I am done grocery shopping for the month so am reporting our January Grocery Results now:
Budget $550 - Actual spend $570.90.
Over by $20.90 which comes off the $550 next months budget so only $529.10 will be spent in the shorter month of February. Only $2 in coupons were used this month. It was tough staying anywhere near budget this month, but I did manage a few bargains, primarily on $1.49 day at my family-owned grocery store. I spent $30 and came home with about $80 worth of groceries that day. It appears they will be continuing with this sale day once per month usually right at the end of the month so I will have to keep my eyes out for the next one as they only advertise it a few days ahead. The freezer is still half-full and there are some vegetables in the fridge but I do need to get some more fruit.
When I grocery shop I generally stick to some rules:
1. Cheese - only buy if $1 or less per 100 grams ($10 per kg or $4.54 a pound) . It is on sale this coming week so I will be stocking up and freezing some as am on my last block of cheddar.
2. Meat - only buy when on sale or in bulk. I buy 4 kg of frozen skinless boneless chicken breast a month for $32.99 at Costco which works out to $3.78 per pound. If you live in Canada you share my frustration that we are a metric country where grocery stores still advertise in pounds some times to confuse the consumer. Often we just use one breast in a recipe so this way I get good low fat meat at a decent price. I could live without beef but not chicken, my favorite. I usually only buy things like chicken legs and steaks when they are on pink sticker - and immediately freeze them for later use. Ground beef costs a fortune right now - but once in a while it goes on sale then I will stock up. I buy cheap steaks ( generally not great cuts) when on pink sticker for stew and soup. Right now that is the only kind of meat that I am out of as I haven't seen any decent sales of late. We will just eat other things until I find some that falls within the budget. I buy pork chops in large family packs at a place that has the best chops in town. I might pay a little more for those but in my mind it is worth it to pay that extra little and save somewhere else in the budget. I managed to buy two small low salt hams for $5 each (regularly $11.99 each) - we ate one and the other was cut up in bits for breakfasts/pizza toppings and frozen.
3. Veggies and fruit: I won't spend more than $1.50 for a cucumber and generally .99 cents a pound for fruit like oranges and apples. It is currently difficult to buy apples within that restriction but I did spot some on this week for 89 cents a pound so will go buy a bunch. Some kinds of fruit do not fall under this restriction - the luxury fruits - cherries, berries, mango, grapes. I usually only buy those when they are on sale. I won't pay more than .80 cents a pound for bananas. On other veggies I look at the total cost - what an entire head of cauliflower is for instance. I was able to buy a head of cauliflower for $2.50 this month but have seen it as high as $6.99 for non-organic. Highway robbery and not a price I am willing to pay.We eat very well and have a varied diet. When I see a sale I stock up but sometimes things stay on the grocery list until they come under my dollar limits. Tomatoes cost a fortune right now, $2.99 a pound and up. In the summer I grow them but you can also buy them for .99 cents a pound. I don't buy very many tomatoes in the winter, using up my summer bounty that is in the freezer for soups and stews. For salad I try and buy leaves with a long fridge life. Right now my two favorite are spinach leaves and cabbage, both a great base for salad. I can buy large containers of spinach at Costco for 3.99 which last 3-4 weeks so in the end a reasonable cost. If I run short on veggies for our salads it is supplemented with an apple, pear or even orange and looks a bit fancy-smancy at the same time. I buy bulk salt-free sunflower seeds quite cheaply to sprinkle over the salads as well. No need to ever buy expensive wilted salad kits.
4. Buy ingredients, not the finished product. It is still generally cheaper to buy ingredients to cook from scratch than to buy prepackaged meals, with very few exceptions. It is healthier too. Convenience costs and it is always cheaper to buy a potato and cut it up yourself than to buy pre-made fries and hashbrowns.
5. Try to waste as little as possible. I made chili this week and after two suppers and one lunch for hubby we were chili-ed out. I froze one bowl of chili for a future lunch/supper for one of us. One can only do left-overs so long and now we have an easy lunch or supper for me if hubby is away.
6. Every Thursday/Friday I comb over all the grocery flyers and make a list of items at each store that are on sale. If I happen to be anywhere near them I stop and pick up the loss leaders on that list. I live in a relatively small town so this is accomplished easily - but when I lived in the city I planned my errands with these stores in mind too.
In February I am going to start tracking how much of the budget is spent on food, nonfood and taxes. We pay between 5-12% tax on non-food or food convenience items depending on what the item is. That adds up quickly. I am guessing that at least $200 per month is spent on over the counter medications to keep our non-life threatening diseases at bay. We self-insure medically and yes, this is still cheaper than costly prescriptions that don't work any better. Our membership to Costco has helped keep those costs in check this past year and we received a $70 rebate on our Executive membership so the cost is down to $40 this year. There are some items I can't get there though and am still investigating our cheapest options for buying those.
How was your grocery month? Did you have a tough time like I did?