What to say about my grocery buying and spending for 2021? If you’re looking for money-saving tips, this post is not for you!
In 2020, I didn’t try very hard to save money on groceries. I was working from home and cooking at home, and food was a major pleasure. We made a point of getting take-out every week and trying ALL the local restaurants. Our adult “child,” Link, stayed with us for 4.5 months in 2020, and moved back home last December.
Our grocery expenses this year were for 3 adults for all 12 months. We share a few meals, but Link mostly does their own. I am pleased that they cook and they have a high tolerance for leftovers, like us! I thought we’d take advantage of more bulk buys, but our food requirements and preferences are very different. Link cooks with meat and fish but has no dairy; Rom and I are the opposite. I thought meat and fish would be the most expensive category for the year, but vegetables, dairy and snacks for the year were all comparable amounts. I am not proud of that last one!
Last year we spent $9,549 on groceries and this year we spent $10,903: only a 14% increase and Link was here 7.5 more months. I expect part of the reason was that during Link’s extended visit in 2020, we were rather extravagant with the groceries, and now we’ve returned to normal buying habits. We make grocery lists and meal plans and Rom shops once a week at our “main store”, which reduces our impulse buys. Supermarkets are still recommending only one shopper from each household due to Covid capacity restrictions. However, I instructed Rom not to buy items above a price point I established. I’m pleased when he decides on his own not to buy things because he sees the price has gone up. Then I check the flyers and see if I can get them elsewhere. Every ten days or so, I top up the groceries with deals. Last year, we spent about two-thirds of our grocery budget at the local Sobeys and the other third at Walmart, Superstore, Costco, Giant Tiger, Bulk Barn and a small produce market.
I created loads more grocery budget categories last year to circumvent the manual tally I used to do for this annual post. Here is the result:
Nuts are included as a protein because we use them to make nut loaf, stir fries, and so on. I didn’t count crackers as snacks because I try to buy “good” ones and eat a few with my lunch salads. Vegetables includes canned tomatoes and tomato sauce. I don’t count cat food and litter as groceries but Gigi and Luna remain very cheap and healthy pets!
I decided to track coffee spending separately this year. I drink only coffee (slight exaggeration), Link drinks only water, and Rom has a variety of drinks! I was wondering if my coffee spending had a big impact on the household budget. I was hoping to hold it to $20/month but was not successful even though I didn’t buy any of the pricey single-source beans I love. I take a ‘thermos’ of coffee to work every day, but it does get lukewarm by lunch time, so I also bought 2 hot coffees a week at the nearest café, for each week I was in the office. It was not a bad compromise taste-wise but of course that cost another $100. This year I might resume using my French press or even using my refillable Keurig pod.
A few other planned changes are to have oatmeal for breakfast more often, to bake muffins regularly, to substitute chopped salads and Buddha Bowls for lunch salads more often, and to remember to have soup or a baked potato for a snack sometimes, and hope it has some impact on our snack spending (I’m already pretty good at making popcorn). If I’m really on top of things, I’d like to grow some of my own micro-greens or sprouts. This requires creating a whole cat-free zone within the house since our outdoor growing season is so short. I have said I would do many of these things before…
Since Rom left work and was concerned about his health (now not really a concern), he has become Mr. Ascetic and has pretty much given up salt and sugar. I am not planning to follow in his footsteps but I must remind myself not to be his polar opposite! I know I was very tedious when I was always dieting and planning every morsel (a few years back) so I am being patient.
On to take-out and restaurant meals! Last year we spent $2744 (adjusted total) on 46 meals for either 2 or 3 of us. This year we spent $2049 for 34 meals. We decided we could not single-handedly keep our local restaurants afloat, haha! We did have a few of those meals on-site and fully appreciated the experience. On top of that, we had café drinks and treats maybe every 6 weeks, and we walked to the ice cream stand a few times during the summer.
I used to have work lunches occasionally, or I’d have to buy something when rushing between work locations, but those days seem to be over.
The only other related category is alcohol. Rom and Link are avowed non-drinkers. Without drinking companions, I generally cannot be bothered – I have at most 1-2 glasses of wine each week with dinner (either at home, when visiting others or in restaurants). My massive expenditure this year was $108 on 4 bottles of wine and 6 ciders!
We have continued using my rewards credit card which gives 4% back on groceries ($313 this year at eligible stores) and cashing in Air Miles and fuel coupons at the supermarket ($199).
I’m interested to hear if you did anything differently grocery-wise this second Covid year, or have any changes planned.
Happy Eating in 2022!