Money, Monthly Money Reports, Saving Money

Grocery Budget – Sept. 2017

My first monthly grocery budget is nothing to brag about. Let’s blame the cats this month! Without their food, I would be so much closer to my goal!

As mentioned in an earlier post, we can totally afford our grocery bill but it drives me crazy to know how much we actually spend on groceries each week; $280! That’s $14,560 per year! It seems like such an insane number, just for food. I read so many  blogs about  frugal living and how I should be able to feed my family of five on $150/month or some other crazy number, it puts me to shame!

My goal is probably never going to be quite that extreme (but you never know). We are 5 adults (including three older kids) and we rarely eat out. One of my daughter’s is Celiac so we buy gluten-free products which are expensive (we usually stick to the basics such as flour, pasta and bread). Every Sunday, we have a big family dinner with up to 14 people. On top of it all, we have a dog and two cats who expect to be fed regularly.

Where are we at for September?

It is a FAIL! I did save $10 a week but with my goal at $60 a week by the end of the year, it is a little weak.  I was discouraged when I was adding up all the receipts but I also realized I didn’t follow my own plan as well as I should have.

Here is September’ grocery spending:

Detailed grocery budget for September (missing the first week, I only started on the 9th):










Detailed  review:

  • Produce: I didn’t think we spent so much on produce! Good for us for eating healthy but it means I need to focus more on produce for savings. I know what to check for on flyers and apps before heading to Costco. I always assumed it was cheaper there but not convinced anymore. The problem is the packaging at Costco is not advertised by the pound so you need to do lots  of conversions (and after trying this week-end it can be very time-consuming – some are kilo, other pounds – but I guess after a few weeks I will be a pro) .We don’t waste much (our fridge was acting up so we did waste a bit), so quantity is not an issue. I think we do end up buying a little more than we really need to because of the sizes available at Costco.
  • Meat/Fish: We don’t eat that much meat during the week but our Sunday Family diner is a killer. I have to start looking at different recipes where less meat is required.
  • Dairy: It seems high but I can’t find the receipt for a $19 entry so can’t explain where the total comes from. I am now putting all the receipts in one envelope after I key them on my spreadsheet  so next time I can go back and check.
  • Breads/Bakery: We bought a birthday cake this month plus I had my little trip to the outdoor market where I bought lots of sweets. Also gluten-free bread is pretty expensive and making it is not really an option at this time (and the flour would still be expensive).
  • Pets: We bought cat food but it should last a few months.
  • Personal Care: We stocked up on body wash this month, there was a good sale on.
  • Snack & crackers: We bought 2 large bags of trail mix for 8.99 each. It is a handy snack to have for my son who does competitive track and several sports at school.

Where did I go wrong in September:

The good:

  • I kept track of ALL grocery spending. I noticed I was forgetting to add the odd receipt here and there. Now I keep ALL receipts and key them all once a week, no exception. We may have been spending a little more than $280/week before!
  • All grocery spending is categorized, see my previous post. This was an eye-opener. I knew we spent a lot on produce but 33% of overall spending, it is a lot!
  • Didn’t go back shopping during the week, just worked with what we had. My kids have a tendency to eat everything as soon as we get back from grocery shopping so now they know it has to last the week.
  • Ate something before going shopping and drank a glass of water just to make me feel fuller.
  • Didn’t impulse buy.

The bad:

  • I don’t know the price of veggies and fruits by the pound at other stores, always assumed Costco was cheaper. I have to focus on being more knowledgeable in that area since we spend so much on produce.
  • Didn’t always check Flipp before shopping. While I have had the app on my phone for a while , I usually use it for big-ticket items, I never really took the time to check it for grocery items.

And the ugly:

  • A trip to a little outdoor market with CASH in my pocket! Spent it all, mostly on baked goods, really yummy baked goods (Go ahead, sue me!) so $30 later and a little heavier. I would have been $10/week closer to my goal but it was so good; Asian pineapple homemade cake and lots of other goodies (I shared a few with my minions). I did enjoy my little trip but probably would have enjoyed it just as much if I had spent a little less!

The plan going forward:

This is where I need to focus my efforts in the next few months:

  • Make my meal plan for the week based on the season.
  • Write down my shopping list with everything we need.
  • Check what is left in the fridge and the pantry before leaving the house. Too often I buy item because I don’t know if we have any left at home or not.
  • Check the app Flipp before heading out; it is just so easy; quick search and clip your selection to your shopping list. Since I am not interested in driving around for hours, (plus gas is expensive) I will select the one or two stores with the best deals for what we need each week.
  • The app is showing me all prices around so I can get familiar with the price of the food I have to buy (by the pound).
  • Keep a master grocery list. I downloaded the app “Out of milk” on my phone and created a master grocery list, each week I can de-select what we don’t need and add anything missing. I am also trying to keep the per unit price to date. We will see how effective that is.
  • No junk food – Eating a fruit and drinking a glass of water before leaving is helping a bit. I did put a few treats in my cart last week but ended up putting them back before getting to the cash.
  • Will look for other Apps for discounts or coupons. I started using Checkout51 but I am not convinced it will worth the time.

I am adding two tips to my list:

  • Shop alone. This is working out better for me; it is easier to stick to my list. It may be different at your house (maybe you are the one who should stay home!)
  • Keep track of all expenses on a spreadsheet, seeing my spending on the spreadsheet makes me think twice about future purchase.

Summary of Grocery Savings Tips to date (for more detail click Here):









Having to report my spending on the blog is a big motivator, I feel more accountable.

After my first full shopping trip outside of Costco last week, I am convinced I can reduce our grocery bill by close to $100/week ($5,200/year, it would pay for a nice vacation). It is definitely a big challenge but one worth working on. Even if I spend one hour checking Apps or going to a second store, $100 for one hour of work is not bad!. I am going to give myself 6 months to get there.

How about you, how much do you spend a week on groceries? Are you trying to reduce your spending? Do you have any tip to share?

9 thoughts on “Grocery Budget – Sept. 2017

  1. Wow, good job! I also love the Flipp app, I was just using it right before I read your post, to look at what was on sale at Shoppers Drug Mart. I don’t go to Costco (we don’t have a membership) I think it’s better because somehow we always end up spending at least $70-100 there. I think you’re feeding two adult children aren’t you? That’s a lot of people (+ a cat) to be feeding. I think $200-$250 per month per person is a reasonable spend for groceries. Also, keep in mind some people when they talk about their grocery spending don’t account for toiletries and other things as part of their grocery spending 🙂

    1. Good point about the toiletries. On the spending, I am convinced I can do better and posting it for all to see is very motivating. Grocery is my biggest expense and being able to reduce it by $5,200/year would be pretty neat.

  2. Dear Caroline,

    It looks like you have a great plan/list to get where you want to be. Eventually, you will have all the items checked off and saving money on groceries will be second nature. It takes time though so I think it’s great that you’re giving yourself some (I’ve been working on it for years, smile).

    A few ideas;

    1. Could you buy the ingredients for trail mix and make it yourself? Nuts keep well in the freezer. Not sure if you’re Canadian but Bulk Barn has a sale every few months (spend $10 save $3, good for two weeks). I get a few coupons and go in two weeks in a row. I also buy what’s on sale that week and save double.

    2. Take a picture of your pantry/fridge? I don’t always have time to go through my fridge/pantry so I take a few pictures before I head out and can look as I go. Note that I try and shop for the week so we don’t have a lot of food leftover except for a handful of staples like peanut butter, baked beans, pasta and maybe a meat in the freezer.

    3. Bake your own gluten products? I bake bread twice a week and hamburger buns when we need it. The bread cooks at 375 so I make sure to cook chicken/pork/something else at the same time to save on electricity. I don’t bake gluten free products but bread (including electricity) costs me ~ 65 cents a loaf and considering it’s $2.50 on sale and we eat a lot of it, that’s a big savings for us. You don’t need any special tools, not even a rolling pin!

    I’m sure that you’re busy with work and three kids but maybe they could do #1 and #3.

    I do not shop at Costco or Walmart. Almost everything is less expensive at my grocery store regular priced (!) and is much less when it’s on sale/discounted. Besides, I don’t have one near me and have a little problem with having to pay to shop there. I think if people factored that in, they wouldn’t “save” as much money.

    I rarely coupon, price match (because I have to do it at Walmart) or use cost savings apps (I don’t have data on my phone and many of them require it). I shop at one store for 95% of my needs and just “stock up” (for a few months only) when the good sales come.

    I sit down once a week (hoping to extend it to twice a month) with the flyers and my ongoing list of what we need and make a high level menu plan. If something isn’t on sale, I change up my list.

    For a family of four, I spend $350CDN a month (we eat meat). I’m only telling you the amount because I think people believe that you need to clip coupons, spend two hours a day, have apps, and generally dedicate your life to save $50 and it’s not the case. You do have to be flexible with what you eat though.

    I look forward to reading about all your successes.

    Besos Sarah.

    1. Hi Sarah, thanks for stopping by and for the encouragement. I will definitely check Bulk Barn and try making a trail mix, it may be fun to do the mix with my son (as long as I don’t bring him with me to Bulk Barn…too many temptations). I don’t know about the bread, I have tried before and it never came out that good so I just gave up. Maybe if I could find a great gluten free bread recipe, I would try again. I am doing the high level menu plan and I adjust based on sales and it is really helping. I am trying one app for coupons this month but so far it really doesn’t look like it is worth the time. $350/month for a family of four!! That’s great:) What type of meals do you cook?

  3. Dear Caroline,

    Great that you’re already seeing progress with the items that you’re working on! What app are you using?

    For the record, I am the worst cook ever!!! and I’ve even improved since my kids came along 🙂 The first 3-4 months of my bread making were disastrous but two years later, my family won’t eat store bought anymore. And, at the time, I hadn’t even baked a turkey before I ventured into bread making so if I can do it, anyone can 🙂

    I generally cook three hot dinners a week; Saturday night, Sunday Pizza or Stirfry (to use up leftovers) and one other day during the week and the rest of dinners and some lunches use the leftovers (either heated up in the microwave or cold during the summer).

    I only buy chicken breast (bone out), pork tenderloin, medium ground pork/turkey/beef and the odd salmon (when it’s discounted). I’ve bought the cheaper cuts and the quality isn’t there. I wait for great sales and stock up paying the same for better quality.

    A meal for me looks like this; Main — pork tenderloin (I’d cook two) would be one hot dinner, sandwiches and maybe the rest in a stir fry. It works out to less than $1 per person per day for meat (that’s my “number”, note that we only eat meat once a day, if at all). Side — 95% of the time it’s rice/lentils/barley/grain/pasta (we eat potatoes a few times a year, usually french fries, I make my own, I wish we ate them more because they’re cheap but no one is a fan). Veggies — steamed (whatever was on sale that week). I’ve started serving “breakfast for dinner” more (fried egg on a piece of toast with melted cheese) because it’s cheap, quick, healthy and everyone likes it.

    There is not a lot of variety in our meals. In fact, that’s an understatement but, everyone is happy, healthy and there is always lots of food prepped and ready to eat in the fridge. I slice up a package of cheese all at once as well as carrots and celery for the kids to grab as a snack (they put cream cheese or peanut butter on them) and I always have hard boiled eggs on hand because if you’re in a rush you can just grab one and put it in your purse!

    I wish that I was a better cook for the sake of my families palate but I know that I would spend a lot more money and there would be food waste (in the past, I used to have odd ingredients around that didn’t get used up).

    If you don’t get Bulk Barn flyers, they always have the coupon on their website (it’s usually offered for two weeks every 6-8 weeks) –> I try and only shop there when I have a coupon and without kids!!!

    I hope that helped.

    Besos Sarah.

    1. Thanks Sarah. My meals look pretty similar in general, I only have one leftover night and it is usually stir fry, frittata or quiche so we can use up the leftovers. We have pasta at least once a week but my son is not a fan. My kids get bored easily with the same meals so I try to change it up. I think being aware of the prices has helped me greatly in the last few weeks.
      As soon as you suggested Bulk Barn, I looked into it and they had a $3 coupon if you spent $10 as of last Thursday. So yesterday, I went and bough $7 worth of nuts and dried fruits and made 1.4 kg of trail mix! That’s a saving of 60% at least. Plus it’s on my way home so no extra gas cost. Coupons last until November 1st so I may do a few other trips:) Thanks so much for the tip, not sure why I never thought about it.

      1. Dear Caroline,

        Happy that I could be of assistance. Buy enough of what you need (at Bulk Barn) to last you another 6-8 weeks. Then, they’ll have the coupon sale again (they always do).

        Not sure what you eat for breakfast but I’m a huge (new) fan of cold oats. It started out with steel-cut oats which are really good (read: better) but they’re more expensive and ended up with rolled large flakes (not the quick oats). 1 serving of them to 2 servings of water/milk, a tablespoon of chia seeds and a sweetener (fruit, cranberries, sugar, honey). Let them sit overnight (i use a mason jar, you can make them a few days beforehand and leave in the fridge). In the morning, I heat it in the microwave and add flax seed (can never get enough fibre) and nuts. Some of these items I get at Bulk Barn and others at my local grocer (Food Basics, I’m in Ontario). I’m never priced it out but it can’t be more than 50 cents.

        And, if you have a grinder (I use my husbands coffee grinder, don’t tell him), you can buy the flax seed whole and grind it yourself. The advantage is that it doesn’t need to stay in the freezer for fear it will go “bad” (because the seed shell is intact) and it’s 30% cheaper. A bulk barn employee tipped me off to that.

        For the first time in 7 years (!!!), my daughter started her statement this week with “I’m bored of the food we eat” (it was lunch time). I asked her to clarify and turns out, it was only the pepper slices (my grocer always has tons of peppers discounted every week, I freeze what we can’t eat fresh but we still eat them I got a bit worried there that I was going to have to learn to cook or something 🙂

        Pretty soon, you’ll be saving 60% on tons of your items and won’t be spending any more time or effort. Organization is key. I mark when the next Bulk Barn coupon should be out (on my calendar, yes, I have too much time on my hands). I try not and set foot in there unless I need a few things (and even then, I try not to) and/or I have a coupon.

        FYI, there are a bunch of Facebook groups out there that talk about other creative ways to save money. If/when you’re interested, let me know or post about it on your blog.

        Besos Sarah

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