Author Topic: Please Share Your Grocery Tracking Strategy  (Read 21412 times)

Zette

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Re: Please Share Your Grocery Tracking Strategy
« Reply #50 on: February 01, 2015, 08:56:46 AM »
You haven't mentioned WHERE you are shopping for your vegetables.  Have you searched for ethnic grocery stores in your area -- sometimes they are much cheaper for produce.  Maybe consult the flyers for the stores before you make your meal plan each week, so you can buy more of the veggies that are on sale.  When shopping, concentrate on buying more of the sale items and fewer of the higher priced ones. In the spring you might also try gardening things that are easy and produce high volume, like tomatoes and zucchini.

Maybe organize part of your pricebook by vegetable.  The rows would be the names of vegetable, and the columns would be the frozen price and then the lowest price found each month.

mm1970

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Re: Please Share Your Grocery Tracking Strategy
« Reply #51 on: February 01, 2015, 09:44:16 AM »
The one thing I have to add on this topic is that my personal price book that I'm compiling includes price per 666 calorie meal, a concept mentioned in this MMM blog post:

http://www.mrmoneymustache.com/2012/03/29/killing-your-1000-grocery-bill/

I've started taking that into account when planning my meals. A quick example is that Wild Sockeye salmon might cost more than cod per pound, but is actually cheaper per calorie. (I know, both are expensive and should be limited in our food budget, but I haven't gotten far enough in my price book to give a cheap example! I started with the expensive stuff.)

I suggested this to my husband at the time I read it, but if you do the math it turns out that vegetables are a terrible deal when priced per calorie and he feels that the benefit to our health outweighs the benefit to our budget of eating less vegetables. So veggies are a stable part of our meals. And honestly, we both feel better with plenty of vegetables. The cheapest vegan diet by calorie would limit fruits and veggies and would emphasize subsidized starches and inexpensive oils, which doesn't work out well for health.

That being said, there are plenty of harmful items in my grocery cart that also cost a lot of money and I should certainly work to limit those. :)

Let me know how well this works for you and what you learn as you are going through the process. I'm interested in what you discover!
I know personally I have to treat veggies differently.

I like to look at cost PER CALORIE for protein and fat, which may lead me to more fat than protein.

But for vegetables, I look at cost PER SERVING, either per ounce or per cup, depending on the veggie and my mood.

That doesn't mean I never eat peppers or berries in the winter, just that I eat a LOT fewer of them.

Genevieve

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Re: Please Share Your Grocery Tracking Strategy
« Reply #52 on: February 01, 2015, 10:05:52 AM »
It looks like your diet is very healthy. That's wonderful! I'd love to see your recipes/ standard meals so I can try some of them myself!

If you switch to cheaper/homemade cleaning products and toiletries, that would eliminate some.

Also, if you can find some cheaper meals to work in as standard meals, I have a feeling that will bring your costs down. For example, I love roasted Brussels sprouts. I also love making a stir fry with cabbage in it. Just about anything with cabbage in it comes out pretty cheap.

Are you buying your grains and beans in bulk? That could be an easy win. Go to a bulk store or ethnic grocery store and stock up. Cheaper and less to worry about getting on a weekly basis.

Once you have a list of the meals and foods you buy regularly, you can look at your local grocery stores to see which one is the cheapest for the things you buy most often. Then you can rotate throughout the month to hit the best prices. This has saved me about 10% and doesn't take any more effort now that I know the prices.

Metta

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Re: Please Share Your Grocery Tracking Strategy
« Reply #53 on: February 01, 2015, 02:05:44 PM »
I am getting the impression that we eat a lot more than other people here. I don't think I can find time to write every meal down but I will experiment next month with trying to keep our dinners noted in Plan To Eat and let you know February's meals to give people an idea of how we eat.

Breakfast is always oatmeal & blueberries plus a carrot smoothie (my husband) and tea with soy milk and either oatmeal & veggies or oatmeal & fruit (me).

Lunches are always leftovers and vegetables.

For snacks we eat vegetables or fruit or potatoes or bread (if I've baked a loaf).

In the meantime, just to give you an idea of the quantity of vegetables we eat, here is what we had for lunch today:

Wine-Braised Cabbage with Vegan Kielbasa and sweet potatoes on the side.
Basically I shredded a medium-sized head of cabbage and then braised it in a half cup of white wine and a can of diced tomatoes, plus two chopped Tofurky vegan kielbasa sausages. (If this were a weeknight meal I would have done without the vegan meat, but we have different rules for weekends.) I also baked some sweet potatoes. Between the two of us we ate most of the cabbage dish. What is left of the cabbage is in the refrigerator. What isn't eaten by tomorrow night will be added to the soup. I had the smallest sweet potato. My husband had one of the larger ones. He will undoubtedly eat the remaining sweet potatoes over the next two days.

The cabbage meal was about 856 calories for the entire thing, so about 428 calories each after splitting it in half.

The cabbage dish cost $4.08 and as I said, we ate nearly all of it.
Cabbage: $1.29
Tofurky Sausage: $2.00
1/2 cup Boxed Wine: $0.40
Can of Diced Tomatoes: $0.39

Sweet potatoes cost $2.75 and offer about 100 calories a cup. Most of them are now in the refrigerator for snacking.

Metta

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Re: Please Share Your Grocery Tracking Strategy
« Reply #54 on: February 01, 2015, 02:12:33 PM »
You haven't mentioned WHERE you are shopping for your vegetables.  Have you searched for ethnic grocery stores in your area -- sometimes they are much cheaper for produce.  Maybe consult the flyers for the stores before you make your meal plan each week, so you can buy more of the veggies that are on sale.  When shopping, concentrate on buying more of the sale items and fewer of the higher priced ones. In the spring you might also try gardening things that are easy and produce high volume, like tomatoes and zucchini.

Maybe organize part of your pricebook by vegetable.  The rows would be the names of vegetable, and the columns would be the frozen price and then the lowest price found each month.

I don't know if you saw my pricebook spreadsheet. It was attached to the same message as the image I posted. If you didn't I'm not surprised since it is kind of dwarfed by the image.

It is set up so that I can pull a lot of different kinds of data out of it and also so that I can eventually upload it to a database and perhaps use it to get even more interesting reports. The first month I did a lot of revisions on the spreadsheet itself to make sure I was capturing what I wanted to capture. Next month I'll continue revising until I have something that can give me a lot of true information. I am capturing the stores I shop at and each individual item that I bought has a separate row with all the details I think I need to pull info. Take a look and give me your suggestions!

Metta

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Re: Please Share Your Grocery Tracking Strategy
« Reply #55 on: February 01, 2015, 02:30:02 PM »
It looks like your diet is very healthy. That's wonderful! I'd love to see your recipes/ standard meals so I can try some of them myself!

If you switch to cheaper/homemade cleaning products and toiletries, that would eliminate some.

Also, if you can find some cheaper meals to work in as standard meals, I have a feeling that will bring your costs down. For example, I love roasted Brussels sprouts. I also love making a stir fry with cabbage in it. Just about anything with cabbage in it comes out pretty cheap.

Are you buying your grains and beans in bulk? That could be an easy win. Go to a bulk store or ethnic grocery store and stock up. Cheaper and less to worry about getting on a weekly basis.

Once you have a list of the meals and foods you buy regularly, you can look at your local grocery stores to see which one is the cheapest for the things you buy most often. Then you can rotate throughout the month to hit the best prices. This has saved me about 10% and doesn't take any more effort now that I know the prices.

I've gone back to buying my cleaning supplies at Costco because it is just simpler to do so but I should definitely try to buy less expensive cleaning supplies. At this point I have enough cleaning supplies that I probably won't be buying more for another 4 months so we'll see what happens in subsequent months. Do you have suggestions for cheap or homemade cleaning supplies? I believe that what I bought this month was dishwasher detergent and a scrubby brush for the sink. As to toiletries, the cost there was for electric toothbrush head replacements and I think we now have enough to last for two years.

We buy beans and grains in 50 pound bags and when we buy them they hit our grocery budget hard. Last year we spent $450 in grains and beans bought in bulk. We expect to have to top up our supply of oat groats in March, July, and November if this year runs true to form. I suspect that we will spend less than last year on grains and beans because we are starting this year pretty well stocked. So figure half of last year's costs for about $225 over the course of 2015.

I'll try to share what I'm making during the month of February but I'm unreliable with this. If I go into a work tizzy all bets are off. :)

Metta

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Re: Please Share Your Grocery Tracking Strategy
« Reply #56 on: February 01, 2015, 02:40:40 PM »
Quote
Thanks for sharing this, Zikoris! I especially appreciate it since I know that you are both vegan and therefore similar to the two of us. Why do you choose March as your month to categorize?

I didn't see beans on your list which is one of our vegan staples. Do you eat beans or is it just that it wasn't bought in that month so it didn't get tracked? Or is that your canned food?

Hi, I am Zikoris's boyfriend. We chose March because it happened to work out that way. We got the idea in January but decided to wait for a 31 day month, as it would seem unfair to use a 28 day month.

We don't really eat beans per se as Zikoris does not react well to them, though we do buy chickpeas and lentils fairly regularly. We buy dried stuff though.

Here is the detailed list of ingredients we bought (and meals we prepared):

http://incomingassets.com/2014/03/30/grocery-tracking-one-month-results/

Hope that helps, feel free to ask us if you have any more questions. We live in Vancouver, Canada as well, which (I believe) has more expensive food than most of USA.

On another note, just looked at your chart breakdown - I can't imagine spending triple what we do now! How did you buy and eat over $200 worth of fresh/frozen vegetables in a month for two people?

Maybe you're buying at rip-off prices? I once saw someone buy 7 cucumbers for $5 each at Whole Foods, which looked the same to me as the $1.20 cucumbers at a normal grocery store.

Thanks for taking a look! It is possible I am buying vegetables at rip-off prices. Fresh Market is a posh vegetable/gourmet food market here that is on my way to work. Also, my primary grocery store serves some of the wealthiest customers in the entire country (at least of those served that grocery chain) so perhaps they are charging more. They do have some of the prettiest vegetables and fruits in the city (except for Fresh Market and Whole Foods). They also have a huge selection of vegan packaged products, which is somewhat unusual for an ordinary grocery in Memphis, TN. In fact, they are a better source of vegan specialty food than Whole Foods. However, they do not cost as much as Whole Foods.

Thanks for the detailed list on your link! I really like that you also included what sort of meals you had that month. I'm taking a page from you and will include that next month when I update things here.

Quote
On another note, just looked at your chart breakdown - I can't imagine spending triple what we do now! How did you buy and eat over $200 worth of fresh/frozen vegetables in a month for two people?

I should note that we haven't yet eaten everything I bought. Some of it is in the pantry and some is in the freezer. And a bit is still in the vegetable crisper waiting to be eaten. I think it will become clearer to me (and everyone else) what is going on as I continue this experiment since one month is not a good period for us. We store a lot of food.
« Last Edit: February 01, 2015, 02:44:38 PM by Metta »

Christof

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Re: Please Share Your Grocery Tracking Strategy
« Reply #57 on: February 01, 2015, 03:45:52 PM »
The numbers don't make sense... $4.00 a meal would be $360 a month if you eat this daily. But you mentioned the sausages - which are 50% of the cost - are a weekend thing. With such a meal you should be around $250 a month. You are not, so you either eat more than three meals a day, or your other meals are more expensive....

Do you snack a lot? Snacks tend to be expensive food. In this case going officially to five meals a day might be cheaper.

Celda

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Re: Please Share Your Grocery Tracking Strategy
« Reply #58 on: February 01, 2015, 03:50:29 PM »
Glad you liked our blog post Metta.

However, as Christof pointed out, your numbers do not add up at all. You said you spent $750 in one month, but, a $4 meal (for two people) should work out to $360. 3 meals a day x four dollars = $12 times 30 days = $360.

It'd be one thing if it was somewhat close, but that is less than half of what you are spending. So there is something missing here.

Metta

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Re: Please Share Your Grocery Tracking Strategy
« Reply #59 on: February 01, 2015, 04:21:48 PM »
The numbers don't make sense... $4.00 a meal would be $360 a month if you eat this daily. But you mentioned the sausages - which are 50% of the cost - are a weekend thing. With such a meal you should be around $250 a month. You are not, so you either eat more than three meals a day, or your other meals are more expensive....

Do you snack a lot? Snacks tend to be expensive food. In this case going officially to five meals a day might be cheaper.

I used that meal as an example of quantity, not really as an example of cost. I think the data won't make sense on a monthly basis because we do not really buy food and use it in the same month we buy it. For example some of the food we bought on sale this month went straight into the freezer and I would be surprised if we used it prior to June or July. But it was a good sale and I know that we will eventually use it. (If aliens set up a forcefield around my house allowing electricity and water in but not allowing us to grocery shop, we could probably live for 6-9 months on stockpiled food.) That is why I'm committed to at least three months of tracking and preferably six months of tracking.

We do snack but we snack on the same kind of food that we eat for meals: vegetables, soup, bread, fruit. We don't snack on chips. On the other hand, if we have people coming over, we do provide crackers and some sort of dip along with a lot of other food. But most of that was bought in bulk and is living in my garage at the moment. My husband eats about five meals a day and is fairly regular with it. I'm chaotic. During very bad stressful periods, I eat a lot. Other times I eat 3-4 meals a day. What may be is that we simply eat more and should eat less. But I have to tell you that saving money by eating less is not very appealing at the moment.

I'm not trying to trick anyone here. I'm just trying to record what is actually going on. The data is messy because it consists of actual data from just one month in a household where looking at just one month isn't sufficient to suss out what is going on.

If it were easy to just do the math on one meal and figure out the month, I wouldn't need to track. I could just do the math on the one meal. I need to track because things are not adding up for me either.
« Last Edit: February 01, 2015, 04:25:20 PM by Metta »

Christof

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Re: Please Share Your Grocery Tracking Strategy
« Reply #60 on: February 01, 2015, 04:48:27 PM »
I wasn't thinking of chips... From my own experience I find it a lot easier to snack on nuts and raisins than carrots, even though carrots would be 10 times cheaper. A regular meal where I peel and slice a carrot would be more efficient to me.

I try - anf often fail - to he consciouis of my levwl of stress. During the past year I have averaged between 60-80 hours of wie rjnwhich is about 30% more expensive for us because I frankly do not feel like cooking in the wvening.

madamwitty

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Re: Please Share Your Grocery Tracking Strategy
« Reply #61 on: February 01, 2015, 05:56:08 PM »
Sweet potatoes cost $2.75 and offer about 100 calories a cup. Most of them are now in the refrigerator for snacking.

Whoa! Is that $2.75 per pound?! I get sweet potatoes for 50 cents/lb at the local ethnic foods store which has really cheap produce. I know mainstream grocery stores (which I rarely set foot into) are more expensive, but 2.75/lb seems like a ripoff to me.

I like to look at cost PER CALORIE for protein and fat, which may lead me to more fat than protein.

But for vegetables, I look at cost PER SERVING, either per ounce or per cup, depending on the veggie and my mood.

That doesn't mean I never eat peppers or berries in the winter, just that I eat a LOT fewer of them.

This is pretty similar to my personal approach as well. But it just occurred to me that for a vegan diet which derives a significant portion (or even majority) of calories from vegetables, it may be important to consider cost per calorie even for vegetables. Just a thought.

Bracken_Joy

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Re: Please Share Your Grocery Tracking Strategy
« Reply #62 on: February 03, 2015, 11:26:36 AM »
Depending on where you're buying staples like nutritional yeast and soy milk, those can be incredibly expensive or much cheaper. For example, if I buy nutritional yeast in a shaker it is a $6. For the same amount in bulk from my co-op, it's about $1.50. For items like that which are pretty much non-perishable (until opened on the milk, obvs), try doing a price comparison with things like amazon pantry, costco, etc. The other things, for all those soups you do, are you using pre-made veg broth? That can be a budget killer at like $2/qt. Much better to save scraps and batch cook your own. Also cheap is bullion, but I'm assuming you don't use it since all I've seen have MSG in them, and you seem to be a pretty clean eater.

If you use a ton of hot sauce, look into making your own, or buy huge containers.

The last one I'll say is that, for me, fruit is my budget killer. I'll eat veggies out of season if needed, but I will only do cheap in-season fruit. If you have space, you can always stock up on fruit in season and freeze. Try farmer's markets at the end of the day. You get some incredible deals there.

Do you eat peanut or almond butter? Or hummus or guacamole? These are almost always insanely expensive pre-made, and can be made easily at home in bulk. Same with granola, granola bars, etc.

My last suggestion (promise!) is to plan ahead for the rough patches. Make big batches of spaghetti sauce or chili and freeze them in individual portion sizes. That way, when you're tired and bleary and just can't, you never even have to step foot in a grocery store.

Best of luck! Eating well can be a major challenge to do affordably!

NoraLenderbee

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Re: Please Share Your Grocery Tracking Strategy
« Reply #63 on: February 03, 2015, 11:46:01 AM »
Keep tracking! Things will get a lot clearer when you have several months of data. You'll be able to see how the occasional bulk buys spread out across the year and how spending changes when you're very busy, etc. hang in there.

sky_northern

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Re: Please Share Your Grocery Tracking Strategy
« Reply #64 on: February 04, 2015, 09:48:12 AM »
we could probably live for 6-9 months on stockpiled food.
Maybe if you didn't stockpile so much you could get the grocery bill down? I am all for stocking up when there is a good deal, but you might have a stockpile creep going on. -you have enough for 6 months now, in a year you have enough for 9 months. Your annual grocery bill was more expensive than it needed to be. Remember most food doesn't have a shelf life of forever. 

Gerard

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Re: Please Share Your Grocery Tracking Strategy
« Reply #65 on: February 04, 2015, 06:52:48 PM »
+1 on the ethnic stores for fruits and vegetables. If anything, they have more demanding shoppers, 'cause old ladies from faraway lands are badass melon thumpers.

Also, given how much of your plate is filled with veg rather than legumes/grains, I'd like to put in a big plug for storage vegetables at this time of year. You mention a few (cabbage, potatoes), but big sacks of carrots and onions and beets are still pretty cheap now. Grated root veg with a citrus based dressing (lime juice, sambal, salt, sugar) is a cheap-ass hit of bright fresh summery tastes. And there's a lot of Indian and Ethiopian recipes that use spices to make ridiculously good stew/curry things out of those same storage vegetables (nobody ever thinks to curry beets, but Madhur Jaffrey does a thing with cubed beets, fried onions, toasted cumin, chili, and tomato puree that's amazing with rice or flatbreads).

SCUBAstache

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Re: Please Share Your Grocery Tracking Strategy
« Reply #66 on: February 05, 2015, 07:13:46 AM »
Metta as a fellow vegan your meals sound great!

I'm currently dealing with a similar issue now that I'm actually paying attention to my spending. My grocery/restaurant expenses were off the charts for one person, regularly $550+. Restaurants were the biggest culprit for me, though, as well as mindless and unplanned grocery shopping.

Now, I try to only buy items that I need for meal prep in the next one to two days. I have also cut back on all processed foods, even things like pre-made hummus and guac.  Anything over $4 now gives me great pause.  I also try to do most shopping at Trader Joe's, good selection and pretty cheap in my area.

I try to do mostly batch cooking, and as long as it turns out well can eat the same meal several days in a row, or freeze leftovers. If you're interested in meal plans, my boyfriend is really enjoying Happy Herbivores.

For January I got down to $350 for food, hoping for <$300 this month.

Good luck!

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Re: Please Share Your Grocery Tracking Strategy
« Reply #67 on: February 05, 2015, 11:45:22 AM »
I can't be a vegetarian, let alone vegan. It just doesn't work for me.

I will share my grocery tracking strategy. It's two parallel things:

1. the total grocery spend is tracking on my pen and paper sheet pinned to the fridge.
2. For a while, then substantially reworked two months ago, I've logged every single item into a Google spreadsheet. If interested, this is my format:

https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1iqnuCwHE-Ok9tXGfC9e0yCzs-Qax7JvnZzUf9XeINfs/edit?usp=sharing

Our budget is $600 per month for a family of 5. This year it will be a very "lumpy" budget because we are doing some bulk meat purchasing, and I'm strongly considering a CSA. I have to work out what I need to keep my in-month average to if I commit to those large one-time purchases, but living seasonally and putting food by is such a huge win both for the budget AND for the tastebuds. I've identified different local farmers who absolutely rock certain staples: pork, eggs, strawberries, apples, root veggies and buy direct as much as I can realistically store.

We garden a bit. Last year we probably shaved a few hundred off our food bill over the season. This year I am aiming a bit higher but I have to temper expectations with the reality that our soil is very poor and I prefer to improve it with as little outside input as I can.

Metta

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Re: Please Share Your Grocery Tracking Strategy
« Reply #68 on: February 07, 2015, 10:42:25 AM »
Sweet potatoes cost $2.75 and offer about 100 calories a cup. Most of them are now in the refrigerator for snacking.

Whoa! Is that $2.75 per pound?! I get sweet potatoes for 50 cents/lb at the local ethnic foods store which has really cheap produce. I know mainstream grocery stores (which I rarely set foot into) are more expensive, but 2.75/lb seems like a ripoff to me.

$2.75 for three pounds in a little net bag.


I like to look at cost PER CALORIE for protein and fat, which may lead me to more fat than protein.

But for vegetables, I look at cost PER SERVING, either per ounce or per cup, depending on the veggie and my mood.

That doesn't mean I never eat peppers or berries in the winter, just that I eat a LOT fewer of them.

This is pretty similar to my personal approach as well. But it just occurred to me that for a vegan diet which derives a significant portion (or even majority) of calories from vegetables, it may be important to consider cost per calorie even for vegetables. Just a thought.

We eat a lot of vegetables. We also eat a lot of grains and legumes, which you won't see on my list for several months since we buy wheat berries, oat groats, lentils, and split peas in fifty pound bags and store them in large pails with screw-on lids. My guess is that I will have to buy oat groats and lentils (daily staples) again in March or April. Probably it won't be until June that I'll need more wheat (unless I start making more bread).

Keep tracking! Things will get a lot clearer when you have several months of data. You'll be able to see how the occasional bulk buys spread out across the year and how spending changes when you're very busy, etc. hang in there.

Thank you! I appreciate the encouragement!

+1 on the ethnic stores for fruits and vegetables. If anything, they have more demanding shoppers, 'cause old ladies from faraway lands are badass melon thumpers.

Also, given how much of your plate is filled with veg rather than legumes/grains, I'd like to put in a big plug for storage vegetables at this time of year. You mention a few (cabbage, potatoes), but big sacks of carrots and onions and beets are still pretty cheap now. Grated root veg with a citrus based dressing (lime juice, sambal, salt, sugar) is a cheap-ass hit of bright fresh summery tastes. And there's a lot of Indian and Ethiopian recipes that use spices to make ridiculously good stew/curry things out of those same storage vegetables (nobody ever thinks to curry beets, but Madhur Jaffrey does a thing with cubed beets, fried onions, toasted cumin, chili, and tomato puree that's amazing with rice or flatbreads).

Our lack of legumes and grains on our grocery list is deceptive. We do eat a good bit of those as well. We have a lot of Indian grocery stores here, but their vegetables aren't so good. Even my Indian friends shop at Kroger for veggies. I do buy my rice, red lentils, mung beans, and spices there. Unfortunately I am also easily transfixed by yummy-looking food in the freezer section. Fortunately for me much of it is not vegan.

Your idea of grated root veg with a citrus based dressing sounds amazingly good and something that my husband would enjoy as well! Curried beets! I hadn't thought of that either. Once the CSA starts producing vegetables they will load us down with beets and I appreciate seeing new ways to use them. So far my favorite dishes are Raw Vegan Ravioli made with paper thing beet slices and Roasted Beets. Mmmm roasted beets.

I wasn't thinking of chips... From my own experience I find it a lot easier to snack on nuts and raisins than carrots, even though carrots would be 10 times cheaper. A regular meal where I peel and slice a carrot would be more efficient to me.

I try - anf often fail - to he consciouis of my levwl of stress. During the past year I have averaged between 60-80 hours of wie rjnwhich is about 30% more expensive for us because I frankly do not feel like cooking in the wvening.

I really feel for you! I often have periods like that as well and it is one of the things driving me to early retirement.

we could probably live for 6-9 months on stockpiled food.
Maybe if you didn't stockpile so much you could get the grocery bill down? I am all for stocking up when there is a good deal, but you might have a stockpile creep going on. -you have enough for 6 months now, in a year you have enough for 9 months. Your annual grocery bill was more expensive than it needed to be. Remember most food doesn't have a shelf life of forever. 

Most of our stockpiles are in the form of canned food, dry grains and beans, and frozen veggies. We also have some freeze-dried fruits and vegetables that I plan to experiment with to create gourmet camping food. I think my stocks would last a while if they had to. Fortunately we work our way through our stores fairly often. I try to keep on hand things we will actually use. So the oat groats in fifty pound bags actually get used up quite often. We use 6 oz of oats every day. So fifty pounds lasts us about 130 days or about 4 months. So we have 4 months of oats on hand and whole oat groats will supposedly last for 30 years in storage. That is obviously not forever, but is more time than we need. Similarly wheat stores a long time as well and we tend to use up our stores in 6-9 months. Canned food is similarly long-lived and our cans don't last more than six months in our pantry. We buy about 2 years of baking yeast at a time and store it in the freezer. Kept in the freezer and stored in the vacuum packed container it comes it, yeast should last many years.

I find it comforting to know that I can cook from our stockpiles at any time, that I don't need to shop, that if something happens and we can't buy food, I have it.


Metta

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Re: Please Share Your Grocery Tracking Strategy
« Reply #69 on: February 07, 2015, 11:26:51 AM »
Depending on where you're buying staples like nutritional yeast and soy milk, those can be incredibly expensive or much cheaper. For example, if I buy nutritional yeast in a shaker it is a $6. For the same amount in bulk from my co-op, it's about $1.50. For items like that which are pretty much non-perishable (until opened on the milk, obvs), try doing a price comparison with things like amazon pantry, costco, etc.

I gave up buying soy milk and nutritional yeast locally. The nutritional yeast is extremely expensive here (and sometimes comes with bugs if you buy it from the bulk bin) and I'm too picky with soy milk to get away with buying the cheap stuff. The kind I like is $3.99 for quart and requires a trip to Whole Foods, which I am trying to avoid. Instead I invested in a soymilk maker last October and have been happily supplying my need for unsweetened soy milk much, much cheaper and much tastier.

Thirteen pounds of Laura soybeans (the kind used to make mild-tasting, creamy soy milk) costs $26. I use 115 grams of soybeans for each quart of soy milk (which makes very creamy, thick, luxurious soy milk that is better than I can buy) which brings the cost per quart down to about $.50. I use 2-3 quarts a week, so that saves a bit of money.

I buy nutritional yeast from Vegan Essentials in 6 pound buckets for $65 and that seems to last me a year or two. The shakers hold 5 oz, so the equivalent price I'm paying for 5 oz comes to $3.38. Not quite the savings you are seeing with your method but we don't have a co-op here.


The other things, for all those soups you do, are you using pre-made veg broth? That can be a budget killer at like $2/qt. Much better to save scraps and batch cook your own. Also cheap is bullion, but I'm assuming you don't use it since all I've seen have MSG in them, and you seem to be a pretty clean eater.

MSG is a problem for some people, but it isn't a problem for me. So, I don't avoid bullion but I'm not a heavy user of it either (primarily because of the sodium in it). I use leftover wine in soups to get the umami taste instead.

What I use broth for is for sautéing. My husband is fairly sensitive to fat in his diet. It really doesn't take much oil to send his cholesterol flying up, so I don't add oil to food where I don't need it. We both prefer to control cholesterol this way than for him to take statins. (He's already slender so he can't resolve the problem by losing weight.)

I should save scraps and make broth. Time is a problem with that and I am not sure how to pack it up and store it in small amounts to use for sautéing. The broth situation is maddening to me! I know that I should not buy the bricks of broth because I can't use them up (without dumping the excess in a soup) after I sauté and because it is just bad environmentally to pay people to ship liquid around. I haven't solved this one.   

The last one I'll say is that, for me, fruit is my budget killer. I'll eat veggies out of season if needed, but I will only do cheap in-season fruit. If you have space, you can always stock up on fruit in season and freeze. Try farmer's markets at the end of the day. You get some incredible deals there.

Do you eat peanut or almond butter? Or hummus or guacamole? These are almost always insanely expensive pre-made, and can be made easily at home in bulk. Same with granola, granola bars, etc.

My last suggestion (promise!) is to plan ahead for the rough patches. Make big batches of spaghetti sauce or chili and freeze them in individual portion sizes. That way, when you're tired and bleary and just can't, you never even have to step foot in a grocery store.

Best of luck! Eating well can be a major challenge to do affordably!

I think your suggestions are good ones here! I will try them. I make my own hummus (because I think the store-bought hummus doesn't taste as good) but the rest I don't often make. Perhaps I need to learn to make my own Ajvar, which is one of my guilty pleasures and fairly costly.

Thanks!!
« Last Edit: February 07, 2015, 11:30:05 AM by Metta »

Metta

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Re: Please Share Your Grocery Tracking Strategy
« Reply #70 on: February 07, 2015, 11:33:03 AM »
Metta as a fellow vegan your meals sound great!

I'm currently dealing with a similar issue now that I'm actually paying attention to my spending. My grocery/restaurant expenses were off the charts for one person, regularly $550+. Restaurants were the biggest culprit for me, though, as well as mindless and unplanned grocery shopping.

Now, I try to only buy items that I need for meal prep in the next one to two days. I have also cut back on all processed foods, even things like pre-made hummus and guac.  Anything over $4 now gives me great pause.  I also try to do most shopping at Trader Joe's, good selection and pretty cheap in my area.

I try to do mostly batch cooking, and as long as it turns out well can eat the same meal several days in a row, or freeze leftovers. If you're interested in meal plans, my boyfriend is really enjoying Happy Herbivores.

For January I got down to $350 for food, hoping for <$300 this month.

Good luck!

It sounds like you are doing great! I'll take another look at Happy Herbivore. I like her view toward food.

Having a mental cut-off point for food prices is an interesting one. I am going to think about that.

Metta

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Re: Please Share Your Grocery Tracking Strategy
« Reply #71 on: February 07, 2015, 12:56:37 PM »
I can't be a vegetarian, let alone vegan. It just doesn't work for me.

We all work to make a difference in the world in the way that we can. There is no one true way. Vegetarianism is our way. :)

I will share my grocery tracking strategy. It's two parallel things:

1. the total grocery spend is tracking on my pen and paper sheet pinned to the fridge.
2. For a while, then substantially reworked two months ago, I've logged every single item into a Google spreadsheet. If interested, this is my format:

https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1iqnuCwHE-Ok9tXGfC9e0yCzs-Qax7JvnZzUf9XeINfs/edit?usp=sharing

Our budget is $600 per month for a family of 5. This year it will be a very "lumpy" budget because we are doing some bulk meat purchasing, and I'm strongly considering a CSA. I have to work out what I need to keep my in-month average to if I commit to those large one-time purchases, but living seasonally and putting food by is such a huge win both for the budget AND for the tastebuds. I've identified different local farmers who absolutely rock certain staples: pork, eggs, strawberries, apples, root veggies and buy direct as much as I can realistically store.

We garden a bit. Last year we probably shaved a few hundred off our food bill over the season. This year I am aiming a bit higher but I have to temper expectations with the reality that our soil is very poor and I prefer to improve it with as little outside input as I can.

I am deeply impressed by your grocery spending and your spreadsheet (and deeply impressed by your other environmental actions such as bike-riding). Thank you for sharing your spreadsheet! I plan to pour over and and compare what you are doing to what we are doing.

I may try gardening again next summer. We have trouble gardening in the summer if we travel. The heat can really fry the plants if we are not here to water them.

I agree that buying locally is a big win taste-wise and there can be environmental wins as well. I am not sure about the economies of doing so. (At least here.)

CSA's are interesting to budget around. We paid for next summer's CSA last December. So the money we spent, $455, will not turn into vegetables until May, 2015 and will supply a big box of vegetables and fruit weekly for 14 weeks. Our CSA typically puts bread and eggs into the box but we've asked her not to, so she frequently adds some extra kale or something special like squash blossoms. It ends up being $32 a week for vegetables. I know that it sounds pricey. (At least it does to all my meat-eating friends.)

My meat-eating friend who uses the same CSA feeds her omnivorous family of 2 adults and two teenagers on a half-share of the CSA ($325 for 14 weeks) and complains that she gets too many vegetables. This is why I find it hard to compare vegan diets to omnivore diets. Essentially we are eating four times the amount of vegetables she does in the summer and we still buy some additional produce to fill in the gaps. My impression is that her sons and husband eat very little in the way of vegetables. While my husband pouts when we are low on vegetables. So it seems like a very different mindset to me.

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Re: Please Share Your Grocery Tracking Strategy
« Reply #72 on: February 07, 2015, 02:16:41 PM »
I should save scraps and make broth. Time is a problem with that and I am not sure how to pack it up and store it in small amounts to use for sautéing. The broth situation is maddening to me! I know that I should not buy the bricks of broth because I can't use them up (without dumping the excess in a soup) after I sauté and because it is just bad environmentally to pay people to ship liquid around. I haven't solved this one.   

When I don't want to can my stock, I cook it down until it's really concentrated, and freeze it either in 4 oz containers or ice cube trays.  The 4 oz containers of concentrate are enough for a soup, and the ice cubes are good for adding flavor to a rice or vegetable dish.  Also way more convenient and less sodium than the prepared stuff (no worry about opening a quart and not using it all up).  Just throw your scraps into a bag in the freezer, and when the bag is full, toss into a pot with water.  Slow cooker is good, but then you'll need to transfer to a pot to cook down if you want a concentrated stock.

SaintM

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Re: Please Share Your Grocery Tracking Strategy
« Reply #73 on: February 07, 2015, 03:05:56 PM »
Yeah, I cringe whenever my wife goes to the grocery store.  It's the one thing I can't seem to get a handle on.  Here are the monthly averages:

2007:  $661
2008:  $552
2009:  $479
2010:  $578
2011:  $810
2012:  $962
2013:  $1262
2014:  $1490

I don't know how accurate those early figures are, but 2009 on should be pretty good.  Three teenagers eating nothing but un-filling junk food certainly doesn't help.  She also doesn't go to the cheaper grocery store because the food sucks, the lines are long, and the shelves are empty.

Christof

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Re: Please Share Your Grocery Tracking Strategy
« Reply #74 on: February 08, 2015, 06:06:42 AM »
What changed in the past seven years that your expenses more than doubled?

Metta

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Re: Please Share Your Grocery Tracking Strategy
« Reply #75 on: February 08, 2015, 08:19:02 AM »
I should save scraps and make broth. Time is a problem with that and I am not sure how to pack it up and store it in small amounts to use for sautéing. The broth situation is maddening to me! I know that I should not buy the bricks of broth because I can't use them up (without dumping the excess in a soup) after I sauté and because it is just bad environmentally to pay people to ship liquid around. I haven't solved this one.   

When I don't want to can my stock, I cook it down until it's really concentrated, and freeze it either in 4 oz containers or ice cube trays.  The 4 oz containers of concentrate are enough for a soup, and the ice cubes are good for adding flavor to a rice or vegetable dish.  Also way more convenient and less sodium than the prepared stuff (no worry about opening a quart and not using it all up).  Just throw your scraps into a bag in the freezer, and when the bag is full, toss into a pot with water.  Slow cooker is good, but then you'll need to transfer to a pot to cook down if you want a concentrated stock.

That does sound like a very enlightened way of doing things! What are you putting in your stock? Is there anything you avoid? The reason I ask is that I wonder whether I should avoid asparagus ends since they are strongly flavored and might not go well with everything.

Metta

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Re: Please Share Your Grocery Tracking Strategy
« Reply #76 on: February 08, 2015, 08:20:42 AM »
Yeah, I cringe whenever my wife goes to the grocery store.  It's the one thing I can't seem to get a handle on.  Here are the monthly averages:

2007:  $661
2008:  $552
2009:  $479
2010:  $578
2011:  $810
2012:  $962
2013:  $1262
2014:  $1490

I don't know how accurate those early figures are, but 2009 on should be pretty good.  Three teenagers eating nothing but un-filling junk food certainly doesn't help.  She also doesn't go to the cheaper grocery store because the food sucks, the lines are long, and the shelves are empty.

Thanks for sharing! It is very hard to deal with food, I think. More than anything else we buy it is freighted with values and social costs.

horsepoor

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Re: Please Share Your Grocery Tracking Strategy
« Reply #77 on: February 08, 2015, 08:52:54 AM »
I should save scraps and make broth. Time is a problem with that and I am not sure how to pack it up and store it in small amounts to use for sautéing. The broth situation is maddening to me! I know that I should not buy the bricks of broth because I can't use them up (without dumping the excess in a soup) after I sauté and because it is just bad environmentally to pay people to ship liquid around. I haven't solved this one.   

When I don't want to can my stock, I cook it down until it's really concentrated, and freeze it either in 4 oz containers or ice cube trays.  The 4 oz containers of concentrate are enough for a soup, and the ice cubes are good for adding flavor to a rice or vegetable dish.  Also way more convenient and less sodium than the prepared stuff (no worry about opening a quart and not using it all up).  Just throw your scraps into a bag in the freezer, and when the bag is full, toss into a pot with water.  Slow cooker is good, but then you'll need to transfer to a pot to cook down if you want a concentrated stock.

That does sound like a very enlightened way of doing things! What are you putting in your stock? Is there anything you avoid? The reason I ask is that I wonder whether I should avoid asparagus ends since they are strongly flavored and might not go well with everything.

I mostly make meat stocks, so I just use onion, celery and carrot for the vegetable part.  Not sure about asparagus.

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Re: Please Share Your Grocery Tracking Strategy
« Reply #78 on: February 08, 2015, 09:36:56 AM »
Asparagus ends shouldn't (Shouldn't) make much of a difference flavorwise.  At least we don't notice.

I really like the idea of freezing the vegetable stock in an ice cube try.  Must try this as being omnivores we rarely use it.

If time is a problem might a crock pot help?   

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Re: Please Share Your Grocery Tracking Strategy
« Reply #79 on: February 08, 2015, 02:04:51 PM »
However, the biggest expense seems to be over-working, which on the surface sounds illogical to me. I don't even remember shopping on weeks that I work 80-100 hours weeks. When do I have the time??? I don't even have time to do laundry. And yet, our grocery bills are reliably higher those months. I think I must go out at lunch and buy junk food. (My weight spikes during intense work periods as well.)

For weeks that you know you will be working crazy weeks, can you shop ahead of time?  I also try to double up cooking on slow weeks so I have food in the freezer already made.  I also rely pretty heavily on the crockpot those weeks.  Just made gumbo today and one third will be for dinner tomorrow and the other two will go in to the freezer. 

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Re: Please Share Your Grocery Tracking Strategy
« Reply #80 on: February 08, 2015, 02:21:23 PM »
I keep track of all spending by writing it down in an account book.  For food I have seven columns - meat, dairy, produce, fruits, beverage (includes alcohol), other, dining.  At the end of the month I tally each column and enter summary results in a spreadsheet. 

The book I've been using for years is very inexpensive and in my opinion serves the purpose well.
http://www.amazon.co.jp/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?__mk_ja_JP=%E3%82%AB%E3%82%BF%E3%82%AB%E3%83%8A&url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=978-4-87303-952-7&rh=i%3Aaps%2Ck%3A978-4-87303-952-7&ajr=1

For two adults our average monthly spend over the last eight years:
2007 - 237.25
2008 - 230.23
2009 - 223.44
2010 - 197.34
2011 - 226.01
2012 - 210.64
2013 - 193.60
2014 - 238.29

Catbert

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Re: Please Share Your Grocery Tracking Strategy
« Reply #81 on: February 08, 2015, 02:32:32 PM »
Three simple things you can do while you figure out how you really want to track:

*Put all your grocery receipts in an envelop/drawer/whatever
*Save grocery ads for the store(s) where you shop
*Track what food you throw away, whether ingredient or leftover dish

When you have time you can see what you bought and how much you paid for it.  How much of your "grocery" spending isn't really groceries (Costco is the worst for this).    You can see the grocery sale cycle (e.g., pasta goes on sale every 8 weeks for $1 a lb., boneless chicken breasts go on sale for $2 every 6 weeks, etc.)  Knowing the cycle will help you know not just when its a good deal but how much to buy before the next sale.  You can determine why you throw things away.  Do you buy more fresh produce than you actually use?  Or do you shove leftovers to the back of the frig and forget about them.

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Re: Please Share Your Grocery Tracking Strategy
« Reply #82 on: February 08, 2015, 03:48:50 PM »
This all sounds too complicated for me.

My criteria for buying groceries?

- Buy as much fruits, vegetables and lean meats as I want as long as I can eat them in a week. I buy in season so I get cheaper and healthier options. I buy these from a fruit and vegetable shop and butcher rather than a supermarket as they are cheaper and fresher.
- Eat generally the same meals each day, just vary up the meat and vegetable. I buy only what I need, can make it quickly and know when something is a good price.
- If something is on special, I stock up within reason.
- I buy house brands instead of premium brands for most products.

People may look at what we eat as routine, boring and un-creative. I look at it as efficient, healthy, easy and cheap. I make sweet potatoes, steak and vegetables/salad 3x nights of the week instead of something like cream pasta with tomatoes, olives and bacon for example. Because I know it is easier, cheaper, etc.

If you still want flavour, look to get a big spice rack with herbs, etc. Things like garlic, ginger and oils/seeds also add flavour and texture.

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Re: Please Share Your Grocery Tracking Strategy
« Reply #83 on: February 08, 2015, 04:13:22 PM »
In your original post, you mentioned entertaining 2-3 times a month.  Do you know how much that costs?  Does it get offset by reciprocating invites?  When looking at your budget, it may help to understand/reposition that portion of cost. 

Also, if your husband is into ultra marathons, his calorie needs are not going to be the same as other forum members, so allocating a budget increase for this activity makes sense too. 

This is the first year I have tracked subcategories of grocery spending, and our low amount of fruit/veggie spending has been the biggest surprise.  To be honest, I was mad at myself for neglecting this important nutritional area.  So the food tracking has actually had the opposite effect - we are buying more fruit/veggies and cutting back on lunchmeat and other processed foods.   

Kyle Schuant

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Re: Please Share Your Grocery Tracking Strategy
« Reply #84 on: February 08, 2015, 04:15:53 PM »
Meal planning is the way to go. If you don't plan your meals, there comes a day when you're wondering what to have for dinner, and you wonder for so long you can't be bothered anymore and buy something easy to prepare - processed food, and you pay for someone else to process it. You'll also instinctively go for the higher energy foods with lots of sugar.

For example, a jar of pasta sauce will be more expensive than a couple of cloves of garlic, a carrot, stick of celery, onion, a zucchini and a couple of tins of tomatoes. And a box of added vitamin added fibre corn flakes will be more expensive than a bag of oats. Raisin toast will be more expensive than plain bread with jam.

Buying spontaneously also means buying smaller portions. You buy 1kg of rice instead of 20kg, and 20 lots of 1kg cost more than a 20kg bag.

Meal planning needn't be strict, you just have your standard ingredients you always buy. We're always getting tins of tomatoes for sauces, UHT milk (it's cheapest), rice, pasta, minced meat, chicken, and so on. You watch for which are the cheapest brands or these things are on sale and then you get them in bulk. Tuna is cheap this week, 90c a can instead of $1.20, okay let's get 20 tins.

Fruit and vegies make up about half of our grocery bill (about $550 a month for two adults and one child, this also includes things like shampoo). With those, again many things like onions and potatoes you can buy in bulk, they'll last for a month at least. The seasonal fruit and vegies are usually $2/kg, the out-of-season ones $6-$10/kg. So now it's summer and we're eating bananas and oranges, come winter we'll have more stonefruits like peaches. I go into the greengrocers and look for the cheap stuff.

Metta

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Re: Please Share Your Grocery Tracking Strategy
« Reply #85 on: March 05, 2015, 05:31:10 PM »
I'm back with February's less than stellar numbers. It was the kind of month I am tracking groceries to understand. Underwater at work plus we entertained three times in February. So lots of prepared food, some weight gain (not that grocery tracking helps with that), and some luxury foods. For ease, I'm going to upload the sums spent in categories and the pie chart but not the Excel file this month since it seemed that most people didn't pour over my entries anyway. At the six month mark, I will post my full Excel file.

So here's February. We spent quite a bit on processed and gourmet food for various wine parties and games. There will be less extravagant entertaining in March.



« Last Edit: March 05, 2015, 05:38:21 PM by Metta »

Metta

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Re: Please Share Your Grocery Tracking Strategy
« Reply #86 on: March 05, 2015, 06:01:16 PM »
However, the biggest expense seems to be over-working, which on the surface sounds illogical to me. I don't even remember shopping on weeks that I work 80-100 hours weeks. When do I have the time??? I don't even have time to do laundry. And yet, our grocery bills are reliably higher those months. I think I must go out at lunch and buy junk food. (My weight spikes during intense work periods as well.)

For weeks that you know you will be working crazy weeks, can you shop ahead of time?  I also try to double up cooking on slow weeks so I have food in the freezer already made.  I also rely pretty heavily on the crockpot those weeks.  Just made gumbo today and one third will be for dinner tomorrow and the other two will go in to the freezer.

In general, weeks that I know will be busy aren't problem weeks. It's the week when a supposedly easy move-to-production turns into a nightmare or a Wednesday night phone call about a server issue or application issue requires non-stop work for several days. Or some sort of "Sorry, Metta, I forgot to give you this to do and now it is a week late. Can you get it done by tomorrow morning before this escalates to the VP?" Or a week when one of the above happens plus my parents call because someone is in the hospital and they need help.

Those are my problem weeks and they are always accompanied by lots of unpleasant stress, insomnia, and a hunger for bad, expensive comfort food. (Lately they are also accompanied by an obsessive look at my bank balance and my new mantra "Just a little longer, then I am free.")

I keep track of all spending by writing it down in an account book.  For food I have seven columns - meat, dairy, produce, fruits, beverage (includes alcohol), other, dining.  At the end of the month I tally each column and enter summary results in a spreadsheet. 

The book I've been using for years is very inexpensive and in my opinion serves the purpose well.
http://www.amazon.co.jp/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?__mk_ja_JP=%E3%82%AB%E3%82%BF%E3%82%AB%E3%83%8A&url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=978-4-87303-952-7&rh=i%3Aaps%2Ck%3A978-4-87303-952-7&ajr=1

For two adults our average monthly spend over the last eight years:
2007 - 237.25
2008 - 230.23
2009 - 223.44
2010 - 197.34
2011 - 226.01
2012 - 210.64
2013 - 193.60
2014 - 238.29

Thank you Dmitri! That is very impressive!

Three simple things you can do while you figure out how you really want to track:

*Put all your grocery receipts in an envelop/drawer/whatever
*Save grocery ads for the store(s) where you shop
*Track what food you throw away, whether ingredient or leftover dish

When you have time you can see what you bought and how much you paid for it.  How much of your "grocery" spending isn't really groceries (Costco is the worst for this).    You can see the grocery sale cycle (e.g., pasta goes on sale every 8 weeks for $1 a lb., boneless chicken breasts go on sale for $2 every 6 weeks, etc.)  Knowing the cycle will help you know not just when its a good deal but how much to buy before the next sale.  You can determine why you throw things away.  Do you buy more fresh produce than you actually use?  Or do you shove leftovers to the back of the frig and forget about them.


Very sensible ideas! I've been coming to the conclusion that I need to track waste as well but I'm not really sure how to do this. I'm not even sure whether some things should actually be categorized as waste or not. I'm interested in learning how you track your throw-aways. Do you count as waste the bad (or not quite good) parts you trim from vegetables before cooking them? I make soy milk and the result is soy milk and something called Okara, which is the ground up soy beans after the soy milk has been squeezed out of them. They are a good source of protein so I add them to soups and such, but I create more than I can use. Would you count that as waste? And how do you record this? Do you have a spreadsheet? Do you note it by weight? Or volume? Or just the occasion? Or is this more of a journaling sort of exercise where the discussion with oneself is less about data and metrics and more of a discussion?

In your original post, you mentioned entertaining 2-3 times a month.  Do you know how much that costs?  Does it get offset by reciprocating invites?  When looking at your budget, it may help to understand/reposition that portion of cost. 

Also, if your husband is into ultra marathons, his calorie needs are not going to be the same as other forum members, so allocating a budget increase for this activity makes sense too. 

This is the first year I have tracked subcategories of grocery spending, and our low amount of fruit/veggie spending has been the biggest surprise.  To be honest, I was mad at myself for neglecting this important nutritional area.  So the food tracking has actually had the opposite effect - we are buying more fruit/veggies and cutting back on lunchmeat and other processed foods.   

February is the first month that I can see what my entertaining costs us. It was $202 in February for three events. It does not get off-set through reciprocation. I am told that people with children cannot entertain. I'm not actually all that concerned about reciprocation. I enjoy having guests and enjoy feeding people. It is one of the nice things in our life. I probably need to get the costs under control, though.

It is an interesting thought that my husband might need more food. It may be or may not be. However, he is pretty manic about keeping his weight down so he probably eats less than some of our better-padded friends in overall calories. On the other hand he is the driver of our high costs in fruits and vegetables, which he eats voraciously.

Meal planning is the way to go. If you don't plan your meals, there comes a day when you're wondering what to have for dinner, and you wonder for so long you can't be bothered anymore and buy something easy to prepare - processed food, and you pay for someone else to process it. You'll also instinctively go for the higher energy foods with lots of sugar.

For example, a jar of pasta sauce will be more expensive than a couple of cloves of garlic, a carrot, stick of celery, onion, a zucchini and a couple of tins of tomatoes. And a box of added vitamin added fibre corn flakes will be more expensive than a bag of oats. Raisin toast will be more expensive than plain bread with jam.

Buying spontaneously also means buying smaller portions. You buy 1kg of rice instead of 20kg, and 20 lots of 1kg cost more than a 20kg bag.

Meal planning needn't be strict, you just have your standard ingredients you always buy. We're always getting tins of tomatoes for sauces, UHT milk (it's cheapest), rice, pasta, minced meat, chicken, and so on. You watch for which are the cheapest brands or these things are on sale and then you get them in bulk. Tuna is cheap this week, 90c a can instead of $1.20, okay let's get 20 tins.

Fruit and vegies make up about half of our grocery bill (about $550 a month for two adults and one child, this also includes things like shampoo). With those, again many things like onions and potatoes you can buy in bulk, they'll last for a month at least. The seasonal fruit and vegies are usually $2/kg, the out-of-season ones $6-$10/kg. So now it's summer and we're eating bananas and oranges, come winter we'll have more stonefruits like peaches. I go into the greengrocers and look for the cheap stuff.

Lots of good ideas here! I appreciate it. I've started meal-planning with PlanToEat, which I am finding very helpful.

« Last Edit: March 05, 2015, 06:03:02 PM by Metta »