Friday, March 20, 2009

Where Is That Grocery Money Going?

I was thinking about this while I talked to MamaBear, who says that for their family of 3, she spends over $400 a month on groceries.

That led me to ponder where exactly my grocery money is going. What do we spend it on?

A couple days ago I wrote about the last month's grocery purchases. We spent a total of $758.51 for a whole month, including replenishing all the cleaning supplies, all our toiletries, all our pet care needs (that runs close to $100 a month alone sometimes), and groceries. That was an exception though, because we had two birthdays to buy for, my husband was home for a week, and my mom came to visit for a few days as well, so that obviously added money onto my bill.

The other day I spent $229 at Wal Mart for two weeks worth of meals for me and the kids, including some pet supplies, toilet paper, toothpaste, shampoo/cond. for everyone, and jet dry. I then went to Safeway to purchase a few more items that were on sale for super cheap. I got 5 two liters of various Pepsi products for only $.75 each, 5 bags of mixed salad for $.75 each, a box of Popsicles (24count) for desert for only $3, two gallons of milk for $3.98 total (I don't buy milk at Wal Mart), and 10 boxes of cereal for $1.50 each. I spent about $30. Granted, I don't normally buy 10 boxes of cereal, but these were cheap and they were small boxes too, so I have some room to store them. I did buy some candy for the kids' Easter baskets, and had to replenish my reusable bags, because I forgot them at home.

I guess I am wondering how I can do it for relatively cheap (seriously, I am not counting last month, it was really odd) for a family of 5-6 (depending on when my husband is home), but others can't. I don't even use coupons!! Couponing here is not really an option because the coupons are all for products I don't use, considering I buy mostly store brands. And Wal Mart is pretty cheap already for groceries. Is it because you don't want to? Can you not find good deals? How big are your families? Do you cook gourmet and fancy foods? Do you not use left overs? Please don't take offense, I am just really curious as to how other families do this. Enlighten me! I bet that there are families that can do it for even cheaper, I'd love to learn how!

I like to cook hearty food, yet simple. I really think that helps keep our grocery costs down, as does using left overs. A family favorite of ours is Roast beef. Roast in itself is expensive, but if you can find a large roast on sale, you can make it last for 3 meals if you try hard enough. I bought a 5lb roast a few weeks back, and the kids and I had roast beef one night, stew the next, and then I froze the last hunk of beef and made stew last week. 3 meals for $11, divided by 5 people..basically 11 divided by 15 = $.73 per person per meal. Plus I had enough left over for me to have stew one day for lunch.

If anyone wants to comment, I'd love to hear what you have to say. How do you make your grocery money stretch, and what do you spend it on?

**** Just wanted to add, while I was at Target this afternoon (we had two birthday parties to shop for), I found a GREAT deal on cereal. I know I just bought a bunch for the kids, but this is for me. Selected Quaker products were on sale for $2.50 each, and if you bought 5 products, you got a $5 gift card. So I bought $12.50 worth of cereal (Quaker Oatmeal Squares Cinnamon flavor), and then was able to use my $5 gift card as well. I got the cereal for only $1.50 a box!!!! ****


Mama Bear said...

We budget $200 every 2 weeks for groceries, but 'groceries' is a pretty loose term considering our shopping trip encompasses all household needs. Food, obviously, but also cat food and litter, diapers, baby food (thankfully not so much anymore), toilet paper, feminine products, dishsoap etc etc and the list goes on.

I use coupons as much as possible but as you said, there aren't always usable ones for the things we purchase. I too, keep an eye out for sales, especially on diapers, butter and feminine products.

Papa Bear and I had an interesting discussion the other day about how we didn't understand why people in the US couldn't make ends meet, and he reminded me that the minimum wage is somewhat lower in the US...however, I responded - the cost of living is FAR cheaper (groceries, rent, housing).

The federal minimum wage in the US is $6.55/hr - but of course each state varies. Kansas has the lowest, at...get ready...$2.65 - yes, that's right, TWO DOLLARS and sixty five cents an hour. Sante Fe is the highest at $9.92 (more than in Canada!). Washington is at par with BC at $8.55.

I guess when I see US ads and flyers for groceries and household goods it blows me away - in Canada we pay nearly double the price, for the same item. Crazy!

Anyway, end tangent, LOL.

To curb grocery spending, I've found making a menu for however long you go between shopping trips REALLY helps. Plan out everything - breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks. Make your shopping list based on that menu, and you won't overspend. Well, unless you've written down tenderloin steak and crab for every meal. ;)

Also, keep a running list - meaning, have a paper stuck to your fridge or on your desk or whatever, that you can jot items down on when you remember you need them. That way, when you get to the store, you don't buy something that you actually have already at home because you couldn't remember if you did or not.

Another thing I've found that really helps me, is to set a strict but reasonable budget for each shopping trip. Then, withdraw that amount in cash before you go shopping, and make sure you ONLY spend that money - if you use your debit card, the tendency to overspend is far greater because you can't SEE the money leaving your bank account like you can see the money leaving your wallet.

Anyway, I am looking forward to seeing next month's results!!

KrustyTheCat said...

Hmmm...I thought that you spent more b/c of the difference in cost. I guess I was right! I was shocked too when I went to BC last time and saw the grocery prices. What is interesting though, is when we came here from Germany, and were used to shopping at the Commissary, I had sticker shock here! Now I've gotten used to the prices, and I shop at Super Walmart even though i dislike it.

I do plan out all the meals. We're lucky the kids get free lunch at school, so that helps not having to feed 3 kids lunch 5 days a week. I do plan for lunch on the weekends (usually just sandwiches and fruit) and for myself and the baby during the week.

I also do the menu thing, and plan each meal out to the veggies and other sides. That way I ONLY buy what food we need for that meal and don't land up with a ton of extras. I really don't have a budget, I'm just happy if it is below $300 for each trip, lol. I was really happy to see $229 this past time!

Mama Bear said...

Yup! When I go check my PO box sometimes I stop in at the Bromley's right across the border, if I have a free product coupon that's only valid in the US or whatever, and it always blows me away to see the prices of food and other things. So cheap!!

Ugh I hear you about Walmart. I honestly wish I didn't have to shop there...and I do my best NOT to, I'd rather buy everything at Superstore but sometimes I just can't get certain things there. *sigh*

Nice on the free lunch!!! What sort of food do they get?

$229 is really, really good - you are going to be WAY lower on your budget this month than last!

KrustyTheCat said...

They get all kinds of stuff. Spaghetti, pizza, chili or vegetarian chili, garden burgers/or hamburgers, turkey, chicken, chinese food, nachos, nuggets. It's pretty healthy, and they always have an organic salad bar every day too, as well as veggies with each lunch. The school also serves breakfast but my kids don't get there on time for that with the bus.