March 31, 2014

Lower Your Grocery Budget by Tracking your Food Expenses

Mar9

If there’s one way to begin decreasing your grocery budget, as well as being accountable to some kind of meal plan, it’s by agreeing to blog about your kitchen activity nearly every day for an entire month. (See below for the description of 3 Moms, 3 Kitchens, 31 Days.)

3momsbanner1 3 Moms, 3 Kitchens, 31 Days

Honestly, I get many requests for help on lowering personal budgets,especially in the food department, and I’m excited to tackle it here on my blog, but my first question would be…”Do you know exactly where your grocery dollars are going?”

By taking up this daunting challenge, I am estimating that I will only spend $300 this month on food and toiletries for our family of seven.(I already had some beef stock piled from marked down meat deals and about ten pounds left from our “cow.”)

Just like any weight loss program, which requires you to track every thing you eat for a certain amount of time, I recommend keeping a receipt book for every single, little food expense during the course of a month. Did you forget something at the store and had to run in for just a few items? Mark it down. That gets you every time. Did you swing through the drive through when you realized you forgot to start the crock pot? Mark it down.

Track it ALL, yes, every single penny, for one month. I know, I know, to a Type Z person like myself, that sounds like torture, but if you are serious about getting a handle on your grocery budget, you need to find out where some of this loose money is disappearing before you can really tackle what needs to be done to substantially lower the grocery budget. Obviously, this needs to be done with personal budgeting as well, but one step at a time.

I asked earlier this week about naming our “Needs vs. Wants” and received many enlightening comments. I think this topic really hits home for some of us in the food department (especially if you ever go grocery shopping with your kids. LOL) Immediate savings can be seen by taking back our grocery budget and I am excited to see how you all do.

So what about you? Let’s learn from each other and interact in the comments section below.

Do you track your monthly food expenses on a regular basis? Have you ever? Did it make a difference?

P.S. I’m a bit behind on posting all my meals and grocery shopping tutorials for the last few days. I will be getting those up shortly (as well as some of the recipes you’ve been wanting). It’s amazing how real life can just stand in the way of my best intended plans. :)


Comments

  1. Tracking what we spent monthly on groceries was a huge eye opener for us. Once I knew what I was spending, and had an idea of where I wanted it to be, I started taking cash. Those two choices made the biggest difference in my grocery budget.

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  2. I do keep track of every single item I buy at groceries and drug stores (and blog about all of the deals I get), and it has definitely made a difference. Sometimes I am tempted to buy something, but then decide I don’t want to write down that I spent that money, so back it goes on the shelf!

    However, I haven’t kept track of our restaurant spending. We’ve cut way down compared to how much we spent last year, but I really don’t know the exact number. I think I’ll be a little embarrassed to see it! Nevertheless, I think I will start tracking that, and then start working to bring the number down. Thanks for the inspiration!

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  3. I do try to track all of our monthly expenses so I know where things are going. Keep our food cost down is the hardest area for me. I can not buy clothes. But we have to have food! And I try to stay away from all processed foods, so using those coupons gets difficult. But we eat meat and produce that are on sale and do some freezer cooking.

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  4. I waste so much food. We are empty-nesters and I’m used to cooking for 6 so this has been such a change.
    We use cash for groceries which helps bunches.
    Thanks for hosting :)
    Robin
    All Things Heart and Home

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  5. I’m just now getting serious about my grocery budget. You said food and toiletries, does that include cleaning products as well? I put all that stuff, from food to body care to house cleaning in one place. Do I need to move things around?

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  6. I love Type Z people. :) And … I should really take your track every penny challenge, but March is NOT the month to start for us. Thanks for all of the inspiration to cook well and to be a great steward at the same time. Going thrifting this weekend. :)

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  7. Yes, we do track every penny we spend both in groceries and elsewhere using the Quicken program on our computer. It is so easy to do! Plus, once it has been entered we don’t have to store a pile of receipts. I always check to see how much we have left for the month before our weekly grocery trip.

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  8. As a single mom, I don’t think there’s a choice! Not for us, anyway. I track eVeRyTHiNg! Right now my budget is $250-$300 tops. But I only have 2 hungry teens at the moment and sometimes the oldest is at work, so there’s only 2 of us to cook for! :) My current struggle is learning to cook for only 2, but having enough on hand when my oldest 2, their spouses and/or my grandkids pop by and I need to cook for 8-10 again :)

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  9. We do so much entertaining that I think I’d have a heart attack if I tracked every penny – but it’s definitely a very good idea! I’ll have to start slowly and ease myself in :) I know my pocketbook would thank me!!

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  10. Such good information! We are tracking our grocery budget now, started in January. It is the stopping at a more expensive grocery store for a few items that makes a huge difference. We’re eating out less now too. But a lot of it comes back to meal planning!

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  11. I track every thing we spend on groceries. I had no other choice, but I can’t get our grocery bill down like I read about on other blogs. They say Louisiana is the poor state, but believe me they have NO idea of how to help people save money on groceries! I can’t seem to get my budget below $250!

    I finally got it below $300, but I want to get it down to at least $200. It’s just my husband and I, we can’t really stock up on meat because of hurricanes, etc. I had to throw away a LOT of meat and other stuff after Katrina, so I will not stock up on it again. I do a monthly meat run only, but when I think I’m doing good and possibly lowered the budget, I find that I’m just right on budget.

    I use the tracker here
    http://www.bargains4wahms.com/2010/01/free-savings-tracker-download.html

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    Johnlyn Reply:

    @Sandra Roberts,
    The best thing I ever did to lower my food budget was to shop for just enough groceries for one week. No more, no less, no stocking up on sale items. Just make a menu from the sales ads and buy stuff for one week. I did this for a little bit and it was AMAZING!

    I didn’t continue to do this because I like to have a well stocked pantry, but I was able to get our food budget down to $260 for our family of 4.

    Oh yeah – using good ole cold hard cash made a HUGE difference too!

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    Sandra Reply:

    @Johnlyn, I use our debit card, so no credit card is ever used. lol We don’t own a credit card because of the hole you dig (my mom dug one).

    I tried that and I hated not having a stocked pantry and freezer. Looked like we were too poor to have food stocked! So I changed it.

    I stock up on sales, I buy our meat at $19.95 for a 5 pack monthly, That’s like $40 there. We also have freezer dinners we use too that I only buy when they are $2 or I have a good coupon to use which I don’t ever have one. lol
    We have spaghetti, soups, etc. I think what gets me is when I go to one certain store, those prices are higher than Wal-Mart, but I take advantage of their BOGO sales and several times, they don’t list things that when I’m in the store with my list, I buy off the list because it wasn’t listed in the ad and it’s something we will eat. lol

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  12. I’ve switched to using cash only. Once it’s gone, it’s time to improvise if there’s something I need/forgot! I made the switch because it seemed like no matter how hard I tried, I always missed something with the debit card. I like using the envelope because if I have a particularly great savings week, there is extra left in the envelope to use on the next trip. When I used the debit card, the extras just got sucked up for another purchase/category!

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  13. We use only cash at the store but I would end up spending too much at the beginning of the month (husband gets paid once a month) and not have enough left at the end for milk, juice, etc. So I split my money into envelopes: one for my once a month stores and four for each week. This works for me and I can usually wait until the next week to get whatever I need. HOWEVER, my husband sometimes goes on his own and buys all kinds of junk, usually with his own money but sometimes he wants to be paid back with the grocery money. Drives me nuts! I can’t do a pantry challenge because once he was asked to do w/o something, he’d be in the car getting whatever he was missing!

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  14. homeclynn says:

    I really started saving money when I tracked our food expenses down to the item. By keeping a price book I was able to then determine which stores had the best prices on the items we used every week. Then I made an excel spreed sheet that folds in half and fits in my purse. Now I am never tricked into a “sale” for an item. I am not a math or computer person and this was a real stretch for me. It has saved my family at least $2,400 this last year. Don’t you think it was worth it :) Here is a quick tip: only buy fresh fruit and vegetables that are less than $1 per pound. Exceptions are potatoes (.30) and bananas(.60).

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  15. I don’t track my spending habits, which I should but I try to spend only about $25 a week on food and when only feeding one person, that works out pretty well. I did, however, look at my spending report on my account at Wells Fargo, and food (including eating out) was what I spent most of my money on. I stopped eating out after that.

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  16. No, I haven’t been tracking my grocery budget but this post reminded me that I should. Thanks!

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  17. I’ve shopped with coupons for over 10 years, but never thought of keeping track of the grocery “budget” til this year. I’m using a spreadsheet to help.

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  18. I’ve been keeping track of grocery expenses ever since we got married 3 years ago. Honestly, I’d hate to see what we’d spend if I didn’t! It is just too easy to buy stuff and think that it is only a couple of dollars, but as we all know, it soon adds up fast.

    For those of you that don’t track your spending, I HIGHLY recommend doing what Jen suggested. I know I was surprised the first couple of months we were married just HOW much we spent on groceries!

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  19. I have been a serious couponer and thrifty shopper for over 10 years, but this is the first year that I have tracked my grocery spending and saving. I found a spreadsheet from Mommysnacks.net and have the link up on my blog if you haven’t seen it before. It has been a real eye opener for me on how much we spend on pizza nights and unplanned but fun meals!
    http://www.keeninspirations.blogspot.com

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  20. Thanks for the linky! I just discovered your site and love it! I wrote a post a few days ago about meal planning and would love to link swap with you if you are interested!

    http://quirkymomma.com/2010/meal-planning/

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  21. We track most of what we spend on food each month. We used to be more diligent and probably should get back to it. Thanks for the reminder.

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  22. I was working on my meal plan. Somethingwasn’t right. I did shop but where is the food? I rememberd the title of this post that I didn’t read. Checked my check book. The money was spent. I return to this post. Tracking!!!! I think I spend $150 per week, but I’m in for a rude awakening. I’m going to be tracking for a while. I’ve linked to this article. I want to share it. Thanks!

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  23. I have only just started tracking our groceries and looking for ways to trim our budget. Thank you for all the great tips and ideas you offer. They are helping me a lot!

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  1. [...] Jen are cooking up in their kitchens. Toni just saved a cake wreck and Jen’s talking about tracking your food expenses. Sharing tips and keeping it real…what’s not to love? Category: 3 Moms 3 Kitchens 31 [...]

  2. [...] I’m also linking up at Tempt My Tummy Tuesday at Blessed with Grace. And go to Tasty Tuesday at Balancing Beauty and Bedlam for more [...]

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