Last month I wrote a post about how we budget for food. You can read it here. In it, I shared how much we spent per month in 2015 on groceries and eating out for lunch. I really enjoyed reading all the comments on that post. Many of you said you spend more than us on food, but there were some who said you spend even less, and that really inspired me.
At the end of January 2016, I added up our budgeting spreadsheet and saw that our food spending was almost exactly the same as the monthly average for 2015! In 2015 we averaged $277 on groceries and $83 on lunch (for this post, I am not including entertainment/date night food because that's not the part I am experimenting with).
In January 2016, we spent $277.51 on groceries and $83.11 on lunch! I realized that if I didn't make a change, we would continue to average the same amount on food. And it's not that we are spending a lot on food anyway (according to some of you we spend a crazy low amount), but again, I was inspired by those of you who said you spend less than us and wanted to see if I could get our number even lower.
So commenced my food budgeting experiment of 2016. Before I get to how much we spent in February (month 1 of this experiment), I want to share a few things I focused on in terms of trying to spend less.
1. Cook through the existing items in my pantry and freezer
I have a tendency to go to the store and grab things I want to stock up on. This isn't bad, but there is also no need to buy more chicken when I have some sitting in my freezer. So in February, I tried to buy as few as new items possible and only use what I already had.
2. Only buy things on the list
Another shopping tendency I have is to grab random items while I'm walking through the aisles. These are things we will eat but not necessarily things we need. Example: ice cream, chocolate chips, multiple varieties of wheat thins and cheese-its, etc.
3. Price check
For part of my experiment, I wanted to see which stores were cheaper to buy from and whether or not this matched up with what I thought in my head. Where I live, I have essentially 4 stores I buy food from: Walmart, Target, Homeland (local chain), and Aldi. I have always assumed the hierarchy of price went like this (least expensive to most): Aldi, Walmart, Target, Homeland. I wanted to know if Homeland actually was the most expensive or if I was just making that up. If one store was significantly cheaper, I wanted to know about it so I could buy food from there.
What I did was write down a list of a few items we buy regularly, and then I went to each store and wrote down the price. In doing this, I confirmed that Aldi is significantly cheaper than the other 3 stores, which I already knew. And I don't mind most of the food at Aldi, but there are name-brand items you can't get there, so what about the other stores?
Target came out overall to be cheaper than Walmart! And that's without adding in deals from Cartwheel or getting 5% off for using their Red Card. This surprised me. Homeland was the most expensive overall (like I thought), but some individual items were cheaper than or the same as both Target and Walmart, which was a pleasant surprise.
-Sara Lee brand Honey Wheat Bread is $2.49 at both Homeland and Target and $2.58 at Walmart.
-A 16oz block of cheese (store brand not name brand) is $4.49 at Homeland vs $4.96 at Walmart and $5.19 at Target!
-Digorno pizza (same crust/topping type) was $4.50 at Target vs $5.86 at Walmart and a whopping $6.59 at Homeland.
What did I learn from all that? Aldi is definitely the cheapest. Also, it's not worth it for me to drive all the way to Walmart (the farthest of all 4 stores), because Target is actually cheaper (which surprised me). Homeland is the most expensive, but not everything is, and really it's not actually too much more than Walmart (but I'd say significantly more than Target).
4. Try grocery rebate apps
Have you heard of these? You guys NEED to get on this immediately as in yesterday. I'm thankful to Kari who first introduced me to this genius concept. Coupons can be kind of a pain to remember to use, but it's super easy to get cash back for buying groceries using rebate apps!
Ibotta is my favorite, and you can get $10 just for signing up and earning your first rebate by using this referral link or the code vkyogbc. (I get a few dollars too, so help a friend out, would ya?) I've made $24.50 so far in just one month! Three words: more hair bows. Just kidding. Maybe.
Seriously, do it. Mobisave is another app that doesn't have quite as many options but is still super easy to use. Try them and see what you think!
Month 1 Results
I am proud to say that month 1 was a success! Just from implementing the above goals, we ended up spending $185.26 on groceries and $43.46 on lunch in February!
Compare that to $277.51 and $83.11, respectively, and we saved $132 total on food purchases! That number does not include the $24.50 I got in rebate money, so we actually saved over $150 in one month! Go me.
Now, the fact that I employed rule #1 means that I didn't really have a giant trip to stock up on essentials. As we begin March, our pantry and freezer are pretty empty, so I do not anticipate such a low spending number this month. But I am hoping that rules 2-4 will help limit spending, and I can keep our average lower than it was in 2015. Check back in a month to see how I did!
Questions? Feedback? Want to tell me how big a dork I am for tracking all of this? Leave a comment below!