Once again I have added up how much food I bought in the past year. Not just in price but the actual amount of food! There have been big changes in grocery buying in the past 4 years. First, we moved to a Real Food diet, limiting packaged foods and cooking our own meals much more. Then we started meal planning. Next, Rom and I became empty nesters and only had two to feed. Finally we went vegetarian.
For comparison purposes, the last full year we had 3 of us in the house (2010) and we were also eating meat, we spent $778 CDN a month on groceries, including cleaning products, paper goods, personal care products, cat food and cat litter.
In 2014, we spent $507 a month (or $117 a week) on groceries, including all of the above – except meat – for the two of us. So, on a per person basis, there isn’t much difference: in 2010 we were spending $259 for each of us per month, and now it is $254. Does that mean it was really cheap to be meat eaters? No, I think we absorbed the cost of grocery price increases over that time period.
If you are very keen, you can check out my spreadsheet! (I assert that this file was created by me and is free from viruses and malware).
The first year we were eating vegetarian, I calculated we saved about 15% on groceries. I had expected it to be higher, but we had never been big meat eaters anyway, and we were buying a lot more fresh, higher-quality foods.
I have been keeping my grocery receipts all year and noting what we bought. Here are some highlights:
367 lbs of fruit of which Rom ate about 20 lbs of grapes and I had the rest!! I usually have two apples and an orange every day and buy a bunch of bananas every two weeks. I mix it up a bit by getting the occasional mango, kiwi fruit, and of course seasonal strawberries, cherries and peaches.
340 lbs of vegetables. We don’t buy much frozen any more, but decided that peas and green beans weren’t worth buying fresh. We were given some cucumbers, squash, zucchini and turnips! We consistently buy carrots, potatoes, onions and peppers. I make salads for lunch regularly with romaine or spinach, and Rom includes cherry tomatoes in his work lunches.
We buy canned diced tomatoes and baked beans, but I also started cooking dried beans and keeping them in the freezer instead of buying canned chick peas and kidney beans. A lot of our meals are based around beans and lentils which cost practically nothing. We do spend freely on “luxury” nuts and dried fruit, though, like cashews and dried cranberries.
We have cut down on milk and cheese by about 40% since our early veggie days, now that we know how to cook better without dairy, but we both still like yogurt and we buy a dozen eggs each month.
I made bread for about a year but gave it up because of being tied to the kitchen so much. So our bread buying has gone up 50%. We also cook a lot of soups, stews, curries and chilis, so we buy a lot of naan, pita, and bread rolls to go with them. Rom is still addicted to crumpets for breakfast but now that he is responsible for the grocery budget, he may switch to English muffins from Costco, which are much cheaper!
Not too many pre-packaged meals come into the house, but we brought home 10 boxes of Kraft Dinner and 6 frozen pizzas this year. The prepared foods we buy regularly are pasta, cereal, crackers, juice, tea, coffee, chips and candy. Happily we don’t buy pop any more. It was diet, but that stuff is not good for you either!
Not so much to save money, but for the environment, I challenged myself to reduce cleaning products and paper goods as much as possible. The current buying list is: toilet paper, tissues (use handkerchiefs some of the time), garbage bags, recycling bags, freezer bags (reused), ingredients for laundry soap (soap, borax and washing soda), dish and dishwasher detergent, and one “enviro” floor mopping liquid. We have a big stockpile of rags instead of paper towels.
The personal care list is getting shorter too, especially because we have scent-free workplaces: unscented shampoo, conditioner and antiperspirant (not giving them up yet), bar soap, body moisturizer, face moisturizer, and toothpaste. I like Body Shop stuff if anyone asks me for a gift suggestion 🙂
The cats get supermarket cat food! At every vet visit I am told how healthy they are; so I am not concerned.
I am not proud that we spend 10% of our food budget on snacks, especially since I defined them as “anything not used as an ingredient in a meal:” chips, candy, ice cream, etc. If we had nuts, cheese, or raisins, they would go under Grocery. I am especially not proud that one month this year, $81 was spent on in-home snacks! (I suspect that stocking up on Christmas candy contributed to the overspending…)
How could we do better?
- Make our own snacks
- Snack less
I have given Rom all my grocery stats and it’s his turn to take over now. Last week we did a walk-through of Wal-Mart, Target and Costco to see what, if anything, was worth buying there. I look forward to sharing his results 🙂
Have you changed your grocery shopping or food attitude in the past few years? Are there any patterns you are trying to change this year?