I just got done with the grocery budget for May and thought I’d share.
Unlike my weekly menus, which make use of pantry items like oil and sugar that may have been purchased some time ago, this account is what I spent from May 1 forward on groceries. Because of my shopping habits, I won’t buy more groceries before the end of the month.
Fresh produce accounts for 47% of my total grocery bill this month. We probably eat more fruits and vegetables in our meals than most people – no problem getting 5 servings a day around here. As you know from previous posts, I don’t waste good money on over-priced “organic” anything. I also don’t pay the ridiculous prices at the over hyped farmers’ markets in the area. I shop for value, using the information in my Access database of the last four years of shopping to keep tabs on prices.
The most expensive produce cost is my beloved red bell peppers. I have them for lunch and use them for cooking meals. They are $16.65 and the second most expensive single item of any food type we buy. For me, it is an emotional purchase as much as anything else. It shows we can afford nice things. Avocados come in next at $13.11, but this includes a one-time very big purchase to make guacamole for a party. Tomatoes are next @ $11.33, then cucumbers, cauliflower and celery, each clocking in at just over $7 for the month.
Even with my aggressive shopping habits, it cost almost $150 for fresh produce for two people for the month. If I had been buying organic at the regular stores or at the farmers’ market instead of at the low-end second tier quality local grocer, the bill would have been at least $250 and probably closer to $300. The base prices would have been more ($1.59/pound instead of $1.79 each for a head of cauliflower, for example) and then the organics surcharge of half-again to double the price would be added.
After produce, the next most expensive grocery category is dairy and eggs. Most of this goes for yogurt for the Spousal Unit’s breakfasts ($17.61), and he eats the cheap Kroger brand Vanilla mixed with a bit of plain low-fat. Even so, yogurt is the most expensive product we buy. Skim milk for my breakfast oatmeal is the next most expensive dairy item at $8.36. The rest is a mix of eggs, sour cream and some cheeses.
The beverages are whole bean coffee and Diet Coke, more coffee than Coke. We buy both at Costco, unless there’s a really good soda sale at Ralphs.
Meat and fish was fairly low this month. The most expensive item was some Portuguese linguica on sale at Ralphs at $8.58 for two packages. I like to have some in the freezer for adding to soups and stews. Aside from that, there was one fresh meat purchase each week to grill. I expect this cost to go up over the summer as we do more grilling.
General groceries include my breakfast oats ($5.89), a tub of brined olives, brown sugar, and a few pantry odds and ends.
I track condiments and sauces apart from general groceries because they tend to be purchased less often, but are more expensive when purchased. This month, there was a great special on peperoncini at Albertson’s, so I stocked up.
Spices and herbs, like condiments, tend to be occasional purchases that are fairly expensive. For example, $2.99 for ground ginger.
Snacks were all my rice cakes at $2.00/package, plus some green tea mints.
Baked goods was a single purchase, one big package of uncooked flour tortillas from Costco. I split these out into sets of four and pull them out to make burritos with stuff from the grill. Pasta, rice & grains this month was just a bag of all purpose flour, while legumes was a tub of tofu.
There’s very little in here that could be considered junk or processed. I haven’t accounted for alcohol purchases or any dining out.
Edit – I had to cut short because the SU came home and it was time for dinner. So, how does our spending at home compare with the USDA’s estimations? As of April, 2014, a family of 2, one male, one female, over 19 and under 50 years of age, can expect to spend somewhere between $386.60, at the low end, and $767.70, at the high end, on for a month’s food served at home. We spent less than the lowest (“thrifty”) amount, but not all of our meals are from the groceries. For example, the SU buys his lunch every day, which adds up. Counting alcohol purchases, the monthly food expenses go up to $612.77.
OK, this post, and many of the others in May, establishes a baseline for later writing. I track the cost of things and what we actually eat. In the future, I’ll be using this information to address myths & misconceptions such as:
- Eating “healthy” is cheaper than not eating that way (sometimes and much depends upon the definition of “healthy”)
- Education about nutrition and “real” foods is all that’s needed to eat better (No, you also have to know how to shop, how to cook and how to meal plan)
- Fat people eat differently/less healthy than non-fat people (Bwhahahahahahaha! Uh, no, people of all sizes eat good food and crappy food.)