Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Can I cut 10% off our 2016 food spending?

One area where I've really tried to focus in 2017 is our overall food spending. For us, this is the combination of dining out & groceries. We have pretty generous budgets across both categories, & I'm excited to report that, with the end pretty well in sight for 2017, I believe we can close 2017 with a 10% cut in food spending over 2016. This would be huge for us! I finally feel like all of my efforts are coming together.

Here's how the numbers stack up:

2016 Food Spending:
$4,590 - dining out
$8,160 - groceries
$12,750 - total 2016 food spending

2017 food spending to date:
$3,314 - dining out
$6,962 - groceries
$10,276 - total to date

I will still have food spending in 2017, and both Thanksgiving & Christmas will be bundled in there, which tends to be quite expensive. If I can get the remainder November spend down to $375, and keep December at $800, I can do it! I will have shaved $1300 (or, 10.2%) off our food budget from last year.

I feel particularly happy that we've been able to reduce dining out by so much, while still keeping the grocery numbers in check. The dining out for 2017 also includes $191 of a work expense that I had to cover (coworker picked the restaurant, did the wrong currency conversion, and we were WAY over cap.) This made me especially sad, as I would have never selected anywhere that expensive, and while it was fun & an adventure, I'm uninterested in spending $191 on a work meal. The 2017 dining out also includes a $100 Starbucks gift card I bought, and I still have $60 left. For the $40, I bought my relay team breakfast one day, which was the majority of the spend.

Here's how our 2017 food spend it looks from a monthly perspective:

  • January - $21 dining out, $706 groceries. - nothing major. Did a great job on dining out, and stocked up on groceries after being out of town at the end of December.
  • February - $232 dining out, $553 groceries - two birthdays
  • March - $445 dining out, $568 groceries - moving + a birthday
  • April - $504 dining out, $666 groceries - family in town
  • May - $450 dining out, $650 groceries - for whatever reason, just not a month where we did a good job keeping the dining out in check. No special occasions.  
  • June - $608 dining out, $831 groceries - we celebrated M's 50th birthday, & a promotion, hence the large chunk of dining out. For groceries, my parents were in town for almost two weeks. 
  • July - $220 dining out, $838 groceries - we had house guests for several weeks, including a week with four additional diners
  • August - $315 dining out, $637 groceries - family in town
  • September - $232 dining out, $627 groceries
  • October - $53 dining out, $437 in groceries
  • November - $228 dining out, $444 in groceries (to date). The dining out includes the $191 work dinner, as noted above. (Sad face)

How did we do it?
We cut slightly more off of our dining out budget vs our grocery budget, but the reductions are pretty even. Here's what we did differently this year.

  • We treated eating out as truly a special occasion, not something to do when we're out & about, and planned ahead for super busy week nights.
  • I packed meals whenever I though the impulse or need for a meal might strike. This particularly helped for soccer tournaments & weekends. 
  • We ate more of what we bought. Common sense, but I did a better job looking ahead & menu planning.
  • I also planned ahead when traveling, stocking up on easy things for M to make with the kids. 
  • I continue to make the most of our pantry & freezer. Paying attention to what we have &  planning meals accordingly.

What about you? Have you made any changes to your expenses in 2017? Have you started to evaluate how you're doing against your yearly goals? Any big wins?


  1. Treating eating out as a special event is a huge mind set change, and a budget booster. I think it really does make the dinner an experience. My big switch is changing shopping patterns.

  2. Yes, exactly what SAM said - when we started planning our dine outs in advance, our spend went down dramatically. Just as positive, we found ourselves enjoying the experience significantly more because it feels special, not 'ordinary.'

    Our spend is budgeted for just two people at $5200 annually for groceries (alcohol/paper products not included in this) and $3600 for dining out. With 4 people in your family, and given your incomes/job demands, I think your numbers are very, very good.

  3. We really need to get on top of cutting down our food budget this next year. This year with the build all of good habits flew out the door. Eating out will be a little easier since we live far enough out that it makes it difficult, but those trips where a quick bite out is possible is something I need to work on. What kind of meals did you take on those - we are not sandwich people.