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Grocery Spending: Redemption

That title makes this sound like the sequel to a bad action movie. And maybe it is. The first installment being the act of spending way too damn much, consistently on groceries. (Reference $750.) After some time away, we return to our storyline only to find our heroine (that’s me) singing a new, improved, slightly different tune. One that sounds a lot more like $500 a month.

That’s right. Grocery spending is down $250/month for the 3rd month running. That’s a big frickin’ deal, folks. Huge! $750 reprioritized dollars, SO FAR. Yet, I have not become an extreme coupon-er. I am not shopping at Safeway. Our changes have actually been quite small, cumulative in nature, and went surprisingly according to plan. Slow, time consuming, and somewhat bumpy plan, but one that’s coming together nonetheless.

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Redemption through homemade yogurt? Not hardly. Yet, four quarts of yogurt for the cost of a gallon of milk remains one heck of a deal.

Bulk Buys. Much of this is perhaps not money saved. Its deferred spending. Some of you will remember the picture of my auxiliary freezer jam packed with a 1/2 cow, a whole pig, and a little bit of dog food. Despite our best efforts, we haven’t made much of a dent in our stockpile. The room we did free up has been recently occupied by a heck of a deal on whole organic chickens. I wrote a primer on the beauty of bulk-buying and I’ve only improved my ninja skills in that arena. This years cow and pig were cheaper than their predecessors, but just as yummy. Turns out when your weekly grocery list doesn’t include any meat, there is a corresponding drop in the over all total.

Food Preservation. All that insanity back in late summer/early fall is currently paying off. We eat a heck of a lot of egg salad sandwiches, yet I buy no pickles (or eggs for that matter). Simple weekend breakfasts (or weekday dinners) of the pancakes and bacon (or sausage) are only enhanced by the presence of homemade jam. There are tomatoes and tomato sauce a plenty for pizza, soups, casseroles, you pick. Apricot BBQ sauce goes nicely on a pork tenderloin. We’ve ketchup for all the potatoes you can fashion. I’m coming up with new uses for dried tomatoes. Most of the accouterments for any given meal can be found living quietly in the pantry. Fancy food. More deferred spending.

Farmer’s Market Be Gone. This was hard. Like emotionally hard. It’s also probably where I’ve gotten the most bang for my buck. I broke up with the Farmer’s Market. No more Sunday Morning special trips. No more chit chat with local purveyors. Comparison shopping in such a crowded, hurried venue was particularly challenging. So was planning. You weren’t ever sure what you would find and at what price, which could leave you in a meal plan or spending lurch. I love the atmosphere. I love the idea. It’s too rich for my blood. As soon as I gave it up, I noticed an immediate downward shift in my weekly spending. Perhaps I’ll go back during the harvest boom times, when crops are plenty and prices are (or should be) low. Even then, it will only be to facilitate more bulk buying.

Comparison Shopping. I’m not completely giving up my hippy-yuppy shopping experience. My markets are still earth toned, contain pictures of smiling farmers, and rate the happiness of their meat. Yes, I am aware much of that may be bullshit. I’m splitting the difference, and pitting the markets against each other. One less trip (sorry, Farmer’s Market) means more time to strategize and price shop. Bulk Peanut Butter, .50/lb cheaper at Local Market than CorporateFoods. Yet, CorporateFoods has way better deals on infinitely better produce. If I know this going in, I can plan one trip a week, instead of multiple stops, based on what we need, and the batching of other errands. Conveniently, both stores have their sales posted online, making much of this shopping exercise a lazy girl’s effort from the comfort of my armchair.

Not Done Yet. If you thought $750 was impossibly indulgent (it is), $500 for 2 people is still far from brag worthy. However, recent success has left me empowered. There are more changes to be made. Dare I say it? I’d like to get regular grocery shopping down to No-Spend levels. That is $400 a month. On the regular. An average of $100 week for 2, going on 3, people. This new low, should allow us to bank the difference between now and the upcoming season of preservation and bulk buying. I’ve set up a new ‘bulk’ budget category and I’m stashing small amount of money there in preparation. Next years livestock will be pre-funded.

What else? Is nothing sacred anymore? I’ve had some big savings by compromising time old traditions in the Dogs or Dollars household. Is it time to cut ties with my hippie-yuppy food purveyors entirely? Do I perhaps even need to go back to the ultimate bulk retailer? (Gasp) Maybe they’ve paid their dues, and I can go back to paying mine.

Any recent grocery spending epiphanies? I’d love to hear them.

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Comments

Jenny
Reply

Yay! I knew you could get that hefty grocery budget down to a more manageable number. Just takes practice and habit-building. I’m sad you found the Farmer’s Market had to go. Our local farmer’s market has excellent prices on all kinds of things, but then plenty of specialty stuff that can suck you in pretty quickly if you’re not careful. My husband and I limit our farmer’s market purchases to things we probably would have purchased anyway, with the occasional splurge on specialty items like local honey or strawberry-rhubarb preserves. Or a chevre cheesecake from the local goat guy. But living in a big agricultural area like we do, maybe the prices at our farmer’s market are just better than the PNW.

Erica / Northwest Edible Life
Reply

I have “bulk” as a budget line too, to differentiate from “weekly” type food spends.

Good for you. You are inspiring.

Laura
Reply

Congratulations. I want to follow in your footsteps!

Funny that you blog about this again because I also have been taking a hard look at my grocery costs, and I don’t know how to reduce them any more than I have. I spend near $400/mo on just me. When you write $500 or $750. does this include toiletries, gift cards, batteries, and such or is it only food?

I, too, make my own yogurt. I’ve cut the use of paper towels & other paper products by 2/3rds. I don’t eat bread or buy juice, soda or bottled water, and I only eat “meat” once a week. My garden endeavors, because of a long standing drought, have not been successful in the last 3 years. I suffer from grocery budget depression. Redeem me please!

Cassi
Reply

I really enjoy grocery shopping. Bulk is way cheaper, and it is really good that you are buying in bulk now. Yay for cheaper groceries!

prapc
Reply

WOW! That’s AMAZING!! We’re a family of 4, and my husband and I own & operate a consulting business. That’s a 24 hour business, carpool, clubs, homework, violin and a 3 year old. We are super busy… but who isn’t?

Three things that drastically reduced our budget in the last year:
Going to the grocery store less
Buying what’s on sale and working my meal plan around it
Noodles with Butter – The kids don’t need steak

I could definitely pare down more, but I do buy a lot of convenience items – *for us* they are necessary, and they stretch out the time between grocery shopping = less money spent.

I know “Kid Food” is a debatable topic- but really? My kids think I’m awesome for making pasta with butter, peas and a salad with carrots with ranch. Turkey sandwiches with greens are another favorite.

My budget went down a bunch when I stopped giving everyone the same darn meal. They don’t care, and they’re always welcome to a piece of my Ribeye ;)

I’m not the crunchiest mama on the block, but our budget has gone down from 4 figures to 3, including liquor, beer, wine and toiletries.

Pretty nice!

Diedra B
Reply

I remember now where I first found out about your blog. . . it was on MMM, about your grocery budget.
I think it’s awesome you’ve gotten it down that far!

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