Grocery Spend sky rockets!

Extra extra, read all about how I went nuts and spent an outrageous amount on groceries!

Grocery haul 1 from Coles
Grocery haul 1 from Coles

For less regular readers, I have spoken a few times about my grocery spend, and how I think increasing it would mean I’m spending less eating out, and ready made meals.  It’s a rough measure, hardly exact, but still.  So to read about my grocery spend for the first 6 months of the year and the glaring discovery that I spend peanuts on food (as a function of my take home pay).

I’ve started reading Creative Saav’s blog and been inspired by the wholesome food she feeds her family, on the tightest of budgets.  I’m not at her stage at all, but I’m inspired.  I’m tracking costs, both what I spend, and the cost of things in different stores (now that I have easy access to more).

At the end of August, I sat down with all the receipts I’d collected from groceries, and came to a nice total, on par with past months.  But then I asked the BF to export the totals of grocery spending from his bank.  Sadly, we missed those receipts, so couldn’t track against categories like fruit/vege, meat etc.  It’s just a total sum.

So, in August, together we spent 2.7 times what I spent in July.  On my average grocery spend since Dec 12, it was 3.1 times more.  Now there’s the thing about combining households, and two bills. But it has MORE than doubled!  And that didn’t include any ‘big ticket’ items like cleaning products (cause I make my own, or I get given some to try).

If I look at my July spending and then portion off half of August’s grocery costs, I still spent 30% more.

And the Harris Farm haul (some great deals)
And the Harris Farm haul (some great deals)

Last time I looked at this in May, I looked as a comparison to take home pay.  I reported spends from 2.9-3.5% of my take home pay (I’v even re done them for this post, so it’s a truer base wage per days in the month!). I should also mention there was a nice pay bump in early May too.

In June, I saw a jump in the amount spent, and the percentage rose to 4.35%.

In July, the spend was 3.95% of my take home pay (even though in dollars I spent on par with the month before, maybe a -5% difference in the final raw $ total)

When I look at my income in the weeks of August it’s 5.32% of my take home pay.  (If I was covering all the grocery costs in August, that’d be 10.65%)

Aborio rice in packaging :( and bananas
Aborio rice in packaging 🙁 and bananas

Neither of us are exactly sure what happened, but it certainly effected our weekend shop on the first Saturday of the month September! We decided to use up all the extra meat, such as pulled pork prepped the week prior and frozen, the cheap chicken at $6.99 a kilo and some bacon and mince hanging around (in the fridge of course!).

Sadly, there’s been little increase in fresh produce – if anything I’d say there’s a decrease now that I don’t live next door to a green grocer.  But there’s been a marked increase in meat meals.  That’s to be expected with a man in the equation.

Now, two grocery shops into September, I can say things are looking a little more stable.  The two week’s totals are on par for a monthly total like when I shopped alone – though we’ve bought minimal meat.  So it’ll increase a little I expect, but in line with the fact that it’s two people, not one.

Anyhow, we’re not at a stage where we’ve set a budget for the groceries.  I am however starting a grocery price list.  Intelligently, I started this whilst shopping at IGA near the loft, so I have a greater collection of prices.  I’ll also add in the co-op prices from my post about their prices.

This week, I started shopping smarter too. I’ve started with buying bulk oil (3L) against the co-op’s self serve, or more smaller bottles.  And this week, I used my own container to get salami at Harris Farm’s deli counter – so much cheaper than the prepackaged sliced pepperoni (with a complimentary side of grief about the container for one lady – even though her boss was on board!).

What tips do you have for keeping the grocery budget in the reasonable range?

21 Replies to “Grocery Spend sky rockets!”

  1. It's much easier to be thrifty if you actually have to be! We started out as poor students, then not-so-well-off parents, as we have always lived on one income, and now that we could afford to splurge, we don't, because I can't bear the thought of wasting money! Addicted to thrift! Having said that, I am very happy to be able to spend more on good food – free range eggs and meat, organic and local where I can, and often plastic-free means more expensive as well!
    We have an approximate budget of $40 pp per week, with absolutely everything home made, except some of the bread. OK, and I buy pasta and crackers. Going to work on home made crackers though. Oh, and muesli bars. Can't find a home made one that everyone likes. But clearly, with two people working full time, everything home made is not going to happen for you. But you are making great strides forward! It's also more fun to cook if there is someone else there to eat it sometimes!

    1. I was (once) a poor student, but then Igot paid ridiculously well and things have sort of 'expanded' since then! Interestingly, I still have my eye on the dollar in some aspects and not in others. I dont actively buy free range eggs, or organic produce. But then I seek out the no waste option (which is sometimes more expensive!?).

      I'd love to make everything homemade, and increasingly it happens, as I'd rather make snacks at home and know what's in them. And there's less packaging! It is great to have someone to eat/try my concoctions though.

      we also thought about the amount per person, then per week, and then per day, and it wasn't too bad, I think maybe $10 per person per day – which is extravagant compared to yours, but as you said, different lifestyle.

  2. It'll take a few months to get a realistic view of grocery costs for eating at home most of the time, versus eating out. You could try calculating it different ways, such as: what is the cost per day when both of you make/bring all your meals and snacks from home? Or, what is the average cost of your main meals, and do you get leftovers from them? For the two of us at our house, we spend $400 a month on groceries, and another $80 for paper goods, cleaning supplies, personal care and pets. That doesn't include any meals out. I don't stress over the money I spend on groceries because I am not on a tight budget right now and the priority is to eat healthy and home-cooked. But as it happens, most of our meals are low-cost anyway.

    1. You're right – eating in a lot more, will bring costs higher, but not uniformly. I'll keep tracking it. We often think about number of serves, I think our pulled pork made two dinners, then a leftover dinner, then 2+ leftover lunches. Oh and another two dinners perhap!! So that's amazing (to me) from a $27 hunk of meat to get 7 meals. I don't include the papergoods (what are those :p), or cleaning supplies as I don't really use much (there are dishwasher tablets in this month, and there will be some deodorant and some toothpaste though). We're not on a tight budget, similarly, but we don't want to get too carried away. We're always considering the way the money could be better spent!

  3. Sarah, I'm not sure I have any real tips for you. When you add a man to feed full time and switch to eating at home more your grocery bill will go up. With my children I kept meat to a minimum. Meat was "in" dishes so that I could use less to feed them. Potatoes were a big hit with them and they were a lot cheaper than meat as was pasta. Fruit was always what killed my budget.

    Overall I'd say if you are spending even 10% of your budget on food you are doing well, most people spend way more than that.

    1. When you look at in perspective, eating at home more is worth the cost. I'm a big fan of meat mixed in with other items in a dish, so I'll try to weasel more of those into the rotation. I am surprised that people can spend so much on groceries… There's only a handful of meals we don't eat at home (a dinner or two here and there, likewise with lunches). Whilst my spend has gone up, it's not where near as high as you mention…!

  4. I get befuddled by the ‘per person’ rates etc. My DH is 6 ft 4 and eats a lot; Mr 9 also eats full adult-sized serves. Then I have some friends with kids the same age who truly eat like sparrows. I’m trying now as a family just to look at our own baseline and compare to that.

    I agree it will take a few months to get a ‘baseline’ for your new household but it’s interesting to see the differences as you combine households!

    1. You're right – the per person idea is weird. The BF eats a few more serves, and initially it was hard to calculate the leftovers etc. Annoyingly, there were three leftover dishes, and I thought 'four would mean two lunches each' but hey, that's still a nice haul from one batch of fried rice! We'll settle into it soon – we we just so puzzled what we bought to make it so high!

    2. I was going to say something similar . . buying enough food for me might cost $50 a week, while food for my hubby might cost $100. He eats more than me, hands down, and he eats meat, which costs more than my vegetarian diet. (plus beer 😉 ) It may take a few months to settle into a new "normal" food budget.

  5. I spend about $60 a week for all meals, but that includes things like organic chicken, organic eggs, coconut oil, kale (sometimes) and good cocoa for making chocolate 🙂

    Something that I've noticed is that as you move further from the city, food prices get cheaper. So it might be worth it to find a cheap fruit and veg shop in the outer suburbs and make trips out there to stock up every once in a while. Veggies like sweet potato, onions, pumpkin, cabbage and beetroot will keep for ages in the fridge (and so will apples). You could also try shopping at markets but I like fruit and veg shops better because they are open in the afternoon 🙂

    The other thing is to look at the cuts of meat you buy. I like organic chicken, but always buy drumsticks (for $7.50 a kilo) rather than breasts ($30 a kilo). Or see if you can buy some meat in bulk – I've heard that you can buy half a lamb directly from the farmer, but I wouldn't have the space for it in my home.

    1. I definitely agree that my proximity to the city is a premium I pay on my food! I just can't justify the time or the expense of driving to get cheaper food. I suppose if I had my own car, I might, but given that it's the BF's, I don't think the same way. Wow those breast of chicken are pricey – $30 per KG! Even after the sale, I noticed that Harris Farm have them at $11.99 per kg, but of course they aren't organic. Bulk meat is something I could check into, but our freezer (whilst bigger than I had before) isn't huge.

  6. Adding a second person to the mix really complicates the grocery budget, IMO. When my husband and I first married, we had an adjustment period. He was accustomed to eating lots of meat, cheese, bacon and eggs, whereas I was more of a veggie and pasta or rice person. Eventually we compromised and he learned to eat more grains and beans and I included more meat meals for him.

    One thing that works for me when we need/want to reduce our grocery spending, is to write out a meal plan, once per week. Then I can see on paper where our spendy meals are, and make sure they only occur once or twice per week, and fill in the rest with more beans and grain meals.

    And I'm constantly on the lookout for less expensive substitutes. For example, my daughters brown bag their lunches every day. They L-O-V-E peanut butter sandwiches. So, they get to use peanut butter a couple of times per week, but we substitute homemade bean spread for sandwiches the rest of the week. Or for my alternative milk (I'm dairy-free), I buy some soy milk, but also make my own rice milk, to use about half the time.

    One last thought, I look at the average spending of all our months, and try not to focus on any one month in particular. Grocery spending can really fluctuate with the seasons, especially of you are eating a lot of fresh foods. If I have to make a comparison, then I try to compare same month/previous year, to this year's month.

    Best of luck with this!

    1. We are on top of meal planning – though I did forget some crucial ingredients at the supermarket – namely anything gluteny, as I try not to eat it, and as such just forget the BF does want a pizza base, or tortillas! On the whole, we've done better with a weekly shop than I expected (I used to shop the day I cooked the meal, seeing I lived next door to a grocery store). I haven't gone down to a cost per meal, but I'm curious enough so I might add that to my analysis in future.

      That's not something I had considered, looking more holistically at months against months in the same season in past years. My analysis only really started in Dec 2012, when Dar at An Exacting Life got me thinking about it. I'll certainly keep my eye on things as time ticks on and see what happens!

  7. It takes a few weeks/months to settle into grocery buying when you move in with another person. I'm sure you'll find your average monthly cost eventually.
    I think your % is just fine 🙂

  8. Hi there Sarah – I have just discovered your blog from Lauras (No More Spending) and I can relate very much with your posts. I think food shopping, meal planning and money management is quite a full time job in itself these days. I am trying to eat healthy and mainly organic as well as keep to a low budget and cook meals from scratch rather than use ready meals. I will be back soon for a good read and hopefully pick up some tips! Viv

    1. Welcome Viv – have a look around! I'm not yet on the organic road train, though I don't actively disagree with it – how could you? It's just the cost that turns me off, but what's more important than the fuel we put in our bodies? Do you have a blog yourself?

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