Food Budgeting: Mid-Year Update

8.30.2016


As some of you may remember, in January I wrote a post about food budgeting and shared that I wanted to be more intentional about cutting our spending this year. I wrote about how we budget food  and shared 4 tips for spending less at the grocery store.

The last time I shared an update on our 2016 food budgeting was back in April. You can read that post here. Since then, I have to be honest, I really haven't been paying all that much intentional attention to how much I spend on groceries each month. We still eat at home most nights with Jordan or I cooking, and we try to cook healthy meals, although the occasional hot dog or boxed mac 'n' cheese does make it into our rotation every now and again, and I have no regrets. No regrets, I tell you. 

I did also try a free week of Hello Fresh meals thanks to a coupon I got from a friend of mine. Those meals were very tasty, but at this point it's too expensive for our budget at nearly $10/person per meal. Does anyone else do the boxed meal subscription? Do you like it?

Anyway, I wanted to share an update on where we are now with our grocery spending this year so far.

Just as a refresher, in 2015 we spend on average $277 per month on groceries. This does not include eating out at all. It's just food we buy to cook meals at home. Also, on average per month in 2015 we spent $80 on lunch (that's Jordan and I combined total) and $80 on entertainment (eating out for dinner).

As I said, I haven't been paying much attention to grocery spending since the end of April, and I have good news and bad news. The bad news is that in May, July, and August I spent a pretty outrageous amount of money on groceries. To be fair, July and August were birthday months for Jordan, me, and R, so that was a lot of extra food for family and guests and parties that I normally wouldn't be spending. But still. Ouch.

Here's how 2016 looks so far: 
January $277
February $185
March $276
April $170
May $443 <--- seriously, what. happened. Apparently we ate gold this month. I don't know.
June $185
July $388
August $316

The good news is that even with those insane months of spending and even though I haven't been paying that much attention, so far in 2016 we have spent on average $280 per month, which is, as you will note, almost exactly our 2015 average. So, there has basically been no improvement overall (bad) but it has stayed about the same thanks to a few months of low spending (good!).

The other good news is that thanks to my grocery rebate apps: Ibotta, Checkout51, and MobiSave, I have saved $74.10! That is not even including money I got for referring people. That's just straight up dollars saved in rebates! If you don't have grocery rebate apps, hello what are you waiting for? Use my referral link for Ibotta and get $10 back your first time using it! None of the numbers above include grocery rebates, by the way.

OKAY. So depending on how you look at it, this experiment where I try to spend less on groceries has been a fail so far, because I'm not spending less at all. So here's what I want to do for the last 4 months of 2016: spend a maximum of $200 each month. If I do this, I will end up with an overall 2016 average of $255, which would be an average monthly savings of roughly $20 a month from 2015. That's $240 a year savings! Did you follow all that math? Sorry if that was confusing.

I'm not sure if I have a point in this post except to share an update of where we are. I will check back at the end of the year to see how I did with my new goal. In the meantime, check out my budgeting page for more or go back and read the first few posts in this food budgeting series

Please leave any comments/feedback/questions in the comments or shoot me an email!

Questions for you: 
Do you eat at home a lot or eat out?
How much do you typically spend per month on groceries?
What is your favorite cheap meal to make?

32 comments:

  1. Oh man. Nathan and I finally went through our charges from the last few months and I almost threw up after seeing how much money we spent on groceries and eating out! Our new budget starts Sept. 1st and I am equal parts terrified so excited to SAVE ALL THE MONEY. We did work HelloFresh into our new budget because I LOVE IT. I feel like we are eating healthy meals consistently (well, 3 meals a week) and are eating better portion sizes. PLUS I don't have to meal plan or grocery shop as much which was where so much of my stress was coming from! Sorry, can you tell I've had to sell this to my husband recently? Ha!

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    1. I think Hello Fresh is a great idea, and if you can work it into your budget and it saves you stress, go for it! We did think the recipes were tasty, but to be honest we weren't all that happy with the amount of time it took to prepare the meals. It might have just been the meals we got that week, but all of them took much longer than the recipe said, and it wasn't as simple as the recipe made it sound. Plus, it was kind of stressful for me to try and make sure I used those meals that week. Sometimes we have stuff randomly pop up or more leftovers than we thought or whatever and a meal won't work, but you kind of have to use that stuff pretty quick! Anyway, there are a few reasons it won't work for our family at the moment, but I think it would save on grocery shopping and meal planning stress for a lot of people, and I'm glad you are loving it!

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  2. I have the Ibotta app but I always forget to use it. Clearly I need to!

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    1. I forget about it too sometimes, and I can't get a rebate from going to Aldi, so sometimes I can't use it anyway. They have rebates for diapers and kid stuff too like food and whatnot, so it's handy for that as well!

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  3. We also apparently ate gold this summer. We actually just went over money things yesterday because Jack has to be on this special formula now that is ridiculously expensive and the kid is EATING US OUT OF HOUSE AND HOME. For me it just comes down to planning. If I don't meal plan, I will spend $75-$100 more at the grocery. It's ridiculous.

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  4. Okay, I'm very intrigued by all of this because when we first got married I thought we were doing well if we "only" spent $75+ on groceries per week, but now it's even more than that. Gross! No! Nooooooooo! Must change.

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  5. We also had a month of gold which was July, like in every budget line it was way out of control but then this past month we managed to cut way back and it felt so good to get back to it! I prepare all of our meals but we do let ourselves do pizza once a week and picking that day and knowing I have a meal that I can bow out of if I want gives me so much happiness and relief. I usually try to wait till Friday to use it but it was perfect today since we had work going on in the kitchen so I did not feel guilty eating out for a meal!

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  6. What do your normal meals look like during the week? I am just curious, as our grocery bill is always $120-$170 per week and you manage to do that in a month. Clearly I am doing something wrong! I do love using Ibotta and I signed up for Checkout51 a few weeks ago. I also do Shopkicks and then use Cartwheel when shopping at Target. And I clip coupons in the papers, but usually only just a few here and there because most of the stuff in those booklets we don't use.

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  7. I have thought about looking to see how much we're spending at the grocery store each month, and I really NEED to, but I get sick to my stomach thinking about it. Groceries are SO expensive where I live (a small island in Alaska) and almost every trip to the grocery store, I'm walking out having spent at least $100 on what feels like nothing. I would venture a guess that my husband and I probably spend $500 a month on groceries for just the two of us, and we don't even really buy a lot of junk food or extras, and I make a LOT of things myself rather than buy them. It's so frustrating.

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  8. I am definitely not as intentional as I should be about grocery shopping and saving money. I try so hard but I have also never sat down and made a budget and tracked it either. Maybe soon!

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  9. I usually spend about $130/week on groceries/toiletries for our family of 5--and we have pizza night once a week. About every 6 weeks I buy the big stuff like paper towel and tp, which bumps up the price a bit. I thought I would spend more since I started mostly-clean-eating in January, but that hasn't been as hard on the budget as I thought it would be.

    I'm going to have to check out ibotta!

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  10. HA! Your comments about eating gold made me laugh. ;) Good luck with your grocery goals for the rest of this year. :)

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  11. Ugh. We eat out WAY too often and we know it. Our grocery cost is pretty low but our dining out spending is insane. UGH.

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  12. I really enjoy your budgeting posts. On the 6th, I will have been married for a month and I know we've already spent at least $250 on groceries. It's insane, but to be fair, my husband has the appetite (and metabolism, thankfully) of a teenage linebacker. So, considering just how darn much he eats, I think we've done okay. I've got to do better though because we're living on one income and we really need to cut back...

    Since our honeymoon, we haven't eaten out at all. Okay. I did get a sonic hot dog the other day, but it was $1 hot dog day!!! So yeah.

    I also need to try the whole rebate app thing. I'll probably just start with Ibotta and work from there. I do use the Walmart Saving's Catcher, but Walmart's kind of all we have around here besides Winn Dixie (and yikes at Winn Dixie prices).

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    1. You should try the rebate app! I love it. And I think you're doing great :) Maybe just try a little bit here and there to cut back where you can, but it is hard. My husband eats a lot too, so I know the feeling!

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  13. It always is so eye-opening when one sits down with the grocery budget-or when you first start budgeting! A few years ago, when I first looked through how much we were spending on groceries to make a budget, my jaw definitely dropped a few times. I think it's always good t have little allowances for extra in special months-if we have a "special occasion" to cook for, I always make a small notation in my grocery notebook, so at the end of the month I know why we spent extra on a particular trip. I keep forgetting about Ibotta, even though I've had a few friends tell me about it. Does it work at Aldi? (we do all of our shopping there, unless they don't have whatever produce we want, which we then get from Crest) We do most of our meals at home (my husband takes leftovers to work), aside from the rare occasion that we go out for a sushi date ;)

    Our grocery budget is $240 a month for my husband and I, and usually I manage to go under that, except every few months when we find a good cereal sale and then my husband stocks up on ALL the cereal (one time when we were at a grocery store, he tried taking the entire discount-cart of granola. I made him put it back so other people could buy some, and he had to be happy with only 15 boxes lol). One of my favorite cheap meals to make is sushi, since if you make it without the expensive fish (just use veggies or canned tuna), it's really inexpensive. I also am a big fan of making falafels with homemade pita bread. Homemade pizza is also a cheap meal that we frequently make :)

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  14. Wow! You have an awesome food budget! I budget $100 a week for groceries but this also includes all of our toiletries, cleaning supplies, etc. Thanks for sharing your budget... very inspiring!

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  15. I love these posts! We spend about $75 a week on groceries, toiletries, cleaning supplies, vitamins, etc. for two of us. Some weeks are higher if there is a good sale on meat, and then I'll stock up a bit and spend less the next week. So that's about $300 a month. We hardly ever eat out though. Maybe dinner out once a month, and ice cream or coffee once or twice. No more than $50/month typically. Lately I've been all about cutting coupons though so I'll have to see if I can save some more!

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  16. I'm not even going to tell you how much I spent on groceries every month. It's A LOT. But we live in Hawaii, which is so expensive. I try to save money on groceries by eating a lot of cheaper meats, like chicken, and shopping at the commissary, which is really helpful for me. I try to use almost everything in my fridge before going shopping again, which has helped me get creative. I also stick to my list and don't get a lot of treats, which is good for our waistlines and our budget. I'm okay with spending more on groceries so I try to save money in other areas -- but I am always reading your grocery posts and trying to save more. Please keep us updated on how the rest of the year goes.

    I think you would like this meal. It's so good and so easy and pretty cheap. I like that you are using a whole chicken, it makes me feel less wasteful. Also we don't have fancy things like turnips and rutabagas here, so I just get sweet potatoes, carrots, and whatever other potatoes I can find, and it turns out great:

    http://www.amateurgourmet.com/2010/01/thomas_kellers.html

    Please share more of your cheap recipes!

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    1. Another way I save money on groceries is by avoiding buying things like fresh thyme, parsley, etc -- no one really needs that! I just skip them if recipes call for them and I don't notice a difference.

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    2. Thanks for sharing the recipe! I will check it out for sure.

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  17. I spend a ridiculous amount on groceries for one person! I definitely plan on going back to check out your old posts!

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  18. Dude. Shout out to everyone who commented about spending $100+ a week because I don't know how you do it, Amanda! I don't usually calculate what the of target receipt went to groceries and what to paper foods and whatever, but yeah. Ever since Ava started really eating, I don't usually go below a hundred a week. Ouch. I don't know. Mike eats a lot. So do I. And the kids. But you and Jordan surely have healthy appetites too! I would be interested in seeing what all you eat at home in a week. Is that intrusive? :D

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    1. I think I will attempt to keep track of our food so I can share on the blog at some point. I can tell you for sure that part of it is what we eat. Not everyone would like this diet or say it's a good idea, but we eat a lot of carbs. Think rice and potatoes. Super cheap and we use them in a lot of our meals. Also, a lot of chicken. And sometimes I just really feel like eating pancakes for dinner and Jordan makes a version of Ramen noodles (basically the noodles but without the packet of seasoning that is terrible for you). But with kids eating I know it will be a whole new ballgame.

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  19. We eat most dinners at home, and try to do leftovers for lunch. I was terrible once I came back to work and ate out a lot more than unusual, so my goal for September is 1 meal out during the week (my colleagues like to go somewhere on Fridays, and I can eat for $5 or less.)

    We do tend to spend a lot more on groceries, though. I aim for $125 each WEEK. Sometimes it's under $100, but we really need to be better about our spending.

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    1. I think one meal out during the week is a great goal!

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  20. Favorite Cheap Meal: one pot pasta! So good!

    I'm sorry but that $443 made me laugh. What happened??? I think I told you this but our grocery bill is getting cheaper because Dave eats for free at the hospital. He loves it. I'm glad for him but sometimes I get annoyed because he would rather eat at the hospital instead of at home with me. I think he does that because he thinks he is saving money. I still cook and have meals because I just like to do that. We do eat together it just isn't every day.

    Do you shop at Aldi? That will cut your grocery bill down. I love that place.

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  21. Parties definitely make a huge difference in the grocery bill--and they are so worth it.

    And never regret boxed mac-n-cheese. There's a Midwesterner named Rachel in SE Asia who long for the occasional a box of mac-n-cheese but they don't even sell the stuff here.

    We eat at home mostly, and when we eat out we usually eat local food, because there's a significant cost difference between fried flatbread and curry at market and a hamburger at a Western restaurant.

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  22. I downloaded Ibotta but have yet to actually use it, time to get on it! I LOVE these update posts that you write. I'm always so intrigued by what other people spend at the grocery.

    When Caleb and I first got married we were spending like $50/week at Aldi and smaller grocery stores. We definitely spend a little more than that now and I'm not really sure why. Time to live more SIMPLY like we used to! You've inspired me to watch it a bit more.

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  23. your 'may' is what every month looks like for me.. actually that's a lie, it is more than that. apparently we eat gold as well? we have been better at only grocery shopping once a month, the little weekly trips to grab one or two things were breaking the bank for sure. but still, i just don't know how we spend so much. KC eats A LOT and to be honest so do I haha. I don't need to eat as much as him but i do. i have looked at those box subscription things, but they just won't work for us - we eat too much for one, and we are far too picky.
    cheap meals? beef, beans and rice is KC's go to. he could eat that every day and i can only handle it like once a week. my go to cheap-ish meal is tuna, corn and chickpeas which sounds weird but it works.
    boxed mac n cheese for life!

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    1. lol not once a month at all! i meant once a week! but we would stop like 2-3 times during the week on top of that, and it was ridiculous how much we were spending. so yeah definitely not once a month!

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  24. The ONLY meal I make is chicken. Sad I know. I upped our grocery budget to $500 the last time we did budget. It seems outrageous for two, but we we eat lbs and lbs a chicken a month and lots of greek yogurt + all fresh foods. We only shop the outside aisles and that's what it was cost. It's expensive. I loved Blue Apron, and love the idea of subscription meals since I hate cooking, but they are just way too expensive to make it a habit.

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