Wednesday, September 8, 2010

grocery challenge

Dave and I have gotten pretty good at using a budget (this does not mean we are perfect!).  This definitely has not always been the case - before we got married neither of us did a good job of keeping track of our money.  But while we were engaged we started to focus on keeping track of money in and money out, setting goals, etc.

By now budgeting isn't necessarily "new", but it's something we're always wanting to stay on top of, reevaluate, and look ahead at.  In the past, we had more of a cushion that we could sit on if we went over each month.  So while we set a "goal" for groceries, we often went over it and it didn't really matter, because the end month budget still worked.  Typically the grocery budget is where we tended to overflow the most... I'm not sure what this says about us!  We're good eaters?

With a house payment now instead of rent we have a whole new slew of costs - insurance, upkeep, furniture, utilities, etc., and we don't has as much room to go over.  We set a goal for September: spend $60 or less each week on groceries.  Easy enough, maybe, but we looove produce and I love trying new meals.  I also love grocery shopping and grabbing what sounds good, without thinking TOO much what the running total in my cart is.

But the past two weeks I've been grocery shopping with more purchase.  I try to grocery shop with specific recipes and ingredients in mind, rather than recipe ideas.  I keep a mental tally in my head of what I'm spending.  (This has probably been the biggest change - and the most helpful.)  I've been shopping early Monday morning and I try to spend $50 or less, to allow $10 for random things I might need to pick up during the week - extra fruit, a missed ingredient, etc.

Last week's groceries came out at $52.19.  This week's grocery trip came out at $46.99.  I already know I'll need to buy a few things later this week - ingredients for the s'mores pie and some fruit - but I have a cushion of $17 to allow for that!  For $46.99 we got:

  • whole wheat flour
  • animal crackers
  • oatmeal
  • 1 28oz. can diced toms
  • 1 28oz. can tomato sauce
  • 1 12oz. can tomato paste
  • garlic salt
  • vanilla extract
  • 3lbs. yellow onions
  • 1 green pepper
  • 2 bags spinach
  • 1 garlic bulb
  • 2 zucchinis
  • 3 tomatoes
  • 3 bags of frozen corn
  • 1 bag frozen spinach
  • 2 pounds strawberries
  • 1 bag of popcorn kernels
  • 1 pound brown sugar
  • 2 gallons apple juice
  • 1 gallon milk
  • 4 pounds bananas

Currently I grocery shop at Walmart.  I don't love this.  I go freakishly early (6 or 7am) in order to beat the crowd, which makes it more doable.  I fight guilt at shopping there, knowing some of the controversial issues around Walmart for its environmental/social impact.  But it's the cheapest and right now, it's where we go, for better or worse.

I go to Kroger for produce.  After a string of bad experiences with Walmart produce (apples that had brown cores, peaches that were mealy) I switched to Kroger.  I might get grapes or strawberries at Walmart, but for the most part I try to get my produce at Kroger, where it might cost a little more, but I'm getting better quality.

And for random things like quinoa, which Walmart doesn't have, I hit up either Kroger, the co-op, or a local bulk food market.

Do you follow a budget?  What's the area that's hardest for you to stay "true" on?

And from a blog standpoint, is a post like this helpful?  I don't mind posting our weekly buys for a little bit as we figure out our new budget if it's helpful to others out there!


  1. We spend WAY too much on groceries. I keep a very loose budget, but it seems to vary week to week depending on if we can make it to the farmers' market, if we're away for the weekend, etc. I really need to be better about this!

    I enjoy posts like this! :)

  2. Wow! I budget, meal plan, and coupon, but I've never been able to do $60 a week! I noticed you didn't have meat on your list. Do you eat meat? I know it can get expensive. We have a Sprout's Farmers Market grocery store nearby. Their produce is amazing and cheaper than anywhere else. I'm so thankful for it!

    By the way, thanks for becoming a recent follower!

  3. I do the majority of our grocery shopping at Aldi - even their produce is good there. It saves us a boatload of money - I can easily feed our family of 5 for less than $200 a month - and we eat a lot! It does mean I don't buy a lot of specialty ingredients because they cost a lot more, but I will splurge occasionally on special things. Plus, I have Stringtown at my fingertips too. ;)

  4. Hey Kim! Yes, sorry, I totally remember you! I didn't connect the dots earlier and I only saw your tiny profile pic. It's nice re-connect here in blogland!

    $60 a month makes a little more sense without kids. My kids like to snack so it feels like they are constantly eating something!

  5. Ah the budget. It must be the part in our wedding vows that we all miss. Groceries are always the budget buster. When we first started doing it I hated it so much. Shopping wasn't fun because I had to keep track of how much I was spending. It's easier now after 3 years of practice. The meat is where the cost can sky-rocket though so if you don't have to buy that it's even easier :) Our budgets sound similar...I recently got a food-budget raise from $100 to $125 every two weeks (about $60/week) it was very exciting.

  6. Sometimes you can find good bulk deals at E&S Sales in Shipshewana. Might be a bit of a drive but they have a lot of stuff that you eat bulk at pretty reasonable prices (at least I think so).

  7. i also prefer to grocery shop freakishly early before the crowd - i like to avoid all the random that rude?!
    i wish i had a meijer close to shop - i agree with your walmart comments...but our kroger does not have superior produce...i have to go the amish grocery in berne for the best!

  8. so many directions to comment:
    1st - I have a slightly higher appreciation for Wal-Mart (living 30 minutes from headquarters). They are trying to do a lot along the lines of sustainability, etc...but some of those things don't necessarily filter all the way down to your local wal-Mart store. However our Sam's if VERY GREEN! (lit by skylights, motion sensor lights in the freezers, etc. etc. and very cool!)

    2nd - i agree, E&S had some freakishly good deals on things like bulk grains/wheat germ/flax seed etc. Which those things all last longer if you buy them and store them in the freezer for freshness.

    3rd - after some price comparing the other day (Aldi just opened last month here in town)...we discovered that for some things Sam's Club is a much better deal. Frozen veggies and bulk cheese particularly. Some things were close to 7 cents/oz less at Sams - which adds up depending on the size of your family, etc. Yes - you have to pay for a membership - but that $35ish probably pays for itself over the year in savings. You do have to factor in the drive in some places as well. Thankfully, our Sam's is down the street from our midwife (a frequent visit these days) and our church. Lastly, at least down here, milk/cottage cheese/sour cream - all cheaper at Aldi. Oh, even bulk beans are cheaper at sams (if you have room to store a 10 lb bag of pinto beans). As well as bulk diced tomatoes/tomato sauce etc.

    4th - meat. buy bulk from a farmer. they make more money and you save money, and support the local economy!

    5th - some people struggle with the huge quantities at sams - i fight that by cooking huge batches and freezing the rest. it seems to stretch the food budget, and make busy evening dinners a little less chaotic and stressful for the cook!

    Obviously - all this only works if you have lots of freezer and pantry space.

  9. and after the world's longest more thought.

    Community Supported Agriculture.
    Check your area to see if you have a local CSA.
    Last summer we spent $200 for our share - which late June - mid September...I was bringing home 2 grocery bags/week of fresh, organic, locally grown produce for about $10/week. It was a HUGE savings. We got to try new veggies that I never would have bought at the store, AND I knew where everything was grown.

    They also had u-pick items (more than they could harvest for the week) - so some weeks if I had time I could get even more produce for freezing/canning.

    Some CSAs also have meat/eggs/milk etc.


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