Another year, another analysis of a year’s worth of grocery spending! If you tuned in for the half-year report in July, I tried a new tracking method, combining a price book with listing the amounts of each item I purchased throughout the year. Here is a sample record:
Keeping a price book allows you to track the prices of your favourite items (or all items!) so you get to know price cycles and know when to stock up.
For each item, I listed every purchase and how much I spent on that occasion. That lets me know how often I buy each item and how much of it, so I’m better informed about the impact of each price point.
For example, a quart of strawberries in season costs between $2.47 and $5.99. When they’re at their lowest price, I stock up on a few quarts to freeze – I liked chopped berries in my yogurt in the winter. But I might still buy one or two quarts at $4.99 just to get that burst of flavour earlier in the summer or later in the fall. I draw the line at $5.99, though!
Rom and I like a kind of breakfast cereal that costs $4.99 a box and we go through one a week. Occasionally it goes on sale for $2.99, and once our eyes popped when it was $1.99! But the maximum space we have in the kitchen will fit only 4 boxes. Decisions, decisions! We could find more space in another room – or we could save more money by eating oatmeal.
Sales flyers are delivered to our door weekly and I do check them; or I use the Flipp app. This year I have found sale prices almost nonexistent. Most of the grocery flyers have only a handful of price cuts. The rest of the items pictured are “featured” items at regular price. I’m sure the more one sees the pictured items, the more “brand recognition” increases, even if you don’t crave the things right away.
As you know, the biggest trend for the past two years is that grocers sell a smaller version of an item at the accustomed price, hence ice cream containers going from 2 litres to 1.89 and sometimes even down to 1.5 for the old price.
We follow the usual grocery saving tips and tricks which you can find everywhere. Since we don’t cook meat or fish, we have saved in that area for the last 7 years. But now vegetable prices are rising faster than any other category, so we’re taking a hit. I am certainly fine with using canned tomatoes, frozen peas and so on, but I still buy fresh stuff weekly. We have become super-diligent about using it all up. Lately a cabbage made its way into the house and we have managed to consume three-quarters of it by adding cabbage shreds to stir fries and borscht! Nothing is grown fresh during this part of the deep, dark winter, so we pay gobs of money for imports, or make do.
Our usual weekday meals are curries, chilis, stews, stir fries and hearty soups. On weekends we have pizza, paninis and eggs!
We have been so good about making big batches and eating leftovers that I am feeling the need to scout out some new recipes. My challenge is not just to eat frugally but to try new things and enjoy food at home – instead of depending only on restaurant meals to do that.
So, I mentioned recently that we are planning a sun vacation in April. This provides me with a perfect excuse to economize over the winter and minimize the impact of the trip on our annual budget.
Now that I know what we eat the most of and how much I should be paying, I can shop more mindfully. I made a list of our top purchases, the regular prices for them, and the best prices available.
For the first time, I have also given myself a price ceiling for a bunch of items: when the price is THIS, I will just walk away and not buy it. I have never been good at that. I have an “I want what I want” attitude when it comes to grocery shopping (within reason). For example, if I make a menu plan and decide to make stuffed peppers for a meal, and the peppers are at their highest price, I would normally just say “Oh well” and buy them and make that meal anyway. Economize somewhere else.
No more! I will have a backup plan.
Here are a few examples of the most I want to pay. These are winter (out of season) prices:
- Broccoli $3.00
- Celery $2.50
- Lettuce $3.50
- Grapes $4.38/kg or $1.99/lb
- Kiwi fruit $0.50
- Yogurt $2.67/L or $2.00/750 ml
- Cheese $11/kg or $5/lb
So now for confession time. Here are some highlights from last year’s grocery budget. Mostly our dinners are cheap but we spend a lot on breakfast, lunch and snack foods.
- 80 boxes of cereal (of which 49 boxes were our favourite, spoon-sized shredded wheat) $314
- 67 loaves of bread for toast or sandwiches, and 25 six-packs of bagels $272
- 24 kg nuts including peanuts, almonds, walnuts and cashews (we each have 1-2 oz a day) $339
- 74 kg of apples, 36 kg of grapes and 26 kg of bananas $344
- Avocados and kiwi fruit were not very affordable this year – avocados were usually over 1.50 each and kiwis over 70 cents each $53
- More peppers, zucchini and radishes this year due to improving my lunch salads $173
- Obviously less romaine ☹ (spent $97 on all greens)
- We still buy dairy: same amount of yogurt and cheese as last year (54 kg and 15 kg respectively) – coincidentally $226 for each
- 24 frozen pizzas for Friday nights $116
- 30 packages of various fake meats which Rom likes these days $131
- Rom’s latest obsession: 29 packages of rice cakes $60
- I reduced my intake of protein bars and freezies by 1/3 and oat cakes by 2/3
- Candy consumption continues unabated but I have popcorn more often
Are you planning any new menu planning, cooking or grocery buying strategies this year?
What are some foods you have stopped buying because of the price?