Friday, December 30, 2016

2016 Food & Beverage Expenses

This year I tracked every penny, including on how much we spent on food. It's one of the major expense areas in any budget, usually, and also the one where it's easier to cut back, in most cases.

So, one caveat when you look at my end of year numbers: I reported what our food cost us out of pocket after all rebates, coupons and use of gift cards. Please remember several things when you consider what we spent:

  • We don't live in a food desert and have access to transportation to go shopping at multiple stores.
  • I don't work outside of the home and dedicate my Wednesday mornings to going grocery shopping. For hours. I have the luxury to be able to cherry pick what I buy at each store.
  • We have an Aldi pretty close to home (15 minutes).
  • I use coupons, although the bulk of my shopping it done at Aldi, where they don't take coupons.  
  • I use rebate apps. 
  • I use gift cards to reduce my food costs, such as gift cards earned via our credit card reward programs, grocery store gift cards won in sweepstakes or instant win games, and gift cards earned via Swagbucks and Microsoft Rewards.
  • There are 4 of us at home: 3 adults (i.e 18+) and 1 teenage boy.
  • My daughter (the 18 year old) eats a lot of her lunches out but she pays for them herself. My totals don't include that. I did include the lunches that she charged (with my permission) to my credit card.
  • Greg likes to use cash and doesn't turn in receipts when he does. Although he's been much better at charging everything this year, I know for a fact that he's spent money on vending machines (soda). Those expenses aren't included, since I have no idea what they are, but I know it's not a lot since I'm aware of how much money he got from the ATM this year :)
  • The eating in/ordering out includes the money I put in the kids' lunch accounts at school.
  • I tracked the food expenses incurred while traveling (i.e. when Greg went to visit his parents and went camping with our son) because I wanted them to be part of our "travel" budget. However, I chose to include them in this report because I wanted to make sure I had an accurate picture of ALL our Food and Beverage expenses.
  • If I bought a gift card for a restaurant for us to use (not as a gift for someone else), it's included in "Eating In/Ordering Out" even though we might not have spent it yet. For instance, I have at least $90 of restaurant gift cards in my wallet right now.
  • I budgeted $100 per week, with the goal of trying to spend no more of $50 on groceries. My goal, which I spectacularly missed, was to only spend the difference between my budget and my groceries when eating out/ordering in.  Yeah, it didn't work out that way. Far from!

So, without further ado, here are my numbers:

Breakdown of the groceries only expenses:

  • I think I did great with the grocery shopping.  There were only 2 months when I was over budget and one of the months (May) was when I stocked up on proteins and spent a lot on produce.  The other was December when I bought way too much food for Christmas but that will sustain us into January.

  • I do want to reduce how much money we spend on "snacks".  Hopefully, in trying to be healthier this year, this number will go down.

  • I read that fewer and fewer people are eating cereal. Not us!  We eat tons of cereal, and yet our total spent on cereal is year is very low: $32.63.  This is because I redeem my Kellogg's Family Rewards points for $1.00/1 coupons, wait until the cereal is on sale at CVS, and paid for it with a gift card earned via one of our credit card reward programs. Most of the boxes that I have bought (and I'd love to tell you how many boxes that was but figuring it out is too much work so I'll skip it, but it was a lot) were consequently free to me. I did pay for cereal at Aldi and occasionally at other stores where I didn't use a gift card.  I also made Greg's Grape Nuts for a large part of the year, which is significantly cheaper than to buy it.  Lucky for me, the kids got him 6 boxes of the real stuff for Christmas :)

  • Most of the proteins that I bought this year were on clearance.  Lately, I haven't seen any meat marked down to 50% at Save A Lot (or anything else, for that matter) so I wonder if they changed their policy since they've been bought out by a new company. If so, my protein costs will increase a lot in 2017.

  • As I mentioned above, I, well WE, completely failed in reigning in eating out/ordering in expenses. Yes, there were too many instances of my feeling lazy and not wanting to cook (and no one stepped in to cook for me). Also too many instances of my not packing a lunch for him and he bought lunch from work because he was too lazy to pack himself a sandwich as well.  But also we treated ourselves an awful lot.  The blame isn't just his, but Greg's idea of celebrating or going on a date always includes eating out and I don't mean McDonald's.

  • All in all, though, we spent $8,173.64 on food and beverages for 4 people.  The USDA Thrifty Plan, as of September 2016, called for a family of our composition to spend $684.40 per month on Food and Beverages.  We spent $681.13 ($8,173.64 divided by 12). So I'm going to stop beating myself up right now, lol. We didn't go into debt and we managed to save 61% of our income this year. Other people spend money on make-up, clothes, cruises... we spend money on food.

Moving Forward:
  • We start 2017 with full freezers and a full pantry.  While I'd love to have a Grocery Challenge in January, it might be unrealistic.  So I will strive, at the very least, to use up as much as I can from what I already have.  Looking at my numbers at the beginning of 2016, it seems that it's what I did then too.

  • We should have a Bulk Nation, USA store opening in Clermont in early 2017 and also a Bravo supermarket (typically products catering to the hispanic community). I look forward to visiting them as well, to see if I can further reduce my expenses.

  • 2017 will see changes in our family: my daughter will be going away to college in the fall and so I'll only have to feed 2 adults and 1 teenage boy.  My budget will remain at $100 a week until then but will drop to $75 after that.  My goal will still be to not go over $50 a week.

  • To achieve this goal, I need to be serious in implementing or continuing or renewing my commitment to such tactics as:
    • Keeping my freezer and pantry inventory up-to-date and on Google Drive so I can access it from my phone when I'm shopping, if need be.
    • Stocking up on proteins when they're on sale but if I go over budget, I need to reduce the amount I spend the rest of the month.
    • Planning our meals in advance based on what I have on hand, NOT what's on sale that week.
    • Building in a "Cook's Night Off" 2 nights a month when we're ordering in.
    • I'm thinking that I will use whatever money is left over from the previous month's food budget as a guideline for eating out/ordering in expenses in any given month. I will share that number with Greg and the kids ahead of time so we can all be cognizant of it when one of us suggests eating out or ordering in and our choice of restaurants/items. It sounds obvious, but I didn't do that in 2016.
    • When eating out in 2017, I will be mindful of portion control and nutritional content since my goal is to lose a lot of weight this year, and I will drink water. It's cheaper and better for me, and I can get free sodas from RaceTrac if I want to.
    • I will strive to pack a lunch for Greg every day. If I know there aren't any leftovers, I will make myself make him a sandwich the night before since I hate making sandwiches first thing in the morning.
How did you do in 2016?  Do you have any idea of how much you spent on food this year?  Do you have any resolutions for 2017 when it comes to that part of your budget?


  1. Having read your totals, I am afraid to know what mine would be. Yikes!! My almost 15 year old son is on a health kick, while awesome, is pricey :). I also read that cereal is falling out of favour but not in my family. My son and husband eat it daily. I don't eat it as I am a Cap'n Crunch, Cinnamon Toast Crunch sorta gal and I don't want to be the size of a house ;).

    I think your totals were amazing. I aspire to be as thrifty a shopper as you.

    1. I gather, from reading Susan's Retirement Fun(ds) blog, that food in Canada is more expensive than down here for the most part. I love Cinnamon Toast Crunch! I eat it occasionally.

      What type of health kick is your 15 year old son on? I agree that eating healthy can be quite expensive. When my daughter announced last January that she was going to eat healthier and asked to have cooked chicken in the fridge at all times and almonds so we should make herself salads, I was thinking that my budget was going to go through the roof. However, she didn't last long...

    2. My son has stopped eating junk food of all types. Thought it was a phase but it has been two months now. Made the mistake of taking him grocery shopping with me. He wanted a piece of Salmon that was $15 for one piece!!! I told him he can have $15 when he has a job! :). Mostly he wants more protein (he weight lifts in preparation for upcoming lacrosse season). I am all for eating healthy but when a small bag of grapes cost $7 it adds up fast. My son made a comment how it is cheaper to eat crap and I replied with a rant about that being the reason so many poor people are obese. Sigh.

    3. Oh and chicken and almonds are top of his list also, lol.

    4. 2 months! That's impressive! I know first-hand about how hard it is to stick to a healthy diet so tell him I'm very impressed by his commitment. Salmon is so delicious but so expensive! Years ago I could find it fresh on sale for $4.99/lb and I would cook it quite often (that was before I fully committed to being frugal too!) but nowadays I only buy it once in a while. I found out that Aldi has very good salmon and it's $7.99/lb so I splurged a couple of times. We had salmon last night for dinner, as a matter of fact. Can you have him eat apples instead of grapes? Supposedly dried fruit give you a lot more energy so maybe dehydrate some for him? Then he can eat them like an easy snack if biting into a fresh apple isn't his style. Plus apples have more fiber than grapes, I think, so they're healthier.

      I think there are ways to eat healthier while being on a budget, at least in my neck of the woods, but one has to have the time to shop different stores to score the best deals and look for clearances on meat, for instance, and be willing to buy produce that is in season... and a lot of times grapes look more appetizing than apples!

      Good luck with all that, Theresa. I'll try to remember your son's example in 2017 as I try to stop eating junk too (she says, sticking a chocolate mint wafer in her mouth... but I've got to finish eating all the junk we have in the house now so I'm not tempted later on, hahaha).

  2. I'm so impressed by the detail you bring to your tracking. We spent a lot on food. The take-out I generally regret, but everything else is more...I don't want to spend as much going forward but I don't see much point in beating myself up in retrospect.

    I love the idea of keeping your freezer and pantry inventory available on your phone!! I'm going to do that, I think.

    1. I agree, move forward and try to do better in 2017. I know you've agonized about your groceries budget several times in 2016. I hope you find a happy medium between saving money and still cooking the dishes you want to cook! You are quite the gourmet and I wish you were my mom, ha.

      I kept my grocery shopping list and pricebook on Google Drive this year and it's been super helpful to be able to pull those up at the store, especially when I wasn't planning on going to the store but I still had my shopping list with me. However the inventories weren't moved from Excel to Google Drive and I need to do this and spruce them up too because right now they're really outdated! I have a reminder to update them every night but I've been ignoring it, and also not cooking so much at all.

  3. Very interesting!! Well done being so frugal, tracking every penny, etc. It's certainly motivating to see the exact breakdown of costs. :) Maybe I missed it, but do you include food-ish products like sandwich bags, water bottles, etc in this? :)

    1. Hi Valerie, thanks for stopping by. That was going to be my name if my dad had had his way :)

      No, this is ONLY food and beverages. I track everything else in another spreadsheet, mostly under categories that match the way I organize my coupons. So for me, for instance, any plastic baggies would be considered a "cleaning" supply because I keep my coupons for those under "Cleaning-Kitchen" in my organizer. It makes sense to me only because I've used the same coupon filing categories for many many years.

      However, I rarely buy sandwich or ziploc bags anymore. I have sandwich wrappers made of cloth and lined with food-grade plastic that I had bought from an acquaintance several years ago and when Greg gets a sandwich in his lunch, I pack it in that. My son has been reusing compartmentalized Glade containers for years (for at least 7 years now!) and that's what he uses to pack his sandwiches and other foods for his school lunch. As far as larger zipper bags, I've been saving my cereal bags (the ones that come inside cereal boxes), rinsing them and airing them dry, and reusing them as freezer bags. It's really helped me save money and be less "disposable".

      I only buy water bottles for hurricane season (I used to buy a lot more when my kids were in marching band and sports but the kids who are home now don't use them). We all reuse Rubbermaid or other water bottles that we were given as "swag" or that I bought years ago. Right now my water bottle, when I go walking, is a Diet Coke bottle that I bought several months ago as a treat and that I keep on refilling. I find it sturdier than bottles of water and not as large as reusable water bottles.

  4. An average of under $6 per person per day for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks is not bad at all! Especially as that includes eating out, etc.

    I need to go back and look through my posts to see what I spent this year! It wasn't a typical year for me, so things will be off a bit. In general, I have a grocery budget of $75/month for 1 adult and an eating out budget of $25; so a total of $100.

    1. You know I've been going all "arrgh" and "ugh" about our eating out expenses this year whenever I mentioned them so I was tickled pink to see that our cumulative total was only as high as the "thrifty" plan. But that doesn't mean that we should have spent as much as we did. Moving on...

      You are extremely frugal in your grocery shopping so even if you overspent here and there, I'm sure you will come out ahead. Plus it seems that people are always giving you food to take home! I know you said before that your freezer is full. Have you decided to try to eat it down before you purchase anything else? Maybe we can both do this in January?


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