Every year I tally up the actual foods we bought during the year, and not just what they cost. I had a look over 2015 and thought about what we can do differently.
If anyone asked me, I would say we are vegetarians at home, and we do almost all our cooking from scratch. And that our only packaged foods are cereal, crackers, pasta, bread, coffee and tea. However, The Analysis shows otherwise! No, we haven’t been sneaking meat back in. But we buy way more packaged foods than I thought. On the other hand: fruit, vegetables, beans and grains are mostly cheap, and take up a small percentage of the budget, even though we eat tonnes of them.
Here’s how our grocery buying looked this year (for two adults, east coast Canada):
|Grocery Spending 2015|
|Prepared Foods||$ 1,457.54||25.7%|
|Dairy & Eggs||$ 1,146.89||20.2%|
|Grains & Bread||$ 489.43||8.6%|
|Personal Care||$ 337.55||5.9%|
|Cats (food and litter)||$ 259.43||4.6%|
|Paper & Cleaning||$ 218.86||3.9%|
|Condiments & Spreads||$ 216.13||3.8%|
|Baking & Seasonings||$ 49.16||0.9%|
A few words about how we actually plan and make meals. For breakfast, I choose from oatmeal with nuts and raisins, bagels or toast with peanut butter, cereal or granola. For lunch I usually have a giant salad on weekdays, and eggs or grilled sandwiches on the weekends. For dinners we usually make veggie chili, curry, stir fries, soups or stews and often have them with bread or crackers. For snacks I have yogurt with berries, and lots of fruit.
This year I went off track in a few ways. First of all, due to a promotion at our local supermarket, I became addicted to Clif bars and ate one every day for a while! I realized I could have zapped this habit if I took the time to make my own “power bars” to snack on, but this didn’t happen. Instead, I switched to Simply bars, which have 3g of sugar instead of 21g in the Clif bars. Either way, they cost over $1 each. Then, I found myself craving granola, all brands of which are very expensive, not to mention sugary. I stopped buying it because of the cost, but I could easily have made my own from ingredients I already had in the cupboards. Finally, we spent loads of money on yogurt and pricey Greek yogurt. I did make my own yogurt in years past, but found it very inconsistent from batch to batch. I neither want to give up yogurt, nor make my own 🙂 But it looks like a compromise is called for. So my conclusion is that some things really are worth the time and effort to make.
As mentioned in previous posts, I made a few mistakes. I thought I would love chia and I bought a giant pack at Costco. I will use it eventually…one tablespoon at a time, which will take me a couple of years! The glitch was, I thought I would like overnight oats with chia. After tasting them, I went, “What am I doing eating cold oatmeal in the morning when hot only takes 5 minutes?!” I now throw in some chia seeds when I cook oatmeal. I also bought a large jar of miso for a recipe. I must force myself to start making miso soup. It also works to add a tablespoon of miso to give a depth of flavour (umami-style) to things like spaghetti sauce. I bought raw cashews a couple of times to add to stir fries. They are perfect, but unbelievably expensive. I will shop around, and substitute almonds if I have to. I also bought a giant package of tabbouleh, a salad I am very fond of, but this one had a pickled, vinegary taste. Sacrilege!
I recognized two products where the local version is eye-wateringly more expensive than the supermarket chains. I drink espresso on the weekends. The local roaster sells theirs for $16 for a 340g pack. It is to-die-for. The grocery store sells their own brand for $5.59 for the same size. It is not awesome. It is just drinkable. But since it costs almost 3x less, I limit my consumption of the good stuff. Maybe it helps me appreciate it more? I bought handcrafted bar soap at the farmer’s market for an average of $5.25 a bar. Our regular soap was $1.46. Buying soap at the farmer’s market all year would cost me $68 more. Hmm, is it worth it? To the vendor, to keep local businesses afloat, yes. But I couldn’t do this for every product and will have to choose.
To turn the table, there are a few things I enjoyed so much, I wish I had bought more of them!
- One fresh pineapple. I kept waiting for sales.
- Four heads of broccoli. I love broccoli. I want more of it!
- Samosas. Huge, meal-sized locally-made samosas are only $2.
- Rye bread. Perfect for toast with a mid-day meal, or grilled cheese.
Likewise, these items were worth every penny:
- Lemon curd. Lasts longer than homemade and goes with everything!
- Chutney. I alternate chutney and red pepper jelly on my avocado sandwiches…and need it for the samosas.
- Edamame. Reasonable priced but uncommon enough to feel like a splurge.
I’ve just outlined all my mistakes and treats and things I should correct. But mostly our meal planning, grocery buying, and cooking are going fine, and even mostly frugal. And the grocery costs above included some entertaining, shared snacks for work, Halloween candy given out, donations to the food bank, and so on. The full list is here (kindly overlook the quantity of candy consumed): Grocery Tally 2015
I’d love to hear how your Year in Food went, and which items were most and least worth the money for you!