$400 Grocery Budget - We Did It!

At the beginning of February, we joined Sam at Frugaling in a $200-per-person grocery budget for the month (so $400 for the two of us), after Sam wrote about his January grocery budget failure. Sam's budget differs from ours in that he includes ALL food he eats in his food budget, including entertaining others and food he buys on dates. We're not exactly dating, but we do entertain and I put those expenses in another category. 

I doubled his budget because we have two people. I don't think groceries is one of those areas where the cost goes down as you add more people. Twice the groceries is twice the groceries. Sure, we share things that last, such as condiments, which would bring down the initial cost, but over time, it levels out.

Despite spending $85 at Costco on staples right off the bat, we met our goal with a few dollars to spare. The Costco run included cases of diced tomatoes and tomato sauce, which we've been using to make pizza sauce, and a huge can of tomato paste that we haven't even opened yet (we plan to freeze it in small quantities and use it as we need it). We used a surprising quantity of the diced tomatoes, but we still have some or most of everything left. 

Most of our food budget went to Aldi ($134), because we can get so much there for so little. Their sales are amazing. Trader Joe's came in a close second, at $122. Everything else was small: $17 to a local international food market, $15 at a new grocery store (Fresh Thyme - mostly for produce loss leaders), $12 for three dozen local eggs, and $12 at a regular grocery store. We didn't eat out at all. 

You'd think with all the food we already have, we could eat for free for quite some time, but you'd be wrong. 

You'd think with all the food we already have, we could eat for free for quite some time, but you'd be wrong. 

Of course we ate some things we already had, such as frozen bread sticks I bought for a party but didn't use, butter, oils, frozen meat, etc. On the flip side, we have a lot of canned tomatoe products left over. 

Toward the end of the month, I wished I could buy a little more. I wanted a whole chicken so I could make broth, and I wanted to buy more flour and citrus fruit at Aldi while it was on sale. But I didn't buy anything. And Eric realized we had some beef bones in the freezer that he's using to make bone broth, so I kind of got over the chicken.

Honestly, we didn't have too many splurges this month. I bought Powercrunch bars only twice, when I was really hungry and didn't have one of my homemade oatmeal bars with me. I don't even want to tell you how many Powercrunch bars I had been buying, but I was buying them five at a time to cut down on transactions, if that gives you any idea. 

Most of the time, I managed to take my lunch to work, which is one of the main ways we save on money. And we made a really good, if slightly expensive, shrimp dish for dinner on Valentine's Day, which was a lot better (and less expensive) than going out. 

We did some entertaining here at the house that involved food, including a brunch for seven people, but like I mentioned, I put those expenses under the "entertainment" category of the budget. The total cost of the brunch came out to $45 or so, but we already had some of the things we used (such as sparkling wine for mimosas, and tomato juice we used for bloody marys). 

I paid for a meal out with a co-worker who was moving to a new location with my allowance, thereby keeping that out of the food budget. We each have a weekly cash allowance of $20 each to use for whatever, so we don't have discuss every little move we make. Other than that, we didn't eat out at all, and that was fine. Well, Eric might have used his allowance to eat out; I don't know because that's the whole idea of the allowance.

Anyhow, I love to eat out, but eating out all the time can be a little stressful. For starters, if you might eat out, then you have a decision to make every time you're hungry. And if you decide to eat out, then you have to decide where, what to order, etc. If I'm eating at the house, I'm having what's here, so there's an immediate restriction on the number of decisions I'll have to make. There just aren't that many choices at home. 

Sam was also successful. In the comments, you can read about some of his others readers who were also successful. I didn't spell out our food costs like Sam's day-by-day list, but I can tell you ours was seriously front-loaded, too. 

$400 will be our new grocery goal. I think we can do that or better every month, if we stay focused. My next goal is to inventory our freezer(s). I most often open the freezer to get ice, but it's full of food. What food? Who the heck knows! The basement freezer is full of meat, mostly fish from my dad and the remains of the half a cow we went in on with friends. That's something we might like to do again, or maybe a pig, but it would have to be worked into the food budget. If we bought $450 worth of meat even once a year, that's $37 off every month's food budget. Just something to think about. 

For now, I'm going to focus on staying below $400. Just to give you some idea, last year in March we spent $792 on groceries and $194 dining out, for a grand total of $988. Sheesh. So far in March, we've spent over $200, but we've got a lot of food on hand so I think we'll be okay. 

Food Budget Posts: