This Year’s Grocery Tally

Image by Carissa Rogers from Pixabay

It’s January – time to analyze a year of grocery spending! This is the 8th annual 🙂

For new readers, we are 2 adults who eat vegetarian food at home, make our own meals, and eat out about once a week. We’ve had the same grocery budget of $500/month since 2012. We include the costs of meal foods, snacks, cleaning products, paper goods and personal care items in the budget, but not pet expenses, dining out or café trips. This year we were away on vacation for 4 weeks, and during that time, all food was included in our travel budget. So, the grocery budget only had to cover 48 weeks.

For 2019, we decided to buy groceries once a week at our nearest supermarket. Rom used to like shopping at Walmart and buying groceries there. However, (a) it’s 15 km each way, (b) they have no rewards program and (c) their labour practices are poor. I realize not everyone can refuse to shop there, because of economics or availability. Our local place costs more on average, but with our cash-back card and their rewards program, we saved $400 over the course of the year, plus the cost of gas we would have spent to drive elsewhere.

We still have a Costco membership, shop a few sales, and try to get to the farmers’ market.

For a long time, we shopped for groceries on Sunday evenings for the week ahead, but now we’ve switched to a quiet hour on Saturdays. It feels luxurious to do nothing on Sunday nights now!

2019 Groceries
Prepared 1444.64 23.6%
Dairy 1192.16 19.5%
Grains 940.60 15.4%
Vegetables 793.85 13.0%
Fruit 626.97 10.2%
Personal Care 385.62 6.3%
Cats 244.31 4.0%
Condiments 215.88 3.5%
Paper/Clean 214.51 3.5%
Other 60.14 1.0%
$6118.68 100.0%
Rewards (Savings) 396.62 6.5%

Prepared foods include meal foods like pizzas, falafels, hummus, and taco kits ($347); hot and cold drinks ($494); and snacks, desserts and candy ($603). Of the drinks, it was mostly coffee beans, but a bottle of Seedlip slipped in! I can live with $50/month on snacks, especially since it included birthday cakes, Easter treats to share, etc.

Here is our average monthly spend over the past 5 years:

  • 2019       503         477 after rewards – and managed to pay for cat food and litter within the budget
  • 2018       531         521 after rewards
  • 2017       538         –
  • 2016       523         –
  • 2015       439         –

If 2015 looks suspicious – that’s the year Rom took over the grocery shopping, and he was hardcore frugal! I am not keen to return to that level of austerity.

Despite the belt-tightening month in which we saved money for the Food Bank, it turned out to be a typical year. We bought similar amounts of food to last year.

More of: peppers, carrots, onions, mushrooms, radishes, clementines, kiwi fruit, mangoes and canned fruit

The same amounts of: zucchini, corn, green beans, edamame, strawberries, yogurt, cheese and frozen pizzas

Less or fewer of: potatoes, frozen vegetable mixes, canned vegetable soups, apples, grapes and avocados

I stopped buying dried papaya, pineapple and cranberries; gave up protein bars; and started making my own ice pops instead of buying juice freezies. Rom stopped buying rice cakes and went back to crumpets! He unexpectedly developed a taste for pasta which he didn’t care for in the past. I made one new recipe – black bean burgers – very convenient since they freeze well. We tried frying plantains but found them really hard to peel and work with (they were supposedly ripe?)

Our Personal Care line included first aid supplies and over-the-counter meds for our trip to Cuba, and of course we didn’t use any of them. Next time I’ll leave them at the resort for the staff. (Not that we have another trip planned – just wishful thinking!)

“I am not a taxable junk food!”

When I reviewed my grocery receipts, I had to laugh over what was taxed and what wasn’t. For example, Goldfish and Cheese Nips are crackers and not taxed, but pretzels are! Amusingly, the criteria for tax include whether the product is a “chip, crisp, puff, curl or stick” and not just whether it is a salty snack.

As far as dining out goes, I had a normal year: 5 special occasions, 12 family occasions, 12 work lunches, and 18 meals out “just because.” Total cost was $2093 – which is 37% of what we spent on groceries. However, it is a separate budget, we didn’t overspend it, and we got a lot of enjoyment from the meals.

I have two not-so-lofty food goals this year. One is to make some of my own salad dressings. I used to take salads to work 4 days a week, but I have given up trying to be creative on Fridays so now I have them 5 days a week. I like not having to think about what to bring. And I make them different from day to day and week to week. I have made 2 salad dressings before, and I have some new recipes to try.

The other food goal is to make some meals with things wrapped in puff pastry, like Thrift Deluxe @ ninetofive-ish whose meals always look so good!

How would you describe your 2019 year in food?


  1. Dar, your precision in domestic and personal record-keeping is always the source of my admiration and envy. I would not be able to tell you too much on my grocery-spend, except that I am pretty sure it is more than double of yours. My 2019 in food is predominantly on vegetables and fruit, fish (and the occasional chicken), and grains. I don’t eat out, unless it is for Japanese cuisine i.e., sushi and sashimi, that I enjoyed with mum when I was home. And, boy, you do have a wonderfully healthy diet, too! Only, it is out of choice, rather than necessity. 🙂

    • I used to eat the “standard North American diet” including lots of fast food and junk food, but at some point I decided I would try to meet all my nutritional needs through food, and not supplements. So it’ s been many years now that I eat everything I should be eating BUT I eat a lot of sweets and drink a lot of coffee on top of that!

  2. Fascinating.

    We’re a veggie family – our year was a bit better than the year before. Our baby daughter now eats whatever we eat, our two autistic sons are slowly coming around to the idea too. Our two teen/tween boys are constantly hungry. Looking through our grocery bills our biggest outlays are the staples: we’re nut milk, bananas, apples, carrots, cucumber, bread and potatoes. A lot of greens we grow ourselves. Wondering if making my own bread might help with ever growing appetites 🙂

    • It is not a given that veggie families eat a lot of vegetables, so you’re doing well! I had to stop baking bread because I developed an RSI from work and couldn’t knead, but I miss it and I should try again (that was a few years ago). There is nothing like warm bread from the oven!

      • Oven warmed bread is the best thing. I was just saying to my best friend the other day that candle companies should make “warm bread” and “hot tea” scented candles. They are missing a trick 🙂

  3. Deb

    $592.34 is our monthly spending for last year. That is for 1 vegetarian and 1 almost vegetarian. We travelled abroad for 54 days which is included. 44 breakfasts were included and so were 15 others meals. We also stayed in Arizona for 4.5 months. Groceries here are expensive even though almost all vegetables are grown within a 100 mile radius.

    • Oh my. If I included my vacation food, the monthly average would be stratospheric! I have visited Arizona. I remember local citrus and nuts being cheap (like ten cent oranges) but of course I was only a tourist and didn’t have to plan actual weekly meals! It was cool being able to make lemonade from real lemons that didn’t cost a dollar each like here 🙂

  4. God you’re good. I wouldn’t know what we spend let alone the proportions that get spent on different food types.

    • I’m not sure it’s important to know; it’s a bit of a game, really! But I hope to get some insights out of these tallies that will improve my buying and eating habits. If I continue to reduce buying dairy products, it will be interesting to see the difference next year.

  5. Fiona

    That’s amazing to have kept to the same budget for 8 years! 😊 Once again, I’m in awe of your tracking. I’m really intrigued to see the comparison between “home eating” and “dining out” costs. That rings very true. Can I ask how you track so well? Do you collect receipts then process all in a batch, say once a month? Or once a week?

    • Thank you. For groceries, we tend to shop just once a week so I categorize the receipt(s) in my money software weekly and the software adds up the category totals. However, I do manually add up how much I’ve bought of each type of food (apples, carrots, bread, etc.) For other purchases, I get alerts on my phone when I use a credit or debit card, so I leave them on the phone and enter them as a batch every week.

  6. Margie from Toronto

    I am also seriously impressed with your record keeping – I have good intentions of doing something similar but never follow through for long. I do tend to budget $200/month and that does include paper products, cleaning supplies and personal care (although not makeup). Most months I can stick to this – although I am thinking of putting a lump sum into a separate envelope for unexpected bargains that I don’t want to pass up for the pantry/freezer.
    I tend to buy non-food items when they are on sale and stock up about six months ahead – easy enough to do for one person even in a small apt.
    Meat is bought mostly when I can get a bargain – a Loblaw store that I visit frequently often has a good selection of 50% off items and I’ll buy for the freezer then. I buy a lot of veg, some fruit and have cut way back on carbs in the past year. I also buy a lot of dairy and eggs – best quality I can afford so tends to be pricey.

    I am trying to cut back a bit on eating out – I can make tea or coffee at the office for free and I try to take food with me every day. Tuesday is my long day so I take an actual meal – the other days I only work 4 to 5 hours so maybe some raw veg with hummus or cottage cheese with fruit – that sort of thing that I can grab quickly before I leave home. Doing more breakfast out or just coffee rather than lunches or dinners in order to save a bit of money – but eating out is a real social thing for me so it does have a separate budget. I’d probably be really shocked at how much I spend each year in this category but – January has been a lower spend month as my Saturday class started late and no theatre nights scheduled until the end of February – it was one lunch plus a couple of coffees so $30 max so far. I expect to come in under $50 for the month.

    I collect Loyalty points and for the past 2 years I’ve collected something like $300/year. I am getting more strategic with my purchases in order to maximize points so we’ll see how I do this year. So far I have accumulated over $20 this month!

    I do not shop at Walmart because of their practises but realize that not everyone has that option. I am thinking about getting a COSTCO membership but not sure as yet whether or not it would be worth it. Mostly I shop at Loblaw, No Frills and at the St. Lawrence Market. EATALY has opened in Toronto and most of the prices are outrageous – but – there are some items that will be worth the spend – and oh the cheeses – just incredible!

    • $200 a month for all categories is amazing! I am betting you don’t buy many snack foods? Having a separate amount for “stocking up” is a good idea. Do you shop just enough that you can carry things home or do you make big shops and get a lift home? Our Costco membership is up for renewal. I need to sit down and figure out if we get $69 worth of value out of it. I get large quantities of the more-expensive items there, such as coffee, quinoa and olive oil. But also fall prey to impulse purchases. Also no rewards points there and they don’t take my credit card. It might work better if we shared the membership/shopped with a friend or another family member.

      • Margie from Toronto

        Sometimes I shop just what I can carry but other times I use one of two bundle buggies – especially for a big shop. I have one heavy duty cart that I use and then either walk to the next subway stn. where there is an elevator or I walk the two stops home – about 20 minutes on a good day. It’s tougher when there’s snow on the ground so I try to do a big stock up just before Christmas of all the heavy stuff.
        The main stores that I use are right next to subway stops and I live right across the street from a station so not too much walking involved – but it does take planning!
        I’m trying not to snack – I’ve never been one for chips or things like that but I do have a sweet tooth that I have to keep in check! I try to use my personal allowance money for treats like that or eating out.

  7. Mary

    Good on you for such careful record keeping. I should probably pay a little more attention to our food bill. I would say our weekly average varies between $125-150 a week for the two of us. My husband usually takes his lunch to work, but sadly, his boss has a nasty habit of loudly ranting and raving at staff and customers, alike. When that becomes unbearable (open work area), I encourage him to go out to lunch. Worth the expense. I don’t see it as an added food cost. It should be labeled a mental health expense 😦

    • Although our budget is not too locked down (we could spend more on groceries), I hate wasting food! I find by spending within limits, I’m less likely to overbuy. Your spouse’s work environment sounds awful – I would want to walk out of it too, every chance I got!

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