Grocery Tally 2021

Photo by Sara Scarpa on Unsplash

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!

8 comments

  1. PK

    👏👏👏👏 This is so detailed and inspiring. Thank you for sharing. My meal and grocery planning were completely non-existent in 2020. In 2021, I started cooking again and spending less on takeout, but I was still ordering in 2-4 meals a week. The last quarter of 2021 was slightly better and now I feel encouraged to keep going. While I don’t tally or itemise all grocery expenses, for 2022 I am taking the approach of moving a set amount for groceries (average of $100 a week) to a prepaid card that offers cash back rewards, and exclusively using that card for grocery shopping, that way I can see what I have left and stay within those limits. It’s not a great system but it is a start. The next step will be working on my meal planning abilities so that I am not spending on items only to end up rediscovering them, expired, in my pantry several months down the road.😛

    • I think that’s a brilliant strategy, PK! Sometimes my grocery store has a sale on its gift cards so I buy them and use them myself! What is your tolerance for leftovers? Do you have room to freeze them? e.g. rather than have something 4 days in a row, I will have it twice and freeze the rest for another week. I am always happy to get home from work and remember that something is already made. But I am getting spoiled now that both Rom and Link are in the house and they share the cooking duties!

      • PK

        lol, I would be lost without leftovers. Cooking for one is a blessing and a curse, one dish lasts forever but it is also easy to opt for ordering in when I want a change. Freezing portions at the start is an excellent idea for mixing and matching leftovers midweek. 😛

      • Either that or you will have to start pickling and fermenting things 😆

  2. I’m new to your blog but I must admit, this post makes me smile! You must be an accountant?

  3. Jamie

    We are in the midst of our worst Covid wave (so far?) here in Australia. I’ve always kept an extremely well-stocked pantry, but put a bit of time in this morning to rotate in some new items, check levels, etc. Our supermarkets have just re-implemented buying limits on some items. It was quite a challenge last time, for examples when we were limited to just a few cans of vegetables each visit. If i wanted to cook something like a vegetarian shepherd’s pie for our family I would have to visit the supermarket a few days in a row to assemble all of the ingredients. We were limited to one person per household allowed to visit the supermarket each day, but we found ourselves having to actually visit every day (rather than once a week) to acquire what we needed between limits and out-of-stocks.

    I’m grateful for my pantry stockpile to help smooth out the limitations, but I’m also grateful for our small garden. The supermarkets are struggling with warehouse workers and drivers being off sick and so there have been some very odd examples of unavailable items. For example, the supermarket was entirely out of lettuce last week. I managed to cobble together enough greens from the garden to make a salad for our guests. It doesn’t seem to be that all items are low in stock, but rather that some items are entirely out. The cheese fridge was another spot that was terribly bare last week.

    • Hi Jamie, I haven’t had that experience yet – occasionally an item will be completely out (unheard-of pre-Covid) but not a widespread problem. It is a hardship for you – no fun! Since Rom does the shopping by himself, I could be unaware, but no one is griping about it at work. We have the most Covid cases ever due to Omicron but no lockdowns. As mentioned, I would at least like to grow leaf lettuce or sprouts this year. I have never had a significant stockpile of food but I should reconsider that decision – an extra 2 weeks of groceries would make me feel more secure. I suppose it’s because we eat mostly fresh and frozen foods. Our most likely emergency is a weather-related power outage, so we don’t like to go overboard. I should give some thought to what we would actually eat, and how to make it, in that situation. Probably we’d rely on the barbecue and its side burner.

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