Our budgeting system has been all over the place since we relocated. In order to get everything back in order we have been focusing on one or two categories each month that we try to keep tight control on. This month we tackled food and spending money. Here is a rundown of how the food category went.
We are a family of two adults with no known intolerances or allergies. I’m not a big meat eater and L prefers to go easy on pasta. Other than occasional alcohol, we drink water, coffee, tea and seltzer water. Seltzer water is definitely an unnecessary indulgence, but it’s better than regularly buying pop or sugary teas, which we try to avoid.
Liam loves shopping and cooking, but he also makes very expensive and elaborate meals. When we’re more conscious of our budget I’m the one that does the shopping and planning because I rely on simpler foods that we like just as much. $50-$60 per week is not impossible, but it does require a fair bit of advanced planning and number crunching. I generally shop only at our regular chain grocery store, but occasionally I’ll also need to drop by Whole Foods or Trader Joe’s for the odd ingredient. Trader Joe’s is both a money suck and saver; I have to be really careful to go in there and stick to a Very Specific List otherwise I completely blow the budget.
With a few exceptions I stick to the store brand variety of most things I’m buying. Liam is very brand loyal, which is another reason why I take over the shopping when we lower the budget for the month. Admittedly even I stick to a certain brand of milk and eggs though. I toyed with the idea of shopping at Wal-Mart one week this month for the price comparison. Wal-Mart was late in coming to New England and the grocery sections were especially late, so I don’t know whether they have bothered to be competitive on groceries up here. From what I heard from coworkers, the food selection is really poor and quite expensive so we decided not to visit this month.
Our first week of groceries was actually bought in January, but we spent $155. $155!! Because we were shopping for two weeks I was hoping that would be more like $110-$115. But again, I brought Liam and he is impulsive. At that point I was pretty confident that there was no way we were going to come in under my goal of $300 in groceries for the month.
Another bad sign for our budget was that for the first time in forever we tossed out a several servings of a meal. It wasn’t a particularly expensive soup, but I hate wasting food so that was really disappointing. We got pizza on a night we weren’t planning on doing so but in the end everything wound up working out just fine. We did go slightly over budget ($303.45) but I’m considering that a success for our first month of our new budget.
Week of February 1st: Ignoring the ill-fated soup, our meals were pizza (takeout), salsa chicken and rice (x2), and Italian sausage with macaroni and cheese. We were away from home the first weekend of February and because we bought several meals for other people I don’t count that in our normal budget.
Week of February 8th: We ate spaghetti and meatballs, a Southwest-inspired “lasagna” (meatless), a meatless pot pie, baked chicken and roasted broccoli, and more takeout pizza because somehow Liam had a free one. Oh, and we had Indian takeout one night. Total spent on groceries $3.50 (milk).
Week of February 15th: We ate a ravioli lasagna that was totally inspired by something in the ready-made section at Costco (that fed us for three nights!), shrimp with roasted potatoes and broccoli, and another meatless pot pie. Total spent on groceries: $78
Week of February 22nd: I made a chili that we ate over egg noodles one night and baked potatoes the next; red beans and rice, and another pot pie. We also had salmon and green beans one night.
The cool thing was that after the first week’s huge shop we were able to work around what was in the pantry for the most part. The salmon and green beans was the one meal where both of us were not feeling anything that we had in the house. I should add that my breakfast was always baked oatmeal and that Liam had either hardboiled eggs or toast. I always have peanut butter and jelly for lunch, and L will either have leftovers or I’ll make another meal for him to have at lunch all week. While it’s so hard for us to say no to dinner out, we never have a problem with bringing lunch.
I had to buy most of the ingredients for the ravioli lasagna, but that was on the menu because we had an open jar of sauce from the spaghetti and meatballs.
March is going to be an insane month in our house and for our budget. I’m traveling for work, we’re traveling together, and we also have family coming to visit. Excluding when family visits, I’m going to try to stick to under $300 again.