it again this year and compare.

In 2012 I spent $5784 on all food coming into the house, plus paper goods. For 2013, the total was $5213. So the costs were 10% less, but what about the food?

It actually looks bad in print:

  • 31% less fruit
  • 20% less milk
  • 27% less cheese
  • 20% less grains, beans, lentils and pasta
  • More than twice as much bread
  • Twice as many desserts

The only unchanged areas were vegetables and packaged breakfast cereal.

Why would I buy so much less of the good stuff? First of all, 18 months into being vegetarian, we are no longer trying to pack in protein from dairy products. We still use a moderate amount, but we no longer really drink milk or eat hard cheese – we use milk (or soy milk) for coffee and cereal, and cheese in recipes. I used a lot of milk last year when I made yogurt regularly, but I’ve slowed down on that.

There is a good reason why I didn’t buy as much fruit. The fruit available, both at grocery stores and markets, was not up to par, in my opinion. I kept ending up with mealy apples and dry oranges and peaches that wouldn’t finish ripening, and so on. Maybe it’s just me, but it seemed like a bad year. Despite the poor growing conditions, the local strawberries were great, though!

As for all the pantry staples like rice, barley, pasta, beans and lentils: we still use them all, but a steady amount of each over the course of the year. The grocery budget doesn’t show much of a blip whether I buy a little more or less rice or macaroni. They all make up a tiny percentage of the grocery bill. I bought one bag of dried chick peas this year (about 12 oz) and cooked them up. I put the cooked chick peas in the freezer and they lasted me all year. Not bad for $3.50!

The bread is easy to explain – I stopped baking it and started buying it. It used to take me half a day each week to bake bread, and while I enjoyed it, I found it kept me too tied to the kitchen. I tried out a bread maker which I bought at a yard sale, and wasn’t thrilled with it. I do miss hearty home made bread, and the cost savings, too. It probably costs 90% less to make it! For that kind of savings, maybe I could move my blogging to the kitchen while the dough rises πŸ™‚

Rom’s consumption of crumpets suspiciously doubled this year while we bought just as much cereal for breakfast…

My Latest Downfall

My Latest Downfall

Now for desserts. That is all down to one thing. Rom has always enjoyed ice cream, and myself, rarely. Last year I had ice cream often in the summer. This year both of us have continued eating it year-round! Rom is not much of a sweets eater at all, but now I have picked up his ice cream habit while continuing to eat candy, too.

Another factor affecting the food coming into the house is…tracking. Two years ago I was watching my weight, being conscientious about what I ate and how much. I maintained my weight the first year with careful tracking, and last year, I managed to do the same without tracking (Say What?!) Numbers don’t lie, though – this exercise shows I may have maintained my weight, but nutrition took a hit. I really don’t want to be one of the vegetarians that skips meals and fills up on pop and chips!

One thing I should admit is that when we make a one-pot meal, which is most of the time, there is not a lot of variety in taste and texture. Every spoonful of soup or stew or chili is alike. Maybe that leads to food cravings and snacking later. I have tried to control them a little bit, though! After my mid-year tally revealed I was eating far more candy than I thought I was, I switched to hard candy only, which meant I had fewer candies and not much chocolate (well, until mid-December, anyway!)

For 2014 I hope to buy lots of fruit again, and not slack off on vegetables, and bake bread at least occasionally, and bake some of my own muffins and snacks, and get a handle on my new ice cream habit, and continue to enjoy coffee, and, er, keep exercising regularly so the candy can stay πŸ™‚

Things We Bought the Most of: Apples, Tomatoes, Canned Tomatoes, Peppers, Canned Baked Beans, Soy Milk, Whole Wheat Bread, Rye Bread, Crumpets, Breakfast Cereal, Ice Cream and Frozen Yogurt

What are your grocery culprits?


  1. Funny you should post this as I was doing Nov and Dec data entry on our groceries! I’d love to know a little more about how you track this without breaking your brain. I track in categories, but I see yours is more granula (sp?), and I think mine could do with that (as in, I’d like to know more).

    This year we spent (well we from August) $4180 and change. August was our most pricey month, and Jan last year the cheapest, probably as I ate out a lot. In the ‘convenience’ and ‘snack’ categories – the two I think I should try to minimise, we spent $249 on convenience (easy meals, and I’ve just started adding salsa to that list, cause I think we should make it) and $181 on snacks, but this includes rice things and healthier stuff too. I have to say, we’re pretty good at not buying lollies, chocolate and ice cream. Chocolate has come in maybe twice since Aug (as in from groceries, and a handful of bars bought), and ice cream maybe once or twice. I tend to believe if I don’t buy junky food, then I won’t eat it, and it’s largely true.

    • In Michael Pollan’s book Food Rules, he recommends that if you want to eat sweets or snacks, you should make them yourself. that way you don’t have ready-made junk food sitting around to tempt you, and you would have to want fudge or French fries a lot to actually make them! So I am going to give that a go. Last year we spent almost 12% of our total food budget on snacks! That does include some healthier ones, but still. As for an easy way to track, I haven’t found one – I just did it slowly and manually. If I switched supermarkets, one of them prints its receipts by category (produce, dairy, bakery, etc) – cool!

  2. Hello Dar
    Now that is ‘exacting’ – Is this the result of the recent spate of cold weather – Can’t get outside so need something to do lol

  3. EcoCatLady

    Holy Moly! I can’t believe you actually know these things… you must spend hours entering everything into a spreadsheet with each shopping trip. It would be very interesting to know this info about myself… alas, not interesting enough for me to be motivated to actually track it! πŸ™‚

  4. Fiona

    That is really great to know the breakdown of categories. I can certainly see that a family could spend a ‘frugal’ amount on groceries but with too much of the wrong type & “empty” calories nutitionally. I’d love to know how you track and monitor it. Under $6,000 seems really frugal!

    • It was very low tech – I just kept all my grocery receipts for the year in an envelope, and then entered them in a spreadsheet all at once this week (in about 4 sessions). I suppose I could develop a system for keeping up throughout the year, but it’s not a priority! I was thankful that I had kept to a weekly shopping trip and not every other day like I used to do. I didn’t preserve any food this year but I did get some gift food items from relatives – real maple syrup, jam, salsa and pickles (plus coffee, tea and chocolates for Christmas)!

  5. Very interesting! I have to agree with Cat though – I don’t think I have the patience to track this. Maybe for a shorter time – a month or two. Mr. G and I get on the ice cream wagon sometimes too and we go through phases where we eat it nearly every night. Lately it’s been too cold for that!

  6. What a great exercise to complete – the results are very telling…..I dread to think what our junk food totals would be (and I don’t want to know how much we spend on kettle chips in a year!).

    You made a good saving year on year, is most of the saving from totally cutting out meat, or is that simplifying it too much πŸ™‚

    Lol at Rom’s love of crumpets!

    • We had figured out last year that our grocery budget went down 15% by cutting out meat, so this 10% was in addition, but as you read, we actually bought less food. Almost no waste though, so I hope we can keep that up.

  7. Absolutely love this! I too wish I had the patience to track exactly how we spend our food money. I know a lot of our budget goes to salty snacks such as pretzels and crackers and corn-rice puffs. I have a 5 year old with food issues, and the one thing we know he’ll always eat is some type of cracker-y food. He is only 34/35lbs, so we try whatever we can to get him to gain weight, even if it means crappy carbo-loaded foods. I did get an old school popcorn maker for Christmas in hopes it will deter me from buying so many salty snack foods. I do rarely buy sweets though because it is so much cheaper to generally make them, and I don’t really like most of the cheap cookies. However, because I love to bake, we tend to have a LOT of muffins, pancakes, cookies, cakes, etc. around. I’m not sure our fruit or veggie tally is higher or lower, but we have gotten a lot better at buying only what we’ll use and eat rather than just randomly buying things. Our goal for the next year is to learn to cook more and find snack alternatives to our sweet + salty carbs.

    • I think having baked goods in the house is great. There aren’t all that many snack alternatives to carbs, except for yogurt, cheese and nuts, right? Although I did have a coworker once who would eat a tin of tuna for a snack! More veggies might not work for your child, too filling and not enough calories. I’d be interested to hear if you come up with more options!

  8. Lisa

    I STILL envy your grocery expenses (have I mentioned this before) πŸ™‚ I haven’t managed to get my year end expenses entered as yet, but I am sure it is more than yours, especially since we bought a side split of organic beef. We now realize that this is way more beef than we usually eat. If we ever do this again, we will be sure to split it with someone else! Unfortunately, the amount of beef we need to eat now is jeopardizing our vegetarian meals we like to have a couple of times per week. This went very wrong…

    I am also a dessert fiend, but I do try to make it myself. Still the occasional ‘Oh Henry’ bar sneaks its way in, as does ice cream. I haven’t bought cookies in over a year though! I don’t buy any process cereal now and make batches of granola and muesli monthly. I also make yogurt monthly, and use my bread maker often especially for the dough cycle and then I bake it myself. Another bigger expense for us is milk, since we both drink glasses of it at night.

    We hope to have a big garden this year, so hopefully our food expenses will decrease some.

    • Is a side split a side, or half a side? Still sounds like a lot! Before we became vegetarian, we used to have veggie meals about twice a week. I like making granola, but because it is high in calories (and nutrients and energy) I have to ration myself. I could easily eat a cup of it! Do you use a yogurt maker? I have one and I used to make yogurt weekly up until last summer, but I found the results a bit inconsistent (depending on the culture etc, it would often turn out thinner than I would like). But all in all, I would like to tough it out and get back to making more stuff at home.

  9. Lisa

    A side split is a half of a side or a quarter of the cow. They told us it was a good size for a couple, but we must eat less beef than the average couple. Aside from the numerous roasts and steaks, we ended up with 45 lbs of ground beef and 40 lbs of stewing beef!

    Yes, I have to keep my portion of granola in check too. Muesli is the healthier option by far and easier to make. No, I don’t have a yogurt maker. I use the recipe ‘The Frugal Girl’ has posted and the yogurt turns out lovely and creamy ( I’ve only had one fail in the 1.5 years that I have been making it. I get 4L of yogurt from the recipe, which lasts us about a month. It turns out less tart than the store bought stuff, which I like.

    Yes, I am trying to make more and more things at home rather than buy it – less additives and less packaging. Now, if I can only get on top of my expense logging and data entry like you! You are impressive!

  10. Your report is very interesting although I would not have the time to break my shopping down to quite such detail – what a shame the supermarket can’t present us with an end of year report – maybe I should mention it to Mr Sainsbury or Mr Tesco!

  11. Lane

    You’ve inspired me to try making yogurt again. I used to make it long ago(remember yogurt makers?), but as I recall the texture was not great, and I kept needing to buy fresh yogurt so it would “gell” adequately after a couple of batches.

    I haven’t kept as much detail about what sort of food we buy, but we don’t eat a lot of snack foods that aren’t nuts, whole grain crackers, dark chocolate or dried fruit so I don’t feel the need to beat that down. I do buy a lot of wine, for us and for house presents, so I’m interested in seeing how much I spend on that. I have decades of exact info on all the clothes I have bought, price, sale price etc. Fascinating!

    • I have a yogurt maker, only about 2 years old. I used it for about 18 months but got discouraged by how variable the results were. Like you say, always buying fresh yogurt for starter, etc. I did make it with 1% milk and I suppose if I used whole milk it would gel better, but I’m not willing! We can’t buy wine and beer at the grocery stores here – need to go to the liquor store! – but I get wine from my dad who makes it from kits! It’s cool that you have kept data on your clothes spending.

      • Lisa

        As I said, I don’t have a yogurt maker, but have much success using the recipe linked to above, but using 2% milk with some skim milk powder added = thick, creamy yogurt.

      • Hmm, I use 1% with skim milk powder added. It turns out great…half of the time. But the other half – more like Yop!

  12. Gill

    I need to start making my own yogurt again. Also I am toying with the idea of eating more vegetarian meals as I can live without meat no problem.

    • The veggie thing worked out fine for me because I was never much of a meat eater either. Before we were vegetarian I think we had main meals without meat about twice a week, plus all lunches. We do have meat occasionally when we visit someone else’s house – we don’t turn down what is served to us. I call our plan “vegetarian at home”!

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