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:
- 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.
- 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?