Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Keeping tabs on our grocery budget

This series of posts was prompted by my sister, who wondered how we were able to keep to a $300/month grocery budget.

Well, to be honest, I'm not really that sure that we do keep to that sort of budget. I've never really tracked it. But in theory, we average no more than $75/week in groceries. And now - partly because I'm curious and partly because we need more posts to keep this blog up and running - I'm going to find out. I will do my best, every Tuesday, to post an accounting of the grocery bills from the previous week.

But to start off, I thought I'd set the stage. We eat a mostly dairy-free diet (JunkMale and I do eat dairy every now and then) because of Pearl. This means that we eat a lot of foreign food (mostly Korean, but also a lot of Thai/Vietnamese and Greek foods around this time of year). It also means that we buy a lot of expensive dairy replacements - almond milk, soy and coconut yogurt, etc. This all has an effect both on our budget and how we shop. The closest Korean store is 20 minutes from our house, and it's more expensive than the large Korean market 30 minutes away. So trips to buy specifically Korean ingredients (red pepper paste, fish sauce, fermented soybean paste, sweet potato starch noodles, seaweed, 15-lb bags of brown rice, etc) are important but infrequent. That means that when I go I stock up. That changes how I have to view my weekly food budget. If I had to stick to a strict weekly budget, I would be going to the Korean store every week, and that would be a huge hassle.

OK, with that in mind, I will present a summary of what we have spent so far this month on groceries. I made 6 trips to the grocery store over the first 4 weeks of March, spending a total of appx $238.51. I have all of my receipts except for one (I do remember that I spent about $48, though). Here is what we bought with the $190.51 we have recorded:

22.5% was spent on generic food items (condiments, pasta, cheese, chicken broth, etc)
19.5% was spent on meat/protein (eggs, tofu, and vegetarian corndogs were included with meat)
14.4% was spent on produce, fresh or frozen
13.6% was spent on beverages
13.1% was spent on snack items (chips, crackers, cookies, granola bars, etc)
9.2% was spent on vitamins
Approximately 6% is tax. The remaining 1.7% can probably be attributed to rounding and simple arithmetic errors that I don't feel like going back and finding. :-)

So with one week left in the month, we have $61.49 left to spend before we go over budget. Considering this week's shopping list is pretty short, I expect we'll have made our budget for the month. So that, apparently, is how we eat on $300/month - or, at least, how we ate on $300 in March 2011. I do not clip coupons except for on rare occasions. I do not look at sales fliers. We do have a garden that every now and then saves us a dollar or two, and I also keep the going prices of food items in my head and will sometimes change the menu on the fly in the store because something is very expensive. But those are my only "secrets". Other than that we just eat what we like.

For the incredibly curious, here is a breakdown of exactly what we bought, and for how much.

Nitrate-free deli meat - $5.00
Frozen chicken breasts - $7.98
Ground turkey - $2.56
Eggs - $2.78
Chicken tenders $8.88
Frozen baby lima beans - $3.00
String cheese - $2.64
Frozen baby brussels sprouts - $2.25
Cheese slices - $4.28
Potatoes - $2.47
Garlic - $0.69
Tomatoes - $3.24
Granola bars - $10.92
Cooking spray - $1.68
Ginger ale - $3.33
Spaghetti noodles (either multigrain or whole wheat) - $1.18
Crackers - $2.28
Bread - $2,72
Potato chips - $5.36
Dill pickles - $3.04
Lime juice - $1.19
Onions - $2.49
Chicken broth - $5.28
Hoisin sauce - $2.39
Fresh basil - $2.99
Fresh cilantro - $0.99
Cucumber - $0.99
Pork roast - $4.54
Mushrooms - $1.99
Juice - $12.68
Mustard - $1.58
Almond milk - $8.56
Tortilla chips - $1.88
Vegetarian corn dogs - $3.48
Unspecified produce - $1.99
Cookies - $2.37
Gummy vitamins - $17.48 (2-3 month supply)
Non-grocery items - $7.69
Korean radish - $1.14
MSG-free ramen noodles - $1.39
Korean red pepper paste (고추장) - $5.99
Buckwheat noodles (냉면) - $3.99
Organic tofu - $1.99
Seaweed (김) - $6.99
Coconut milk - $1.59
Barley tea - $1.39
Tuna in hot pepper sauce - $2.59

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