Money, Monthly Money Reports, Saving Money

My December Grocery Challenge Was A FAIL, Here Is Why

My December Grocery Challenge Was A FAIL, Here Is WhyIn Canada, food is the third largest household expense after shelter and transportation. At my house, food is our number one household expense (that’s what happens when you are mortgage and car loan free). We were spending $1,200 a month ($280/week) for a family of five (all groceries, not just food). In my opinion, it was getting out of control so I decided it was time to do something about it.  I set a goal to reduce our spending to $220 per week from $280 with a long-term goal of $180 per week. I was doing well until last month, and then December happened! My December grocery challenge was a FAIL, here is why.

The “Culprits”

  • Christmas:

Christmas is not a good time of the year to try to save money on groceries. Aside from all the food needed to make an awesome traditional Christmas dinner, we entertain more and eat lots of different and sometimes more expensive food during the holiday season. There is also a lot more baking going on at my house. My son starts asking in late November when I plan to start baking my Christmas cookies; I can’t let him down for the sake of saving money, can I?

  • Life Got Busier With The Holidays:

When we came back from our Hawaiian holiday in early December, we didn’t have anything ready for Christmas. I had to catch up at work (more hours) and manage to prepare for the holidays in my “spare” time. Beside Christmas shopping (which can take forever if you want to get something meaningful), we had to get the Christmas tree set up, decorate the house, bake some yummy goodies, organize my annual toy and food fundraising, etc.  Things got a little crazy and I stopped meal planning and just went with the flow.

  • I Was Sick:

I know, what does that have to do with anything? Well when you are sick, the last thing you want to do is plan your dinners, check Flipp and go grocery shopping, so I didn’t do any of that! I sent my partner or kids shopping as needed and it was often! Didn’t know what we were going to eat from one day to the next, and honestly I really didn’t care.  All I wanted to do was rest!

These are my excuses for my December Grocery Challenge FAIL. It doesn’t take much to get sidetracked!

But How Did We Really Do?

First, there won’t be a breakdown of my grocery budget this month. There were just too many receipts (too many trips to the store!) and I was way too behind. I usually update my spreadsheet (I love spreadsheets!) once a week so it is painless but I was a few weeks behind and really didn’t see the point since I already knew where I blew it.

I did add up all the receipts for the month and we didn’t do as poorly as I thought.

Our average weekly spending was $241/week for December!

I didn’t meet my goal to get to $220 by the end of the year but there is progress:).  I think we are conditioning ourselves to shop smarter and it is starting to pay off.

The 2018 Grocery Spending Challenge

The 2018 grocery spending challenge is on and my goal is to reduce our spending by 30% to $200 per week. (I had $180 as a goal for a while but it’s not realistic for my family at this point).

I am aiming to:

  • Reduce waste as much as possible
  • Continue to eat well and maintain a healthy and balance diet
  • Stay within the established budget.

Being extremely frugal when it comes to food is not for me! But it would if I was doing it out of necessity. I am lucky this is not the case.

How Can You Save Money On Groceries

If you want to reduce your own grocery bill, here are a few ways to get you started that actually work for me (usually):

  1. Shop once a week if at all possible.
  2. Plan your meals for the week, before you go shopping.
  3. Make a list and stick to it. Sounds so simple and easy but most of us don’t do it.
  4. Know the price of food; one of the best ways to save is to know the prices of the products you buy often. This will help you figure out if you are getting a good deal on sale items. This has worked great for me and it was very enlightening at first. All those great deals I thought I was getting at Costco for vegetables!
  5. Stick to one stop shop, two if you have too. The more places you go, the more tempted you will be to buy unnecessary items. I have done this so many times, trust me stick to one or two stores.
  6. Try to come up with meals to use up all leftovers. At my house, we regularly eat frittata, quiche or stir fry so I can get rid of some of the leftovers.My December Grocery Challenge Was A FAIL, Here Is Why
  7. Price check and shop around for sales and coupons. I use the app Flipp to get access to all weekly flyers and also to store my master grocery list.
  8. Keep track of your spending!


How about you, how did you do with your food budget in December? Do you have any additional tips? Are you trying to reduce your grocery spending too?

33 thoughts on “My December Grocery Challenge Was A FAIL, Here Is Why

  1. I had a friend in LA whose husband refused to eat leftovers. I had a semi-heated argument with him once about it (because leftovers are a busy Mom’s best friend!) I even argued that some leftovers were better the second time around, like chili or soup, but I got nowhere. I still think about this guy sometimes and how I would’ve killed him many times over on busy evenings, ha!

    1. Lol, would have loved to hear the argument:) I can’t say my family is always crazy about it but I only make ONE dinner! And you are right, sometimes after a long day at the office, between kids’ activities, leftover are a mom’s best friend:)

    1. Hi Tom, yes there is always room for improvement. If my daughter wasn’t Celiac we probably would buy a lot more prepared food. I do once in a while but in general I prefer if we all eat the same thing.

  2. Caroline,
    December is an exception budget wise. That’s why the New Year resolutions start in January. We splurge in Dec, then get back to the track in Jan. Like you said, I don’t want to be too frugal on food either. I feel, eating is a joy, as long as the diet is healthy and balanced, and the waste is minimized.

  3. Great list of ways to save money on grocery purchases. We always make enough for dinner one night to feed us for lunch the next day and sometimes lunch for two days. It saves us time and money. Also, buying some fruits and vegetables frozen helps too. While we do buy fresh and local mostly, frozen items make sense at times from a cost and less waste perspective.

    Good luck with your challenge!

    1. Thanks Amy. I started buying some frozen vegetables too. It is cheaper and is a good backup when the fridge is close to empty. I do make larger portions for dinner but my 16 year old is growing and leftovers are getting scarce!:)

  4. December pretty much requires an adjustment in just about every spending category, at least from what I’ve found. It seems that if you are prepared, you might make the adjustment to your budget up front knowing that it will likely be different from the average month. I recommend this because December is usually stressful enough as it is without having to add on trying to reach a target that may not be worth the aggravation.

    1. Hi Mark, we used to buy pretty much everything at Costco back in August. If you go back to my September or October report, most of my spending was on fresh fruits and vegetables. What I found out when I started comparing prices using Flipp, which was a little challenging at first because Costco doesn’t always have the price per lb, is that some produce were cheaper elsewhere. It is the same with meat. Other items always seem to be cheaper at Costco. I just check Flipp before we leave the house to see which stores have the best sales for fruit and vegetables and select the one with the best deals (so we don’t end up spending the day grocery shopping!) I still buy some at Costco depending on what’s on sale everywhere else. Also, because of packaging, we were usually buying more than we needed and less variety. As far as meat, we still buy it at Costco. It is not always cheaper but the quality is there. Hope this helps

  5. My friend Soap (I’ll mention her more later) is trying to reduce her food budget of $1000/month (just for her!!) and having a hard time. It’s like trying to raise a baby and teach her everything from scratch. I think you’re doing great considering you were sick and on vacation and it was Xmas. I wouldn’t of even attempted until after new year’s.

  6. Don’t beat yourself up! Us too, it’s hard to get back into the groove after a nice Hawaiian vacation! We have been eating out a lot or meeting friends for meals so it’s been hard too.

    Re: CashflowKat- I can’t believe someone would refuse to eat leftovers. My ex didn’t really like eating leftovers either, thank goodness he’s an ex haha.

  7. Our food budget is the one that’s been hardest to get under control as well. Frugality in other areas comes pretty naturally to us, but the grocery thing is HARD. The turning point for us was when I went cold turkey on grocery shopping. I know try and stretch the number of days between trips as much as possible and get creative what we already have on hand. This month so far we went to our neighborhood store on the first and Costco once. Should at least make it through the week before we have to go again 🙂

  8. Our December grocery spending was surprisingly low (I think because I hoard things in our pantry and freezer). In past years though December has been pricey for all the reasons you listed! When I started tracking spending in 2015 we were spending like $600/month on groceries for the TWO of us! In two years I’ve focused, and got it down to $220/month (still just two of us). I love grocery shopping so I’ll hit 2-3 stores in one day to get the loss leaders at all the stores. And we stick to mostly unprocessed foods since they are healthier and typically less expensive.

  9. Hi Caroline!

    Dec is always the highest month for expenses. We tend to lose track during the holiday, so it’s ok! 🙂 As long as it doesn’t become a habit lol.

    Your line: Being extremely frugal when it comes to food is not for me!

    I feel that way too! Unless, I’m living paycheck to paycheck then that’s different. But it’s still important to get foods at awesome prices which you’ve listed out.

    Like you mention, I use flip as well. We tend to go to real canadian superstore (our one stop shop) because we can easily price match almost anything with flipp. We also use Checkout 51 and Caddle apps, but we only check after buying the item. That way, we know we won’t be buying just because the offer was on the app.

    Overall, great post! I hope you meet your budget goals with your groceries going forward. Let’s wait until next Christmas hits us again haha >.<

    1. Yes being frugal is good enough for me, I don’t need to be extreme!:)
      I still check Checkout51 but it is such a slow process, I don’t always do it. I heard Real Canadian Superstore is pretty competitive, we have one close by, I may check it out. I am just worried I may get sidetracked with all the other stuff they have!

  10. I have tried grocery challenges and have to admit it is a weak spot. I went away from stressing about individual budget categories a while though.

    My happiness has been much improved by doing so. I focus on saving first and foremost the rest I don’t stress I just let things go. I find it much more balanced.

    1. Hi DM, Yes it can get a little stressful but it is our largest expense and I am doing everything else already:) Plus at the end of the day, I can afford what I am buying so it’s not as stressful as if I “had” to.

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