One of my goals for the first quarter of 2018 is to spend no more than $350 on groceries each month. This does not include household supplies like paper towels, toilet paper, diapers, etc. Looking back on 2017, we spent an average of $388.85 per month on groceries.
Not bad, huh? Well, these figures are deceiving. Although I budgeted and tracked spending in 2017, I was a sloppy accountant. We buy a lot of groceries at Sam’s Club and I never included that in “grocery” spending. It would be too difficult to parse out the trips to Sam’s Club now, but I would estimate that we spent another $100-$150 a month on groceries there. That brings the average total to $488.85 to $538.85. I think we can do better, especially considering we are feeding 2.75 people (Aidan isn’t eating a lot and Elizabeth lives with us half the time).
First Trip – Smith’s
My first grocery trip was on January 1 and I went to Smith’s. Before I made my grocery list, I decided on our meals for the week. I’ve learned that cooking three dinner recipes per week provides us with more than enough food for lunches and dinners. If we don’t feel like leftovers for lunch, we usually make a peanut butter sandwich. If we don’t feel like leftovers for dinner, we usually have eggs and toast. If I make more than three dinner recipes a week, we can’t keep up with the leftovers and food goes to waste. Our breakfasts are normally eggs and toast, English muffins with peanut butter, or pancakes and French toast. Unfortunately, we really like our carbs.
For the first week of January, I planned for us to have spaghetti with garlic biscuits and frozen vegetables, turkey meatloaf and mashed potatoes, chimichurri chicken and rice, and BBQ chicken. I planned four meals because I thought Mr. MLM would have BBQ chicken for lunches (he loves it) throughout the week, but I ended up making it for dinner one night and we didn’t have spaghetti.
Before going to the store, I made a list of the groceries we would need for the week. For the first time, I used the Smith’s app on my phone to search for the estimated price of the items on my list. This helped me figure out about how much my trip would cost ahead of time.
The actual prices were a little off, but not by much. For example, the chicken was a couple of dollars more expensive and I found bread and ground turkey on sale. I forgot to list hamburger buns (for the BBQ chicken), so that added a small amount to the total. I ended up spending $40.64 which I was happy with.
Second Trip – Sam’s Club
My next grocery trip was to Sam’s Club on January 4. Sam’s Club is a dangerous place for me. I do a lot of impulse-buying there. That is part of the reason I want to be more diligent about tracking my grocery/Sam’s Club purchases this year.
I went to Sam’s Club to get: coffee for Mr. MLM, milk for Aidan, blueberries, baguettes, and eggs. I walked out with those items plus La Croix sparkling water and Ruffles potato chips. La Croix is a little luxury we enjoy and the potato chips are a bad habit. I wasn’t pleased to do any impulse-buying, but I was relieved I only did a small amount of damage. I spent $49.96.
The blueberries and baguettes were for an unplanned meal – blueberry cream cheese French toast casserole on our anniversary. Going out to breakfast is one of our weaknesses, and in addition to cutting our grocery budget this month, we are also attempting to stick to a restaurant budget of $0. We decided spending an extra $8.76 on blueberries and baguettes was significantly less expensive than going out to breakfast and it would still provide us with a celebratory treat.
Third Trip – Smith’s
My third trip to the grocery store was on January 6. When I was meal planning for the week, I forgot we were having my parents over for lunch on Saturday and some friends over for dinner on Sunday. Also, Smith’s was having an excellent sale on 8-ounce cheeses on Saturday only ($0.99 instead of $2.59). We kept it simple of Saturday with hot dogs, baked beans, fruit, and chips. I planned to make BBQ chicken pizza (with leftover BBQ chicken) with cantaloupe for dinner on Sunday.
This list was not as detailed as my first shopping trip of the year because I suspected my plans would probably change at the store, which turned out to be true. I bought a shallot instead of a red onion, a pineapple instead of cantaloupe, and no pizza crust because we decided to make our own. There was no cantaloupe at Smith’s despite being in the ad, and pineapple was on sale for $0.99. I bought salad on sale to go with the pizza and I used a coupon for some Ritz crackers because the kids love them. The Diet Coke was for one of our Sunday guests. I spent $17.54. The Larabar was free with a digital coupon.
Overall, I am pleased with my shopping during the first week of January. I spent $108.14, which is about 31% percent of our budget for the month. Considering we won’t need coffee or La Croix for a while, and we won’t have any special or extra meals to make for the second week of January, I think we are on track.