We spend how much on groceries?


We did the family budget over the weekend and was a bit shocked to see how much we are spending on groceries each month.

Now, while my wife and I do maintain budgets, we don’t necessarily stick to it. There is a lot of wiggle room and discretionary spending that ends up happening within the confines of our spreadsheets. They are really more guidelines than true budgets.

Take groceries, for example. Every 2 weeks when I get paid, the first item I have on my budget is groceries, of which I have budgeted $140. My wife has the same in her budget (we maintain separate bank accounts, but that’s another post), so for an average 4 week period we have in our combined budget’s to spend $560 on groceries. This is for 2 adults, a 3 year old girl and an 8 month old breastfed boy who is just starting to get onto solids. I thought it was pretty generous. My wife thought we were actually spending more. So, since the beginning of this year, we have been tracking where that money goes, and tracking how close we stick to that amount. Friday was the day we sat down reviewed the year thus far.

Our budget: $560/month. Our reality: $721/month.

With that number staring us in the face, we re-examined how we have been doing our budget and grocery spending and have devised a new plan.

First, we both suspect that we can cut back to that $140 per week number, we just have to be a bit more conscious of how we spend. So, we are cutting out the habit of using debit cards to pay for groceries and are going strictly cash. So, each payday, we take out $140 cash and stick it in an envelope on the fridge. When we need groceries, we take cash. It’s a bit of a hassle making sure we get to a bank machine on our paydays, but I think this will make us more aware of where our grocery money goes.

And talk about syncronicity. The day after we went through our grocery budget, a friend sent a link to this really interesting photo essay called What The World Eats. The photos show what a typical family eats per week in 15 different countries. The images are really interesting and make me think of a few things.

  1. Judging from what some of the families spend per week, I should consider myself lucky at even the $721 a month figure. $500.07 US a week in Germany. Double wow.
  2. I felt hugely guilty and glutenous when I saw what a family of 9 in Ecuador and a family of 6 in Chad have to eat each week.
  3. There is no shortage of highly processed, pre pakaged food in the west.
  4. The lack of fresh produce in western diets compared to other cultures is shocking.
  5. Coca Cola owns the world.
  6. Pig’s knuckles. Mmmmmmm….

6 responses to “We spend how much on groceries?

  1. I know what you mean. Our budget was slightly higher than yours, with two adults and a 2 1/2 year old boy (we spend how much on diapers?!!!). We have yet to explore what effect our 5 month old girl has on all of this!

  2. Oh, diapers. Man, that is another post completely. We were soooooo good at using cloth with #1. With #2 not so much.

  3. We are just right now going through a similar process with similar results (just wait til that 8 month old turns into an 8 year old. Aye Carumba! Don’t even want to think what the budget for teenagers looks like!) Makes me wonder what the economists who calculate the inflation rate are smoking. I like your idea of enforcing the budget by taking out the cash for the week, something we are going to have to look at.

  4. I let you know how the cash enforced budgeting is working, Scott. So far, it’s Wednesday night and we still have $50 in the kitty. I think we’re safely going to be under this week.

    My wife and I decided that, if we do have any carry over, we’ll just leave it in the food envelope. With any frugal luck we should be able to offset the un-budgeted thrice yearly trips to Costco.

  5. holy cow. mayonaisse sandwich? what else is on it? i like my miracle whip, but i gott a have something else between the slices.

  6. My sister used to eat mayonnaise sandwiches when we were kids. I thought it was disgusting then…and it’s still disgusting now.

    I had a cousin who also used to put ketchup and processed cheese slices on a slice of white bread, microwave for a minute and called it pizza. Yuk.