I've always tracked "grocery" spending, but never what we were spending our grocery money on (i.e. fruit, dairy, etc). I decided 2016 would be the year where I would track all of our purchases. It was no small amount of work, but I'm happy I stuck with it*. It was really enlightening and gave me ideas on areas to cut back in 2017. (*and, disclaimer, M lost a few of the receipts when I was traveling, so this represents 95% of our spending, but not quite all, for those of you who love math. :-)) Also, I'm cutting this short by a week, as we'll be at the beach next week & I won't be tracking in any detail.
How many meals do we eat (or make) at home?
Breakfast - Our family eats breakfast at home (x4 people), every day. M makes eggs & fruit for the kids. The adults have a more varied breakfast.
Lunches - The boys pack lunches every school day, and M & I get free lunch through work. If it's a weekend, we all eat lunch at home.
Dinners - Dinners are always eaten at home (x4), unless it's a meal out.
We tend to average about one meal out a week So, breaking the math apart a bit, for 2016, we ate 3,890 meals at home. Given our grocery spending, this averaged to a smidge under $2/per person/per meal. I think this is high, but. . .
What do we eat?
A lot of produce! Fruit rarely/never goes to waste in our house. There's the occasional bag of broccoli or cauliflower that starts to turn before I notice it, but we are good at minimizing fresh produce food waste.
Oh, and we drink a lot of coffee! Coffee was a huge line item in our budget that I wasn't prepared for when I started this tracking.
How did we spend our budget?
Our categories, ranked by spending (rounded):
- Fruit - 30%
- Meat - 20%
- Vegetables - 17%
- Dairy - 15%
- Pantry (this is where we track the coffee) - 11%
- Grains - 7%
- Snacks - 3% (includes snacks for classroom events, soccer snacks when it's our turn, etc)
- Prepared food (i.e. frozen pizza & the like when I travel) - 3%
So, what conclusions would I draw from this?
- With fruit being our biggest spend category, finding cheaper sources for even a few of our regular items would be huge.
- We should take better advantage of fruit we can grown on our own (oranges, lemons, mandarins, etc), to minimize what we're buying.
- We should stock up on coffee when it's on sale. It varies in price around $5/unit, so stocking up when it's on sale would be a sizeable savings.
- We consume significantly more dairy than I expected. There is an opportunity to better monitor portion size.
- We've started to buy a few things at the produce stand vs at Costco, and price watching, so this has helped decrease our vegetable budget.
- We do a great job minimizing snacks & prepared food. So, hurrah for this one! :-)
A few next steps for 2017:
- It was a fun experiment, but not something I'm interested in maintaining regularly. I'll go back to my standard tracking in 2017.
- I'm going to track our inventory of coffee, and watch for sales & stock up when we're low.
- I'll look for sales on fruit at our local grocery store & produce stand, to see if we can ever do better on pricing than Costco. Costco's pricing is pretty low, but I'll still look for options.
- I can do better with dairy. It's much higher than expected, & I do think we can look for options to reduce our consumption & spend here.
That's it for me! How do you spend your grocery budget? Do you know what the biggest outliers are? Do you have a plan to reduce costs in 2017? Any tips you want to share?